Review of the Crossway ESV Black Pew and Worship Bible
By Matthew Everhard
It’s not every day that one buys a traditional “Pew Bible.” Let alone 100 or more Pew Bibles. When I purchased the ESV Pew and Worship Bible in black hardback for my congregation (250 of them if I recall) I hoped it would be the first and last time that I made such a voluminous acquisition. After all, the change was a pretty significant one for my church: we changed from the NIV to the ESV, and we went from blue covers (gasp!) to black covers.
Actually, it wasn’t as bad as it seems. It was a seamless process, and we made a good buy that I think will last for another generation or more. Here’s a quick review if you are interested in learning more about this product.
By the way, be sure to differentiate this Bible from the cheaper “value” pew Bible. Skip that one and make sure you get the tougher version reviewed here, ISBN: 978-1-58134-596-4.
- Publisher: Crossway
- Printing: USA
- Translation: English Standard Version
- Binding: Glued binding with white cardstock pastedown
- Cover: Black (hardback), gold embossing
- Columns: Double
- Text: Black
- Font: 8.5 point font
- References: None
- Study Notes: None
- Size: 9.25” X 6.25” X 1.5”
- Yapp: None
- Ribbons: None
- Gilt edges: None
- Head and tail bands: Yellow and black
- Features: 65 responsive readings for gathered worship.
- Cost: approximately $15.00 USD
The first mistake one might make about this Bible is to assume that it can only be used in the pews. Actually, it might make a very good “beater” Bible for someone who gives a Bible a lot of abuse (backpacking, youth groups etc.). If you don’t have the heart to carry around one of Crossway’s Heirloom editions everywhere they go, hey for $15 you can have one of these.
Type, Font, & Print
One of the most important things you will have to decide when purchasing a pew Bible is whether or not the older folks in your church can actually read it. In this way, it is totally different from buying your own Bible for personal use. Ask other people if they can read the font! Trust me. Ask them!
In most cases, when selling in bulk, the publisher will be glad to send you a sample copy. Bring it to staff. Take one to the elder’s meeting. Ask the folks who show up week in and week out if they can read it. If they can, go on. If not, stop right there.
In our case, we went from a giant print (10 point font) NIV to the regular print ESV currently under discussion (8.5 point font). For the most part, I have had few complaints because of the quality of the printing job. The font is very readable, and only the worst aging eyes have had trouble with this Bible. But yes, I have had some complain that it is too small.
If you think that text size might be a problem, get “up sized” and go for the Large Print edition (ISBN: 978-1-58134-904-7). The cost will go up significantly, however so choose wisely.
The paper is very white on this edition, making the print stand out very nobly. (It is printed in the USA which is not a foregone conclusion with Crossway. Many of their Bibles are printed in China). The paper on this Bible is more “papery” than some of the other Bibles that I review. It is not the so-called India paper or “Bible paper.” While many other editions have very thin, wispy, near-tissue paper, this Bible has what I would consider rather strong, thick Bible paper, all things considered.
To evidence the strength of this paper, consider that the book block is exactly the same as the ESV Thinline Bible, and yet is more than a quarter inch thicker. That’s all paper strength. And you’re going to need it: children and teens are going to be jerking these things in and out of the pew racks for a quarter century. Notice in the picture below that I am holding this Bible by one single piece of paper. That is strong stuff! (Warning: do not try this at home!).
Binding & Aesthetics
This Bible looks and feels great. The black cover and gold embossing look very fine, almost even regal. The font styles on the front cover look very formal, and I have to admit that I like it very much. Usually, I don’t prefer any wording on the front, but here, it is a must.
There is almost no point in applying any gilding on the edges of pew Bibles, gold or otherwise. With the amount of use and fingering they are going to receive over many years, they would be ruined by Christmas if you bought them on Thanksgiving. It just isn’t worth it. For this reason, Crossway left them white. This too will show wear, however, and fingerprints will give them a creamy hue over the years. But for now, at least this copy that I chose randomly is still looking handsome after a couple of years in full service.
Now to my gripes. I have just two. First, I question the use of a glued binding. Anytime, anywhere. I don’t like them. They don’t open flat, and they eventually dry out and break apart. In this edition’s defense, it has no problem staying open to Genesis 1:1. As I looked through our church, I found dozens of comparable Pew Bibles of similar style and quality lying around. They were all glued. I suppose that just goes with the territory. Are there no sewn pew Bibles? Maybe there is no such thing. Maybe that animal does not exist in the wild.
My second “complaint” is that there are no ribbons. I know many who like to come in and mark the readings before the sermon. In more liturgical settings, where several texts are read, many people like to mark the spots so they can “keep up” with the liturgist. Since our service is blended, that is not really a problem. I have always thought that pew Bibles are for visitors and new Christians really. (And of course, those who forget their Bibles at home). At the end of the day, I would prefer our people bring their own Bibles anyway so they can mark them up.
Let me surprise you here. Besides the obvious use given in the title – as a pew Bible – this particular Bible may make a good tool for three purposes. (1) If you are trying out the ESV and want a cost efficient sample, this will be a great read. The double column layout is actually a very nice “reader.” I could see myself laying back and just enjoying this copy. No problem. (2) I suggest filling your youth room with this Bible if you use the ESV. It is tough, solid, and well built. Ask me again in a decade or so if the glue still holds up. I think it probably will. (3) I think this might make a good travel Bible. Going backpacking? On a mission trip? Don’t want to pack the leather Bible? This tough customer might do the trick.
Thanks again to Crossway for another reliable product!