7 Crossway Bibles for every use from reading to preaching

Crossway Bibles are some of the best on the market. There, I said it.

My wife thinks I have a problem. Being a kind woman, she never says it out loud, but I know what she’s thinking. Why does anyone need more than one Bible? She has used the same NIV Compact Thinline Bible since she was a kid. When I offered her a slightly larger, hardcover, single-column edition of the ESV, she seemed perplexed if not peeved. Seriously, why does anyone need more than one Bible?

ESV Single Column Personal Size Bible
ESV Single Column Personal Size Bible
I can empathize. For the first half of my ministry, I carried the same Thompson Chain-Reference Bible everywhere I went, using it for every purpose from casual reading to preaching. Even after my eyes grew weary of its atrocious layout and I traded down to a minimal, two-column Thinline Bible from Thomas Nelson, I continued to follow an unofficial one-Bible policy.

Times have changed, and so have my opinions. I enjoy owning multiple editions of the Bible, each having a distinct purpose. I have tried to find a one-size-fits-all Bible—both my wife and monthly allowance would be thrilled if I had—but I always come up short. The Bible I use when preaching needs to possess specific features (e.g., lay-flat binding, a place for notes) while the Bible I use for daily reading needs to be as free of distractions as possible (i.e., a comfortable typeface with no cross-references).

ESV Crossway Bibles
Crossway ESV Bibles
I’m content with my current collection of Bibles. Every edition I own has justification and, more importantly, I use them regularly. Why keep any Bible if you leave it on a shelf only to collect dust? I admit that my personal library is larger than what I need, but I’ll find good homes for the extras in due time, assuming friends stop giving me new Bibles as gifts. My rate of giving seems to flow parallel to the rate at which I receive. One Bible leaves while another takes its place.

(Does anyone need a Bible? I have a few that I’m not using.)

My favorite Crossway Bibles

Join me on this private tour of my home office as I show you what I own and why. Before we begin, you should know that the English Standard Version (ESV) is my default translation, so my must-have collection is a series of ESV Bibles published by Crossway. I possess other versions and have given my reasons why I use multiple translations, but I’ll limit today’s virtual tour to my Crossway Bibles.

Also, you’ll notice that I have a strong preference for cloth-bound hardcovers with single-column text. It is my firm conviction that no book should have a two-column layout. As for my choice in covers, cloth-bound has that timeless look and feel. With few exceptions, I don’t care for flimsy books that can’t stand upright on the shelf whether they are bound in expensive leather or not.

A Bible for reading

ESV Reader's Bible Six-Volume Set
ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set

I’ve already made my case for reader’s Bibles. Everyone needs a copy of Scripture that invites your eyes to stay on the page. The format should be ideal for the specific task of reading. The font size should be optimal, the paper should be opaque, and every last remnant of clutter (i.e., verse numbers, chapter breaks, footnotes, cross-references) should be nonexistent.

ESV Reader's Bible Six-Volume Set
ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set
Students of the Word need to read the Bible before we study it. We should let God speak to us as we consume every word of a single book without chapter breaks and other distractions pressuring us to stop. With the help of a reader’s Bible, we can be engrossed for hours on end, watching each verse unfold within its context.

Perhaps you already commit large chunks of time to exclusively reading the Bible. Kudos to you. I’m thankful to hear it. But if you need some help or believe the experience could be better—I’m telling you that it can be—you should invest in the ESV Reader’s Bible.

Key features include:

  • Black letter text
  • Single-column, paragraph format
  • No verse numbers, chapter numbers, or footnotes
  • Reduced section headings
  • Printed on high-quality European book paper
  • Divided into six volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Poetry, Prophets, Gospels & Acts, and Epistles & Revelation
  • Ribbon markers
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Heavy slipcase

Additional reviews:

A Bible for devotion

This category is tricky because everyone takes a different approach to his or her devotional time. Some will solely read and pray. Perhaps they take notes, or maybe they don’t. Others will go a step further by studying the text with or without guides.

My wife and I used published devotionals for the first time this year. We read a single devotional each day along with its corresponding passage of Scripture. Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The right devotional will challenge you to meditate on spiritual things in a way you may not have done if left to yourself.

Crossway has accomplished an incredible feat with its ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (see also the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible). Not only is the text of Scripture conveniently within the same book as its devotional material, but every article is also theologically-rich and Christ-centered. Shallow platitudes to build your self-esteem are not included.

Key features include:

  • 365 brand-new devotions
  • Brand-new book introductions
  • 14 brand-new articles
  • Dictionary of key terms
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Permanent slipcase

Additional reviews:

A Bible for study

ESV Study Bible
ESV Study Bible

To be candid, I rarely study with a printed Bible in hand. For the sake of space—my home office is on the small side—I prefer to keep my dictionaries, commentaries, multiple translations, and other study helps in digital formats.

ESV Study Bible
ESV Study Bible
Even so, I like to carry a study Bible with me to small-group gatherings where impromptu discussions of virtually any passage could take place. A quick glance at its study notes can be invaluable when I’ve not had time to examine the verses beforehand.

Among those I’ve reviewed, the ESV Study Bible stands tall at the top of my list. Though there are several useful study Bibles I could recommend, the ESV may be the only one that doesn’t require any caveats on my part. If you ask me which study Bible you should buy—it won’t matter who you are—I’ll suggest the ESV Study Bible. The choice of cover and size is up to you.

Key features include:

  • Concordance
  • Extensive articles
  • 240 full-color maps and illustrations
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Permanent slipcase

Additional reviews:

A Bible for general use

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible

By general use, I’m referring to a Bible that is your go-to when looking up quick references or following along with the pastor on Sunday. You may also use it when reading, studying, or during your devotional time, assuming you don’t have niche Bibles for those purposes. If you will own only one Bible, this Bible is it.

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible
For me, my “every day” Bible needs to be easy to carry, relatively comfortable to read, fit in a suitcase without too much risk of damage, and if possible, contain wide enough margins to jot down the occasional note.

After testing several versions over the years, a friend recently gave me what I have found to be the ideal edition: the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible. This handsome book is as functional as it is attractive. I love its single-column layout, of course, but having lined margins on the outside are a bonus of which I’m taking full advantage.

Key features include:

  • 2″ ruled margins for writing
  • Cream-colored Bible paper
  • Single-column, paragraph format
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Clamshell box

Additional reviews:

A Bible for your screen

I’ll be brief. If Crossway Bibles and study materials are all you’re interested in, ESV.org or the ESV app are the best places to read on a screen. Their site and app are both simple and beautiful.

If, however, you want to compare translations or step outside of Crossway’s ecosystem, you’ll need to go elsewhere. My favorite tool is the Olive Tree Bible Study app for computers, tablets, and phones.

A Bible for preaching

ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition
ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition

In case there are any pastors in our midst, I would regret not including this category. If you’re not a pastor, then think of this section as inspiration for a potential gift. (Pastor’s Appreciation Day is October 14. Christmas is December 25.)

ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition
ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition
What does one look for in a preaching Bible? Most would say a large enough typeface to read from a distance, binding that lays flat when open, and a place to put sermon outlines and notes. I present to you a Bible which checks two of the three boxes: the ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

The type is not huge by any means (7.5-point to be exact), but it can’t be without making this Bible too massive to be practical. Styled after Jonathan Edward’s customized Bible into which his wife sewed blank pages, the ESV Interleaved has one blank sheet for every page of Bible text. No longer will preachers have to make room on the lectern for notes penned on loose-leaf paper.

(Pastor, if you use minimal notes when preaching, you may want to stick with the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible.)

Key features include:

  • Includes a full, blank page for notes, reflections, and prayers next to every page of Bible text
  • Cream-colored paper
  • Through the Bible in a Year reading plan
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Permanent slipcase

Additional reviews:

A Bible for display

ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition
ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition (Image © Crossway)

Do families still display a Bible on the coffee table? If so, I think we should avoid behemoth-sized copies that no one will ever open. It should also be attractive. After all, it’s a Bible designed to display, and putting your name on solid black or white does not make it any less plain.

ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition
ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition (Image © Crossway)
Though I don’t own one myself, I have stared longingly at the ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition more than once. Let’s be honest. Unless doodling is essential to you, there’s no sensible reason to buy this Bible. This edition is as novel as they come.

Even so, I can imagine keeping one in the living room and opening it from time to time to read with the wife and kids. I almost bought one for preaching before I settled on the Interleaved Edition. The type is bigger (9-point), and its wide margins could be used for writing rather than drawing. But I opted for additional note-taking space and a cover that wouldn’t raise eyebrows.

Key features include:

  • 9-point, Lexicon
  • Black letter text
  • 2-color printing
  • 64 full-page, custom book opener illustrations
  • 50 full-page verse illustrations
  • 250+ hand-lettered margin verses
  • 100+ other illustrations throughout
  • Illustrated by Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by Google, The Wall Street Journal, Random House, USPS, and Target
  • Thick, cream-colored paper
  • Wide margins
  • Single-column, paragraph format
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Permanent Slipcase

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