In the last article in this series we talked about the exceptionally easy to use, entirely free for everyone ESV Bible Online. It is, in itself, a first-class bible resource. But when it comes to detailed, feature rich bible web sites, the ESV Online Study Bible (another web site entirely) is superb. However, the full-feature use of the Study Bible is not entirely free. Instead, when you purchase a traditionally bound ESV Online Study Bible you receive a registration number inside which gives you full, lifetime access to the companion web site.
We will not cover the traditionally bound book bible here, only the companion web site. But, in the interest of accuracy let me say that the bound version is an impressive two million word, 2,700+ page volume with impeccable credentials. It is available in several bindings ranging from a lowest price hardcover edition at a list price of $49.95 to a premium calfskin edition at $239.95. ALL editions come complete with FULL access to this wonderful ONLINE version via a simple registration process.
Anatomy of a Study Bible page
While the working web site demonstration you can find on their website will answer most of your questions, we’d like to point out some of the features we really like about it. First of all, it is one of the best reference web sites of any kind we’ve ever seen. The layout is uncluttered, well organized, fast to work with, and packs an incredible amount of information on every inch of the page by using embedded links and well executed tool-tip-like information balloons in EVERY appropriate location. The thumbnail image on the left here is linked to a full size picture of a typical page with many of the features we like best circled to illustrate the wonderful layout of the web site. Click on the thumbnail image to view it full size.
Every page has a right side column with copious study notes employing the same information balloons over every scripture reference showing a preview of the scripture text you’ll see if you click the link — a real time saver to prevent going to an incorrect page. The center column houses the actual scripture text in a highly readable font complete with translation footnotes and related scripture references included. Again the footnotes and references employ those tool tip-pop-up balloons when you hover over them making it easy to decide if you want to click there. The left column is dedicated to the user’s own notes which can be stored alongside the displayed scripture for future reference.
Hear the Word
As with the regular ESV Bible Online, the ESV Online Study Bible allows you to hear the scripture displayed in the center column using a simple “Listen” link beside the heading of each scripture text. This appears to employ the same technology as well, since you can listen to ONLY the scripture displayed, not the entire chapter as you typically see on other interactive bible sites with online audio. When you click the word “Listen” you should immediately hear the scripture through your computer speakers or headphones (be sure your volume is set properly) and the appearance of the link will change to a micro-player interface with pause and rewind links for control. We found that sometimes we need to click more than once to get this link to work, but that may be due to internet connection factors rather than the web site itself. So, if it doesn’t play on the first click, just try again. You’ll find that being able to play only the sound from the scripture displayed, no matter how few verses, is a great convenience over having to play an entire chapter at once. Very impressive!
- Articles ranging from Introduction: A User’s Guide to the ESV Online Study Bible to articles on theology, doctrine, history and much, much more bring a depth to your online study experience. One article which I was particularly impressed with was The Bible and Religious Cults which made very clear the differences in various faiths and their relationship to Christianity. One article entitled Biblical Ethics: An Overview is 29,000 words
- Book Introductions for every book in the bible are complete and easily accessible from a prominent link above the notes column on every page. I find myself frequently referring to the introductions to help me understand the context of the particular scripture I am reading.
- Illustrations and Maps are clear, concise and very useful. Full color drawings of historical items, 3D maps, and many conventional maps for everything beginning at the Garden of Eden bring new understandings with new insights.
- Informational Charts compile diverse references on single subjects into a single view.
All this and much more comprise the 2 million plus words in a massive web site with impressive navigational features which bring just the information you need to your fingertips (or mouse pointer in this case) when you need it.
Browse the Demo Web Site
Browse the demo web site for the ESV Online Study Bible and take the time you need to get familiar with the interface. You’ll be impressed with how much information is packed into every page. While you are on the demo site, take particular interest in the following features:
- Tool tips are hidden treasures giving you a useful glimpse of where you’ll be going if you click on the link. You’ll find them by hovering over links to scripture references, translation footnotes, and many areas in the right sidebar. Take a few minutes on the demo web site to look for the tool tips by just hovering above likely areas on the page. These little jewels can save you time.
- Expanding Notes in the right sidebar are full of information to make your study more complete. When you first view the page all the notes are in their default collapsed state. But if you see a “More” link at the end of a note you can expand it instantly with a click to view the full contents without reloading the page — a real time saver.
- Personal Notes (not available on the demo site) can be typed for every page in scripture by just clicking on the “Add Note” button at the top of the left column. You’ll immediately be presented with a mini word processor so you can type your notes directly on the page. Your notes are stored there so that the next time you visit that page, you’ll be able to read them — just like you take notes in the margins of your conventional bible. But, as of this writing, I have not found a way to easily print my notes and take them with me. This is a feature I’d like to see in future enhancements and one of the few reservations we have about this web site.
We won’t be able to give you any direct links to the ESV Online Study Bible pages to demonstrate the features available to registered users since you must be logged in before they are available, but you can see many of them in action at the working demo of the web site. To take it out for a spin just go HERE.
Online Video Tour
There is also an excellent online video provided by Crossway which illustrates most of the features of the online ESV Online Study Bible. They have provided us with the capability to embed their video within our article, so you may view it from the player below. You’ll need a broadband connection to view it, but it’s worth the nine and a half minutes of viewing time. Just click on the play button at the bottom left corner of the player to view it. You may also want to click on the full screen icon at the lower right of the player to expand the video for a better look.
You’ll find five more (at the time of this writing) videos online at the primary ESV Study Bible web site. They include interviews with some of the folks who put this wonderful bible together such as J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, and Lane Dennis as well as an interview with John Piper and one from Joni Eareckson Tada. To see the main video page click HERE!
That’s it for our review of the ESV Online Study Bible web site. In the next article we’ll review the Bible Gateway web site, one of the most valuable online bible resources anywhere. It contains more versions in more languages than any other site we’ve seen and is an invaluable tool when you want to compare multiple versions side by side for additional understanding. It is an almost unlimited virtual parallel bible.