- The NIV is a thought-for-thought translation, making it much easier to read than the NAS but not as good a study tool since it's English words don't always align with the underlying Greek & Hebrew.
- The NAS has opposite strengths: as an almost word-for-word translation it is a more technically accurate reflection of the original languages making it a better study tool (and thus my first choice for years) but that left it's English pretty stilted and wooden.
The ESV beautifully bridges the gap between these two translations, accurately reflecting the sense and nuance of the original languages (which suits it perfectly for serious study) while preserving a fluency and readability that makes it ideal for casual reading too. When combined with some of the partner resources, like ESV reverse-interlinear versions for both Greek and Hebrew, I was hooked, and I've been preaching from the ESV ever since.
Then along came the ESV Study Bible, and I'm beyond hooked! This version contains all the helpful tools any good study Bible has like explanatory notes, charts, and diagrams. But they're all fully updated with the latest scholarly and archaeological data, and many are rendered in beautiful color. The cross referencing and Concordance features are excellent from the few I've checked so far. The introductory material before each Testament, each section of books, and each book are exemplary. Click here for a study notes sample: the introduction to Ephesians with very cool charts and color diagrams (warning: 4.5MB link!) But there's still more.
What really caught my attention with this particular study Bible is several collections of articles it contains on a variety of core Christian items. There's a whole series of brief articles on Christian theology and ethics, articles on how to read and interpret the Bible, how the Bible came to be and the reliability of the Bible, information on the original Biblical languages (for non-scholars), articles summarizing other major world religions and pseudo-Christian cults, and even an effective plan to read the Bible in a year (whew!). And the capstone of all this excellent material, which sings most strongly to my heart, is a 3 1/2 page Overview of the Bible which traces God's redemptive plan throughout the pages of Scripture. If every Christian reads and understands that article alone the flow of the entire Bible will come alive! Read the rest of them and you'll have an outstanding grasp of Christian faith, thought, and practice. Click here for a sample article.
The final icing on the cake is that buying a hard copy gets you access to the online version, where all the same articles, maps, diagrams, and study tools are at the click of a mouse, all hyper-linked for easy access (try turning back to Deuteronomy from Philippians... oh wait, you don't need to. Just click!)
All from a single study Bible. I've never seen anything quite as thorough and high quality as this, and I can't recommend it strongly enough.
So go get one.
So, did YOU know what Solomon's Temple looked like?