QA: ESV Literary Study Bible alternatives?


“I already own the ESV Classic Reference edition and find it difficult to also purchase this LSB edition. Does Crossway plan on carrying an ‘only-the-notes’ version of this study Bible?” – Hanz


Hello, Hanz! I doubt Crossway will release the notes independently. Here’s why.

The ESV Literary Study Bible found its conceptual origin as a 2005 book release known as the Ryken’s Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken and James Wilhoit (Tyndale: 2005). Much of the content in the LSB was taken from the Ryken’s Bible Handbook. The LSB goes further in applying the structure and content of the Handbook to each section/chapter of Scripture specifically.

If you can buy the Bible, buy the Bible. But if you want to use materials from the Ryken’s but cannot afford the LSB (or cannot justify buying another Bible), I would start with Ryken’s Bible Handbook. You will be very impressed by the content. So that’s my advice. And if you want a peek into the handbook, Tyndale offers a PDF download of the first chapter (click here for download).

Great question, Hanz. I hope this helps. Tony
Further notes on the ESV LSB

It’s worth noting that Monergism Books now sells the ESV Literary Study Bible for $29.99. Also, I suppose this is a good place to let you know I today posted a transcript of the TSS interview with Dr. Leland Ryken over at Monergism and you can read it here (the original audio interview can be accessed here). Our full review of the LSB is here. And for those who have already purchased and received their ESV LSB in the mail, we want to hear from you! Give us your feedback on what you think of the LSB here.

QA: Organizing a library

tssqa.jpgNoah writes: Tony, I know you read LOTS of books and probably have lots of books. I have somewhere around 2,500 to 3,500 books in my personal library. It has gotten so big I can’t use it effectively. I am trying to organize it but don’t know how. How would you suggest organizing a library? I don’t want something as detailed as the Dewey Decimal system, but I need something more than ‘Commentaries’ and ‘Christian Living’ as categories. Also, how do you know which category a book belongs in? For example, R.C. Sproul’s stuff is written on a popular level and could be classified as ‘Christian Living’ or as ‘Theology’ as in the case of The Last Days According to Jesus. Thanks for your help. Noah

TSS says: Hello, Noah! This is a great question I get a lot. First, scrap the idea that your books are best organized physically on shelves. This is a big mental hindrance, as you know. Sadly a number of computer and online programs are better suited for book collectors rather than detail-minded Christian readers.

The physical location is important only so far as is makes each title (not each topic) easy to find. I arrange my topical and theological books by author, and commentaries by the biblical book covered (i.e. all commentaries on Romans are grouped together). Commentaries are easy, topical and theological books are tricky. Let’s talk about theose tricky topical books.

The key to organizing topical and theological books is electronic. I find electronic databases critical because (as you mentioned) most books fit multiple categories.

It’s very easy. Here’s what I do…

I start with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I run five columns across (A-E). The first three are topical (A-C) and grow increasingly specific as you move to the right. The fourth column (D) is the author and the final column (E) is the book title and page number where the specific subject is addressed. Once I input my data for each subject on a horizontal line, I sort the data into alphabetical order.

Here is one example. For our purposes I have taken 3 books and begun my spreadsheet. It looks like this:

  • Biography > 19th century > Robert Murray M’Cheyne > Iain Murray > The Banner of Truth Magazine: Issues 1-16 (pages)
  • Christian living > Prayer > Call to diligence > J.I. Packer > Growing in Christ (pages)
  • Christian living > Evangelism > [undefined] > J.I. Packer > Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
  • Ecclesiology > Outreach > Evangelism > J.I. Packer > Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
  • Theology > Calvinism > Defense of > Iain Murray > The Banner of Truth Magazine: Issues 1-16 (pages)
  • Theology > Nature of God > Sovereignty > J.I. Packer > Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (pages)
  • Theology > Soteriology > Union with Christ > J.I. Packer > Growing in Christ (pages)

I hope this makes sense, Noah. The key is to use electronic tagging system like this that allows you unlimited breakdowns of each book. Establishing this system takes some work on the front but will be worth it in the end. Feel free to modify the system to your own preferences!

Blessings to you, Noah! May God bless your reading and thank you for reading The Shepherd’s Scrapbook!



ADDENDUM: A second post was added to answer some common questions raised in the comments of this post. Click here.


Have a question of your own? Pass it along via email (tony AT takeupandread DOT com). Thanks for reading! Tony

QA: Family worship and unattentive children

tssqa.jpgThe TSS mailbag is filled with excellent questions from readers. One such question comes from Phil, a man striving for a consistent family worship schedule despite an unattentive little child. What to do? Dr. J. Ligon Duncan has written about family worship and so I passed the question along to him for his advice. He kindly responded with this excellent perspective:

My own answer is you start family worship as soon as possible, as soon as one is married, and continue it after children come along, no matter how young the children are (and the younger the better). The point is not for the youngest children to be able to comprehend (or even to sit still during it!). The point is impress upon them, by paternal example the priority of God and his word in all of life. They learn this, even if they comprehend nothing in the reading, praying and singing, simply by seeing a father pausing day after day to read the word with his family.

Here is what I said in Give Praise to God (P&R):

“Now there is a whole host of practical questions and problems that come to mind once we determine to begin family worship. How long should it last? It should be regularly brief, as little as 10 minutes when the children are very young. Gradually, it will run a little longer as they grow older and conversations strike up. Don’t kill it by trying to go too long. Pace yourself. Regularity and repetition is the key. When should we do family worship? When it works – morning/breakfast, suppertime or bedtime are the three most common times.

“… There are dozens of potential hindrances: a lack of discipline, a lack of sense of the importance of family worship, a lack of experience of family worship in one’s own upbringing and more.

“But above all, there is the enemy of idealism. You have this picture of a Puritan family sitting around the table attentively and reverently reading the whole book of 1 Chronicles at a sitting, singing half the Psalter from memory, and praying for ninety minutes, and then you look around your table and your wife is rolling her eyes, your two-year old is throwing left-over spaghetti around the kitchen, your eight-year old is making faces at her sister and your teenager would rather do calculus. Don’t let the gap between the ideal and the reality stop you! Those unattentive children will grow up and thank you for persevering, and the memories of a father who loved them enough to make that kind of an effort will etch a permanent affection in their hearts.”

J. Ligon Duncan
First Presbyterian Church

Excellent advice! Thank you Dr. Duncan. For more insight on family worship see Duncan’s chapter in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (P&R: 2003). Duncan lays the foundation for family worship – Scripture reading, song and prayer – and then addresses several other common hurdles to success.


Have a question to throw in the TSS mailbag? Pass it along via email (tony AT takeupandread DOT com). Thanks for reading! Tony