The ESV Scripture Journal: Old Testament Set

I was just at the Shepherds Conference representing Lexham Press; I stood all day in the book tent. I had many dozens of conversations with pastors from all over. I also saw/met dozens of graduates of my alma mater: my table was a bit of a pilgrimage site. (I also sold out of all 50 copies of Authorized, and received a great gift from the Lord: a number of stories about where my book has gone and what by God’s grace it has done.) I didn’t get to go to a single session, because the book tent was never empty. During any given service, a third of the attendees are asked to sit out, and many of them cycle through the tent.

(One quick note: the volunteers from Grace Community Church amazed me. Their happy smiles and generosity were in abundant evidence. And there were 900 of them. Thank you, brothers and sisters—you really encouraged me.)

The biggest and clearly the hottest book table was Crossway’s. They had a huge section dedicated to books, and a huge one dedicated to Bibles. What they are doing really is incredible. They just don’t make any significant missteps in those Bibles. The typography, the bindings, the formats—they’re all so well done. The NASB table was right across from us, and though they had an interesting new preacher’s Bible designed by MacArthur himself, the number and beauty of their editions was obviously far behind those of the ESV. (It is largely for this reason that I tend to use the ESV myself.)

And one of the newest treasures they had over at the Crossway Bibles table was the Scripture Journal. Crossway sent me an Old Testament set to review (naturally, they did not ask me to give a certain opinion).

The set comes in a beautiful box:

But you’re not supposed to just take Instagram photos of the slipcase. Crossway told me you’re supposed to take off the top and pull out the books inside. For note-taking. Huh.

This is what you’ll see:

Open one of the “books,” and you’ll get a beautiful, versified setting of whatever book you’re reading/studying, along with a full page of notes, lined and ready for your Pigma Micron Pen.

There’s really just nothing bad about this set. No, it’s not leather-bound—but would you want it to be? It would be double the width. And your point is not taking it to church (probably?) but working in your home study. The binding is a durable black paper instead.

Now, wait a minute… It wouldn’t be so bad if you did take a volume to church. If your pastor is going through Psalms, as mine recently was (excellent sermons!), or Isaiah, as my previous pastor did, and if he sticks close to the text (as both my pastors did!), then taking the right volume along for notes might be ideal. This set could bring lifelong value to you. Imagine page after page like this filled with good exegetical thoughts, applications, illustrations for future use…

I’ll be straightforward here and say that I am too tied to computerized notes for this beautiful set of Scripture journals to work for me. I made an abortive attempt just two months ago to take all the many sermon notes I’d taken on paper over the years (approx. 1997–2002) and digitize them. But it was a massive chore, and my app stumbled over the size of the resulting PDFs. I wasted an hour or two of work. It could seriously take me a week to do it right, and I’d still have images and not digital text when I got done.

Since 2002 or so, since I got my amazing, beloved Palm IIIxe (later supplanted by an iPod, then an iPhone and iPad), I have been a rigorous taker of electronic notes. For my calling and gifts and bents, digital is better. *

But if that’s not you, if you’re like one of the many pastors at the Lexham booth at Shepherds Conference who told me, “I’m a paper guy,” then you just cannot go wrong with the ESV Scripture Journal: Old Testament Set. Bravo, yet again, Crossway. Keep up the fantastic work!

* FWIW, I use the lean and mean NVAlt for my Bible notes (originally taken in BibleWorks—I’ve been too busy to move them to Logos’ new system). I use the amazing Ulysses not just for all my writing but for all my book notes—I harvest highlights from all Logos and Kindle books.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. dcsj on March 17, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Wouldn’t work for me. I am an inveterate doodler when taking pen and ink notes. You should see my college textbooks – no way could I sell them to anyone after I was done with them. They were a mess. I like to say its a sign of something… not sure if that’s good! Anyway, yeah, nice looking set, but just wouldn’t fit my rambling brain.



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