Feature-by-feature comparison of the ESV Reader’s Bible, Bibliotheca, and The Books of the Bible

To follow up on the review I offered in my last post of the ESV Reader’s Bible, here is a feature-by-feature comparison of that edition with two other Bibles without chapters and verses that I also mentioned in that post, Bibliotheca and The Books of the Bible.  (Bibliotheca has not yet been published and I do not have a copy, so the information here is based on its promotional material.)

Layout
ESV Reader’s Bible: single column
Bibliotheca: single column
The Books of the Bible: single column

Chapter and Verse Numbers
ESV Reader’s Bible: none in text; chapter numbers in red in left margin
Bibliotheca: none
The Books of the Bible: none

Chapter and Verse Range
ESV Reader’s Bible: book, chapter, and verse range on top of page in red
Bibliotheca: none
The Books of the Bible: chapter and verse range on bottom of page in gray

Translators’ Notes
ESV Reader’s Bible: removed from printed edition, made available in online edition
Bibliotheca: none
The Books of the Bible: presented as endnotes after each book

Translators’ Sectional/Subject Headings
ESV Readers’ Bible: removed
Bibliotheca: none
The Books of the Bible: removed

Book Order
ESV Reader’s Bible: customary
Bibliotheca: follows Hebrew Bible for OT, customary order for NT
The Books of the Bible: chronological and literary, e.g. Paul’s letters in order likely written; OT lyric poetry together (Psalms, Lamentations, Song of Songs); etc. (See a full description here.)

Book Boundaries
ESV Reader’s Bible: customary
Bibliotheca: customary
The Books of the Bible: Luke-Acts, Samuel-Kings, Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah recombined

Compositional Units Presented Within Books
ESV Reader’s Bible: traditional chapters, with line spaces in between
Bibliotheca: traditional chapters, with line spaces in between (as depicted in promotional video)
The Books of the Bible: natural literary divisions, e.g. twelve topical discussions in 1 Corinthians; six exchanges between prophet and people in Malachi; four oracles in Haggai

Number of Volumes
ESV Reader’s Bible: one
Bibliotheca: four: 1. Five Books [of Moses]+Former Prophets=Genesis through Kings; 2. Latter Prophets; 3. Writings; 4. New Testament
The Books of the Bible: available in one volume or four volumes: 1. Covenant History=Genesis through Kings; 2. Prophets; 3. Writings [forthcoming]; 4. New Testament

Size of Page
ESV Reader’s Bible: 5.25 x 7.75 inches
Bibliotheca: 5.25 x 8.75 inches
The Books of the Bible: 6.25 x 9.31 inches

Binding
ESV Reader’s Bible: TruTone (imitation leather) or hardcover
Bibliotheca: hardcover or softcover with sewn binding
The Books of the Bible: softcover (Biblica editions), Duo-Tone (imitation leather) or hardcover (Zondervan editions)

Translation
ESV Reader’s Bible: English Standard Version (2011 update)
Bibliotheca: American Standard Version (1901) with grammatical forms updated (e.g. “thou” -> “you”) and syntax sometimes adjusted (“male and female created he them” -> “male and female he created them”) using Young’s Literal Translation as authority
The Books of the Bible: New International Version (2011 update)

I hope this comparative information is helpful.  Despite the slightly varying approaches in certain cases, these three editions embody a similar vision for presenting the Scriptures in a pure, clean form, free from additives.  I’m convinced that they are all “strikes of a bell that’s going to ring more insistently over the next few years,” as J. Mark Bertrand has put it on his Bible Design Blog, harbingers of a shift to “Bibles that make the scriptures accessible to us first and foremost as readers.”

Interior view of ESV Readers Bible
Envisioned page layout for Bibliotheca
Interior view of The Books of the Bible

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

10 thoughts on “Feature-by-feature comparison of the ESV Reader’s Bible, Bibliotheca, and The Books of the Bible”

  1. The Books of Daniel & Revelation need a divine group work interpretations & explanations. This I presume that ESV Readers Bible will accomodate such so as to understand the present time.+++Pastor Anyasodor A. W. A [Nigeria]

    1. Here are the specifics for The New Testament, translated by Richmond Lattimore:
      Layout: Single column.
      Chapter and verse numbers: None.
      Chapter and verse range: Book, chapter, and verse range on top of page in a different font.
      Translator’s notes: At the back of the volume, referenced by chapter and verse.
      Translator’s sectional/subject headings: None.
      Book order: Customary.
      Book boundaries: Customary.
      Compositional Units Presented Within Books: Traditional chapters, with line spaces in between and paragraph symbols at the start of chapters.
      Number of Volumes: Originally published in two volumes, The Four Gospels and the Revelation (1979) and Acts and Letters of the Apostles (1982).* Now in print as a single-volume New Testament.
      Size of page: 8.2 x 5.5 inches.
      Binding: Hardcover and softcover editions are available.
      Translation: “Newly translated from the Greek by Richmond Lattimore,” a noted classical scholar, whose aim was “to provide a simple, literal rendering in which the syntax and order of the Greek dictate the character of the English style.”

      *If you own these two volumes instead of the single-volume New Testament and put them side-by-side on your bookshelf, you’ll have a slightly different book order, one in which Revelation follows the gospels. Bruce Metzger notes in The Canon of the New Testament that Revelation has this same placement in several historic NT manuscripts.

    1. From what I’ve been able to discover looking around a bit on line, the font size is 9 pt. for the ESV Readers Bible and 10.5 pt. for The Books of the Bible. I don’t see anything in the Bibliotheca promotional video that indicates its font size. I hope this information is helpful.

      1. Based off some rough measuring – scaling the envisioned page layout image to actual page dimensions and then measuring the tallest ascender to the lowest descender – it appears Bibliotheca’s font size is at least 11 pt, possibly 12 pt (point sizes are fairly arbitrary anyway).

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