The General Editors of The Wesley Study Bible were Bishop Will Willimon of the United Methodist Church (Birmingham Area) and Dr. Joel Green of Fuller Theological Seminary. The contribution of Bishop Willimon was enough in itself to attract my interest in this project. Bishop Willimon is the co-author, along with Stanley Hauerwas, of the book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, which while it was not a formative influence in my life, came into my life at a time when I was thrilled to discover that other Christians were suggesting the primary calling of believers is the development of Christ-like communities rather than attempts to reform the secular culture.
The volume itself is not particularly appealing. It is bound cheaply in one of the seemingly endless varieties of polyurethane “pleather” covers so popular today. It has, in my opinion, an unattractive, two-tone, green and tan cover. On the plus side, it opens up and lays flat, and is remarkably “floppy” in the hand. So the bible is functional, if not aesthetically pleasing.
In fact, while some of the Tru-Tone bindings available (I’m thinking of Crossway’s ESV, for example) have proven pretty reliable, and behave like a really good leather binding, the Wesley Study Bible’s quality is extremely sub-par. There is only one edition available, and since I wanted to read the study notes, I took the plunge and ordered a copy from Cokesbury.
The spine cracked the second day I had it, and the cover began separating from the block. I was not pleased. But I just so happened to be already planning a trip to Leonard’s Book Restoration…more on that later.
Why would someone with a Hebrew Roots bent be interested in the Wesley Study Bible? Consider the comments on Psalm 106:3 as an example:
“Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.” – Psalm 106:3 NRSV
An opening call to praise God and live righteously. It is impossible to adequately praise God (v.2), but one can live well by adhering to God’s law (v. 3)
Or the insert on the same page as Jeremiah 31:
…Wesley saw that “holiness of heart” could be misunderstood, however, as solely an interior change. The outward and ethical dimension so prominent in Scripture could be missed. So Wesley often used the phrase “inward and outward” (or “all inward and outward”) holiness to forestall any disconnection between inner transformation and outward behavior. Holiness of heart means transformation by God’s grace, enabling people to be holy, loving, and Christ-like in their relationships with one another and with the land.
Basically, because of the Wesleyan emphasis on practical holiness, there is a recognition throughout the Wesley Study Bible of the present day value of God’s law as a tool for ongoing sanctification. Likewise, because the law of God is valued there is a notable absence of the derogatory comments so common in many study bibles on passages like Colossians 2:16-17, etc.
Practically speaking, however, what was I going to do with this Bible? The NRSV translation is not a favorite, so I won’t be using this on a day-to-day basis, which means that I want the bible to sit on my shelf, rather than have to lay flat and take up extra space. So, I had Eric at Leonard’s Book Restoration re-bind it as a hardcover. The results are extraordinarily functional and durable.
Despite its ridiculous original cover, the text block is sewn and of good paper, and the resulting hardback lays flat when opened to any page. It looks decent on the shelf, and definitely feels good to the hand.
I’m not sure I’m a fan of the printing on the spine, but the cover material is high quality.