The Wesley Study Bible

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.

wesleystudybibleThe 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.

re-bound Wesley Study BiblePractically 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.




on the shelf

I’m not sure I’m a fan of the printing on the spine, but the cover material is high quality.

cover material

Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

I’m a fan of the English Standard Version, so when I read about the single-column, reference edition of the ESV in a personal size on Mark Bertrand’s blog I knew immediately that this would become my daily use Bible.

The major problem was that (as is typical of Crossway) there was not a high-quality binding available. Fortunately, however, the “Genuine Leather” edition comes with a sewn binding and therefore begs to be rebound.

I was so tickled about the prospects of this edition that I bought a buddy of mine a copy as well. I was having a bit of difficulty getting used to the idea of spending $70 to re-bind a brand new bible, however, so the PSRE mostly sat on my shelf for several weeks, since the Genuine Leather cover exhibited more cardboard-esque than leather-like qualities.

A few weeks ago, however, I saw my buddy’s  PRSE, which he had been using daily. The state of the cover was so disconcerting (permanently curled up, etc.) that I immediately began looking in to who I should have do this re-bind.

I had previously used Mechling Book Bindery for a black goatskin re-bind of a Classic Reference Edition ESV and was fairly pleased. The quality was excellent, but the action and handling of the bible left something to be desired, which may have been my fault for using a bible with the cheapest paper available. On the other hand, goatskin is slick in the hands and I’ve dropped the bible a couple times while reading or teaching, which involuntarily elicited a “Christian” swear-word right in front of the congregation! Can’t have that happening again (for those of you wondering, I said, “doggoneit” with particular vigor.)

I checked out the prices at Abba Bibles because the photos I’ve seen of their work looks like the richest leather I’ve seen anywhere. While their quote was half of anyone else, the cost of shipping to Mexico and back was going to be four times the cost of the re-bind! So that option was out.

deerskin ESV PSRE Leonard’s Book Restoration happens to be about two hours from my house, so the Long family went on a road trip to see what a custom book binder looks like. After considerable discussion with Eric (the proprietor) and handling all the leather they had on hand, I chose a 2 ounce, natural deerskin.

I received the deerskin bible yesterday (it took 5 weeks since Eric had around 150 bibles to do before mine). I must say that this is the best handling, best feeling bible I’ve ever experienced.

Check out the color and grain of that beauty! I told Eric that I wanted a darker but still undyed, natural skin. What he had on hand was a bit lighter than I was hoping for, but he got a new shipment in, and the result is absolutely perfect. Here’s a close-up of the grain.

deerskin grain

The critical factor behind my choice of deerskin was the way it felt. I wanted that luxurious, thick leather feel, but didn’t want the slick feel that goatskin has. Deerskin was a bit tackier to the feel than calfskin, and not as expensive, plus the natural deerskin color was exactly what I wanted.


I went for a blind stamping rather than foil stamping, and I’m really pleased with how that turned out.  Inside I went with a brown leatherette. I was concerned that the synthetic material would make the cover less “floppy” than I wanted, but Eric assured me that he thought it would work well.

inside cover

Sure enough, it is precisely the right combination, and produced the “action” in the hand that I wanted.  I chose chocolate brown for the ribbons and asked for three.

Eric and Margie are very friendly and will talk with you at length about what you’re looking to accomplish. Make sure to mention every detail that you want, and feel free to clarify whether what Eric describes is the same thing you’re looking for. Eric enjoys talking so don’t call when you’re in a hurry.

Check out the delightful result:

cover action

Leonard’s Book Restoration can be reached at (574) 652-2151; they are also very responsive to email. Their website is


In the Hand

I should point out, however, that I have large hands, so this picture could be slightly misleading.