The Historical Link Between the Reformation and Bible Study

Two crucial factors were important to the sweeping changes that were wrought in the world and the church during the Protestant Reformation. One was that Christian scholarship returned to Scripture as the source of authority. Because of this shift, the church was enriched by the teaching of its pastors, such giants as Luther and Calvin. A second factor crucial for the renewing of the church and the culture was that the teaching of the content of Scripture was extended far beyond the walls of the university and reached the people. The message of godly teachers who remained faithful to the authority of Scripture got to the people. As it did, the church became filled with knowledgeable and articulate lay people who carried their faith into the world, becoming agents to reform or restructure society.

It was out of that environment and for that purpose that the original Geneva Bible was developed. The persecutions of the counter Reformation drove exiles from Britain to Europe. The most capable scholars among them came to Geneva, Switzerland. There they undertook the task of preparing a new translation of the Bible in English. The Geneva Bible was published in 1560, carefully designed to be accurate and understandable. It was the first English Bible to use verse divisions, as "most profitable for memory" and for finding and comparing other passages. It was provided with marginal notes based on Reformed principles.

The Geneva Bible dominated the English-speaking world for a hundred years. It was the Bible used by Shakespeare. The Pilgrims and Puritans carried the Geneva Bible to the shores of the New World. American colonists were reared on the Geneva Bible . They read it, studied it, and sought to live by its light. The fact that believers around the world can read and study the Scriptures in their native language is thanks in no small part to those pioneering men and women.

Historic Light for a New Generation

"I believe this is the most important project I have ever been engaged in or involved with in my entire life. It is my prayer that this bible will be as useful to you as the original Geneva Bible was to our forefathers in the English speaking world."
Dr. R.C. Sproul, General Editor, The Reformation Study Bible

In 1988 a group of publishers approached Dr. Sproul with a vision to produce a study Bible from a Reformed perspective, asking him to serve as the general editor. After years of working on this project and overcoming various obstacles, The New Geneva Study Bible was released in 1995 through Thomas Nelson Publishers.

In searching for a team of scholars, it was important that the study notes stay true to Reformed theology and thinking. An editorial committee was established that included some of the most notable reformed scholars and pastors of our time. In addition, fifty other international scholars were chosen to work on each book of the Bible with the New International Version serving as their foundation. It took three years before all of the preliminary study notes were finished.

In 1992, the decision was made to switch to the New King James Version under a new agreement with Thomas Nelson Publishers to carry on the project. Due to the change in translation, it took the scholars an additional three years to revise all of the study notes to agree with the NKJV. In the process however, they were able to refine the notes and make them even more accessible to the layman. Finally, The New Geneva Study Bible was released in 1995.

In 1998, The New Geneva Study Bible was renamed The Reformation Study Bible and in 2005, Ligonier Ministries released The Reformation Study Bible in the English Standard Version. However, the English language is only a small part of this continuing project. It is our hope that one day The Reformation Study Bible will be available to anyone in any language.