The last Reformed study Bible, with explanatory comments in the margins or at the bottom of the page, was the Geneva Bible, a product of the Reformation. As Dr. Nicole has shown, it was produced by John Knox and others influenced by Calvin at Geneva and became the Bible of the Puritans. Its influence was widespread and profound; its legacy enduring. Eventually it fell from use, supplanted by the King James Version.
For years there has been a recognized need for a new Reformed study Bible to replace the role filled earlier by the Geneva Bible. Since my seminary days I have often heard the plaintive acknowledgment of the absence of a Reformed study Bible. And people talked about it for years before that, but no one did anything about it. So, although study Bibles seemed to multiply like rabbits as the years passed, a Reformed study Bible was nowhere to be found among them.
Reformed theologians have a history of distinguished scholarship and have been prime movers educationally but often slow to popularize. This deficiency was pronounced in the failure to produce a suitable study Bible informed by the finest theological and biblical scholarship but in a popular style for the average reader.
Finally, some years ago, R. C. Sproul, in a conversation with the recently established publishing house of Wolgemuth and Hyatt, decided the time had come. The Ligonier board responded enthusiastically to his suggestion that a Reformed study Bible be published. The biggest obstacle was securing sufficient funds to pay for preparation of the manuscript. A plan was developed to move forward with the funding and to seek the support and participation of the finest Reformed scholars available.
It was agreed that R. C. Sproul would be the general editor and that I would serve as executive director of the project under the supervision of the newly formed board of the Foundation for Reformation. Adequate funding was secured soon after, and the vision began to take shape as plans were laid to enlist the best possible editorial team. Dr. Bruce Waltke, a renowned Old Testament scholar, agreed to serve as the Old Testament editor, and the distinguished scholar Dr. Philip Hughes consented to become the New Testament editor. Then four illustrious scholars, Drs. Edmund Clowney, J. I. Packer, James Boice, and Roger Nicole, were enlisted as associate editors. The only change in this editorial team was the addition of Dr. Moisés Silva as a replacement for Dr. Philip Hughes.
The editorial team at its initial meeting determined the basic structure and content of the New Geneva Study Bible, including the idea of theological sidebars. They then proceeded to select an outstanding international team of scholars, young and old, well-known and emerging, to prepare the commentary and other materials for each book of the Bible.
The name New Geneva Study Bible was selected in order to demonstrate the desire to recover the influence of a Reformed study Bible and to renew the influence of once-dominant Reformed theology in this country. It was an essential step in carrying forward the vision for a new Reformation.
Because one of the most striking features of the Reformation was its international influence, thanks primarily to John Calvin’s ministry in Geneva, the name was also selected with the desire of rekindling that same international outreach that spread from Geneva in the 16th century. Since Geneva is still well known and respected internationally, it seemed to be a logical choice.
And the New Geneva Study Bible will be used internationally. It is already being translated into Russian and German and will be available in the former Soviet Union and Europe simultaneously with its release in North America. A contract has been signed to authorize publication in Portuguese; in addition, discussions are underway regarding translation into Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, and Indonesian, assuring its usage globally.
Problems are inevitable in all humanly wrought projects, and the New Geneva Study Bible was no exception. A major impediment was the unexpected financial difficulty experienced by Wolgemuth and Hyatt, which led to their acquisition by Word Publishing Company. Soon after that, Word was acquired by Thomas Nelson. Although all materials had been prepared and submitted on schedule, these transactions resulted in substantial, unexpected delays and a change from the use of the New International Version to the New King James Version as the text for the study Bible.
Finally, the vision for another Reformed study Bible is coming to fruition. The New Geneva Study Bible will make the majestic truth of the Reformed faith clear to the serious student of the Scriptures who wants to master its message. As the compelling, coherent, comprehensive content of Reformed thinking is crystallized in the mind and heart of readers all over the world, we pray that God might ignite a new Reformation.