What’s His Name doing on My Bible?


The ESV translation has quickly become the hot new Bible translation amongst the neo-‘Reformed’ crowd. It is more likely than not that the ESV will eventually topple the current king of the Bible sales mountain – NIV. Crossway, eager to capitalize on its success, and John MacArthur, seeking to carve out a larger niche in the ‘Reformed’ study Bible market have joined forces to produce a potential market smash – the MacArthur Study Bible in ESV. For a long time, MacArthur has been a devoted loyalist to the unappealing and awkward sounding NASB, but with the undeniable popularity of the ESV, he seems to be looking to expand his horizons.

The MacArthur ESV Study Bible

By pressing on the Resources button you can download a PDF copy of the book of Romans. A quick scan through the Romans notes indicates pretty typical Dispensational fare. He defines Israel as simply Abraham’s descendants through Jacob. Covenant is defined as a legally binding promise, agreement, or contract. The six Biblical covenants are listed, but their ultimate fulfillment in Christ is not. There is no discussion of the the theological covenants. The root of the olive tree in Romans 11 is the patriarchs and the branches are the descendants of the patriarchs. He then moves away from the logical conclusion of Gentile branches and spiritualizes the text by stating that Gentiles become ‘spiritual heirs’ of the covenant blessings, by being graffed in. He defines the olive tree as ‘the place of divine blessing’? Sadly, he interprets the blessing of salvation comming upon all who believe, during the New Covenant dispensation, irrespective of race, but doesn’t handle the lesser physical blessings in the same way. This inconsistency makes the study Bible of suspect worth in my humble opinion. I will be curious to evaluate more of the study notes as it hits store shelves this Fall.

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2 thoughts on “What’s His Name doing on My Bible?

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I found your blog through the Andrew Fuller Center website. Seems like you have some good work here, keep it up.

    Concerning MacArthur, not just in regards to his study Bible, he has been in transition it seems from being a clear dispensationalist to more of a progressive dispensational view. It appears he wants to maintain the distinction between Israel and the Church, yet not follow the continued path of much in dispensational thought – plus he hangs around a whole bunch of convinced Covenant guys!

    I would be interested to know more about what I perceive you feel are differences between Gentiles being “branches” as opposed to them being “graffed in” and recipients of the Divine blessing.

    Best of luck.

    • Philip –

      Thanks for stopping by and thank you for the kind words.

      Regarding MacArthur, I think “Progressive” Dispensationalism may be overstating the case. I think MacArthur may agree with many things in Dispensationalism, and may preach from the Gospels as Church Age Scripture, but I would think he would disagree with much, sadly, in PD. From what I understand, the faculty members of his seminary are much more strongly Dispensational and less strongly Calvinist. I bet you could Google TMS and PD and find some interesting works by faculty members. I think MacArthur tones down Dispy rhetoric because he moves within broadly ‘Reformed’ circles and he doesn’t consider eschatology a primary doctrine on which to base fellowship. I don’t want to speak for the man, that is my impression.

      My issue is that if the root of the tree is the patriarchs of Israel and the branches are individual Hebrew peoples (who are broken off because of their lack of faith), would not the whole tree represent Israel, the one believing people of God? MacArthur seems to be saying that the Gentiles are not grafted into the one people of God, but rather become ‘spiritual’ heirs of the patriarchs by being grafted into the ‘place of divine blessing.’

      This, to me, seems to dance around the obvious implication of the text. This being, that as Hebrew people are cut from ‘their own olive tree’ and Gentiles are graffed in ‘contrary to nature’ the Gentiles become members of the one people of God. They become full-fledged members of Israel and heirs to the promises made to the fathers – all of them! Not just spiritual ones! Ephesians 2 provides the clearest explanation of this.

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