ESV Diadem Reference Edition Review

Once you’ve settled on a translation, choosing a Bible comes down to two things:

    • The additional notes and helps.
    • The physical characteristics.


This ESV Bible review will examine the ESV Diadem Reference Edition that excels at both. Here is the ideal partnering of accuracy and resourcefulness with comfort and convenience.

ESV Diadem Reference Edition

ESV Diadem Reference Edition
Cambridge University Press
November 4, 2021


ESV with Apocrypha Diadem Reference Edition

ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha
Cambridge University Press
November 4, 2021

The Diadem Reference Edition of the English Standard Version presents a comfortable, readable format in a compact-sized cross-referenced Bible. This review is based on the hardcover editions released November 4, 2021. Leather-bound editions are scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2022.

From the Cambridge University Press page about the ESV Diadem Reference Edition:

This is the beginning of a new family of Bibles, published first in the ESV translation.

    • stunning cover artwork
    • American spelling ESV text
    • choice of contemporary or traditional binding styles


    • cross-references
    • black or red-letter text
    • paragraph format
    • concordance
    • maps
    • ribbon marker

A Key Element – Size

ESV Diadem Reference Bible
8.50″ x 6.00″ x 1.38″

ESV Diadem Reference Bible with Apocrypha
8.50″ x 6.00″ x 1.62″

The size of these Bibles is perfect for holding in your hands while reading. They measure 8-1/2 inches high, the standard size of most compact hardcover Bibles, but the width is 6 inches, a full half-inch wider than my other Bibles of this size. The pages themselves are about 8-3/8 by 5-7/8, making the layout just a little bit wider – wider in each of the two columns and wider in the center cross-reference column (compared to my NKJV and old ESV Reference Bibles with a similar layout). The ESV Diadem Reference Edition is 1-3/8 inches thick and the ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha is about 1-5/8 inches thick. That’s after reading it daily for a week, which tends to make a book a little thicker.

ESV Diadem Reference Edition Bible Format

This is a Christian Bible translation, so the format is like nearly every other Christian translation. The books of the Old Testament follow the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Tanakh, even though the text itself is based primarily on the Masoretic Text. For those who grew up in Church, this isn’t an issue. For new Messianic readers who have been using the Complete Jewish Bible, Tree of Life Version, or some other Jewish or Messianic Bible, just be aware that the book order is a little different. The numbering of chapters and/or verses in the Old Testament are also sometimes different than the Hebrew Tanakh. (The only Christian translation I have encountered with verse numbering matching the Tanakh is the New American Bible, a Roman Catholic version). Check out more on the differences here.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament1 and 27 books in the New Testament. The ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha places the 18 books of the Apocrypha in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments. This is different than the ESV-CE (Catholic Edition) that places the Deutero-canonicals with the Old Testament books.
The Bible text is printed in two columns with a narrower center column for the cross-references. It is nicely done in paragraph rather than verse-by-verse format. At first I thought that a new Book of the Bible always began on a new page, which is nice, but when I checked each book individually I found that wasn’t always the case.

In these hardbound editions, the text is all black letter. I understand that the leather-bound editions to be released in 2022 have the “Words of Christ in red,” which is something I personally do not like. Other people may find this useful, though.
There is a presentation page, the title page, and Table of Contents including an alphabetical listing of the books. This is followed by a Preface to the English Standard Version and an explanation of the features of the Diadem Reference Edition. Then there are a couple of helpful tables with the Chronology of Rulers During Biblical Times and one with Weights and Measures and Monetary Units.

In the back of this Bible is a 90-page Concordance and a set of 15 color maps. I expected the concordance to be the same one found in the 2001 ESV Reference Bible published by Crossway Bibles, but it isn’t. This one is more extensive.

The finishing touches to this high quality binding are a full-color illustrated dust jacket and a nice ribbon page marker.

The Cross-Reference System and Footnotes

This is what makes it a Diadem Reference Edition. The cross-references appear to be the same as found in the original 2001 ESV Reference Bible. Cross-references follow the standard format of a lower-case alphabetical superscript preceding the word(s). Footnotes specific to the ESV are indicated by numerical superscripts after the word(s). One nice thing about the way this is presented in the Bible text itself is that the superscripts are small, lighter weight and italicized. They do not interfere with reading.

Cross-references are in the center column. Footnotes, on the other hand, are at the end of the right-hand column on each page, which makes them a little easier to find. Cross-references for the left-hand column are oriented toward the top of the center column, while cross-references for the right-hand column are oriented toward the bottom. White space in the center column separates the two. Occasionally the cross-references spill over into the bottom of the right-hand column underneath the footnotes. Everything is well separated and easy to distinguish.

Selection from ESV Diadem Reference Edition

It should be noted that these are footnotes to the ESV text and are standard in all ESV Bibles. They are not study notes, and no doctrinal position is put forth in either of the ESV Diadem Reference Editions.


Serious Bible students in the Messianic and Hebrew Roots community are generally wanting to use literal Bible translations, and for many years have preferred the New American Standard Bible (NASB) over others. The English Standard Version (ESV) is making a strong emergence, being only slightly less literal but much more readable than the NASB. Granted, the 2020 update to the NASB is also a little less literal and more readable as well. Frankly, I like and use both of these translations. In each, the Old Testament is based primarily on the Masoretic Texts (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) and the New Testament is base based on the Critical Texts (UBS Greek New Testament and Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece).

The ESV is described as an “essentially literal” translation by the original translation team. It is based on the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which itself was based ono the 1901 American Standard Version and the 1881 Revised Version. There were a few passages in the RSV translation that conservative and/or evangelical Christians found problematic. The ESV has addressed these very well. The ESV is published by Crossway, and is not the same as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) published by Oxford.

The ESV follows the standard convention of rendering the divine name YHWH as “LORD” in small caps in the Old Testament. It is not forced into the New Testament, as the Greek texts do not contain it.

I hope Cambridge University Press considers making an NASB Diadem Reference Edition as well.

ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha

One of my favorite Bibles has been The English Standard Version Bible with Apocrypha published in 2009 by Oxford University Press. It gave me a translation nearly on par with the NASB that also included the complete Apocrypha as found in the RSV. The NASB from Lockman Foundation, my primary translation, does not have the Apocrypha. Physically the Oxford edition from 2009 is a little larger than I like to carry, but I used it at home and it was beginning to show some wear. Unfortunately, it is no longer in print so I could not buy another.

This ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha fills that void. Nearly everything in this edition is the same as the one without the Apocrypha. Unlike the former Oxford edition that put the Apocrypha at the very end, here the books of the Apocrypha are added as a section between the Old and New Testaments. And unlike the former which was not a reference Bible, this one actually has cross-reference in the Apocrypha.

So, here are the additional items in this Diadem edition with Apocrypha:

    • The title page includes copyright information for the ESV Apocrypha.
    • The Table of Contents includes these books, although this added section starts over again at Page 1 (the New Testament does this as well.)
    • There is a Preface to the ESV Apocrypha along with the others.
    • The Chronology of Rulers During Biblical Times includes the Hasmonean Dynasty, which ruled in Judea from about 143 BC to about 37 BC. The other edition just skips this time period as it is not covered in either the Old or New Testaments.
    • The Apocrypha (18 books) is inserted in its own section between the Old and New Testaments.
    • A section of Maps Relevant to the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (not in color) follows the 18 books.

I previously reviewed the stand-alone edition of the English Standard Version Apocrypha here.

A Few Issues With This Edition

First, let me say that I really appreciate this perfectly sized and complete edition with the Apocrypha. I have needed an ESV of this style, and the ESV-CE didn’t quite fill the bill. This is exactly what it says on the cover. It is an English Standard Version Reference Bible that happens to also have the Apocrypha.

The cross-references in the Apocrypha are a little bit different (and I think better) than those in the main ESV Bible. As described at the beginning of the Apocrypha,

“The cross-reference system used in the Apocrypha section differs from that of the main ESV Bible text in that it links by verse rather than individual word. Consequently no siglas are required within the text.”

OK, I had to look up siglas, which I did not find. Sigla (no “s”) is the plural of siglum. Sigla are the superscript letters preceding words that tie them to the center column cross-references. In the Apocrypha, for each verse there is just a list of cross-references in the center column. It actually makes the text cleaner. I like that.

Cross-references in the Apocrypha reference other passages in the Apocrypha and the main ESV text, which is great. However, there are NO cross-references (that I could find) in the ESV text that refer to anything in the Apocrypha. In this edition, the Apocrypha is just something that has been added to what was already there.

For example, consider the Hanukkah story found in 1 Maccabees. At 1 Maccabees 4:59 there are cross-references to “2 Macc. 1:18; 10:5,6,8; John 10:22.” At the passages in 2 Maccabees there are cross-references back to “1 Macc. 4:59.” But in John 10 there are no references to anything in 1 or 2 Maccabees.

Consider 1 Esdras 1:1 through 2:5. This passage is a very close parallel to 2 Chronicles 35 and 36 (sometimes even word-for-word), and there are many cross-references in 1 Esdras back to 2 Chronicles. There are also many more cross-references in 1 Esdras to other passages in the Old and New Testaments. But they are not the same as the cross-references in 2 Chronicles, and those in 2 Chronicles never reference anything in 1 Esdras. Clearly the cross-reference system in the Apocrypha is not from the same source as the one used in the main ESV text.

Further demonstrating the the Apocrypha is just an add-on to the other edition, the 90-page concordance is exactly the same in both editions. In fact, there is no concordance to the Apocrypha or that includes passages in Apocryphal books here. For a Reference Bible, this seems to be something critical that has been overlooked.


The English Standard Version is a very good translation of the Bible, faithful to the original text in an eloquent modern style. This ESV Diadem Reference Edition is a wonderful Bible for study, offering cross-references to other Bible passages without the use of doctrinally biased study notes. The size of these two Bibles makes them perfect for study at home or to carry to a congregational meeting or other Bible study. I highly recommend the ESV Diadem Reference Edition to all Bible students, and especially the ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha to Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers or anyone who reads the Apocrypha. An accurate, modern language translation with the Apocrypha is a much needed tool, and this one is here just in time for Hanukkah.

1 The Hebrew Bible has 24 instead of 39 books, though they comprise the same material. The twelve minor prophets are combined into one book. 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles combined into single books respectively, as are Ezra & Nehemiah

Cambridge University Press provided complimentary copies of the ESV Diadem Reference Edition and ESV Diadem Reference Edition with Apocrypha for this review.

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