I just received the Great Adventure Bible from Ascension Press this afternoon. Overall, I like this edition. It has surprisingly opaque pages with little ghosting; the font is large and very readable. I’m estimating the bible text is close to a size 10 font. When we discussed the announcement for this edition back in July, I was curious to see what the “alpha cowhide” imitation leather cover would be like. It feels very nice! The material is nearly identical to the imitation leather cover on Fr. Nicholas King’s complete translation of the Bible, for anyone who has seen that edition. This is not a plastic or rubber-feeling cover. It has a softness and flexibility that feels very nice to hold.

The subtle texture of the imitation leather is visible here.

The bible is not as thick as I expected. It measures just a hair over 1.5 inches thick. I’m very impressed that Ascension was able to produce a bible with decent-sized font, minimal ghosting, and opaque paper in such a manageable size. The pages are line-matched, but the binding is not precise enough to match the lines on subsequent pages. Since the paper is so opaque, this poses no practical problem for reading. 

This is also a red-letter edition, so the words of Jesus in the New Testament stand out:

Note that the cross references, footnotes, and textual notes are separated by line dividers at the bottom of the page. Explanatory footnotes are few and far between. I suspect that these are the same footnotes that appear in other editions of the RSV-2CE, but I do not have another copy to compare it to at present. 

As you can see in the previous two photos, there are colored tabs at the page edges that correspond to the colors in the Great Adventure Bible Timeline (the bible features a color diagram of this, in case you don’t have the Great Adventure study materials). The color tabs show at a glance the time period of salvation history that each book of the bible corresponds to. There are also at-a-glance pages that provide information about each of the color-coded time periods. Here’s the information page for the Messianic Fulfillment period:

There are in-text informational boxes that highlight pivotal events in salvation history, and there are major informational pages on the covenants God made with his people. Here is one on God’s covenant with Israel through Moses:

The bible features 14 color maps in the back which are readable and useful. They feature very bright colors, however, and my first impression is that they look a bit cartoon-like:

The Great Adventure Bible’s study materials bear a nihil obstat and imprimatur, and the biblical text retains the usual imprimatur page that was held over from the original RSV-CE:

A final downside: This bible has a glued binding. At this price point, I was optimistic that it would be sewn, but it is not. In fact, my copy has a slight gap between the glued pages around Jeremiah chapter 50, which seems like a quality control problem:

Here’s a view of the gap from between the pages of Jeremiah 50:

It’s disappointing to see a glued binding with quality issues in a bible that is selling for $60. It certainly makes me pause to think about whether this bible is worth the price. The study helps are interesting and useful, but not extensive. It would be hard for me to justify the price simply for the additional study material presented here. On the other hand, the cover is very nice, the text is larger than many bibles in this size range, and the pages are surprisingly opaque, making the reading experience very good. Ascension Press notes that they have already sold 81% of their stock, so if you’re interested in this bible, now is a good time to get one before they are backordered. 

19 thoughts on “First Look: Great Adventure Bible (RSV-2CE) from Ascension Press”

  1. Thanks! I was wondering a lot about this Bible. I think I’ll pass on it and save my $$ for the Revised New Jerusalem Bible due out in the Spring.

  2. Oh dear, glued binding….
    But besides that, it’s very attractive! I really like the font and color scheme and cover and everything!
    Even the cartoon maps appeal to me.
    I would still like to have one, one of these days maybe.

    I bet kids would love it.

  3. Marc,

    Thanks so much for the purchase and the review. This is very helpful.

    Your photos are detailed enough that I was able to compare the photo of Luke 9/10 to my RSV-2CE from Ignatius. Indeed the footnotes and references are identical. The organization is different, the Great Adventure seperates these into 3 seperate groups and the Ignatius has them in one group.

    The Ascention Press web site has added “Made in USA” to their listing, which is a plus for me but the glued binding is a real deterrent for me.

    Also on their web site they mention the timeline and major events pages greatly reduce the time for the reader to absorb the historical chronology. This would have been a great help a few years ago, and yes it does take quite a bit of time to put the chronology in place. Right now I’ve pretty much invested most of that study time and the Oxford Annotated Bibles have nice timeline charts. I’ll hold off on the GACB for now.

    I did see that there is a Great Adventure timeline fold out chart for about $5-6. That may be an alternative.

    All that being said, for a young person or a newcomer to the Bible, the text is very overwhelming, both in size and styles. It’s easy to see how the Great Adventure breaks this down to more manageable parts and highlights the main points. This is a big step in filling a great need to take the lessen the intimidation facing the student.


    1. Well said, Mark. I do think this bible could be helpful for a person who is beginning the journey of bible study and finds the arrangement of books in the bible puzzling. I think where it excels is in helping readers to focus on the big picture: the broad arc of salvation history. So many study bibles and commentaries focus on verse-by-verse details, and it’s easy to lose sight of how it all fits together.

  4. Marc, thanks for a great introduction!

    Glued binding. Gag.

    I’d rather pay more— even much more— for a quality bible that will last than pay $60 (which is FAR too much for a glued binding and imitation leather cover, to boot!) for a bible that will undoubtedly fall apart.

    I, too, will pass until the Revised NJB, hoping they will have an edition that is properly bound. But, who knows…

  5. Thanks, Marc. The glued binding is a huge disappointment. I’m okay not having genuine leather cover, but this is a deal breaker. If they ever give this bible a sewn binding in the future, I’ll buy it.

  6. I agree that the glued binding is a real disappointment. At this price point, a sewn binding should be standard. There are much cheaper bibles on the market, like the Harper NRSV Standard Bible (hardcover) which have a beautiful type setting and a sewn binding. Of course, that bible doesn’t include any study helps, but it’s also less than half the price of the Great Adventure Bible.

  7. You should send back this Bible since it has that binding issue. Glued binding separates after a while. I was going to buy it but I decided to get the Didache Study Bible leather edition (same price point) and has references to the catechism of the Church.

  8. I spoke with a Catholic book store owner, asking what the benefits (if any) of this version there are. He could not recommend this edition, mainly due to the price point and poor binding. He said that if the price was in the low 20s, perhaps I could benefit somewhat.

    Even though the marketing plan is somewhat successful (first printing selling out [obviously driving sales]; and a second printing following), the continued work of some Catholic publishers “stuck” on glued binding in no way justifies the price point.

    With Protestant bibles, of higher quality binding, costing less, Catholic publishers need to “take the leap”, offer quality binding, and supply the needs of Catholic (and other) consumers with quality, not high-priced versions of poor products.

    1. I agree, James. I commend Ascension for a good attempt here. The type-setting and text readability are well-done, and the paper quality is quite good. But a glued binding is very frustrating for a bible at this price point. It’s also hard to justify the price for the limited amount of study material in this edition. For comparison, Oxford University Press usually offers a 50% off sale at least once or twice per year, when it’s possible to purchase a Catholic Study Bible (NABRE) for $47.50. That bible has *far* more study material than the Great Adventure Bible, and it offers a sewn binding. The simple black and white printing isn’t as eye-catching as the Great Adventure Bible, but it sure contains a wealth of information.

  9. Marc,

    I contacted Ascension Press to see if they plan on printing this with a sewn binding. They replied saying the binding is sewn and glued. When I brought to their attention that I was aware of someone who bought it when it first came out and the binding was not sewn, they thanked me for bringing it to their attention and stated that they had other issues with their original printer. I suggest you reach out to their customer support and I suspect they will replace your copy. Good to know that this bible is supposed to have a sewn (and glued) binding.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Michael! I will check with them. If the new editions truly have a sewn binding, this bible would become a much more attractive option.

  10. How is the “CTS New Catholic Bible”? Did you read that? Please write about CTS New Catholic Bible’s review.

    1. I haven’t seen a copy of the CTS Bible, but I believe some other readers may have. I’m hoping they can add their opinions here.

  11. I note now that a paperback version is available for 39.95. I also note that the leather bound version is available for 145.99. Good grief! These prices are ridiculous. I can get an NIV or ESV Study Bible -hardcover- for about 30 bucks. That’s probably what I will do. When the notes in these contradict Catholic teaching, I won’t be surprised (not as bad as the NABRE notes), I’ll just ignore them. The sad fact is STILL there is no single volume Catholic Study Bible that is traditional in views/notes.

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