Ever find yourself reading the Bible, and going, “Huh?” Having a little difficulty keeping your Moses, Malachi and Matthew straight? Do you scratch your head, trying to figure out the difference between the Gospel of John and the Letters of John?
What you need is a good study Bible. If so, you should consider the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible.
“Study bibles” have revolutionized the way Christians read and understand the Bible. Bible paraphrases, like Eugene Petersen’s The Message, are helpful for simply reading the Bible, to get an overview of the text. But it would be a mistake to use a paraphrase for in-depth, verse-by-verse analysis of God’s Word. Thankfully, study Bibles have been developed to allow you to do just that… study the Bible!
Perhaps the first popular study Bible goes back to the Reformation period, with the Geneva Study Bible of the 16th century. What made the Geneva Study Bible such an early success were the explanatory notes found alongside the Biblical text that helped the reader to understand difficult passages. But not everyone appreciated the type of “help” offered by such explanatory notes. As theologian Alister McGrath perceptively observed in his brilliant In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture, King James of England was so enraged over the anti-monarchy tone of the Geneva study notes that he pushed to have a major revision to the English Bible that would supersede the Geneva Study Bible. The “authorized” King James Version of the Bible was an unparalleled success that dominated the English world for almost 400 years… yet without study notes!
Bible scholarship has greatly improved over the past few hundred years. Today, the best successor to the tradition of the Geneva Study Bible is the The Reformation Study Bible, reviewed a few months ago here on Veracity. Moreover, there are a number of other excellent study Bibles that go beyond the approaches taken by earlier study Bibles. These newer study Bibles possess a more generous sense of scholarly breadth while maintaining an evangelical commitment to the truthfulness of God’s Word.
I am mostly not a fan of study Bibles that are basically written by just one person. If you are going to be spending most of your time reading and studying out of one Bible, why would you limit yourself to what one person says? Instead the better study Bibles today help give you information from a broad range of scholars, that you can use to allow you to be a better student of the Word, coming to your own conclusions, as you trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit. In addition, most of the newer, better study Bibles all have great maps, commentary to go along with the text, footnotes to textual variants, cross-references to other parts of the Bible, and helpful articles in theology, church history, and biblical literature to aid in your understanding, as well as providing you online access to Internet resources to further your study. But the great thing is that you do not have to be a Bible scholar nerd to benefit. Think of a good study Bible as a one-stop shop for serious Bible study for those who want to dig deep without getting in over their head.
My favorite study Bible is the English Standard Version Study Bible, partly because I tend to favor the English Standard Version of the Bible, but also because of the team of 90+ scholars who put together the notes, articles, and other resources that went into the study Bible are simply top notch, beating all other previous study Bibles.
But now the team that produced the NIV has come out with a new study Bible that could possibly eclipse the ESV Study Bible. What sets the NIV Zondervan Study Bible apart, aside from its 60+ all-star scholar team led by D. A. Carson, is its emphasis on “biblical theology,” which is basically a way of looking at the”‘unpacking of God’s story, book by book,” focusing more on the progressive history of revelation as opposed to the more systematic, thematic approach taken by the ESV Study Bible. You can get a feel for the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible by looking at this sample of articles and the text with commentary of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. For a short review, consider the following one from the Baptist Standard.
Devour the Word!!
A CAUTION IS IN ORDER: Study Bibles are great tools, but we should always remember that the notes, maps, etc. are not meant to substitute for the Scriptural text itself. If you remember that the tools are simply there to aid and assist in your understanding of God’s Word, then you will be able to maintain a healthy perspective when studying the Bible.