Category Archives: Tools

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: A Review

Plumb LineAre you curious about the Bible?

Thankfully, there are a number of great study Bibles available today, with helpful tools to get you into God’s Word. But I want to tell you about a new one, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, that I am really excited about, and why I recommend it.

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible has actually been available online for sometime now, from Faithlife, the company known for its Logos Bible Software. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible was designed for online use, either from an iPhone, iPad, Android, Logos Bible Software package, or via web browser on your desktop computer (and it is FREE!!!). It has detailed verse-by-verse notes, to aid your understanding, plus some visually engaging graphics, charts, timelines,  and sidebar articles. Plus this online version, links into other helpful study resources, including Veracity’s “blogger-in-chief,” John Paine’s favorite, the NET Bible.

Now, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible has been released as a standalone book, something that you actually hold in your hands. I like the digital stuff, but there is still something about having a bound stack of paper in my hands, that I can take to a Bible study small group. Here is a sample.

But aside from the helps, there are some other fundamentals as to why this is such a good Bible. First, they used a really good Bible translation, the NIV 2011. I did a pretty extensive review between the ESV (English Standard Version) and the NIV 2011 (New International Version) a few years ago here on Veracity, and my verdict in my analysis was close. For me, the ESV just barely edged out, for the purposes of doing in-depth Bible study, but the NIV 2011 is right there behind it, too.

Secondly, Faithlife sought to give a broad perspective, with respect to various denominational traditions, as to the content of the study note materials. They are committed to this idea that the study of the Bible should not be conducted inside an echo chamber, where all you hear and read is from a single evangelical tradition. Unfortunately, there are some study Bibles out there that only give you one point of view, typically the perspective of the guy with his name of the cover (In other words, if you ever see something like the Morledge Study Bible in your local Barnes and Noble, you are better off if you take a pass on it).

Thirdly, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible has a great team of scholars behind the project.  Only four editors are listed, but the scholar that I know and respect the most is Michael S. Heiser. Heiser has a great blog for Bible nerds, like me, and he is the host of the Naked Bible Podcast. These are solid, orthodox believing scholars, with their hearts and minds set on the plumb line of Scriptural authority, who have a passion for making the background and details behind God’s Word accessible to the ordinary person.

Are there any downsides to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible? Well, from what I have seen, the maps in this study Bible are not as good, as compared to what you find in my ESV Study Bible. With respect to the online version, it takes some time getting used to the navigation, which at first can be confusing. But once you get the hang of it, it is rather cool.

I am still wedded to my trusty ESV Study Bible, with the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, a close runner up, but the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is right up there near the top of the list. You can always try it out online or via a SmartPhone app, to see if you really like it, first. Michael Bird is an Australian Bible scholar, who is an enthusiastic endorser for the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. View his videos below, and consider getting this study Bible for you, or a friend, who really wants to dig in deep into God’s Word.

Read other Veracity reviews of study Bible material, including my review of The Reformation Study Bible, my review of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, and a general survey of available eStudy Bibles. Also, do not miss this from John Paine, the Veracity “blogger-in-chief”, with his analysis of online study tools.


Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Robert Spencer's The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Robert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Within a few weeks of the 911 attack on the World Trade Center, Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, who now specializes as a scholar of comparative religion, and very popular author, wrote an essay for TIME magazine. In the essay, Armstrong makes the case that the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers did not represent the true face of Islam. The prophet Muhammad, she argues, sought to heal the rifts between different, warring tribal factions in 7th century (A.D.) Arabia.  In portraying true Islam as a religion of peace, she concludes:

The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it.

I have been listening to an audiobook by a Catholic popularizer of contemporary scholarship, who specializes in Islamic history, Robert Spencer. Listening to The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion has been a challenging experience. Spencer notes that while some Koranic texts do suggest that in Muhammad’s early career, the prophet did seek to promote peace, the story of his later life suggests a more complicated, and much darker story. According to Spencer, the theology of jihad, or “struggle,” was used to justify violence against Jews, Christians, and others who resisted Muhammad’s message towards the end of his prophetic career. This tradition is still appealed to today by the followers of extreme Islamic groups, such as ISIS, who are demonstrating their commitment to erase Christian believers from much of Syria and Iraq.

Karen Armstrong, who champions efforts to bring peace between different religious traditions, and who wrote her own book about the life of Muhammad, begins her review of Spencer’s book this way, “Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read. Spencer makes no attempt to explain the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia, without which it is impossible to understand the complexities of Muhammad’s life.”  Spencer, the intellectual force behind JihadWatch.org, and no stranger to visceral public debate, responds with:

“Reading this, I doubt Armstrong actually read the book. Or maybe she just wants to make sure no one else reads it.” (retrieved from jihadwatch.org).

So, which narrative is correct? Is Islam a religion of peace, or a religion of violence?

Strangely, I know many Christians who never give much thought to the study of religious history, considering the matter to be of little consequence to their daily lives. Yet I would contend that such ignorance provides little consolation to the families of those who lost loved ones during the 911 attacks, or to the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS, looking for sanctuary in Western countries in our current time.

Lurking behind this debate over Islam is the debate among Christians as to the history of violence even in the Bible. I have been studying the Book of Joshua for the past few weeks, and I am struck by the message that God gave to Joshua to drive the Canaanites out of the land, and to claim the ancient land promise given to Abraham and his descendants (see these Veracity posts on Christian Zionism). Here are some vital questions for believers today:

  • Is the Book of Joshua a justification of ethnic genocide, or was it a directive by God to execute judgment against the wickedness of the Canaanites? Would God ever command Christians to do the same today?
  • What does it mean to “trust God” in the face of evil and wickedness, and to what extent are believers to engage in combating such evil and wickedness?
  • What should be our priority, sharing our faith with non-believers, or doing what we can to prevent or restrain acts of violence?

Such questions require thoughtful consideration by Christians. The questions are complicated because people are complicated. For example, while it is surely true that Islamic extremists threaten with acts of violence, the vast majority of Muslims regard their faith as essentially peaceful. Islam is not a monolithic movement. But should our view of Islamic extremism cause us to love our Muslim friends and neighbors any less? I hope not. I hope that we as believers would make the sharing of our faith, the Good News of the Gospel, our highest priority.

Where do we go to sort out these things? For me, I have been strongly encouraged by the testimony of Nabeel Qureshi. Qureshi grew up in high school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in a family of Muslims who belong to an Islamic sect that strongly believe Islam to be a religion of peace. Yet when Qureshi attended Old Dominion University, he met a Christian friend who challenged his understanding of Islam. After several years of friendly, yet intense, back and forth dialogue, Nabeel Qureshi became a follower of Jesus. Over the years, Qureshi has had a powerful ministry with Ravi Zacharias, encouraging other Muslims to reconsider their understanding of Islam and consider afresh the claims of Christianity. Below is a five minute clip where Qureshi addresses the tough questions (PLEASE NOTE: Nabeel Qureshi recently announced that he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and his survival chances over the next few years is quite low. Please pray for him and his family).


Forgotten Christians: Zionism #7

Can Palestinian Christians become the bridge to bring about peace between Israelis and Muslim Arabs? Elias Chacour, in Blood Brothers, says, "Yes."

Can Palestinian Christians become the bridge to bring about peace between Israelis and Muslim Arabs? Elias Chacour, in Blood Brothers, says, “Yes.”

In the news, we hear much about the tension between Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But did you know that there has been a community of Christians in the Holy Land for centuries? The story of this ancient church is often overlooked.

Since the time of the New Testament, there has been a Christian presence in the Holy Land. Possession of the land has changed multiple times over two thousand years. Pagan Rome, Zoroastrian Persians, Byzantine Orthodox Christians, Muslim Arabs, European Crusaders, and Muslim Turks have all claimed title over Jerusalem. But miraculously, the Christian church in some form or another has survived all of these various conquests. Sadly, the Christian community in Palestine today is nearly threatened with extinction.

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Navigating the ESV vs. NIV 2011 Debate

My local church here in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Williamsburg Community Chapel, recently announced that we will be moving to the English Standard Version (ESV) for our pew Bibles, by this coming summer. A lot of people love their NIV (I still do!), but with the unavailability of the 1984 edition of the NIV, it forces a lot of churches to make a difficult decision. I am reposting my research on this very important and timely topic….

Veracity

Does your church have a “pew Bible?” Through a generous gift years ago, an anonymous donor in our church gave hundreds of copies of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible so that everyone who comes to our church would be able to read from the Bible where they sit each and every Sunday morning for worship. What a great gift it is to have a copy of God’s Word at your fingertips!

The problem is that we use the 1984 edition of the NIV…. and the version’s publisher, Zondervan, is no longer printing copies of the 1984 NIV. So what is a church like ours to do if you want to get a new pew Bible?

Ah, so we enter into the world of contemporary Bible translation controversy. The controversy, though a bit nerdy for many in some respects, is important because lovers of Jesus are also lovers of…

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The Bible Project: Romans 1-4

Having trouble getting an understandable overview of the different books of the Bible, such as the Book of Romans? There is a team of Bible teachers and video animators at The Bible Project that are creating short, video narratives of each book of the Bible. The animation is very clear and engaging, and I can not think of better way to gain a general overview of the Bible, in short video segments of about five minutes each. The Bible Project is working on creating videos for each book of the Bible.  Have a look at what they are doing and join them if you want to help them out. Here is an overview of Romans 1-4.


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