There are too many study Bibles. If I’m not mistaken, there are at least fifteen conservative evangelical study Bibles on the market, maybe even twenty plus. While this fact does make me somewhat cynical, I do think there is a place for a good study Bible on the shelf. Since I have quite a few commentaries, I usually don’t buy study Bibles; I never did get the ESV study Bible. However, when a review copy of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible came in the mail, I was glad to have it after looking through it for just a few minutes.
The general editor of this study Bible is D. A. Carson; associate editors include Richard Hess, T. D. Alexander, Douglas Moo, and Andrew Naselli. In the preface, Carson noted several things about this study Bible: 1) the contributors acknowledge Scripture to be God’s authoritative Word, 2) it is based on the best-selling and most widely circulated translation, the NIV, a “smooth and faithful translation,” 3) it aims to provide answers to questions about Scripture, 4) it provides a wealth of charts, maps, photos, illustrations, and essays, and 5) it emphasizes biblical theology – it highlights the “way various themes develop within the Bible across time.”
Various evangelical Baptist and Reformed scholars contributed the study notes: Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman, Iain Duguid, Craig Blomberg, V. Philips Long, John Currid, (and others) along with Carson and the above named associate editors. There are also 28 articles at the end of the book that cover biblical-theological themes like law, temple, wisdom, holiness, mission, justice, etc. Contributors to these articles, along with the editors and others, include Andreas Kostenberger, Moises Silva, Henri Blocher, and James Hamilton Jr.
Including the maps, articles, concordance, and charts, it is 2,880 pages long(!). The study notes at the bottom of each page cover (on average) about 35-40% of the page (you can see page previews online). Like most other study Bibles, there are helpful tables and charts at various places. I especially liked the historical/archaeological pictures and also the charts on the OT festivals, the accusations leveled against Jesus, and Jesus’ trials (etc.). The study Bible also comes with a code for free online access and free access on the Olive Tree app (iOS and Android). These digital versions of this study Bible are nice; I did get the chance to download and explore them.
One downside to this Bible is that it is massive: it weighs around 3.5 pounds and is nearly 3 inches thick. It’s almost too big to carry around and use with ease! I would rather have the extra essays and such in a separate companion volume than all packed into one. The font is also a bit small in my opinion; though I realize larger font would mean an even bigger Bible.
Another comment I have is that the biblical-theological emphasis of this study Bible is found mostly in the articles/essays at the end of the Bible. Yes, the comments/notes do point to Jesus when applicable, but that aspect didn’t stick out for me as I read through many notes.
Finally, there is the fact that this is an NIV study Bible. The translation history of the NIV is somewhat cloudy in the last ten years or so; there’s been some controversy over the way the NIV has leaned recently. This NIV is, as far as I can tell, the 2011 version. I’m not an NIV expert, but it seems to me like this version has made a step back towards the 1984 NIV. I compared quite a few verses, and it is quite similar to the 1984 edition. The ESV is fine, but it’s not perfect, so I try to use several translations in my studies, including the NIV, NASB, NLT, and the HCSB. Actually, this NIV Zondervan Study Bible should give the ESV study Bible a run for its money!
In a word, this is a good study Bible that I’m glad to own. It’s probably very similar to the ESV study Bible and other ones like it, but it does deserve to be put on the list of solid evangelical study Bibles.
The NIV Zondervan Study Bible; D. A Carson, general editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).
NOTE: I received this Bible from the BookLook blogging program, and was not compelled to write a positive review.
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)