The NIV Zondervan Study Bible (A Review)

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.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

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Circular Reasoning and KJV Only-ism

  (This is a slightly edited repost from February, 2013.)

One reason I do not buy into the KJV Only logic is because it is based on circular reasoning.  I appreciate James White’s discussion:

“Over and over again, KJV Only advocates accuse the new translations of changing this or altering that.  They say the NIV deletes this or adds that.  It is vitally important to make sure we see through this kind of argumentation before we begin the work of examining many specific differences between the KJV and modern translations.  We wish to think clearly and honestly about this topic, and to do this we must point out the most fundamental error of the KJV Only position.”

“A circular argument is one that starts with its conclusion; that is, you assume the point you are arguing for right from the start, and then ‘prove’ it by using it as your basis.  …Circular arguments are, by nature, irrational.”

“KJV Only books, articles, and tracts share this common feature.  What is the writer’s bottom-line assumption?  That the KJV is the only true English Bible (maybe the only true Bible in any language!), the standard by which all others are to be judged.”

“This can be seen by looking at the terminology employed.  ‘See how the NIV deletes this passage….’ ‘Note how they have changed God’s Word here to say….’  ‘Here they have altered the text to say….’  In each case the KJV Only advocate is using circular argumentation.  How?  The assumed standard is the KJV.  Why is the KJV the standard?  Why not the Geneva Bible, or the Bishop’s Bible, or the Great Bible?  Could we not choose any one of these earlier English translations and then make up page after page of comparisons showing how the KJV altered this or changed that?  As long as we allow the AV defender to determine the grounds of the argument by assuming the KJV to be the standard of all others, we will get absolutely nowhere.”

“The KJV must stand up to the same standards as any other translation.  It cannot be made the standard by which all others are judged; it must take its place as one translation among many so that it can be tested just as the NIV or NASB or ESV.  In some places it may well excel; in others it may lag behind.”

“But we must be careful to avoid making the basic error of setting up one translation as the standard over all others.  Our standard must always be found in the question, ‘What did the original author of Scripture say at this point?’  We first must be concerned to know the words of Moses and David and Isaiah and Matthew and Paul; the words of the KJV translators may be important, but they cannot take precedence over the words that were the direct result of divine inspiration” (emphasis his; p. 167-169).

White is exactly right.  When it comes to Bible translations, we are being illogical if we start with the presupposition that a certain translation is the only perfect one.  Some KJV Only advocates carry this argument out to its ugly and logical end when they say the KJV is even superior to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts(!).  And here’s another case where fundamentalism and liberalism end up holding hands: they say the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are not trustworthy.  Obviously this is not a historic Christian belief!

I highly recommend White’s book for those of you who are “KJV Only” and for those of you who aren’t.  White is clear, kind, logical, biblical, and convincing in this outstanding resource.

James R. White, The King James Only Controversy 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009).

shane lems

KJV Only-ism and Circular Reasoning

  At the outset of this post, I want to be clear: I’m not against the KJV.  However, for various reasons I am against the KJV Only mindset.  Here’s one reason: because it is based on circular reasoning.  I appreciate James White’s discussion:

“Over and over again, KJV Only advocates accuse the new translations of changing this or altering that.  They say the NIV deletes this or adds that.  It is vitally important to make sure we see through this kind of argumentation before we begin the work of examining many specific differences between the KJV and modern translations.  We wish to think clearly and honestly about this topic, and to do this we must point out the most fundamental error of the KJV Only position.”

“A circular argument is one that starts with its conclusion; that is, you assume the point you are arguing for right from the start, and then ‘prove’ it by using it as your basis.  …Circular arguments are, by nature, irrational.”

“KJV Only books, articles, and tracts share this common feature.  What is the writer’s bottom-line assumption?  That the KJV is the only true English Bible (maybe the only true Bible in any language!), the standard by which all others are to be judged.”

“This can be seen by looking at the terminology employed.  ‘See how the NIV deletes this passage….’ ‘Note how they have changed God’s Word here to say….’  ‘Here they have altered the text to say….’  In each case the KJV Only advocate is using circular argumentation.  How?  The assumed standard is the KJV.  Why is the KJV the standard?  Why not the Geneva Bible, or the Bishop’s Bible, or the Great Bible?  Could we not choose any one of these earlier English translations and then make up page after page of comparisons showing how the KJV altered this or changed that?  As long as we allow the AV defender to determine the grounds of the argument by assuming the KJV to be the standard of all others, we will get absolutely nowhere.”

“The KJV must stand up to the same standards as any other translation.  It cannot be made the standard by which all others are judged; it must take its place as one translation among many so that it can be tested just as the NIV or NASB or ESV.  In some places it may well excel; in others it may lag behind.”

“But we must be careful to avoid making the basic error of setting up one translation as the standard over all others.  Our standard must always be found in the question, ‘What did the original author of Scripture say at this point?’  We first must be concerned to know the words of Moses and David and Isaiah and Matthew and Paul; the words of the KJV translators may be important, but they cannot take precedence over the words that were the direct result of divine inspiration” (emphasis mine; p. 167-169).

White is exactly right.  When it comes to Bible translations, we are being illogical if we start with the presupposition that a certain translation is the only perfect one.  Some KJV-Only advocates carry this argument out to its ugly and logical end when they say the KJV is even superior to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts(!).  And here’s another case where fundamentalism and liberalism end up holding hands: they say the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are not trustworthy.  Obviously this is not a historic Christian belief!

Later I’ll come back to White’s book, The King James Only Controversy.  For now, let me say I highly recommend it for those of you who are KJV Only people and for those of you who aren’t.  White is clear, kind, logical, biblical, and convincing in this outstanding resource.

James R. White, The King James Only Controversy 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009).

rev shane lems