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Friday, October 3, 2014

"NIV Essentials Study Bible"

TITLE: NIV Essentials Study Bible: Easily Grasp the Fundamentals of Scripture through Lenses from 6 Bestselling NIV Resources
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (1728 pages).

Based on the New International Version (2011),  this study Bible brings together many of the best study notes, photographs, timelines, contextual background, provocative discussion questions, charts and maps, plus other resources to help the eager student of the Bible study the Scriptures better. These study helps are drawn from six other NIV resources:
  • NIV Study Bible
  • NIV Quest Study Bible
  • NIV Archaeology Study Bible
  • NIV Student Bible
  • The Great Rescue Bible
  • The Essential Bible Companion
With Zondervan publishing so many different types of study Bibles, it is only a matter of time before some people would ask for a summary of the best resources out there to be packed in one single volume. This study Bible is the answer to that need.

Each Bible book begins with a brief list of "key concepts" followed by a general survey of the book. Key verses, key teachings, key terms, and major figures are then provided for readers to watch for. For Bible teachers, they would be pleased to see a timeline and a map to situate the date and the location for each book. The layout of the Bible is spacious. While the editors try hard to keep the footnotes to a minimum, readers will need to be self-disciplined in ensuring they stay to the main text as much as possible. Just because the resources are there for the clicking does not necessarily mean we become too click happy that the resources become the main thing rather than the Biblical text. I admit this is always a challenge for anyone using study bibles. The tendency to read notes given by man rather than deeper meditation on the Word given by God. It is very much a personal spirituality issue rather than the study Bible itself. Tools are there to help us, not distract us, and we need to be disciplined to distinguish the difference.

At times, I notice that the study notes occupy more space per page than the biblical text. Thankfully, they are not often the case. I sense the struggle the publisher has in trying to maximize the resources and at the same time minimizing the distraction from the main text. I think striking a balance is very difficult. The better way would be for readers to have two Bibles. One to read and meditate on more intently while the other (like this study bible) as a supplement. By raising questions even before readers can put forth their own, I feel like been spoon-fed too soon rather than learning to find food for myself later. For example, when reading the passage in 2 Kings about Naaman and leprosy, the question "Was leprosy a curse from God?" straightaway led me to think about leprosy rather than Naaman's relationship with God.

Having said that, I must applaud the publisher to keeping most of the study notes at the end of each book. That enables distractions to be minimal. However, when reading the e-edition, it is very tempting to click on a link and be lost in subsequent windows, not knowing how to get back to the original starting point. The fault is more in the technology rather than the publisher.

Overall, I do recommend this book for Bible study leaders, teachers, pastors, and anyone desiring to appreciate the contexts and background material for each book. This one volume is very well laid out and makes Bible study a very enjoyable experience.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5. (not on the Bible but on the supplementary notes accompanying the Bible)


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers http://booklookbloggers.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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