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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: "NIV Student Bible"

TITLE: NIV, Student Bible, Compact, Hardcover
NOTES BY: Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Two of the biggest questions in Bible translation work is readability and faithfulness. In the Old Testament, the original language is in Hebrew while for the New Testament, it is in Greek and Aramaic. Some translations try to be literally as close as possible to the original language. Examples include the KJV and the NASB. Others aim more at readability without changing the meaning of the texts. This is the paraphrase model, where the MSG and the Living Bible are two popular versions. The NIV has traditionally sat somewhere in between the two. Sometimes this method is called 'dynamic equivalence.'

In this latest release of the study Bible, Zondervan has updated not just the techniques in Bible reading, but also the NIV text itself. It is easy to see the intent of the publisher: Promote Bible literacy by making the reading process as conducive as possible. This I think is a commendable move. Here are the strengths of this latest study Bible. Firstly, the 3-track reading program is very manageable and should appeal to all readers of different spiritual levels of maturity. Beginners use Track 1, where selected themes are covered in two-week segments. In Track 2, major themes of the Bible are covered, but it requires the reader to a chapter a day, for six months. The more adventurous can use Track 3, which is to read the entire Bible in 3 years. Delightfully arranged, the Bible has lots of reading 'guiderails' to keep the reader from getting lost in the details of the Biblical story.

Every book of the Bible contains an introduction to the book. With stories and illustrations, the introduction is a pleasure to read. The use of vivid blue headings throughout gives the Bible a very fresh look. I appreciate the step by step guides and pointers throughout that keeps the reader aware of the contexts and the overall flow of the Bible. There are 'Life Questions' at various points to allow readers to reflect and to apply.

Unfortunately, while I appreciate the many helps and guides in the Bible, I think serious Bible readers will find them too distracting. Novices may be left wondering which part of the texts belongs to the Bible, and which are added by Zondervan. If the distinction is clearer through the use of colors, shades, or fonts, it will enhance the overall study Bible clarity. Experienced Bible readers and teachers will not find them a problem. New readers will not even notice the problem.

Overall, I think the intent of the publisher is good. The Bible is very readable. Unfortunately, this Bible cannot be used alone by itself. Readers need to supplement this Bible with a more literal edition.

Ratings: 3.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free of charge by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The opinion expressed are freely mine.

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