November 30, 2011

NIV (2011) Study Bible review

With the release this year of the updated translation of the NIV, Zondervan has released an updated version of their well-known study Bible. I would like to review it briefly, with a review in three parts. First, some brief thoughts on the updated NIV text itself, on which the Bible is based; second, a note about the study features; and third, look at the aesthetics of the Bible and its production.

First, the translation. There has been much controversy surrounding the release of this latest revision of the much loved NIV text, much like the controversy surrounding the release of what became the TNIV in 2005. This most recent NIV does preserve many of the changes that were made in the TNIV, though there are a small percentage of changes where the language has reverted back to the familiar text, along with some places where further revisions were made. I don't want to go into all of the details here. But in short, this latest NIV preserves the tradition of an outstanding translation that is readable and comprehensible. The translation committee is top notch, and contrary to much press to the contrary, not out to foist an egalitarian position on the Biblical text (most of the committee members are of the complementarian position, including the chair, Doug Moo). From what I have seen of the translation, it will be an outstanding text for reading and for study, and I am happy to have this latest version in my hands.

Second, the study notes and features. I have owned three previous editions of this study Bible, and from what I can see, the notes are largely unchanged. Each book of the Bible has a general introduction, that covers issues of authorship, audience, context, major themes, and an outline. These provide helpful information for getting a handle on what is going on for each book of the Bible. The second major "study" feature is study notes that run along the bottom half of each page, helping to explain or give additional background on key words or phrases, people, or themes from the text. They don't cover every verse, though more verses than not probably have some type of note. The third major study feature is the cross-reference system that helps point to other passages in the same book, in the same testament, and across both testaments that use a word or phrase. These are helpful basic resources (of these features, I find I use the cross-references the most). The endmatter includes a truncated but still useful concordance (I love having this right in my hands, even though it's getting easy to just look up passages and word-references on the internet), an index of subjects (that is, a topical index of what biblical passages cover various themes), an index of the notes, pointing the reader to various notes that cover a person or topic, and some helpful study maps.

The third aspect of this Bible upon which I want to comment is the aesthetics. The major change, besides the updated NIV text, from previous editions, is that the Study Bible is now set in four colors throughout. Select color images have been added throughout the text, both in the book introductions and in the text itself, and these add some visual interest and also illustrate the text with archaeological images from relevant contexts. The four-color interior does add a little bit to the overall feel, but the main improvement is in the charts and the already-mentioned images. But it's not an overly exciting interior; the layout is quite functional, with all of the elements working together on the page, just like in most previous editions of this Study Bible.

Overall, I give this Bible four stars. It's a nice, functional Study Bible. It is relatively conservative in its overall approach, but it isn't slanted to a particular tradition, and its notes are dependable, and provide a solid resource to draw on. I love the TNIV Study Bible that I have used over the last few years, with its one column layout, and hope they will soon bring out this new NIV Study Bible with that same format, which makes for easier reading and leaves nice room for notes. The color, images, and revamped charts and maps make this a nice Study Bible, and certainly a strong option.

Thanks to Zondervan and the Amazon Vine program for the review copy.

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