Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review :: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is a new study Bible from Zondervan. The first thing I noticed about this study Bible is that it is THICK. (2 1/2" thick.) 

The dust jacket is the cover shown here, and underneath is a more subtle hardcover - gray/black linen-look with the words "HOLY BIBLE" on the front. 

The interior is laid out with black text (single column) and various green accents (headings, chapter numbers, etc.) - it is very easy on the eyes. The words of Jesus are in black text, the same as the rest of the Bible text. This is the NIV version of the Bible (© 1973, 1978, 1984, & 2011). The text is standard size - not large, but not extra small. There are cross references in the margins.

For the most part, the study notes at the bottom of each page take up around 1/3 of the page, but there are many places where the study notes take up about 1/2 of the page (even more in some places). The study notes are double-column, as opposed to the Scripture which is single-column. The study notes flow from page to page, so you will see some notes that are continued from a previous page.

Each book in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible begins with an introduction (several pages long) that may include information about: the author, date of writing, place of writing (or of where it was sent, if applicable), purpose, genre, particular challenges, literary features, themes, theology, etc.. Not all introductions have the same topics, but cover what is relevant to that particular book. (The introductions are single-column.) Each introduction includes an outline of the book. (Exception: Psalms does not have an outline.)

In addition to the introductions for each book, there are several introductions/looks on a larger scale. (These are done in a tri-column format.)

These are:
- Introduction to the OT
- Introduction to the Pentateuch
- Introduction to the Historical Books
- Introduction to the Wisdom and Lyrical Books
- Introduction to the Prophetic Books
- From Malachi to Christ
- The Time Between the Testaments
- NT Chronology
- Introduction to the NT
- Introduction to the Gospels and Acts
- Introduction to the Letters and Revelation

Before both the Old Testament and the New Testament are full-color timelines showing the chronology of the history, people, and events relevant to that Testament. I found the Old Testament Chronology to be particularly well done, with a large amount of information (including both World History and Biblical History) in a very well laid-out and readable timeline. The New Testament Chronology does not cover as much information, but is equally well done.

Throughout each book you will find a variety of full-color images: maps, charts, illustrations, artifacts, photographs, etc. After the Table of Contents, you can find a listing (with page numbers) of each of the maps, charts, and illustrations that are found throughout the text. (Photographs are not listed.)

At the end of the Scripture, there are 28 articles (by several different authors). You can find a listing (with page numbers) of these articles both after the Table of Contents and at the beginning of the Articles section.

Here is a list of the article titles:
- The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus Is Central
- The Bible and Theology
- A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible
- The Glory of God
- Creation
- Sin
- Covenant
- Law
- Temple
- Priest
- Sacrifice
- Exile and Exodus
- The Kingdom of God
- Sonship
- The City of God
- Prophets and Prophecy
- Death and Resurrection
- People of God
- Wisdom
- Holiness
- Justice
- Wrath
- Love and Grace
- The Gospel
- Worship
- Mission
- Shalom
- The Consummation

In general, most readers (high school and above) should be able to follow along and understand the articles. The concepts in the articles may be new to you, but in general it seems that the authors have done a good job explaining and defining the concepts and ideas that they are presenting.

Additionally, at the back of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible you will find a few helpful resources like a Table of Weights and Measures (1 page), a Concordance (150+ pages), Maps (there are 14) , and an Index to Maps (referencing specific towns, landmarks, etc. that can be found on the maps). The Index to Maps is a very helpful feature that I don't recall seeing in other Bibles.

In addition to everything included in the Bible itself, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible includes a code for free digital access (a $19.99 value) through Bible Gateway (for your web browser) or through Olive Tree (for your mobile device). You cannot redeem the code for both services - you must choose either Bible Gateway or Olive Tree. I have not used the digital access yet, but according to the insert, you can use the digital version to highlight passages, take notes, look up verses/words/phrases, and access exclusive material.

If I was going to suggest a Bible purely for reading Scripture, I probably would not suggest the NIV Zondervan Study Bible simply because there are so many resources that it can sometimes spread the Scripture out over many pages, when it might be able to be read more easily without the distraction of the extra resources. Also, because of the pure bulk of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (5 pounds and 2 1/2" thick), I probably would not recommend this if you are looking for something to take with you on the go. (The mobile access would be great for on-the-go, though.)

All in all, I think this is a fantastic all-in-one study Bible and would definitely suggest it for anyone who wants to dig deeper. It has a lot to offer without being overwhelming. I think this is a great choice for a study tool for any family.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

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