172 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2003
When I first beheld this newest publication (yet another new bible!!), I immediately turned to the preface and discovered that instead of its precursor (the New Geneva Study Bible/Reformation Study Bible---NKJV, Nelson Publishers), R.C. Sproul is no longer the general editor, but Richard Pratt, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. In turn he brought on board fellow RTS prof. and much respected theologian John Frame to be the theological editor (along with a guy named Packer!). So lest you think this recent edition is simply a minor revision, consider the following:
1. The text has shifted from the NKJV to the NIV. While I prefer to see the ESV in its place, the NIV is still a better overall translation than the NKJV.
2. Frame and Packer took all of the original study notes and fully revised them--no small task. Overall, they seem to be a bit more precise. The notes are not regurgitated from the previous editions. Also, the theological articles from the previous editions (written by Packer) are replaced by 66 new theological articles--one for each book of the bible. What? Dost thou lament the ommision of Packer's articles? Weep no more! Purchase his book Concise Theology, which is an outright essential gem for every Christian.
3. The text is still single column, but red letter editions are not available. This is a good thing indeed, lest you begin equating the "red letters" as the ones that really count!
4. The book introductions are at least twice as long as the other editions, with greater breadth, focus and clarity. One of the most laudible additions is a special feature of the OT introductions titled "Christ in ___________" (e.g. Isaiah, Genesis, Malachai, etc). Every OT book is considered in this light, i.e. where is Christ seen in this particular OT book? This is a noteworthy inclusion, for it helps the Christian realize that Christ is not relegated merely to the New Testament. Rather, everything in the OT serves as a pointer to Jesus.
5. At the book's end, between the concordance and maps, is something to behold--all five of the major Reformed confessions, i.e. Belgic, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg, Westminster (Larger and Shorter). Additionally, each of these confessions/catechisms are fully cross referenced with the text. Also, the study notes of the biblical texts cross reference these confessions, providing the reader with a more wholistic Reformed perspective as one studies God's word.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a study bible and are of Reformed/Calvinistic persuasion, this one is absolutely tops--bar none--even though it is NIV. Study with the ESV or NAS text if you must, but keep this bible at hand for its many fantastic unparalled features. Again, as a whole, the NIV is still great to read (although not the best from which to preach!).
Furthermore, if you are not of Reformed/Calvinist persuasion, give this bible a try! It is not merely heady or intellectual, but warm. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised! Go ahead--take and read!!
Michael L. Johnson
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2004
Not only Calvinists, but all Protestant readers will be able to learn much from this well done study Bible.
I have used the previous edition, the "New Geneva Study Bible," for about nine years now, and enjoyed it immensely. My old one is full of scribbled notes. This one seems to have expanded the text of the annotations by at least a third, and likely more. The editors have somewhat improved their clarity and style. There is, unfortunately, little room for scribbling in the margins of this Bible.
The focus on doctrine and teachings is what makes this Bible seem meatier than its competitors, and is the chief reason I would heartily recommend it, even to non-Calvinists. With this study Bible you can be referred easily to the Biblical passages that establish, say, the eternity of God or the concept of the Trinity. Brief essays on key Biblical doctrines abound in the text. Most of them do not refer to specifically Calvinist ideas, and those that do are at least honest enough to acknowledge the existence of contrary opinion.
This honesty is found in other controversial areas as well. They don't endorse young-earth creationism, and allow the readers to make up their own minds about geological history. They do recommend the historical interpretation of Jonah, but allow that it might be a parable. They allow that the texts of the books of Moses may have been compiled by other inspired editors. They aren't going to tell you that Gog is Russia, or that the founding of Israel lit the fuse for Armageddon. They are, in short, conservative about the core truths of worldwide Protestant Christianity without timidly following a U.S. fundamentalist hardline. For that, I give glory and praise to God.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2004
I have been using the "New Geneva Study Bible" for the past number of years and I loved the theological articles and notes that it contained, and this study Bible is a great revision of that Bible (which I found interesting because the NGSB was published by Thomas Nelson and this is by Zondervan.) From the comparison I have done, the notes and articles are very similar between the two study bibles. However there is one great difference that made me want to get the Bible as soon as I heard about it - and that is the inclusion of the Reformed Creeds and Confessions with reverse cross-references. I still can't explain how much I am enjoying that feature! With the use of creeds and confessions on the decline in our churchs, having the ability to read how a certain confession uses a passage of Scripture is great. It brings those great and historic documents into my personal devotions and study.
There are a couple of things that I don't like about the Bible and they are completely superficial and nothing to do with the actual "meat" of the Study Bible (I'll let the other, more intelligent reviewers do that!). 1) The margins are a little too narrow, so it makes it harder to read unless it is right in front of you and there isn't a lot of room to make notes (unless there aren't any cross references). 2) It would have been nice to include the ecumenical creeds (but these are probably different depending on what background you come from) so I just printed mine out (Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasian) and put them in the back. 3) It would have been very nice to include a subject index to items in the notes like the New Geneva Study Bible did. 4) Maybe my eyesight is going, but the type seems kind of small and harder to read while sitting on my lap in church.
I can understand in order to conserve space why some of these things were done and overall I am very, very happy with the Study Bible.
Soli Deo Gloria
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2004
Affectionately though sarcastically referred to as "The Holy Ghost Bible" by its general editor, this reformational study Bible of the NIV translation is as good as they come in terms of study Bibles.
Readers who pick up this study Bible can expect not only to get a good dose of reformational theology in the various study notes, introductions, synopses, and theological articles, but will also get introduced (likely without their knowledge) to the hermeneutical methodology of the general editor, Richard Pratt. The book level introductions to each of the canonical books lays great emphasis on contextualization in terms of the author, the original audience, the historical circumstances that produced the book, as well as laying out both historical and contemporary theological and practical considerations. By introducing the books of the Bible in this fashion, the study Bible is challenging the reader to see each book of Scripture within a contextual lens that stresses overall themes and literary structures, but especially challenges the reader to see each canonical book not as 21st century readers far removed from the text, but as the original audience and readers would have seen them. The editors of this study Bible are clearly proceeding on the view that modern readers of the Bible have missed a great deal of what the Bible has to say because by reading the Bible purely with contemporary concerns in mind, we have insulated ourselves from the historical aspects that drive much of the symbolism and metaphorical language that dominates Biblical literary styles, particularly in the Old Testament. A failure to contextualize the Bible leads to a failure to understand much of the Bible. To the extent that the reader agrees with this sentiment, they will profit from this study Bible.
The theological articles are short yet penetrating, and a number of the specific study notes are particularly insightful and even controversial (ie: the note on Romans 3:23 is quite provocative considering the theological orientation of the editors). Those interested in Reformed liturgy will love the inclusion of the great Reformed confessions in their entirety near the end.
The only letdown is that the maps and lexicon at the end are pretty run of the mill. Now for most readers, this is probably not that big a deal, but for those hoping for something meatier than the standard fare, they won't really find it here. But oveall, this is a very good study Bible to have, even for those who don't consider themselves to be of a Reformed theological persuasion. The hermeneutical approach adopted by this book, for the most part, will be beneficial to readers across the theological spectrum.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2004
I bought this Bible a couple of months ago based upon the recomendations of friends. I've found this Bible to be a great study resource. I've been a believer in Reformed Theology for about five years or so and it's nice to find a Study Bible written from the same perspective.
I was not so certain about the use of the NIV text at first. Not that I have any problem with the NIV but I thought a more formal translation would be better. (NASB or ESV) However, I have to say now that the text notes work very well with the NIV text. The notes do an excellent job of pointing out areas in the NIV that may be better translated more formally. (I would still rather have had this in the ESV or NASB but the NIV works.)
This study Bible also offers a couple of other features that are quite useful. First, there are the theological articles strategically placed throughout the text. These are intended to clarify, and defend Reformed Theology using Scripture as the base. Second, this Bible includes all the Reformed confessions and creeds with full Scripture support. This includes the Westminster Confession, the Belgic Confession, and more. These are well footnoted with passages that support them and they are also referred to in the text notes throughout the Bible.
My only complaint thus far had been with the quality of the binding. Mine has been well cared for and is already showing a bit of wear. It seems if the leather is a little too soft as a crease is forming along the spine. It does not seem to bend outward like it should but inward.
The pages are also quite thin. It's easy to see through them. I've not been happy with Zondervan's paper or binding quality of late. However, this has no bearing on this particular work.
All in all this is a wonderful study Bible for anyone Reformed or not.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2003
I am glad to see this "new and improved" edition of the New Geneva Study Bible (aka, The Reformation Study Bible (NKJV)).
The most significant update is the use of the NIV text over the NKJV, which is a vast improvement because of the better manuscripts used for the former (in fact, the first revision of this study bible didn't use the NIV only because Zondervan wouldn't permit it at the time). Some will complain about the faults in the NIV's "dynamically equivalent" translation, but the study notes bridge the gap by frequently supplying a more literal translation and more detailed explanation of the original languages and of the translation when necessary. (In general, I think the NIV is far more comprehensible prima facie -- especially to laymen -- than, say, the KJV, NAS, or ESV, but at the same time, it's less interpreted and closer to the original text than, say, the NLT or CEV, but your mileage may vary.) On top of that, it should be noted that the notes were originally tailored for the NIV but were converted to the NKJV because intractable problems with the copyright, so the editors and authors themselves were, at the time, fine with using the NIV.
As to the other improvements, the theological articles have been completely redone and seek simultaneously to teach biblical truth and answer questions a reader might ask, rather than giving what were, in my opinion (sorry, Dr. Packer), rather dry explanations of theological concepts in the first revision. For instance, in this version at 1 Samuel 8, there is an article on whether or not Israel was wrong to want a human king, at Matthew 1 one asking "Was Mary really a Virgin?", and at Matthew 4 one on the Kingdom of God which answers the question, "Is God's Kingdom Now or Later?" Additionally, the articles introducing each section of books (the Pentateuch, the OT Historical Books, the prophets, NT Letters, etc.) are rewritten and expanded, providing much utile information about the background, development, and formation of the canon, and the introductions to each book are rewritten to help guide the reader to see the themes and purpose of the book in the context of the whole of God's Word.
The notes have also made use of helpful interpretive tools such as literary criticism that have greatly improved our understanding of the original intent of the Scriptures and thus the proper application for our day. Consequently, although there are some passages on which the notes are almost identical to the first revision, there has been much added and much redone, and the notes are more comprehensive and more consciously Reformed than before - not least because of the many in-text citations of the traditional Reformed confessions and catechisms included as an appendix. Additionally, the notes include a "reverse look-up" for these documents, citing the confessions and catechisms whenever the verse in question was used as a proof text.
My main criticism is that I have found several typographical errors in the notes and diagrams, but some of these don't show up on the 22 sample pages on Zondervan's website. Perhaps they've already corrected them.
In comparing it to other study bibles, it is a marked improvement over the NKJV Reformation Study Bible (I have not had opportunity to use the updated Reformation Study Bible (ESV)). Compared to The ESV Study Bible, which has many of the same contributors but a more Reformed Baptist tilt, the notes are moderately better here, but the maps, charts, diagrams, and supplementary material at the end of are vastly superior in the ESVSB.
It is truly unfortunate that some people will overlook this volume because it lurks on the margins of some "political" disputes (over the T/NIV vs. ESV, over who owns the copyright to what, and over who's in charge). The bottom line for me is that the material in this book is of excellent quality and more helpful than anything of its kind for reading, understanding, and applying the Bible today.
I recommend this bible/commentary for personal study to any elders or laymen who would like to take advantage of the wisdom of the Reformed tradition and appreciate and understand the Bible more fully.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2006
I echo the many other praises for this study Bible. However, I did want to note one particular positive that I think really distinguishes this study Bible from many others. Other reviewers have commented on the quality of the Introductions, Outlines, and Commentary Notes - and again, I echo those sentiments. But I would like to point out something I discovered that keeps me coming back to this Bible's commentary notes.
- Each book of the Bible has its own, very extensive, Outline - which is always contained in a grey-shaded box after all the Introductory material. This helps the Outline to stand out, but not too much.
- However, each level of the Outline, no matter how much of a sub-level it may actually be in the Outline (e.g., II., C. 1., c., (4) in Isaiah = vss. 35:1-10, titled, "The Wonder of Returning to Zion") is always addressed in the Commentary Notes at the bottom of the page introducing that section of Scripture.
I have found this feature to be nothing short of outstanding. It acts as an anchor, always bringing the reader back to the overall context of the book. Brief comments remind the reader of how this upcoming section of scripture fits into the overall structure of the book. I love this feature! I wish more study Bibles implemented this feature consistently. It would greatly aid in facilitating a contextual understading of the text. Often readers get lost in the hodge-podge of notes contained at the bottom of the page in their study Bibles. Don't get me wrong, these notes are very valuable at clarifying specifics of a particular verse, etc. The NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible contains all these types of notes as well. And as other reviewers have noted, they tend to be pretty meaty and promote a well-rounded perspective on the item being commented on. But in addition, this particular study Bible also contains these Outline level notes that really help the reader to anchor themselves contextually.
This Bible is a very worthy investment. I only gave it 4 Stars, however, due to the following shortcomings:
- the font size is very small (similar to the Life Application Bible)
- the paper has a slight sheen to it, creating a slight reflection in certain lighting; this can make the small font difficult to read, especially for aging eyes (the same common complaint about the Macarthur Study Bible)
To end on another positive: the text is single-column - which I think again aids in reading contextually.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2005
I've owned a number of Bibles including the NASB Open Bible, Ryrie NASB study Bible, Zondervan NASB Study Bible and this bible. Although the layout of the Zondervan Study Bible was nice, it seemed like everytime I went to the commentary for some clarification on a passage, I never found it. I sold that Bible. I've used the Open Bible for the past 30 years. It does not have commentary for the verses, but the 286 page cyclopedic index is a wonderful tool for locating texts on pretty much an topic you choose. The "Christian's Guide to the New Life" lessons are also great for learning about standard Bible topics. I just got the Ryrie Bible in hopes that it would be the study Bible I was looking for in the NASB version. Although it has some great information, the commentary is short and really doesn't provide much insight into the text. However, the other aids really do make it a great resource. This brings me to the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Bible. Although I do not believe in every bit of the reformed doctrine, this Bible does an incredible job of really going indepth into the scriptures. The scriptural commentary is probably the most helpful of any Bible I've ever seen. There are also approx. 100 theological articles that provide excellent information on many important topics. The Bible also includes the catechisms from the early churches, which also include scriptural references to help you understand where they created the teaching from. My only real reservations about this Bible are a few of the reformed doctrines and the NIV translation. I'm pretty much a faithful NASB reader because I prefer a more literal translation. If this Bible were NASB, it would be nearly a perfect Bible for me. However, until someone publishes an NASB study Bible of this caliber and depth, this will be my primary study Bible. I highly recommend it.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2006
If you want the most comprehensive study bible from a Reformed perspective, this one is simply the best available. Not only are the study notes and theological articles more extensive than those in the Reformation Study Bible, but the inclusion of the most influential Reformed confessions (Heidelberg, Belgic, Dort, and Westminster) makes for a very complete overall package. The only reasons for my not giving it five stars are the fact that it's in the NIV translation (a good translation as far as it goes, but a more literal one like the NASB or ESV would have been better), and the 1689 London Baptist Confession is not included. I realize that the LBC is very similar to the WCF, however, it's inclusion would have provided a useful comparison between the Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist perspectives within the Reformed community.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The new "Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible" from Zondervan represents a major revision and expansion of the "New Geneva Study Bible" (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995). Many people found the "New Geneva Study Bible" lacking in terms of ease of understanding and clarity. In this Bible the same information has been retained but completely rewritten to be much more approachable by the average person. The study notes and articles are true to the spirit of the Reformation starting and built on the basic doctrine of Sola Scriptura - that the Bible is infallible and inerrant as originally given by divine inspiration.
One of the things that is really nice about this version is all the in-text maps, charts and graphs. Instead of turning to the back of the book to look at a set of maps so you can follow along with what is happening the maps are right there as you need them (although there are also map sets in the back of this Bible). The study notes are quite extensive and make this one of the best study Bibles available. It contains over 20,000 detailed study notes, 66 in-text articles on topics significant to Reformed theology, a complete set of Reformed doctrinal standards including, Westminster Confession, Westminster Shorter Catechism, Westminster Larger Catechism, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. Each of the books of the Bible has a detailed introduction including a section on how Christ is represented in the book. The book is designed for the knowledgeable reader.
While I found no problems in the New International Version text, the notes are not quite as perfect in the proofing process. For example, I was surprised to see that God "reigns in heave" on page 1549. Because Bibles are generally one of the most carefully checked books such spelling errors are extremely rare. Eventhough not perfect, it is a significant improvement on the earlier "Geneva" Bible and a highly recommended Study Bible that I will be sure to consult and recommend regularly.