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NIV Study Bible, Personal Size, Paperback, Red Letter Edition Paperback – October 5, 2011
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One thing to notice right from the start is that this new study Bible is called "NIV Study Bible" and not "Zondervan NIV Study Bible".
Initially I was reluctant to purchase another updated NIV Study Bible (since I've had several improved versions already of the NIV Study Bible); However, when I opened this updated edition and began reading it, I recognized right away that there were significant improvements.
A. The NIV text is revised -- this Study Bible uses the updated 2011 text rather than the 1984 NIV text. The main difference in the updated 2011 text is use of more gender inclusive language ("brothers and sisters" instead of brethren), and significant differences in translation than the 1984 NIV version.
Here are some of the significant changes:
1) Psalm 23: 4: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil ..." (2011 version); the older version (1984) reads "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
2) In Genesis 1:6 the 1984 version says, "And God said, 'let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water"; in the 2011 version, Gen. 1:6 says, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water."
3) Rom. 1:16: The 1984 version leaves out the conjunction "For" in the beginning: "I am not ashamed of the gospel .." The 2011 version correctly adds "For" in the beginning: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel.."
4) Rom. 8:5 The 1984 version translates the Greek word "sarx" as "sinful nature": "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." The 2011 version is much improved: "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." The 2011 translation "flesh" is much more accurate and closer to the original. I had a very difficult time accepting the 1984 translation "sinful nature" -- it is a mistranslation of "sarx," which should be translated as "flesh" (cf. ESV, NASB, NRSV)
5) Phil. 2:6 (2011): "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage" (1984 version says " .. consider equality with God as something to be grasped.").
6) 1 Cor. 7:1 (2011): "Now for the matters you wrote about: 'It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman'"; the 1984 version says "It is good for a man not to marry."
While I preferred Gen. 1:6 and Psalm 23:4 in the 1984 version, I liked the significant changes in the NIV (2011) as listed above. To its credit, this 2011 NIV text still retains the Messianic title "Son of Man" in Daniel 7:13; it did not go the way of the NRSV and translate it as "someone like a human being."
One thing that teachers using the 2011 NIV text need to know is that it reads differently from the NIV 1984 version. When I read from the NIV 2011 to my Sunday School students, they asked me, "Which Bible are you reading from?" Many of them had the 1984 NIV and the new 2011 version had different wording.
B. New updated features, charts and articles
1) There are colored introductions to each Bible book; colored illustrations, maps, and charts. These colored illustrations make this updated version much more appealing to read
2) Slightly updated notes -- the notes are very similar to the 2008 updated Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Some of the notes include a brief explanation of the Jewish understanding of biblical concepts (e.g. the notes to the Prologue of John in John 1:1-18).
3) New helpful colored charts and articles
Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament (all the Ancient Near Eastern Texts that are important for understanding the Old Testament)
In the Old Testament, there are explanatory articles and charts that explain key cities (e.g. the City of the Jebusites, Solomon's Jerusalem)
Explanatory articles on the Tabernacle, Tabernacle Furnishings, Old Testament Festivals, Old Testament Sacrifices, etc.)
Explanatory articles (and maps) on Important OT events (The Exodus, David's Conquests, Wilderness Wanderings, Division of the Land in Joshua's Conquests, etc)
In the prophetic books, there are charts like "Visions in Daniel" that explain and compare the vision of the statue (ch. 2) and the four kingdoms (ch. 7) in Daniel
Major Archaeological Finds for the NT (right after John chapter 21)
Colored Harmony of the Gospels
Charts that Summarize Christ's Life and Ministry (Jesus' Early Life, Jesus' Baptism and Temptation; Summary Charts on Christ's Life from Childhood, Baptism, Ministry, Last Week, and Resurrection -- (all within the "Matthew" section in the New Testament)
All the maps inside the text are in color (e.g. Paul's Missionary Journeys in the Book of Acts; Seven Churches in Asia Minor in Revelation)
Colored pictures and descriptions of important archaeological sites (e.g. Herod's Temple, Roman Colosseum, Jewish ritual bath, Temple of Trajan, etc.)
Helpful charts that illustrate key biblical terms and concepts in the NT book (e.g. "Slavery vs. Freedom" chart in Galatians)
Helpful articles that explain key theological concepts ("The Church and the Tribulation" article -- taken from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds set)
4) Study Helps Section in the Back
Table of Weights and Measures
Revised Spelling of Proper Names (compared to the 1984 NIV version)
Index to the Notes
Index to Maps at the End of the Study Bible
What I found most helpful was the Topical Index, which helps the reader find the right Scripture passage for a given topic. It was helpful that the concordance followed right after the Topical Index.
The colored maps are excellent in the back.
5) Suggestions for Future Editions
I hope someday the NIV Study Bible would include a Brief Survey of Biblical Theology, a brief overview of church history, and articles on key words in the Bible. Study Bibles such as the Ryrie Study Bible, MacArthur's Study Bible, and the ESV Study Bible include these helpful articles.
However, the new NIV Study Bible is a pleasure and delight to read. I'm so glad the editors included the colored charts, articles, and maps within the text of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
This is a STUDY Bible, all right? Study Bibles are too big and heavy to carry to church. They're for study, at home. If you want a Bible for church, buy a slimline or pew Bible, but don't complain about how big and heavy this is. Read the weight before you buy and the number of pages.
Now for the margins. The side margins are a half inch and the top and bottom about 3/8 inch in the large print version. If you think these are two narrow (as some reviewers seem to), it's because this is a large print Bible and they're trying to make it thinner. Wider margins would have required more pages.
Now for the darkness and size of the type. Bibles are printed on thinner paper so they aren't as heavy or as thick as they could be. There's a compromise between the thickness of the paper and show-through. With thinner paper, printers have to decrease the density or darkness of the type, so it doesn't show through to the other side. The type in this Bible is easily readable. There's nothing wrong with it at all. And, the large print is fine for my 62 year old bifocal eyes.
So much for answering others' complaints. The footnotes in this version are helpful and clear. They provide some much-needed explanation and practical application of the text. The only complaint I have is when there's excessive references to other verses or other footnotes. Too much back-and-forth is laziness on the part of editors.
That said, if you love to read and STUDY your Bible, you'll enjoy this one as much as I'm enjoying it. What we want more than anything is to understand what we're reading and be able to apply it to our life. This Bible gets high marks on both counts, thanks to the informative articles and good footnotes.
Five stars because the NIV Study Bible will definitely help you in your desire to get closer to God.