Friday, September 20, 2013

Book: The NIV Integrated Study Bible

The NIV Integrated Study Bible(NIVISB) is, in all honesty, not what I expected from the title. Taking in the tagline of “A new chronological approach for exploring Scripture” helps a bit with the expectations, so do not judge a book by its title. Not if you can get the full description from a website, that is.

First of all, living in the 21st century southern United States, the word “integrated” is freighted with meaning regarding race relations. I know that “integrated” can refer to mixing anything that has been separate, but the connotation around here would lead one to believe this Bible attempts to draw together scholarly viewpoints on Scripture from multiple ethnic traditions. That is unfortunately not the case—not because this one is bad, but because that would be a great idea.

Instead, the word “integrated” here refers to harmonizing the various portions of Scripture into their chronological order. Which is fine, and and it needed a new title because there are already “Chronological Bibles” on the market. I think the title comes from a different region of the country is all—so balance your expectations.

Second, on to the chronological efforts here. I like what the NIVISB does with parallel passages. Rather than repeat these passages, they are actually placed in parallel columns on the same page. For example, John 6 shares a two-page spread with Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9, all telling the same story. Likewise, in places where Chronicles and Kings tell the same story , these are placed in parallel.

Also, the book of Acts is a bit interrupted, as the epistles of Paul and James are slotted where the editors think they belong. Those timings are, of course, open to interpretation.

An additional aspect, which I think is the best feature, is the use of what the editors have labeled “conceptual parallels.” Two examples should suffice: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 both provide the Ten Commandments, but at different stages in Israel’s history. These passages are placed in parallel in both locations, providing the reader a reminder or a foretaste, depending on the perspective. Also, Jesus’ cleansing the Temple is marked as a conceptual parallel between the First Cleansing in John and the Passion Week Cleansing in the Synoptics. (This leaves aside the debate about that chronology.)

The chronology is, overall, good. There is a timeline across the bottom of every page, showing where in the calendar most of the events occurring should fit, and providing a perspective on the scope of history.

The drawback I find is that, in comparison with other “study” Bibles, there is just not that much “study” material here. There are no book-level introductions or backgrounds, and there are no deeper points on any verses. There are six section introductions covering the major divisions of Scripture through history. (Think time-frames, not literary genres.) That is, however, the whole of the material that fits the idea of “study” within the NIVISB.

One quirk in those introductions is that the section for the Exodus and Conquest seems to favor a late date, while the timeline on the pages favors the early date. Not a real problem, just a quirk to my eyes.

Now, all of this leaves aside any discussion of the NIV text. I prefer the New American Standard for Biblical text, and I would still commend the NASB over any other translation on the market in the English-speaking world. Close behind it are the ESV and NLT, based on true reading levels. The NIV was once my favorite, but it is not any longer at the top of the list. That being said, many decent study tools are built on the NIV—either the 1984 or the 2011, depending on release date. I consider the NIV an acceptable translation, just like the HCSB or the KJV are, but not tops on my list.

If you want to have a good discussion on these issues, there are some good books and articles on the idea. I would caution against just googling it, because you’ll get a lot of rhetoric that is unsubstantiated. However, it’s your time and if you want to sift, go ahead. Keep in mind that anything published by Crossway will favor the ESV and its philosophy while anything from Zondervan will favor NIV.

I like the layout of the The NIV Integrated Study Bible. I would love to have seen a little more “study” material to make it a self-contained Study Bible, but that’s ok. I would deeply love to see the same layout in NASB.

Note: Free book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review.

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