Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Curiosity and the Faithlife Study Bible

Good morning! Today I want to take a look at the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. Rather than spend the whole post on this particular Study Bible, I’m going to hit a couple of highlights and then draw you through a few questions that I think this format helps with.

First, the basics of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible (NIVFSB, please): the translation is the 2011 New International Version from Biblica. I’m not the biggest fan of that translation, but that’s for another day. It is a translation rather than a paraphrase, which is important for studying the Bible. Next, the NIVFSB is printed in color. Why does that matter? This version developed with Logos Bible Software’s technology and much of the “study” matter is transitioning from screen to typeface. The graphics, maps, timelines, and more work best with color. Finally, you’ve got the typical “below-the-line” running notes on the text. Most of these are explanations of context or highlights of parallels, drawing out the facts that we miss by not living in Bible times and living in Bible languages. I’ve got a hardcover, and it feels pretty sturdy. The pages are thick enough to not bleed through too much, but at 2264 pages, they are still a bit thin so that this fits in a 2-inch book.

Now, let’s think about the Bible in general. One of the goals of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is to drive reader curiosity about the Bible in general. Why does that matter?
I think curiosity about the Bible is part of what keeps us coming back, and as such it’s a method God uses to keep us learning. With books that we have fully understood, we don’t go back very much. I’m no longer curious about that cat in his hat…so I don’t read that one much anymore. But the Bible? Even apart from the fact of my Christian faith, it’s a fascinating book. Written across centuries by multiple authors, we have a book that has driven mankind both to kill one another and to sacrifice their lives in the service of one another. How does that not pique the curiosity?

And then there are the family dynamics and how everything relates, one to another, within the Bible. How does it fit within the fullness of human history? Do we notice the alignment of Jonah’s preaching in Ninevah with changes in the Assyrian Empire? 

Then there is the question of various points of view and the Word of God. We have a challenge in dealing with bringing the meaning of the text through to the modern day without losing what God intended. For example, how should Christians view the Old Testament? What do we do with dietary laws or festival rules? What about the Name of God, which some go ahead and pronounce and use and others decline to even write?

These are some of the areas where differing viewpoints help us study better. Some study helps are written specifically from a single viewpoint. That’s fine, if you know what you are getting. But what about Acts 16:7? Junia, Junias, apostle, Apostle? What do we do with that?
That is another good thing I’m finding in the NIV-FSB. Many points where Christians who take the Bible seriously are approached allowing multiple points-of-view. 

In all, the study aids, infographics, and additional content of the NIV-FSB help feed the curious student of the Bible. There are more academic aids elsewhere as well as more practical ones, but this one strikes the middle of the pack as helping answer questions but still driving the reader to the text of the Word of God for many of the answers.

I like that result. A lot.

Now, some important notes: 1. The Faithlife Study Bible is from the same people who make Logos Bible Software. I have spent enough with them that they could send me a free car and they’d still be ahead. But they sent me this Bible for free. 2. What they sent is essentially the dead-tree version of what is already in my library digitally. 3. I use Logos,, and Proclaim, all products from this company.

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