Thursday, September 18, 2014

NIV First-Century Study Bible - A Review

A Review

This study Bible would attract me when seen on the shelf, but with a little bit of use, I would be less than satisfied.  Though the title makes it clear that its focus is the “first century”, the sub-title suggests that the book will “explore Scripture in its Jewish and early Christian context.”  However, I found that the focus on the notes is only on the New Testament - not the whole Bible.  
As is my practice when reviewing a new study Bible, I examine the text where I am currently studying - today this is the book of Joel in the Old Testament.  There are few notes on the text as a whole.  There is an one-page essay focusing on Joel 2:28 - but this is the only extended comment in the entire book.  There are six footnotes on a four individual versus - three of these drawn from Joel 1:6.  I see no quotes from pre-Christian authors or the early church fathers discussing the contents of the book.  Cross references are few and contained only in the six footnotes . 
Aside from the footnotes, many of the sidebars are brief (i.e. very brief) word studies.  For example, a sidebar connected with Luke 16:23 includes a 20 word comment on the meaning of “hades”. 
Study Helps found at the end of the book are a bit more helpful.  Beginning with a one page “Table of Weights and Measures”, these notes are followed with a rather complete set of Endnotes organized by Bible book and a reference number.  There is no clear way to follow an individual Endnote back to its source in the body of the book.  The Endnotes are followed by a Bibliography of source material.  Given the Endnotes and the Bibliography, this Study Bible includes better reference to the source material than most study Bibles I have reviewed.  The Endnotes and Bibliography occupy 15 pages of small-print text.  A good addition to the book.
Notes are indexed and a glossary are included.  The index is keyed by topic to the scripture reference.  The Glossary is a bit technical - probably more helpful to the college student or college educated layman.  Some of the entries are biographical, others are technical terms used to describe sections of scripture or historical documents underlying scripture’s history.  Sadly, there are no references to where these terms might be found in the body of the book.  
The best addition to the Study Helps is a lengthy and complete Concordance.  The Concordance includes brief definitions, parallel terms, and extensive references for each entry.  Though not a complete concordance (see Strong or Young for that), but it is better than that found in many books of similar size.  
The book ends with the necessary Bible maps - 14 of them.  Well-done and in color, but not particularly special.  
Is this the first Study Bible I would want to have on my shelf - NO!  Would it be a worthy edition to have as part of an extended set - MAYBE.  I would like to see more primary material from first century writers.  I have grown to appreciate the early Christian fathers - but this book does not introduce them to me.

This review is based on a free copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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