The NIV (New International Version) translation of the English Bible is one of the most popular of the many modern English Bible translations. It was first published in 1973 and since then it has appeared in various specialized Bibles, geared toward different readers or uses. The NIV Essentials Study Bible is the newest NIV Study Bible, published in 2013.
This large print study Bible is divided into Table of Contents, Alphabetical Order of the Books of the Bible, Abbreviations used by the editors, About the NIV Essential Study Bible, Preface, Old Testament, New Testament, Table of Weights and Measures, Reading Plans, Subject Index, Concordance, and 14 full color maps.
The section entitled “About the NIV Essentials Study Bible” showcase the tools used in this particular study Bible. These tools are generally referred to as “lens.” In this case, there are
A) The Book Introductions — Each book in the Bible is introduced with a quick overview of key concepts, verses, and teachings found in the Bible. It also includes a timeline, maps, and photos.
B) The Unpack Lens — Commonly called “footnotes” in other Bibles, these “unpack lens” are study notes found at the bottom of the page. They include explanations of texts, verses, and show how the particular verses fit into the larger Bible.
C) The Dig Deep, Look Close Lens — These are taken from the NIV Archaeological Study Bible and are used to show historical (artifacts, etc) evidence for the Bible. Some of them include maps.
D) Q&A Lens — These are questions taken from the NIV Quest Study Bible and tackle questions that have challenged Scripture readers throughout history.
E) The People in Focus Lens — These are articles about specific people in the Bible. These notes are adapted from the NIV Student Bible
F) Insight Lens — This lens contains articles adapted from the NIV Student Bible which gives relatable meaning to passages which might seem distant from the modern reader.
G) Guided Tour Lens — These notes are also excerpted from the NIV Student Bible and shows “a bird’s eye view” of the entire Bible.
H) Highlights — These are short articles which highlight certain verses whose importance the reader might miss.
I) Reflect & Respond Lens — These are taken from The Great Rescue, NIV, is intended to cause the reader to meditate on certain inspirational issues.
The Reading Plans are:
A) One Year Through the Bible reading plan,
B) 60-Day overview of the Bible reading plan
C) 20 Not-so-famous Bible stories
D) 30 Days of Great Faith
E) 30 Days with Jesus
The Subject Index are linked to the Q&A and commentaries/lens found throughout the Bible.
The NIV translation of the Bible is one of the most trusted -- second to the King James Version (although the Net Bible and the New Living Translation) are also good translations. It uses contemporary English and will not cause confusion in some minds as the KJV often does with those who do not understand Shakespearean English.
With the inclusion of so many study tools and resources, this is definitely an improvement on the other NIV Bibles, and other study Bibles in general. Some might be confused with all the resources but modern teenagers, a generation of multi-taskers, will find it easily navigable. One certainly can buy this Study Bible and benefit from the glimpses/inclusion of other Zondervan study Bibles. The compilation is flawlessly put together and the merging of those different resources into one "NIV Essentials Study Bible" is a tour-de force of editing, recombining and copying and pasting.
THE VARIOUS LENS
This is a study Bible and it shows the benefits and drawbacks of all study Bibles. It is very helpful for anyone who needs to understand how to approach the Bible and will teach the new Bible reader how to understand Bible reading. The various Lenses used to bring the Bible to life will definitely make even the casual Bible reader understand the Bible better. The typical person who is new to the Bible often just picks up a Bible and goes off to study it. They don't know what Bible resources to use, unless they are being trained in a church or Christian cult. This Study Bible has everything a new Bible student will need in one easy to read package and answers questions that might enter the reader's mind. The Bible student will also have the freedom to pause in reading the Scriptural text to look at the articles and footnotes. The archaeological additions are incredibly helpful in bringing the past events to life.
The flip side of all Study Bibles is that those who read them might trust the commentary in the same way they trust Scripture. There is always a danger of being indoctrinated into thinking about certain Bible passages in a particular way. Zondervan publishing luckily proclaims mainstream Christianity. But, although it is a good thing to know what the worldwide church thinks about certain Bible characters, each Bible reader should also be aware that the commentary they are receiving —however historic and accepted the interpretations— are coming from human traditions and traditions can often be challenged. For instance, whether or not one believes in the Pre-tribulation rapture of the church, it cannot be forgotten that the idea of a pretribulation rapture was promulgated through a certain commentary found in a study Bible. There are dispensational Study Bibles, preterist Study Bibles, etc.
There is also the problem with Biblical character analysis rooted in old traditions and prejudices. For instance, the passage on Lot doesn’t consider that perhaps Lot had a problem pulling himself away from Sodom because he may have had two married daughters there (which is a probable deduction from the words “I have two unmarried daughters here” and the conversation about Lot’s sons-in-law.) The commentator assumes Lot is merely addicted to the rich lifestyle of Sodom. It is quite possible that Lot also loved friends, family, and in-law. There is also the Samson depict Samson as weak toward his lust for women. This might be true, but it might not be. Some might consider Samson’s sin to be more of a tempestuous anger. In the same way the decision to focus on Job’s wife as a symbol of an “accuser” instead of a woman who has lost children shows that uncompassionate tradition still intact. The commentator declares in the footnotes that the voice of the accuser is silenced after Job’s wife stops talking but isn’t the accuser also present in the voice of Job’s friends? There is also a strong Calvinist tread throughout whenever the discussion of suffering pops up. One would think that an adaptation of a Bible study would create opportunities for reassessment of traditional interpretations, dismissals of certain characters, scapegoating of certain characters turning others into sacred cows.
Much of this Bible Study seems like a rehashing, or a padding and/or a recompiling of other NIV Bible studies and resources. The cons is that sometimes it seems as if the NIV Essentials Study Bible is a subtle advertising tool of other Zondervan Productions: NIV Study Bible, The Essential Bible Companion, NIV Archaeological Study Bible, NIV Quest Study Bible, NIV Student Bible, and The Great Rescue Bible. Looking at the book’s cover flap— the reader often cringes at what feels like a subtle way to sell those other books. Mercifully, Bibles often lose their dust jackets so the Bible owner will more than likely cast off the uncomfortable mercenary feel.
THE READING PLANS
The Reading Plans are good for teenagers but there is a kind of perfunctory feel to them. They are good enough, but they seem somehow inadequate as if the Bible Reading Plans were at hand so the editors tossed them in. Certainly, Zondervan has more than its share of reading plans lying around. Why not include others? Why not a reading plan that merged some of the doctrinal insights scattered throughout? Why not a reading plan on children in the Bible or women in the Bible? Cynically, one almost feels as if reading plans with women would’ve been included if Zondervan had wanted to advertise a woman’s Study Bible.
The Subject Index and the Concordance are helpful and between both of them a good student will be able to find verses or subjects.
On the whole, although this Study Bible feels as if new insights haven’t been added —especially in the way women and certain characters such as Hagar are treated— this is a very good Study Bible. Even with its faults, it is a good gift for new readers of the Bible because it contains very good tools to help theological, geographical, and doctrinal understanding. Recommended for those new to the Bible or to those teaching Sunday School.