Book Review – “NIV Essentials Study Bible”

From the onset I will freely admit that I am not typically a fan of “study bibles,” preferring to let scripture stand alone on its own God ordained merits. I am also weary of Study Bibles because they run the risk of promoting questionable doctrine. The clearest example of such an issue comes from the granddaddy of all study bibles, and the one I also consider to be the least reliable and most detrimental of them all, the Scofield Study Bible. According to Scofield’s notes Jesus is what can be called a “parenthetical insert” into history because salvation history has been detoured into the Church age until the Jewish people are ready to return to God. From his perspective Jesus did not intend to establish a Church, and the very idea of the “Church” is God’s plan “B” because the Jews of Jesus day rejected him as Messiah. This idea is absurd, when one takes into account the sovereignty of God over all things, yet over the years I’ve heard this idea preached and taught by preachers and teachers.  

Personally I use the Thompson Chain Reference Bible (NASB) for my personal study and preparation. A “cross reference bible” is different from a “study bible,” in that it only provides relevant parallel references, not the theological considerations of men. Truth be told I have a love/hate relationship with study bibles, I do own a few of them, and my favorite would have to be the Archeology Study Bible, which I have found to be a better than average production as far as “study bibles” are concerned.

Last week I received a review copy of the new “NIV Essentials Study Bible,” and have spent the past week reading through it and evaluating its notes, references, and overall presentation style. Upon evaluation, I believe that this study bible is an excellent resource for the study of scripture, especially for a new believer. While I didn’t have the to read every study note and comment, those which I did read, focusing on what are considered to be “controversial” texts showed great respect for the text, and tended to avoided the pit-fall of bending scripture to fit the commentators theological perspective. While I may not personally agree with all of the comments, and who would, I didn’t find any of them particularly egregious.  

With this “study bible” there is little to condemn, and much to praise… I very much loved its “Lens” layout, and how it drew insight from the other excellent resources and study bibles which utilize the NIV text.

Flyover Lens: Start each book of the Bible with the right perspective from easy-to-read introductions from the popular Essential Bible Companion.

Unpack Lens: Easily understand and interpret Bible passages with bottom-of-the page study notes and in-text charts from the best-in-class NIV Study Bible.

Dig Deep, Look Close Lens: Understand the fascinating historical significance of the Bible with articles and photos from the bestselling NIV Archaeological Study Bible. (Which is still my favorite Study Bible)

Q & A Lens: Get concise, easy-to-grasp answers to your most perplexing questions about the Bible with questions and answers from the beloved NIV Quest Study Bible. (Which is still probably the best Study Bible for new believers)

People Lens: View Scripture from the perspective of the 100 most important people in the Bible with notes for the student of any age excerpted from the timeless NIV Student Bible. (The first Study Bible I ever used, and still love it for its clarity and simplicity

Guided Tour Lens: Get a bird’s eyes view of Scripture with a Guided Tour, also excerpted from the category-leading NIV Student Bible.  

Insight Lens: Find meaning in the Bible by reading these magazine-style call-outs from the NIV Student Bible.

R &R Lens: Reflect and Respond with this quick inspirational focus time, which unveils the sweeping narrative of the Bible as seen in the award-winning The Great Rescue, NIV.

Back in the day when the “Schofield” study bible was one of the only options for a study bible there was a well-known spoof against it that was derived by editing the line of a well-known hymn: “My faith is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Scripture Press!” Funny as that line may be, it also serves as a sad commentary on what we imperfect people can do with the word of God, that’s why I’m so pleased that this attempt was as successful as it is. I give it 5 stars, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a “good” study Bible.


About Jim

I'm currently the Communications Director for Missouri Operation for Vigorous Evangelism [MOVE] A Church planting ministry located in Jefferson City, MO. I believe that the church is the primary means through which God works in a community to love and redeem it. Here at MOVE we’re discovering new ways to be used for this purpose as God leads us and lights His path for us. As God forms this organization and shapes it for a new kind of world I want to be right in the middle of what He’s doing, traveling on this road of a disciple’s journey.

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