Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: NIV Integrated Study Bible

NIV Integrated Study Bible: A New Chronological Approach For Exploring Scripture
John R. Kohlenberger III, editor
ISBN: 978-0-310-41103-1

The NIV Integrated Study Bible -- called NIVISB for the rest of this review-- is a Bible in which all the Bible books are chronologically interwoven (or placed parallel to each other) to form a book that smoothly follows the Bible’s historical timeline. Am loving it and I’ll say that the logistics of organizing this study Bible must’ve required a great deal of planning.

The navigation of the NIVISB starts out fairly easy with the Book of Genesis. At first, it seems like a normal Bible. But then the portions of the genealogies in I Chronicles and of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, (from the gospels) pop up around the Genesis 5 and Genesis 10. Then the reader finally understands how the Bible works.

The learning curve is intuitive. So after a while, the books sudden frequent divisions into one, two, three, or four columns is totally understandable. As the study Bible continues and we encounter other Bible books, more weaving occurs. The Book of Job, for instance, is placed between Genesis and Exodus. When one reaches the historical books --especially I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles-- the prophetical books, the wisdom books, and the book of Psalms are all interwoven throughout. One gets to see how the prophets interlap, what kings they were prophesying to, and where and when they prophesied. In the New Testament, all the epistles are intermixed with the Book of Acts.

I’ve often found Bible studies with a lot of commentary to be very intrusive. And this Bible study is the least intrusive study Bible i've seen in ages. There is very little commentary. A map or chart here or there at the beginning of certain sections, but no theological discussions. I really like this because although commentary helps further understanding sometimes commentary can be confused with real Bible truth simply because it is placed in a study Bible. Commentary can be too influential and often opens the mind as well as closes it. This is not to say that this arrangement of the books doesn’t have subtle influences, but at least the opinions are less in your face and are at a minimum.

The NIVISB is divided into general sections which deal with specific time periods: The Creation Through the Patriarchs, Exodus to the Conquest, Conquest through United Kingdom, Divided Kingdom and Exile, Return to the Land, The Life of Jesus, The Early Church.

The way the Bible books are interwoven in the NIVISB saves a lot of cross-referencing. It definitely places every book in historical context. Of course, all the books of the Bible were written by different individuals --each with their own writing styles and focuses-- so there are moments when there are jumps in writing styles.  But if one accepts that all of Scripture was written primarily by the Holy Spirit, one can accept the apparent discontinuity in human styles. In order to read this Bible, the reader has to make a conscious mental change to allow the book to be what it wishes to be. And the blessing of this Bible is that when folks read it they will understand the history better.

If I have to complain about something, here are a few: The first is that it isn’t in Large Print. The second is that unlike other Study Bibles, the NIVISB is not a standalone Study Bible. You will need a regular standard Bible to use alongside with this one because the Bible books are all cut, copied, and transferred to different positions. This means that because the continuity of each Bible book is broken, the NIVISB  really cannot be used to study any singular Bible book. If one wants to study the book of Judges, one has to find its scattered chapters and put them back in the accustomed chapter order used in regular Bibles. The last complaint is more of a nit. At the bottom of the Bible pages is a timeline from Abraham to Malachi. An indicator shows where the present Bible book fits in. I guess it works, but I keep thinking the timeline could’ve been used in a better way.    

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