Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: NIV First-Century Study Bible

This is a review of the kindle version which I freely received without for a fair and honest review.

The NIV First-Century Study Bible is arranged like most study Bibles. There are the usual sections with charts, maps, word indexes, etc. The differences with this study Bible is a long list of ancient texts used to shed light on the verses, Middle Eastern history, literary tropes, ancient laws, poetry and writing stule.

I love archaeology, anthropology, history, linguistics, and cultural studies so I really liked this Bible. The Bible is thorough and most of the verses are annotated. The hyperlinked annotations shed light on the cultural and religious meanings behind the Bible verses we know or think we know. Historical documents such as the writings of ancient historians --Josephus, for instance-- and documents by Jewish and Christian scribes are included.  Some of these might bother some people who don't want to see how (for instance) the story of Job is similar to another story in that region.

There are many definitions and explanations of the significance of words and objects. The editors also show how full of humor some of the Bible texts are. There are some notes which show a more direct less prudish (honest?) reading of certain texts. The Bible is full of slangs and sometimes translations prefer to translate certain words in a way puritanical minds would appreciaate. This version shows in the footnotes what was really going on in some verses. For instance, Genesis 43:34 is translated "drank freely" whereas the literal meaning of the words are "they got drunk together."  

Moving about and through the kindle version is intuitive. Or maybe I'm just getting better at moving around the kindle version. (I don't have a kindle. I used a kindle app on my chromebook.)

The reader who may enjoy this book best of all are Messianic Jews and readers who want to understand Jewish history. The reader should also be someone who doesn't get too bent over shape about opinions, surmises, and varying opinions. The fun of this Bible is looking at the history of what other rabbis have said about certain passages. If you're prickly about knowing exactly what certain passages mean, you'll lose out on the fun of this book.

The blessing and the curse of this version is that it brings the reader face to face with the assumptions we have about certain passages. For instance, many Christians are taught that The Lord's Prayer was created by Jesus. But the footnotes show that Jesus used parts of different rabbinical traditions to put the prayer together. The idea of God being called "Abba" ("Daddy") is another example of Christians thinking that Jesus had changed many aspects of religion. There are paragraphs taht show how similar certain aspects of Egyptian law are to the laws in the Bible.

This kind of challenge to a certain kind of argumentative Christian who likes to believe that the word of God is being tested. Yet the editors are profoundly committed to the uniqueness of the Christian Bible and it is evident that for all their archaeological commentary, they believe the word of God to be God-breathed. I would not give this book to the kind of person who is argumentative or who is not skillful in reading comprehension. I know that's a harsh thing to say but I can see some people feeling the book is challenging Scripture when it isn't.

I highly recommend this book. It might turn the reader into a history nut but some people might think it shakes their faith.

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