Bible Review: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Review---NIV-Z-Study-BibleNIV Zondervan Study Bible

Zondervan | Amazon | CBD

I would like to thank the kind folks at Zondervan for this review copy!

One of the things that struck me about this bible is the name—the NIV Zondervan Study Bible hereafter NIVZSB. The insertion of the publisher into the actual title is a bit strange to me. My guess is they did this to distinguish it from Zondervan’s previous study bible, the NIV Study Bible. While I’ve never used an older NIV study bible, I feel certain this current volume will supersede those quite easily.

Like other study bibles, this iteration from Zondervan is hefty—a whopping 2,912 pages—and in those pages readers will find a wealth of information, all of which is obviously designed to help them understand the text and the world it reflects. The overall design of the NIVZSB is very appealing and draws the eye in. The abundance of full-color graphics is a very nice touch and the text itself is very readable. The sections of biblical text are a serif font, whereas the study notes below are a sans serif font, which makes for a needed contrast. The study notes are also set against a light green background, thus enhancing its readability.

A number of elements I appreciate in this bible. The first is found in the front matter; in fact, it’s the first of many illustrations. This one concerns OT chronology, which is a notoriously difficult matter to sort out. This chronological timeline spans five pages and includes the Israelite peoples, as well as southern and northern Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, Anatolia, Crete, Persia, Greece, and Italy. Of course not all of these civilizations have bearing through all of Israel’s history, but at various times each one plays some role in the formation and development of the people of Israel. This more detailed outline begins with 2500 bce and the timeline for Israel begins with the patriarchs, roughly 2250 bce. What I like about this timeline, as I mentioned, is how they handle the primeval history of Genesis 1–11. What time frame do they assign to the creation accounts, the fall, flood, and Babel? They don’t—they indicate this with a “?”. I like this for a number of reasons: we can’t be sure when these events happened, it’s the position I happen to hold, and it doesn’t embroil itself in the ever-contentious debates between science and faith. Whatever your belief about the first humans and Genesis and the ancillary matters that naturally spawn from that discussion, I appreciate that this was left as an unknown.

Another appreciable element (found in any good study bible) is the introductory articles. The NIVZSB not only introduces each book, but each section, so the reader can be briefly oriented to the OT and NT as a whole, as well as each section’s subsections. For example, after reading the “Introduction to the Old Testament”, the reader then may reader intros to the Pentateuch, the historical books, wisdom and “lyrical” books, and prophets. The book intros discuss much of what you should expect—dates of composition, provenance, themes, etc.—and give the reader a bird’s-eye view of the book. At the conclusion of the OT portion, there is a nice article on the intertestamental period that informs the reader of the importance of what happened historically between the testaments. Venturing into the NT portion of the NIVZSB, there is a two-page chronological timeline beginning with Herod the Great and concluding with the close of the first century. The NT section is handled slightly differently in that rather than having separate articles that discuss the various types of writings in the NT, these are subsumed in the intro to the NT article itself, presumably because the editors felt that three types of literature could be more easily handled this way (gospels, letters, apocalypse). After the NT, the reader is treated to a number of customary elements—tables of weights and measures, index, concordance, and maps. However, in addition to these there are additional articles that cover various topics that figure centrally throughout the bible, e.g., creation, sin, covenant, exile, temple, holiness, justice, grace, etc.

This bible is chock full of helps for the reader—there is no shortage of information available in this volume! Besides the elements already mentioned, the NIVZSB has numerous cross references (in the Gospels this includes parallel accounts found in the other Gospel accounts), an abundance of illustrations (nearly every other page it seems is beset with some sort of graphic illustration, chart, or other visual aid), and copious notes beneath the text that provide definitions for important terms and/or phrases, relevant background information, and brief discussions of difficult passages, e.g., Rom 9–11, 1 Tim 2:8–15, Heb 6:4–6, James 2:18–26, and others.

One of the most unique features of this study bible is that it essentially follows a biblical-theological scheme and seeks to tell the whole story of Scripture, which obviously assumes a unified text with a common trajectory or end. This, of course, will also affect how certain texts are translated. D. A. Carson notes this in the Editor’s Preface: “Finally, this study Bible emphasizes biblical theology” and “we have tried to highlight the way various themes develop within the Bible across time” (xxiii). I find this a helpful approach and I think this feature will distinguish the NIVZSB from others.

If I may quibble, there is one (very) minor annoyance with this Bible—the inconsistent use of dashes. I know, I know—that’s rather petty, especially considering how magnificent this volume is otherwise. However, years of slavish adherence to Turabian and SBL styles of formatting have hardened me and I can’t help but notice these things. The issue is found primarily in the outlines for each book. When indicating a range of verses, some sections are demarked by an em dash instead of an en dash, so that ranges look like “1:2—18” instead of “1:2­–18”. Again, I acknowledge this is comparatively minor, but sometimes it’s the little things that annoy and this is no exception.

In sum, the NIVZSB is superbly designed and imminently helpful study bible—this could be the new standard for such works. If you’re looking for a study bible, look no further—the NIV Zondervan Study Bible has everything you need to better understand the Bible.

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Read a sample here or take a look online.

Book Giveaway Winner

Using the random number generator at Random.org, I’ve chosen the winner. And that person is…

Doug!

Doug left the most comments, so I guess it’s no surprise, but nevertheless–congrats, Doug! Email me your mailing address and I’ll send it out right away!

Thanks to everyone for participating and stay tuned–I’ll have another volume to giveaway in the near future!

*If Doug hasn’t claimed his prize by the end of this week, I will choose another luck recipient. Come on, Doug–time’s tickin’!

Αυτω η δοξα

Book Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity

Review---Dictionary-of-Daily-Life

Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity, Vol. 2: De–H

Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

Many thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy!

Along with an abundance of Bible translations available to the English-speaking world, we also have a wealth of resources and tools with which to study the Bible at our disposal. So, some may wonder why another dictionary that seeks to say something about the ancient world in which the Bible’s story unfolded? With such acclaimed series as The Anchor Bible Dictionary and IVP’s black dictionaries, do we really need another? In short, yes, for a couple of reasons. First, for all we know about the ancient world, there’s quite a bit more that we don’t know. What we don’t know about the ancient world, however, is steadily decreasing (albeit very slowly) and with new discoveries and advancements comes the need to supplement what we already “know”. Second, no matter how exhaustive a resource attempts to be, it is simply impossible to say all that can/needs to be said about a given issue, hence the need for other volumes and/or series to fill in the gaps. This is precisely the goal of Hendrickson’s marvelous series Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity (hereafter DDL).

The primary way in which this series differs from others is its focus—on the daily life of those of antiquity. More technical series (ABD, IVP’s black dictionaries) offer insight into all aspects of the biblical world, particularly those issues that were more pervasive socially, e.g., imperial cult, agriculture, religious praxis, etc. The DDL, however, places the focus on aspects of life that were perhaps not central to the texts that reflected the culture. Ed Yamauchi, who both edited and contributed to this series, cites the issue of abortion as but one example of a practice that was pervasive in the ancient Mediterranean, yet is not addressed in the Bible (1). This particular volume covers such matters as dentistry and teeth, doors and keys, food consumption, heating and lighting, and horses, along with a number of other aspects of daily like that are perhaps more expected. As Yamauchi correctly points out, the authors of the Bible took for granted what was well known to themselves and their audience, thus they had no need to provide all the requisite background information to understand what they were reporting (1). As such, we must comb the sources of the ancient world in order to understand their world and thus better understand the context of the Bible. However, outside of academia, most readers of the bible have neither the resources nor the skills to mine the depths of ancient sources, so works like DDL demonstrate their ultimate value.

The articles are written by experts in their fields but are written in very accessible prose so that the reader might receive the maximum benefit. Each topic is discussed in various contexts—the scriptural first (Old and New Testaments) followed by the cultural (Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian)—thus providing the reader with a wider range of backgrounds against which to understand that particular issue. To accommodate those who wish to read beyond the pages of DDL, each article concludes with a substantive up-to-date bibliography.

There is really nothing to dislike about this series, save for the use of transliterated terms from the languages of the sources cited and otherwise noted. This negligible element aside, the DDL is a solid work, one that will benefit both scholars and non-academics alike. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that no, it is improbable that anyone reading these volumes won’t find something they disagree with. However, this volume (and presumably the first one) are well researched and lucidly written, so even in disagreement readers will learn with great benefit. Will this series replace others? No, and it isn’t meant to—it’s a supplement to previous works that will greatly aid in the study of the world of the Bible.

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Book Giveaway Ends Today!

One last reminder that my giveaway of Hendrickson’s Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity: Volume 2, De–H ENDS TONIGHT! If you haven’t yet entered or want to give yourself a few more chances to win, GO HERE and leave a comment about anything you wish. If you shared on social media, leave a comment letting me know and each will get you one entry. Giveaway ends tonight at 11:59 CST. Get to it!

Αυτω η δοξα

 

Book Review: BHS – A Reader’s Edition

BHSBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition

Hendrickson | Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft | Amazon | CBD

Several years ago (like with the Greek New Testament) I bought Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (hereafter RHB) and have used it quite a bit. It’s a handy volume and I haven’t really looked to replace it; however, now that I’ve got a copy of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition (hereafter BHS-RE), I will likely default to it (the BHS) over the other (RHB). Let me first say that the Zondervan edition is not necessarily inferior—it’s quite a nice volume. My preference for the BHS-RE is based on a couple of elements, both of which I’ll discuss briefly in the review.

First, concerning the more superficial element, by which I mean the aesthetics, the BHS-RE is slightly larger and thus a bit bulkier than the RHB. BHS-RE clocks in at 1,765 pages, whereas the RHB comes in slightly lower—1,652. While some may think this difference amounts to significant size difference, it’s actually a negligible amount. Once you’re dealing with a book whose pages number into four-digit territory, 113 pages really isn’t that much. No matter which you choose, they’re both big and bulky. The RHB is duo tone and has held up well over the years. The BHS-RE is hardcover (though it’s also available in black flexisoft) and time will tell whether or not it is durable. My impression thus far is that it should be able to withstand ordinary use for many years. Other aesthetic elements of note in this volume are the font and the paper. The font, which looks a lot like (and may be) SBL Hebrew, is preferable to the RHB’s HebraicaII font. This is a matter of personal preference and every reader will have their own likes as far as the font is concerned. For me, this font looks better on the page. Speaking of the page, the paper used in the BHS-RE is not the typical paper used in bibles. It’s a more of a sepia tone and is thicker, thus it prevents ghosting more so than the RHB. The BHS-RE’s particular paper/font combo is much easier on my eye’s than that of the RHB and is one of the reason’s I prefer it over the RHB.

Now, on to the more important elements—the text and features. The text is the complete text of the BHS and has been checked against the Leningrad Codex (which will differ slightly from the text of the RHB). As for the vocabulary, which can make or break one’s ability to read any language, BHS-RE includes glosses for all words that occur fewer than seventy times and these glosses are defined contextually, thus obviating unnecessary potential meanings that would be out of place in a given section. For those who might need to look up a word that’s not included in the lexical notes, there is a glossary in the back that includes all words that occur seventy times or more, even proper nouns. So, all words used in the Hebrew Bible are glossed in this volume.

One element that will take some readers time to adjust to is the parsing scheme (you can get a “schematic” or operation manual for parsing here). BHS-RE has gone to great lengths to provide ample parsing information for the reader, but it will take a little practice to figure out the system. In the RHB, verbs are not fully parsed; rather, the lemma is provided and all other information for a given verb is not listed. For example, the first verb listed in the footnotes for Exod 25:2 is יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ. It appears in the footnotes as “נדב Qal: impel, stir; incite”. Looking at the same verb in the BHS-RE, we have “נדב. bG25. So the question becomes, “How do I know how that verb is parsed?” The system devised for this task goes like this (for this particular verb): G=German Grundstamm (or “base stem”), 25=3 masculine plural. The “G” can indicate both prefixes and suffixes. Other stems are noted as

  • N = Niphal (reflexive or middle)
  • H = Hiphil (causative)
  • D = Piel (factitive; “D” is for the doubled middle radical)
  • p = all passive stems (following the uppercase stem label)
  • Gp = Qal passive
  • Hp = Hophal
  • Dp = Pual or Polal
  • tD = Hithpolel
  • (there are others not listed here)

I’ll leave the indicators of person, gender, and number for you to read should you get a copy—it’s a little more tedious to reproduce here. To describe it briefly, it’s basically a numerical system, where different elements of the verb are represented by variations of tens and ones. Obad 1:4 begins with אִם־תַּגְבִּ֣יהַּ and is parsed in the footnotes as H22 גבהּ go high, soar. The H22 then indicates this verb is a Hiphil imperfect 2ms—H = Hiphil, 22=2ms. Another example is 1:7, where we find שִׁלְּח֗וּךָ, which is parsed as D15s2. Broken down, this indicates the verb is a Piel perfect 3 common plural with a 2ms suffix. It’s a bit complicated at first, but after a bit of practice it probably works as a more efficient way to read through sometimes-cumbersome verb details.

In sum, this is a very nice volume. The intent behind it, as made obvious from the subtitle, is to foster regular reading of the Hebrew Bible and that end is made quite possible thanks to the hard work put into this text. Once you can get a handle on the parsing system, you’ll be able to read the Hebrew Bible with new efficiency and joy.

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Read a sample chapter here.

Book Review: The Good Shepherd

Review---The-Good-ShepherdThe Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament

by Kenneth E. Bailey

IVP | Amazon | CBD

Many thanks to the always-generous folks at IVP for this review copy.

The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey

When I took the OT backgrounds seminar a couple of years ago, one of the most interesting discussions concerned shepherds in ancient Israel. Our prof was not only well versed in the Hebrew Bible’s language and story, but also in raising farm animals, particularly sheep. I remember being completely enthralled by his lecture—it brought psalm 23 to life like I’ve never experienced before. When I cracked open Bailey’s book on the good shepherd motif in the Bible, I had high hopes. Because the bar had already been set fairly high, I was quite hopeful that Bailey’s experiences in the Middle East would bring the texts to life the same way that happened in my OT seminar. I am pleased to say that while Bailey’s book did not necessarily exceed my expectations, he sufficiently met them.

As the subtitle indicates, Bailey traces the theme of “the good shepherd” from its most prominent and popular occurrence, in Psalm 23, to the NT book of 1 Peter. What’s interesting about Bailey’s discussion of these passages is the way he shows the connection between Psalm 23 and the other texts in which the good shepherd motif is used. The connections are not always plainly obvious, but through his careful exegesis, Bailey demonstrates that the twenty-third psalm, at least thematically speaking, was prevalent throughout the history of Israel, particularly during times of hardship. Bailey does not present Psalm 23 as paradigmatic necessarily so that all subsequent references to Yahweh (and later Jesus) as the good shepherd are stringently dependent on it, but again, that the psalm portrayed Yahweh in such a way that later voices employed its themes to speak words of comfort to different contexts.

While the whole of the book is enriching and informative, by far the most enjoyable parts (for me) were the preliminary sections—the preface, intro, and first chapter. It’s here that Bailey digs down into the well of his own experiences as well as that of others who have spent part/most/all of their lives tending to sheep in the Middle East. The first-hand accounts of shepherds who lived where biblical figures lived (or in proximity) was fascinating, not unlike the seminar I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Having read through some of Bailey’s work on 1 Corinthians, I knew what to expect and what I expected I got—a well written and highly informative work, one that I would recommend to anyone who treasures the twenty-third psalm and the passages where one can hear its echoes.

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