The NIV Proclamation Bible does everything I want a study Bible to do and nothing I don’t want a study Bible to do. It gets the Bible student moving in the right direction, and then it gets out of the way. Perhaps that’s why the front cover boasts Timothy Keller’s polarizing endorsement: “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.” And for these reasons, this “Study Bible” won’t feel like a study Bible to typical users of study Bibles. In fact, I prefer not to call it a study Bible. The NIV Proclamation Bible is not much more than a Bible with helps, and therein lies the beauty of it.
It has a hardy cover and binding, along with two shiny ribbon bookmarks. The paper is slightly thicker than average for Bibles. It has the text laid out in two columns, with center-column cross-references, translation footnotes, and other typical apparatus. The back offers a decent concordance and 14 terrific maps. But there are no study notes beneath the biblical text, no inline maps or theological discussions, and no charts or tables of the kings of Israel or parables of Jesus. So why might someone shell out 30 or more bucks (US) for this volume?
Because of the essays. Seventy-seven of them, to be exact. Don’t be scared, though; most of them aren’t much more than a page long. Let me explain.
Ten essays stand at the front, averaging 5 pages each, on the following topics:
- What is the Bible?
- A Bible overview
- The historical reliability of the Bible
- Finding the “melodic line” [main point] of a book*
- From text to doctrine: the Bible and theology
- From text to life: applying the Old Testament
- From text to life: applying the New Testament*
- From text to sermon: preaching the Bible*
- From text to study: small groups and one-to-ones*
- Biblical interpretation: a short history*
The essays I’ve marked with a * are solid gold. The rest are okay, but not much different from what you can easily find on the Internet.
The other 67 essays are merely introductions to each book of the Bible, plus a few introductions to large sections of the Bible (Pentateuch, Histories, Poets, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles). Each of these essays is barely more than a page long. And while half of the introductory essays are solid gold, I consider most of these book intros more valuable than vibranium.
Each book intro follows the same formula:
- A single-sentence main point for the book
- A 2-4 paragraph walk-through of the book explaining or defending the stated main point
- An outline of the book’s structure
- A 2-4 paragraph summary of key points to consider when teaching or leading a Bible study on the book
- A bibliography of three recommended commentaries for that book or section of the Bible
I haven’t kept perfect statistics, but I believe about half of the proposed main points hit the bulls-eye with a vengeance. For example:
- Ecclesiastes: “Death and judgment are the only fixed realities in life, and everything else is uncertain and often subject to frustration and sorrow.”
- John: “Believe that Jesus is the Son who came from the Father to reveal him, and has returned to the Father to open up the way to life for his people.”
The other half aren’t wrong but perhaps just slightly off-center. For example:
- Genesis: “The Creator God is faithful to his covenant promises and redeems humanity through the promised line, despite their sin and rebellion.”
- Proverbs: “Proverbs recognizes the difficulties of living in God’s complex world and offers wise words to live by.”
There are a few I thought were off-center, until the explanations convinced me that I was the one off-center. For example:
- Ephesians: “You are one in Christ now, so be united and stand firm in him.”
- Luke: “You can be confident that Jesus, in his life, death, resurrection and ascension, heralds the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the Old Testament.”
I don’t typically use the 2011 NIV translation for my study, so I probably won’t use this Bible much as a Bible. But I will refer to it often when I study a book and want concise, accessible help with a book overview. I won’t let this thing get far from my fingertips. I commend the NIV Proclamation Bible as a strong help with OIA Bible study.
Disclaimer(s): I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Now you know what I think. And while I might lend out my copy if I’m not using it at the time, I’m also happy to send you to Amazon to buy it. Should you choose to accept this mission, you’ll also support the blog at no extra cost to yourself. What a great way to steward God’s resources all around! I’d say it’s like an Acts 2:44 moment, except I’d possibly be missing the point of that book: “The ascended Lord Jesus continues to draw people from every nation to himself, growing his church through the preaching of the word and the ministry of his Spirit.”