There is a new style of movie theater, called 4D film, where moviegoers endure a complete sensory viewing experience. 3D picture, fog machines, strobe lights, sprays of water, and gusts of wind. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to read the Bible in 4D?
This Is It
The NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project is a new 4-volume reader’s edition of the Bible that does everything possible to improve the reading experience. All clutter—chapter and verse numbers, section headings, footnotes, and cross-references—is removed from the page. The paper is thick and bright, and the binding is sturdy. The font is beautiful. The margins are more than adequate. Spacing is just right. Headers and footers give enough information to enable basic navigation, but they otherwise remain discreet.
So much, so good. But how is this any different from the other reader’s Bibles on the market? How does the NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project stand out?
Imagine having the text organized by its internal literary divisions instead of traditional “chapter” divisions. This is it. Some study Bibles print book outlines in a separate introduction. But the Sola Scriptura set doesn’t need outlines. The outlines are visible on the page while you read. The major sections of a book are marked by a four-line break and a large capital letter. The next divisions have a three-line break. Further subdivisions have two- or one-line breaks. In other words, the text is presented to you in the structure that would be noticeable if read aloud. The structure intended by the author. This is remarkable.
Even further, imagine if book divisions were unaffected by ancient scroll-length limitations. You know, don’t you, that 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were always meant to be a single book? But that it was too long to fit on one scroll? And that our Bibles have been forever stuck in printing this text as two books, even though modern printing technology doesn’t need to be limited by the length of ancient scrolls? And let me blow your mind even further: 1 Kings and 2 Kings are merely parts 3 and 4 of the same story. Now, in the Sola Scriptura set, you can read not only the book of Samuel as one book. You can read the complete epic of Samuel-Kings as one long and glorious tale of the rise and fall of the kingdom of Israel. Also, you get Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah as another epic tale of the rise, fall, and rebuilding of that same kingdom.
But wait; there’s more! Imagine if the books of the Bible were arranged in the best possible order to stimulate not only reading but also understanding. What would it be like to read Luke and Acts as two parts of one story, without being so drastically detoured by John, as in standard canonical order? And then picture going from Acts right into Paul’s epistles. But now they’re not put in order from longest to shortest (as in canonical order), but from earliest to latest so you can see the development of Paul’s thought over time. The rest of the New Testament is arranged here in a similar way, which is very similar to the way I’ve recommended would best promote deeper understanding.
In reading the New Testament, we see that the Bible of Jesus’ day consisted of three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms/Writings (Luke 24:44). What is that all about? If you were to study biblical Hebrew, you would buy yourself a Hebrew Bible and see this order to the books. Stick Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, and Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah with what we call the “Wisdom Books,” and you’ve got “The Writings.” The Law has Genesis through Deuteronomy. Now we see that “The Prophets” consists not only of Isaiah through Malachi (minus Lamentations and Daniel), but also Joshua through Samuel-Kings. This is a different way to read, but it is the way the Jews conceived of these books.
On top of that, let’s re-arrange our prophetic books by chronology instead of by length. This sets us up to walk ourselves through the late history of Israel to keep things in context. What was it like to live during the final days of the northern kingdom? Read Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah. What about those in the southern kingdom watching the fall of their northern cousins? Read Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. Want to go into exile (or watch the exiles go)? Read Jeremiah, Obadiah, and Ezekiel. Time to return and rebuild? Read Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi. Each book makes a little more sense when read with the others addressing the same situation.
With other reader’s Bibles, I’ve had only three complaints. The paper is impossibly thin. The chapter numbers need to go along with the verse numbers (into the dust bin). And please, oh please, drop the stage cues in the Song of Solomon! Please let us enjoy the poetry and immerse ourselves in it without being told exactly who must be speaking!
The NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project is the only edition I’ve found that addresses these complaints. And it does so much more to address the complaints I never realized I could have.
What It Could Do Better
So what criticism can I offer about this marvelous edition? Some may not prefer the NIV translation, but I find it a delight to read at length.
Other than that, I could say that the four volumes fit very tightly into the slip case. It’s not easy to grab a volume from the set when I want to read it.
Any edition of a reader’s Bible will not serve you if you need to flip constantly and find particular sentences. And a four-volume set isn’t something to carry around with you wherever you go. You’ll need something else if you need an on-the-go Bible.
But that’s about all the criticism I can muster.
The NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project solves every complaint I’ve had with other reader’s Bibles. And it solves all the other complaints I didn’t realize I could have had. If you like to read, and you want to get into reading the Bible, this set is for you. Every production decision was made with the reader in mind. I highly recommend it.
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