Of the making of study Bibles there is no end. Our appetite for these handy, one-volume reference libraries continues to produce all-in-one Bibles for every variety of Christian. Three recent entrants to the field display more substance than many.
The resurgent Reformation-minded wing of the evangelical movement may finally have a study Bible to call its own. Derived largely from the earlier New King James-based New Geneva Study Bible (NGSB, Thomas Nelson) and the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Zondervan), the Reformation Study Bible (RSB) combines solid, Reformed scholarship with the increasingly popular and "essentially literal" English Standard Version (ESV).
Included in this edition is a short theology course housed in nearly 100 brief theological essays on everything from "The Authority of Scripture" to more explicitly Reformed doctrines such as "Perseverance of the Saints," "Election and Reprobation," and "Definite Redemption." Most of these compact theological gems first appeared in the NGSB and in CT executive editor J. I. Packer's Concise Theology.
There are some disappointments, however. The RSB has no color maps. And the 70-page concordance feels skimpy. One also looks in vain for reprints and explanations of Reformation-era documents such as the Westminster Confession.
Still, the RSB will be a valuable study Bible for many Christians-Reformed and otherwise.
NIV FAITH IN
Just as the 2003 "BibleZine" Revolve was the first Bible to contain makeup advice, the Faith in Action Study Bible is likely the first Bible to include a sidebar summary of the Geneva Conventions. Of course, much of the Bible is devoted to the fair, just, decent, and even loving treatment of our fellow human beings—whether they be kin, resident aliens, or enemies.
In a one-page essay tucked between Isaiah 1:17 and 1:18, World Vision's Bryant Myers talks about the way Isaiah and other prophets move seamlessly between their critique of Israel's false worship and the nation's oppression of the poor, noting "at the end of the day, how we treat the poor is a measure of who we truly worship."
Charts, sidebars, and study notes supplement helpful book introductions. Study notes are evenly divided between those marked with a scroll icon ("then") and those sporting a tiny laptop computer icon ("now"). They consistently tilt away from exegetical or theological questions toward application.
Short essays feature high-profile Good Samaritans such as Millard Fuller and Gary Haugen along with social-action theorists (such as Richard Mouw) and motivators (such as Tony Campolo). The editors even include an excerpt from the social-justice classic by CT's first editor, Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. This volume helps us better pray World Vision founder Bob Pierce's prayer, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."
The RenovarÉ Spiritual Formation Bible
Spearheaded by leaders of Renovaré—an interdenominational renewal movement—the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible (RSFB) seeks to form Christlike character in readers. This is no easy task, of course. That's why HarperSanFrancisco recruited Quaker Richard J. Foster, Presbyterian Eugene H. Peterson, United Church of Christ scholar Walter Brueggemann, and Southern Baptist Dallas Willard to put their heads and hearts together and wrap the Bible in rich devotional cloth.
Reading this New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and its packaging means hearing from other respected Christians as well, including author Virginia Stem Owens, who penned a rousing introduction to the Book of Revelation. "The Lamb's blood is irrevocably bound to beauty," she writes.
The RSFB also includes the Apocrypha (which Luther described as "not equal to the Holy Scriptures," but "profitable and good to read"); essays on what the editors call "with-God life" (a redundancy that emphasizes, rightly, "that the Bible is all about human life 'with God'"); and an index providing biblical references for each spiritual discipline.
Of course, any Bible—even the inspired text sans notes!—can assist in spiritual formation. But learning from mature Christians can help.
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CT recently discussed Bibles meant to be read quickly.
Other CT articles on Bibles include:
It's a Rap | A new hip-hop Biblezine tries to give God street cred. (Feb. 7, 2006)
Ten Things You Should Know About the New Girls' Biblezine | Agnieszka Tennant's reviews an edition of Biblezine. (September 16, 2003)
God's Own Dictionary | You won't believe the words that didn't exist until the first English translations of the Bible. (Feb. 5, 2003)
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