There are several things I really like about this edition of the NIV Quest Study Bible. First, in the front matter there are several helpful tools for a new or established believer. The first is a set of “graded” (my word) reading plans that lead the reader through three two week, one six month, and full year reading plans. These are helpful regardless of how long one has been in the faith.
Second, immediately following the reading plans is a five-page summary of the Bible. This consists of one short paragraph for each of the 66 books with a short introduction to each section of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Poetical books, etc.
Third, in the back matter there is a “Study Helps” section that should be a help, again, for any believer. I was especially intrigued by the list of prayers from the Bible. This list is not exhaustive but gives a solid starting point for a significant study on this incredibly important topic for individual believers and their engagement in their local Body and their responsibility to lift up those in the extended Body. There is also a section listing some of the promises of God followed by a section that suggests passages to read when faced with different issues in your walk. For instance, assurance of salvation or a struggle with lust. There is an excellent topical index and an acceptable set of maps as well.
Fourth, and from my perspective this is what sets this work apart from other study Bibles. Zondervan and Christianity Today sent passages to over 1000 people and asked what questions they had about the passage. Further, they researched the top 100 questions people ask while reading the Bible and have attempted to answer those questions throughout the Work.
The Not So Good
One of the goods, becomes one of the not so goods. The questions that Zondervan and Christianity Today identified and are good, become a distraction in their implementation. From my perspective the text of the Bible is the most important portion of any Bible regardless of whether it has notes or not. The NIV Quest Study Bible’s layout highlights the questions on every page drawing the reader’s eyes to the side columns or the bottom of the page (where the 100 questions are answered). This layout does not encourage engagement with the text of the Bible.
Secondly, there are no cross-references. I find that odd in what is presented as a “study Bible”.
Third, the paper on which the Bible is printed is extremely thin. I would not expect this Bible to travel well. Highlighters I tested did not bleed through but could be seen through the next page.
Lastly, I have never been a fan of the NIV. Since its introduction in 1973, I have struggled with the dynamic equivalence approach to translation. While the text is easy to read, the choices made by the committee seem to insulate the reader from some of the struggles in the text from which one who is studying the Bible would benefit. Those who do not have access to the original languages already are one degree of separation from the originals, in that they are reading a translation. When the version choses to make decisions, which may or may not be accurate for the reader, that choice adds a further layer of insulation from the text.
In the preface starting on page xxxiii, the current state of the NIV is explained. Paragraphs 2 and 3 on page xxxiv catalog the approach that the committee took in approaching the use of gender-neutral language to render either Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek use of the masculine to refer to humanity. The choice to follow the trends in the use of the English language adds a further layer of insulation between the reader and the texts.
The Holy Spirit used the masculine. Apparently, the committee feels the need to correct the Spirit’s work. We are commanded in Romans 12:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) to not be conformed to the world. It seems that the choice to allow the world to dictate how the vocabulary of the original languages is translated is in direct conflict with Paul’s command.
There is good here. The front and back matter is useful as an aid to one who is either new to the faith or, in the case of the back matter, is interested in pursing topical studies on prayer or the promises of God. The Q&A approach is an interesting and helpful way to approach questions one studying the text may have.
However, the good does not, in my view, outweigh the not so good. I would not recommend this Bible as a primary study Bible. I would instead suggest that if it is used at all, it is used as a commentary that one checks after one has done original work in a passage.
The Lord has given me the privilege of equipping pastors and lay men and women on four continents to study the Word of God for themselves. That is to approach the text without aid. To make more and better observations of the text. In the seminars study Bibles are not allowed. The reason is simple. The notes or comments, as good or as well thought out as they may be, are not inspired. The text is. We need to abide in the text, the Word, not comments about the Word. Sure, after we have studied, the comments can be helpful, in a sense those that are writing the comments are sharing the results of their study. However, too often rather than struggling with the text, we go too quickly to the comments or the commentaries.
John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) promises that the one who inspired the originals, will lead us into truth. If we abandon the struggle, the study, observation, too soon, could it be that we are short circuiting the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our study?