NIV Integrated Study Bible Review

A new way to look at the text of Scripture.

Like Moses viewing the Promised Land from a distance atop Mt. Nebo, so Christians today stumble through the Scriptures from a kind of distance caused by time. We get stuck in the minutia of genealogies and Levitical regulations, and fail to see the connection of one story to the other. Why is the Bible so confusing in that regard?

As the NIV Integraged Study Bible  (NIVISB) points out, our English Bibles arrange the books of the Bible according to content rather than chronology. Historical books are grouped together; philosophical and poetic books have their grouping; prophetical books are side by side; even the epistles find themselves bunched together. The NIV Intgrated Study Bible offers a unique point-of-view to put the books of the Bible in perspective. It achieves this primarily through the placement of parallel passages next to each other on the same page.

Even as a literate society, we have difficulty grasping the chronological progression of the biblical story, both Old and New Testament, and so many have turned to this studious option to better understand the history of our faith. When events are placed in context with each other, the lightbulb will flash, and even passages that were otherwise dreary suddenly come into focus.

This is especially common, and especially useful, when it comes to genealogies, the Mosaic law, the time of the Kings, the Psalms, comparing the Gospels, and pinpointing the epistles in the New Testament timeline. This just so happens to include some of the most interesting stories of the entire Bible as well as some of the driest reading you can imagine. Yet repetition denotes importance when it comes to ancient literature, and it will hopefully come alive to you as to their importance if given in this format.

Are there downsides? I did find navigation to specific passages a bit more difficult since there were so many parallel passages to compete with and many books are not in their ‘traditional’ location, so this doesn’t fit well as a main ‘study Bible’ that you’d bring to church or a Bible study. Some might want to argue the finer points about the placement of certain Psalms, the book of Job, or even fail to see the point in all those darn chronologies, but those are not issues worth complaining about in a finished product such as this, and merely require some insight into those genres of literature. How would I rate this against other chronological Bibles? I’ve seen several other Chronological devotional Bibles or study Bibles, and they do have their perks depending on their focus.

Devotional Bibles will have extra thoughts about the passages that will help you to relate it to your own walk with God; Study Bibles will give you extra tidbits of history, archaeology, theology, and such; the benefit and unique factor of the NIV Integrated Study Bible is that parallel passages are physically laid out next to each other on a page for direct comparison (and to take a mental note that the two books being compared are recounting the same events). Say you’ve heard both sides of the story about the continuity or dis-continuity of the Gospels and wanted to examine the direct evidence for yourself. Say the Mosaic law tends to befuddle you and you’d really like to get a better grasp on what the tabernacle or the Temple really looked like, or what the priests’ daily duties really looked like. Then this is a Bible for you. Just understand that some of the timeline is up for interpretation. But when you are basing your entire premise around chronology, you have to put your foot down somewhere or it won’t do you any good.

Now, if you are the type who wants an all-in-one Bible, then the NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible is all three of the above examples wrapped into one. An alternative is also the NIV Daily Bible, which is a 365 chronological devotional Bible with some helpful study notes. But if you’d like the Bible without all the extras, pure and simple, and in a historical layout, the NIVISB is a better choice.

What could be better than when you discover everything you read in the Scriptures is part of a carefully planned continuum in God’s redemptive story for mankind? That is why I give this positive review of the new NIV Integrated Study Bible: A New Chronological Approach for Exploring Scripture.

 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLookbloggers.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Christian Faith in the Old Testament by Gareth Cockerill

Ask me about the Christian faith, and I am just as likely to draw from the Old Testament as I am from the New Testament. Christ may be the cornerstone of the church, but the mortar between every brick is the Old Testament, filling in-between every word of the New. True Christ-followers are from a Judeo-Christian heritage. Just as English literacy is a prerequisite to be successful in an American society, so Old Testament literacy is required for believers to understand what they believe. So I could not pass up a book titled Christian Faith in the Old Testament, written by Gareth Lee Cockerill.

Cockerill is certainly not new to this subject matter. I could tell by the way he flowed through the information, page after page, chapter after chapter, like a well-rehearsed teacher. Of course, when you’re too well rehearsed in a presentation you tend to fly through the facts a bit arbitrarily, as was sometimes the case. Not that his points were ever irrelevant, but he wouldn’t always guide you through his thought process with introductions or transitions between his thoughts until you arrived at a critical juncture later on.

This is especially evident in the first chapter, which quickly felt like a straight up expository lesson on the Genesis narrative. Again, not that it was irrelevant, as it begins his explanation of the overarching story-line that extends through the entire Old Testament and into the New. This story line is an essential component of relating the relevance of the Pentateuch. But I am afraid the purpose of this abbreviated exposition deserved a grander anticipatory set for the benefit of its readers. But I would say this is the type of book that builds up as you read further, gaining momentum as you gather the essential facts, and culminates as it bridges the gap between the OT and NT. Because of this, it would be the kind of book you wouldn’t mind reading again, like a good movie with so many twists and turns you could watch it ten times before you catch everything. It will help to connect the dots that might not have been clear the first time around.

One item is of lasting importance, and, quite possibly, the most important question addressed for many critics and seekers, is that of God’s seemingly prevalent tendency toward judgment in the Old Testament. Too often the perception is of a God with dual natures; that of capriciousness in the OT and that of benevolence in the NT. But let us be clear: both testaments recount the same God in all his fullness. There is no duality. Cockerill first helps us to see this continuity when he quips that “judgment is also a mercy that restrains sin” (29). In the context of Genesis he is referring to the preventative measures God implemented to save mankind from utterly alienating themselves from God. But in the broader perspective of the OT, as the book continues to extrapolate later on, all the actions which God performed that involved punishment and death was, in effect and in purpose, His means of restraining the utterly pervasive and deleterious infection of sin.

Why else would the Psalmist refer to such things as the overtly strict Law of Moses or to the slaughters of holy war in the context of God’s praise? Not because the Hebrews inherently enjoyed rigid restrictions or relished in spilling blood, I assure you. They were overflowing with gratitude for the blessings their nation enjoyed by being removed from the evils of sin. The law explains, in very practical terms, how to avoid the effect of sin, whether it be sin from human depravity or sin’s curse in nature. Herem, or holy war, removed the effect of sin that encroached in the form of utterly depraved and base nations of men who worshiped idols and relished in the suffering of others. God’s judgment is always just, and believe it or not, it actually makes the world a better place because it mercifully, albeit temporarily, cuts back the weeds of sin.

In a way, God removed this mercy somewhat during the NT by not restraining sin, so that His Son would be crucified. I don’t say this to dampen the mostly positive tone of the NT, but merely to balance our perspective between the Testaments.

I will end my commentary of this book at that, as I do not wish to rehash too much of what is already covered in Cockerill’s careful work. I will even omit the rest of the unspoken praises and criticisms, for the details are yours to judge. In affect, I hope this has whetted your appetite enough to read it, as I am thoroughly convinced this is the type of book, and this type of holistic understanding of the biblical story, that every Christian needs (and every seeker seeks).

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLookbloggers.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Has God Spoken? by Hank Hanegraaff

I received this book as book review blogger for Book Sneeze. As one who thoroughly enjoys the topic of inerrancy, this new, hot-off-the-press addition to the divine inspiration library more than peaked my interest. With books like these, Hank Hanegraaff continues his reputation as the Bible Answer Man. I must admit, the cover of this book is pleasing and professional to look at…

…much better than some of the older, albeit well-written, works of the same category that were subject to the more disagreeable cover designs of the ’80s and ’90s.

As for the subject matter itself, this is an oft written subject. As it should be. What one believes to be true about the Bible in relation to God and in relation to its reliability in the truth it claims is foundational to salvation and to one’s approach to the Christian life.

Moving on to the table of contents one can already perceive our apologist’s approach – mnemonics. This can be expected for a book written by one who frequently answers basic questions about Christianity and wants to compile a book that is easy to remember and easy to recall information for apologetic use. This means several things. One, this book will give great, concise proofs for Biblical inspiration through topical acronyms. They won’t be complex or hard to understand. They will be recognizable and real. Two, it is a survey book. The self-same benefit is also a limiting factor. It won’t have extensive/comprehensive information for each of the proofs given for the Bible’s inspiration. They will be short and sweet, will provide some hard-hitting facts and examples, but there wont be much space dedicated to follow up. Further study will require other specialty books.

Now, for the meat and potatoes!

There are four main topics, each with their corresponding acronym: Manuscript (C.O.P.I.E.S.), Archaeology (S.P.A.D.E.), Prophecy (S.T.A.R.S.), and Scripture (L.I.G.H.T.S.).

Part One: Manuscript COPIES
Copyist Practices, Oral Culture, Papyrus and Parchment, Internal Evidence, External Evidence, Science of Textual Criticism.

Part Two: Archaeologist’s SPADE
Steles and Stones, Pools and Fools, Assyrian Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Epic of Gilgamesh.

Part Three: Prophetic STARS
Succession of Nations, Typological Prophesy, Abomination of Desolation, Resurrection Prophesies, Superstar ABC’s.

Part Four: Scriptural LIGHTS
Literal Principle, Illumination Principle, Grammatical Principle, Historical Principle, Typology Principle, Synergy Principle.

If there was one easy way how to describe the so-called ‘errors’ in the Bible, explaining them through a succession of principles was the best form I can think of. Though ‘easy’ is a misnomer because there is no simple and easy way to academically provide the evidence for the reliability of a historical document. There is no way to give 100% proof to describe away what was actually said or written on our manuscripts. That is because language cannot be nailed to a wall so objectively, not now, not two-thousand years ago. The way people think, talk, and write are governed by the copious principles by which they perceive the world, and such a thing is dramatically different today than it was back in Bible times. But those are the exact factors which we need to examine more closely in order to understand where our perceived ‘discrepancies’ are actually nothing more than preconceived biases. And the four parts of Hanegraaff’s book do well to cover a majority of the salient evidences available. This is the stuff students could spend an entire graduate degree studying, so this summary is valuable to the lay Christian desiring to have a backdrop.

There have been many negative reviews about this book. Some say he bashed other religions and authors too much. That is probably true. It isn’t the place for a survey book to attempt to make any hard-hitting claims about the opposition. It is better to leave that to the academics writing academic books where more detailed and documented evidences can be cited and extracted. As I read through chapter to chapter I found myself feeling a sense of deja-vu because he quotes and re-quotes the opposition ad nauseam. Again, I understand that Hanegraaff decided to take a more apologetic approach to this subject matter, however, the portions where he describes the opposition and makes to refute them were more distracting than helpful in this case, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more had he stuck to the facts and simply integrated dissenting views with brief transitional rebuttals where they fit naturally in the text.

Other reviews complain about the nature of the book, that it is a basic survey book. That is unwarrented. The book had a specific audience and purpose, and it was written to that end. There is no need to criticize that.

As a survey book, this is a wonderful introduction into the Bible’s divine inspiration. Granted, it will require other resources for further research and study. I would recommend the following if you want to dig even deeper after reading Hanegraaff’s book:

1.) Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, by Erwin Lutzer (basic)

2.) Biblical Inspiration, by I. Howard Marshall (basic)

3.) A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations, by David Ewert (medium)

4.) Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler (advanced)

5.) Systematic Theology, Part 1 – The Doctrine of the Word of God, by Wayne Grudem (advanced)

I review for BookSneeze®

Faith & Pop Culture by Christianity Today

_89_150_Book.32.coverAs a Christian man who enjoys literature, and who lives in a culture who enjoys sports, television, games, and movies, it only made sense to pick up the study series by Christianity Today called Faith and Pop Culture. The entirety of the book is focused on how Christians are to interact with the entertainment culture of today. Too often the Christian culture performs a predictable, and almost amusing, response to this modern reality. (1) There is the shock and horror reflex. (2) Outright condemnation and boycotting of the secular entertainment arts. (3)A bunch of muttering and isolation occurs, often coupled with (4) a stint with 100% Christian-made art forms (only Christian music, radio, books, jewelry). (5) Eventual compromise as the individual(s) become desensitized and tantalized by the wider world of entertainment (that honestly often far exceeds the talents of Christians alone). It does not have to be this way. While it is true that Christians are to be in the world but not of the world, it is also true that all truth can be used to portray God’s truth, and thus the different forms of entertainment do have value. They are excellent venues of communication, and Christians should be excellent communicators because as Christ followers our lifelong employ is to communicate the love of Jesus and the truth of His salvation.

Christianity Today’s Study Series Faith and Pop Culture was made recently in 2008, and therefore still very relevant to today. It’s main focus, as the title portrays, is for a Bible Study or small group to discuss how their faith is to interact with pop culture. Every chapter contains a thought provoking article chosen from the Christianity Today magazine database. Once read there are options given for group discussion and reflection, often centered around pertinent Bible passages. Each chapter gives the group a chance to discuss the largest forms of entertainment today: movies, books, sports, television, and video games. There are also respective chapters dedicated to the value of ‘family friendly’ entertainment, Christian influence in the entertainment industry, and whether entertainment is compatible with a life of faith.

Before you delve into this study, however, I must give caution. Do not gather a group of Christian buddies together to merely glimpse through these pages and glance at the passages. Only open this book if you really mean it. The chapters will take more than one sitting each. The articles will require reading them ahead of time in order to process through them. The questions will take time to answer. The dedication will need to be high in order to truly grow from it and mold your thinking. This is partially because as Americans we come heavy laden with presuppositions and biases about entertainment. This group study is not meant to affirm and/or justify what you already believe. This group study is meant to challenge the way you think about entertainment. It is meant to be a commitment of time and effort. Please take this study, and as a group take it seriously, and be teachable. Take notes, write in the book, ask questions, be honest. I do wish the book provided more space for writing notes, but there are spaces between questions and the occasional blank page dedicated for notes.

I highly recommend this study. No Christian in Western culture lives in a bubble, therefore every American Christian will encounter the entertainment industry.

As a final aside, notice how I had to specify Christians in Western culture. The things Christians struggle with varies greatly from country to country. There are billions of people in the world who have no access, means, or even desire, to take advantage of the different forms of entertainment available. This book assumes you live in an American-like culture. As such, this book will make no sense to a Christian bedouin on the outskirts of the Arabian desert, or a Christian tribal leader in Papua New Guinea. Entertainment is a blessing and a curse for Americans, Europeans, and other countries who have it readily available. Not to say that different forms of entertainment are not available in non-Westernized cultures, nor that there is an absence of struggle there. I simply wish the study series addressed the stark contrast of quantity seen between the American entertainment industry compared to other parts of the world, and how this effects Christians worldwide. It would have made for an excellent concluding chapter.