Review of NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (formerly the NIV Zondervan Study Bible)

The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible is a new Bible released by Zondervan. It was previously known for years as the “NIV Zondervan Study Bible”, but over the years Zondervan seems to have flooded the market with so many other “Study Bibles”–Life Application Study Bibles, Woman’s Study Bibles, Teen Study Bibles, Rainbow Study Bibles, Faithlife Illustrated Study Bibles, Quest Study Bibles, and dozens more.

To be clear, this is the original “study Bible”. As a study Bible should, it has exhaustive commentary and notes that seem to cover almost every verse in the Bible (over 20,000 notes). For the most part, I found the notes helpful when they provide extremely helpful historical context that you can cross-reference as you’re reading it (they’re a bit less helpful when they “state the obvious” or get a little too pedantic for my taste, but happily those are few and far between).

The illustrations, maps, charts and diagrams are in full color, and do a great job of helping visualize or organize what you’re reading. Each book of the Bible has a comprehensive introduction that covers all you want to know about the book, including its purpose, background, author, historical and geographical setting, structure, and theology, and provides an outline as well. There’s a concordance, but in this age of the Bible Gateway, such things aren’t really as useful as they used to be.

The list of contributors is an impressive panoply of theological scholars. For the most part, the commentary sticks to objective facts and doesn’t dive into “taking sides” on more controversial topics. There are also 28 articles including familiar names like Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, and T.D. Alexander, so in a way you’re getting some “bonus” content from these well-known authors as well.

If you already own the original NIV Zondervan Study Bible, you won’t see much different except for some cosmetic improvements, such as two ribbon bookmarks, an easier-to-read typeface called “Comfort Print”, and a layout that feels more “breathable” than the former edition. It’s interesting despite the improvements in layout this newer version feels lighter than its previous version (about a third of a pound lighter), so the typesetters did a nice job of making the layout more efficient as well as readable. Note that it is still only a 9 point font, so if you’re like me you may need to break out those reading glasses.

Overall, I’d say if you already own the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, there’s not a whole lot new here that you don’t already have. But if not, and if you’re someone who needs to prepare for Bible Studies or sermons, you won’t find many resources better than this book, at least not all under one cover. Understanding the historical background and context behind what you’re reading is one of the most important things you can do when you’re studying the Bible, and this Study Bible does a great job of giving you a comprehensive view.