We compare the NIV Study Bible with the NIV Zondervan Study Bible
Zondervan has just published the 2015 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, but it is also continuing to print and sell the very popular 2011 NIV Study Bible, that was just revised and updated with close to 30% new or significantly revised notes from the original 1985 NIV Study Bible.
This makes choosing which NIV Study Bible confusing. Which one should you buy and what are the differences between the two study bibles?
Exploringthetruth.com states, “At 2880 pages, it is a full 140 pages larger than Crossway’s juggernaut, the ESV Study Bible, over 700 pages larger than the NIV Study Bible, 500 pages larger than the NKJV Study Bible from Thomas Nelson and 600 pages larger than Nelson’s KJV Study Bible. It is the most massive bible I own and it may well be the most comprehensive study bible available today.”
But we didn’t find that to be true based on page numbering. We checked and the 2011 NIV Study Bible has 2530 pages whereas the NIV Zondervan Study Bible tops out at 2880. That’s only a 350 page difference. And the ESV Study Bible is 2750 pages (not counting the maps in the back) making it 130 pages longer.
What’s the difference and how to pick which NIV Study Bible to buy?
Head to head: NIV Study Bible versus the NIV Zondervan Study Bible
2011 vs. 2015
2011 NIV text vs. 2011 NIV text
Published by Zondervan vs. Published by Zondervan
2530 pages vs. 2880 pages
5 brief essays vs. 28 essays
Over 20,000 notes vs. Almost 20,000 new original notes
100,000 cross references vs. 35,000 cross references
Largest concordance ever bound in a bible vs. ?
44 original contributors vs. 60 contributors
Traditional Evangelical Theology vs. Conservative Evangelical Theology
All confess to the authority of God’s infallible word vs. All confess to the authority of God’s infallible word
400 full-color photographs, maps, charts, and illustrations vs. Over 60 informative charts, more than 90 maps, and hundreds of photos. (The article continues below the video.)
Both study bibles are heavy, thick and crammed full of useful information, so neither is likely to be carried daily. The Newer 2015 NIV Zondervan Study Bible is maybe a little less than 1/2 inch thicker than the 2011 NIV Study Bible. They are roughly the same size otherwise. Without the slip cover, the 2015 NIV Zondervan Study Bible has a clean matte dark grey cover with light grey titling. The 2011 has a bright blue cover with lime green sans serif lettering. Page weight, brightness, and thickness is very similar as is page brightness. “Ghosting” and “show-through” is about the same with backside printing in both volumes.
You quickly notice a stylistic difference in the two volumes. The 2011 NIV Study Bible is not so much dated as it is stylistically different. Relying on brighter, vibrant colors, a more contemporary design (think Apple design), larger sans serif fonts, thick-and-thin lines and colors, and lots of color that spreads and bleeds over the edges of the pages.
The New NIV Zondervan Study Bible is the more classic, understated, and scholarly looking of the two. Not as “hip” or bright, with serif fonts and more classic lines. Some of the photos bleed over the top of the page, but most maps charts and book introductions have white margins and stay where they are supposed to.
Both volumes have tons of notes, sometimes taking up to three-quarters of the actual page(s). Both study bibles use double-column notes below, offset from the text in the NIV Study Bible by a thick line and in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible by a screened block of color behind the notes.
Stylistically and colorfully both bibles seem to be well-done and well-designed with good use of color. The same cannot be said for the HCSB Study Bible which seemed to rely on the use of color to try to impress. As an artist and designer, I cannot like that study bible no matter how much I appreciate the translation and would like to be a fan of the study bible. It simply does not work for me. In another post maybe I should address the newest NLT Illustrated Study Bible which also uses color, photos, and infographics as well as charts and maps to tell the story of the Bible and help make it understood.
While I understand that the notes and literary helps are from their earlier study bible, the Illustrated Study Bible is very well-done and a beautiful study bible worthy of your attention – Especially if you are looking for the New Living Translation, or an easier-to-read study bible.
I like the extra width/space at the margins for notes (see image) However, I rely less on notes than I do cross-referencing. I cross-reference continually and add many more of my own. Noting that this bible has 35,000 cross references versus 100,000 in the original NIV Study Bible makes me a bit sad. Otherwise I like this new volume a lot.
Right away the newer NIV Zondervan Study Bible seems to be easier on the eyes. That is due to its single column text (rather than two columns with center cross references in the NIV Study Bible). There is also more white space both under the cross references and when the text focuses on lists, poetry, or other stylistic literary form that features line breaks and narrower columns – There is plenty of room in this bible for note takers!
When you compare the actual font however, you may be a bit surprised to discover that the font in the newer Zondervan edition is much more condensed (narrower) and somewhat lighter/thinner. It appears to be a point size smaller as well. While it is a clean and beautiful font, it may be a little harder to read for older eyes or those using reading glasses. I am finding it to be more difficult to read for long periods of time.
While I prefer the single column of most readers bibles, and dislike the narrow columns in the 2011 NIV Study Bible, the condensed text can be a little hard to follow left to right in a long, dense page of copy. I have not read this Bible enough to realize if this remains a real problem or not, but suffice to say, it is noticeable (click on the photo to the left). If you actually “read” large portions of the Bible, not just dig deep into a single passage, this isn’t a good thing. You can check it out yourself by downloading a 50-page sample here: http://www.thenivbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/NIV-Zondervan-Study-Sampler.pdf or see a different portion from Scribd below:
Exploringthetruth.com has an extensive series of photos of each section of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. You can see them here: http://exploringthetruth.org/niv-zondervan-study-bible-overview/ Since this review was meant to compare the two study bibles, I won’t do the same here.
Translation and notes and bias:
While both versions of NIV Study Bible use the 2011 text of the NIV, it has been suggested that Zondervan approached this study bible with the intent of winning back or slowing the adoption of the ESV Study Bible. As I own an ESV Study Bible as well – A few items will be noted here, although this is not mean to be a review of the ESV Study Bible or a comparison between that bible and the NIV Zondervan Study Bible…
The theological profiles of both the ESV and NIV Study Bibles are very similar. Editors of both volumes are connected to the Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed churches. Many of the contributors to the two volumes have common affiliations with Evangelical and Reformed institutions.
The New(er) NIV Zondervan Study Bible features 28 essays (see below) on a variety of topics similar to the ESV Study Bible. While not a duplicate record (and so there is value to owning both), or duplicated subjects, this is different from the older NIV Study Bible which seemed to have less of an emphasis on essays, and more on outlines, themes and charts. That is just my impression overall. The essays featured in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible are very focused on the view of Biblical Theology popular in Refomed circles and bible colleges and seminaries, unlike the more wide-ranging essays in the ESV Study Bible. Also, the style itself of the newer NIV Zondervan Study Bible is more akin to those who like thick volumes, academia, Reformed doctrine and a more restrained conservative approach, rather than the modern, artsy style in the NIV Study Bible. To each their own.
The other strong emphasis in the newer 2015 Zondervan Study Bible is a focus on biblical theology (more below). We consider this a good development and much needed corrective to sloppy exegesis and application of random bible passages. While surely we “should be strong and of good courage,” um, that passage wasn’t written to you, it was written to Joshua (Joshua 1:8).
D.A Carson is pretty strong (opinionated?) in some of his writings regarding conservative theological and Biblical topics. It appears that a more conservative, literal, inerrancy approach was sought here, maybe again to reach a slightly different audience, and either a more conservative or a more reformed audience.
Gone are the color keys/icons that indicate archaeological notes, personal growth/application, and character traits from the NIV Study Bible. All the notes now appear the same. Overall, this version seems to be less approachable to the average bible student and aimed more at seminary and serious students of the bible.
Whereas the original NIV Study Bible featured a Broad Traditionally Evangelical Approach and Theology, it appears the Zondervan Study Bible sought a more Conservative Evangelical Approach and Theology. Maybe a little more narrow of subject matter although I haven’t read this volume yet to gain an understanding of how the readings or introductions or note might differ from the original NIV Study Bible.
I have not yet read enough of the newer NIV Zondervan Study Bible to determine if it has a bias or slant in regards to inerrancy, Reformed/Arminian doctrine, end times eschatology, Baptism of the Spirit, the role of women in the church, or other often debatable subjects. It appears fairly well-balanced on its interpretational lens re: eschatology, giving equal space to different camps, incl. partial preterism, although some might note it’s notes about Israel and the People of God in the New Testament leans towards a “One God, One people” explanation (those who believe are the Israel of God under the new covenant) versus Dispensational Theology and its “two distinct peoples” stance.
As this newest study bible is built on the latest in biblical scholarship, I do expect it to be stronger and more accurate in some ways over the NIV Study Bible.
“Biblical Theology?” Is that anything like “Dynamic Equivalence” or “Supralapsarianism“?
In brief, the idea is that our understanding of God came incrementally, not full-blown, and was revealed over time. rather than artificially throw our fully-developed ideas back onto older biblical passages, the idea is to let scripture and revelation develop over time until we get to Jesus’ declarations and the interpretations and expositions of O.T. passages by the apostles. This “context” of what was understood at the time, helps when we see incongruity of behavior or attitudes in O.T. heroes of the faith rather than judging them based on 21st century sensibilities.
My understanding is that the notes and introductions also reflect this context and development, paying close attention to what the author understood about God and prior scriptures, and how their history and circumstances affected their writing. This is a very helpful approach, but many of the essays at the end may be “speaking another language” and over-the-head of many bible readers.
Concerns over the text:
Where many Bible-believing Christians debate the merits of the NIV versus the ESV or NASB, others recognize that all the book introductions, notes and essays in these bibles as well as in the ESV Study Bible, may be confusing people as to the real Biblical text, especially as they embody our own understanding, opinions, biases and culture.
I am sympathetic to this argument. In places, the many notes below make up the majority of page after page, as the original biblical text struggles to find a place on the page(s). I suspect that soon enough we might see notes explaining notes (similar to what the Jewish people experienced with the Mishnah and the Gemara). As someone who has largely learned to study the bible using Greek and Hebrew helps, concordances, word studies, commentaries and more, but daily relies on inductive bible study, I think they may have a point. It would be easy enough to print two-volumes with a beautiful library-quality slip cover that allows all this reference material to be bound elsewhere, in a comapnion volume, instead of in the bible. I am especially concerned over cultural essays regarding politics, race, gender, war and pacifism, and more. A can also see a time in the future when a Greek bible or interlinear, a readers bible, and a study bible may be bound separately, but as a matching set as a library in a beautiful slipcase.
A recommendation – I not only study the bible using these study bibles (plural), but I have grown to enjoy using a “reader’s bible” as my primary daily reading bible. Readers bibles remove all extraneous material – notes, cross references, helps and charts, even verse numbers and chapter headings (which weren’t in the bible originally but were added in the Middle Ages) in order to read whole books once again and restrain readers from picking verses out-of-context or cobbling together doctrines from random disparate passages. Instead readers bibles encourage one to listen to the flow of an argument or of a letter. To hear the bible as it was originally conveyed and originally heard or read. Both ESV and NIV (NOT NIrV) have beautiful, helpful, literary readers bibles on sale.
Articles found in the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible compared to the ESV Study Bible:
A list of all the essays in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Not including book and section introductions):
The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus Is Central (Timothy Keller)
The Bible and Theology (D. A. Carson)
A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible (D. A. Carson)
The Glory of God (James M. Hamilton Jr.)
Creation (Henri Blocher)
Sin (Kevin DeYoung)
Covenant (Paul R. Williamson)
Law (T. D. Alexander)
Temple (T. D. Alexander)
Priest (Dana M. Harris)
Sacrifice (Jay A. Sklar)
Exile and Exodus (Thomas R. Wood)
The Kingdom of God (T. D. Alexander)
Sonship (D. A. Carson)
The City of God (T. D. Alexander)
Prophets and Prophecy (Sam Storms)
Death and Resurrection (Philip S. Johnston)
People of God (Moisés Silva)
Wisdom (Daniel J. Estes)
Holiness (Andrew David Naselli)
Justice (Brian S. Rosner)
Wrath (Christopher W. Morgan)
Love and Grace (Graham A. Cole)
The Gospel (Greg D. Gilbert)
Worship (David G. Peterson)
Mission (Andreas J. Köstenberger)
Shalom (Timothy Keller)
The Consummation (Douglas J. Moo)
A list of all the articles in the ESVSB:
Introduction: A User’s Guide to the ESV Study Bible
Lane T. Dennis, Wayne Grudem
Overview of the Bible: A Survey of the History of Salvation
Vern S. Poythress
The Theology of the Old Testament
C. John Collins
Introduction to the Pentateuch
Gordon J. Wenham
Introduction to the Historical Books
David M. Howard Jr.
Introduction to the Poetic and Wisdom Literature
David J. Reimer
Introduction to the Prophetic Books
Paul R. House
BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS ARTICLES
The Time Between the Testaments
J. Julius Scott Jr.
The Roman Empire and the Greco-Roman World at the Time of the New Testament
David W. Chapman
Jewish Groups at the Time of the New Testament
John C. DelHousaye
The Theology of the New Testament
Thomas R. Schreiner
Reading the Gospels and Acts
Darrell L. Bock
Reading the Epistles
Thomas R. Schreiner
BACK OF THE BIBLE ARTICLES
God’s Plan of Salvation
An Overview of Biblical Doctrine (13 Articles)
- True Theology: Knowing and Loving God True Theology: Knowing and Loving God
- The Bible and Revelation
- What It Means to Know God
- The Character of God
- The Trinity
- The Person of Christ
- The Holy Spirit
- The Work of Christ
- God’s Relationship with Creation
- The Church
- Last Things
An Overview of Biblical Ethics (13 Articles)
Wayne Grudem, Daniel R. Heimbach, C. Ben Mitchell, Craig Mitchell
- Biblical Ethics: An Introduction
- The Beginning of Life and Abortion
- The End of Life
- Marriage and Sexual Morality
- Divorce and Remarriage
- Civil Government
- Capital Punishment
- Lying and Telling the Truth
- Racial Discrimination
Interpreting the Bible: An Introduction
Interpreting the Bible: A Historical Overview
Reading the Bible Theologically
J. I. Packer
Reading the Bible as Literature
Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God
Reading the Bible for Application
Reading the Bible for Preaching and Public Worship
R. Kent Hughes
The Canon of the Old Testament
Roger T. Beckwith
The Canon of the New Testament
Charles E. Hill
Roger T. Beckwith
The Reliability of the Old Testament Manuscripts
Paul D. Wegner
The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts
Daniel B. Wallace
Archaeology and the Reliability of the Old Testament
Archaeology and the Reliability of the New Testament
David W. Chapman
The Original Languages of the Bible: Hebrew and Aramaic
Peter J. Williams
The Original Languages of the Bible: Greek
David Alan Black
Peter J. Gentry
How the New Testament Quotes and Interprets the Old Testament
C. John Collins
Gregg R. Allison
Bruce A. Ware
Bruce A. Ware
Evangelical Protestantism and Global Christianity
Harold A. Netland
The Bible and Contemporary Judaism
Marvin R. Wilson
The Bible and Other World Religions
Harold A. Netland
The Bible and Islam
Timothy C. Tennent
The Bible and Religious Cults
Clearly, the ESV Study Bible has the NIV Zondervan Study Bible beat in terms of the vast numbers of articles it includes, but one might challenge why some of these articles are even in the bible to begin with. Certainly their subject matter is extra-biblical and could easily be addressed in a separate companion volume, rather than bound with the Biblical text. Is this an attempt to define the boundaries of evangelical belief and practice? A way of creating a virtual “council” of sorts about what we believe and what defines a Christian?