Some Hearts & Minds favorite Books about Reading the Bible and the Best Study Bibles — on sale, too.

What an interesting time it has been these last weeks, announcing in two different posts our favorite books of 2016. We did a long review of Michael Wear’s thrilling new book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America and announced that we will be hosting him here at the shop in Dallastown on March 10th for an in-store author appearance.  Less than a week ago I did what we think was a particularly important newsletter, describing ten mostly new books, mostly about navigating conversations about civil rights, racial justice and God’s heart for reconciliation.  Did you see it?

All of our past newsletters are nicely archived at the Hearts & Minds website so do browse around at those last BookNotes posts.

Our passion for racial justice, social reform, public theology, and offering books to help you be better citizens and agents for the common good — bearing witness to God’s transforming grace over “every square inch” of creation (as the Jubilee Conference 2017 says, cribbing from Abraham Kuyper’s famous phrase) — comes, we hope you know, from the Bible. Why do we think Christians should be in the vanguard of bringing justice and goodness and beauty to the world? The Bible tells us so!

deeper look at IVP studies.jpgOf course we stock small group Bible study guides on every book of the Bible (and DVD curriculum on many Biblical topics and themes.)  We wished we sold more of them. Send us an email or use the inquiry page at the website if you need any help finding resources. Just tell us what  your group is like and what you want to study. I’m sure we can make your job easier as a small group leader, Sunday school teacher, campus worker, or pastor. Or just for anyone wanting to dive in a bit deeper…

We regularly reply to customers, creating lists of options, recommending books they can use.  And, of course, we list some favorites here in the BookNotes newsletter that can help our readers understand God’s Word and renew their commitments to study it well.  We offer books from top scholars; recall how we described the fabulous, serious collection edited by Michael Goheen, Reading the Bible Missionally (Eerdmans; $35.00) or that we named as one of the Best Books of last year the recent big book of Biblical study by N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (HarperOne; $28.99.)

We’ve been celebrating new books, academic and popular, by John
Goldingay and Chris Wright and Walter Brueggemann, just as other
examples of a great Old Testament scholars that we enjoy.

apostle of crucified 2nd ed.gifOr, just for instance, this podcast interview with our friend Michael Gorman, a fabulous NT scholar, talking about a new edition of one of his many books on Paul, Apostle of the Crucified Lord (Eerdmans; $48.00) (that we carry, of course.)  

By the way, speaking of Mike Gorman’s serious New Testament scholarship on Paul and the cross, we are thrilled to be joining with the Philadelphia Theological Institute and Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA, as they host a woman Gorman (and other Bible scholars and preachers) admires, the Rev. Dr. Fleming Rutledge on March 20th for a day long program they are calling a “Lenten Day.”  If you can, you should come.

The Crucifixion Rutledge.jpgRev. Rutledge’s book The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ came out from Eerdmans late in 2015 and we first promoted it at a retreat of Episcopalian clergy from the Diocese of Philadelphia; what fun that was, announcing such a serious book from an esteemed preacher and colleague in ministry. We then had the great privilege of selling it at a lecture in Baltimore (at Saint Mary’s Ecumenical Institute) in December of 2015; it was the first time we met her and it was a joy.

We promptly called The Crucifixion one of the Best Books of 2015.  Interestingly, Christianity Today recently named it the Book of the Year for 2016, so sales have picked up on it, I’m told. Happily, it has just been released in paperback, now selling for $30.00, less than the salty $45.00 it was in hardcover.  The Crucifixion is mammoth, we know, but it is this kind of deep and careful attention to the text of Scripture that we want to promote.

If the Scriptures are a “miner’s lamp” shining on our work in the world, as John Calvin suggested and as Psalm 119 proclaims, we are to live in its light; in that sense reading it in faith is practical in purpose.  Certainly, though, for it to have that informing, shaping, guiding, directive role, we must know what it says and what it means so we can see how it illumines the life of the world.

Of course, many of us need somewhat basic introductions to the Bible.


drama of scripture.giftrue story of whole world.jpgWe often recommend the spectacular, if thorough, paperback intro to the Bible, The Drama of Scripture by Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew (Baker Academic; $22.99) or, easier and quicker, even good for sharp youth, the abridged version called The True Story of the Whole World: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Drama (Faith Alive; $16.00.)  I couldn’t work on Bible lessons without these two books at my side.

Maybe our biggest selling intro to reading the Bible is the very useful How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Douglas Stuart how to read the bible for all.jpg(Zondervan; $19.99) which shows how to read properly a historical narrative, the prophets, the Psalms, Gospels, Letters, Wisdom Literature and more. Every church library or resource center should have a couple of those around, and its sequel, How the Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour (Zondervan; $19.99.) I hope you know them and pass ’em out to those seeking to learn to read the Bible well.


I so enjoyed The Story of God and the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible so creatively written by Sean Gladding (IVP; $17.00.)  There is a DVD I often tout and although it’s created with a younger, hip audience in mind, it is very, very insightful and motivating to embody the redemptive story of God.


Many, lately, have appreciated Peter Enns provocative ruminations on the way Scripture works called The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (HarperOne; $15.99) —  even if you don’t come down quite where he does (he is critical of some brands of evangelical inerrency that makes us more interested in arguing about propositional data than being capture of the deep truth behind and through the text.  Space does not permit me to do his story justice, but it is a worth reading to be sure we’re grappling with the complexities of the nature of the Word and our deep trust in it.

Saving the Bible From Ourselves Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well.jpgAnother recent book that I am very, very big on was one we awarded as one of the Best of 2016.  It is called Saving The Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well Glenn R. Paauw (IVP) $18.00  Among other things, I wrote that Mr. Paauw offers seven understandings (that may feel “new” to some, but are in fact fairly ancient) of the Bible as “steps on the path to recovering one deeply engaged Bible. His new-sounding understandings are, in fact alternatives to deficiencies.  And in naming these oddball ways we (mis) understand and misread the Bible he is brilliant

Paauw offers here 7 “kinds” or sorts of ways we think of the Bible, and counters each with a more faithful sort. (For instance, in contrast to our presumption that the Bible is essentially “complicated” he unveils the “elegant Bible.” Instead of a “snacking” Bible he invites us to “savor the feasting Bible.” He says we need saved from “my private Bible” and speaks of “sharing our synagogue Bible.”  Of course, instead of “our otherworldly Bible” he says we are to be “grounded in the Earthly Bible.”  On great problem, “our de-dramatized Bible” takes two sections to refute. He shows how we can “rediscover the storiented Bible” and then shows how we must “preform the stroiented Bible.”  There’s more and it is rich, solid, creative, helpful stuff. Blurbs on the back are long and rich themselves, by Walter Brueggemann and Mark Noll, who both commend it earnestly.  This is deserving of being on any good list of the best books of the year.


crosstalk.jpgAlthough not as well known, I know folks who have thanked us for recommending CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet by Michael Emlet (New Growth Press; $17.99.) Michael is a rigorously trained Bible scholar who works as a counselor and in this book he teaches both good exegesis and application — how to take the deeper meaning of a text and see if and how it is to be applied to the quandaries of our daily discipleship. It’s a book that ought to be better known and we are grateful for its wisdom and intelligence in appropriating the Scriptures for real life. 


Just this week we received our order of a great little book that I am eager to promote.  It is called The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words by Chris Bruno (Crossway; $10.99.)  It certainly stands on its own but could be seen as a sequel to his fascinating and highly recommended little book that came out last year, The 16 words.jpgWhole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (Crossway; $10.99.) Perhaps I can review it more carefully later, but for now, now that I’m really pleased with it’s theology and vision. If last year’s book (explaining the Bible story in 16 verses) was about the plot or storyline of the Bible, this is the structure, the superstructure, if you will, the key teaching of it all, using the metaphor of a building.  The chapters include an opening part “The Foundation” which, curiously has, as chapter one “The End” and chapter two, “God.”  The next major portion includes three chapters as “The Frame” (which are creation, covenant, kingdom.) The next big part is called “The Superstructure” and includes words such as temple, messiah, Israel, land, idols, judgement, exodus, wisdom, law, Spirit, mission. 

That first one is a brilliant little overview, with those 16 stopping points to get at the whole flow of the big story.  This one is for those who have a handle on that grand narrative, and want to plumb it’s depth, again, in a quick and easy sort of way, looking at themes.  I love this kind of rich scholarship given in a “down and dirty” way for common folks. Kudos to Dr. Bruno. 

the 52 greatest .jpgSome folks like to use a daily devotional guide to actually read the Bible through in a year and there are many “one year” versions of the Bible that make such a plan handy.  A devotional we really like  for this exact purpose is By Kenneth Boa & John Alan Turner called 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible: A Weekly Devotional (Baker Books; $16.99.)

The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible: A Weekly Devotional is arranged in a format that is very, very wise, tapping into felt needs of ordinary readers and, I think, offering a somewhat broader scope of how to read the Bible, one grounded in wise and fruitful practices.

The book has 52 chapters (one Bible passage a week for a year)

but each day of each week has a certain way into the text as the history of redemption unfolds. Each day of the week he has a devotional based on that week’s passage, following a “pattern” each week — Monday emphases the story, the Tuesday reflection explores the beliefs in that text, Wednesday always looks at what he calls the values (which includes heart attitudes or principles), Thursday is about action/application and Friday offers a reflection to pray, using the text in meditation, offering three kinds of prayer about the passage (about understanding, belief and action.) So each day has a good devotion, working differently on the same Bible story for a week at a time, each following, week by week, that same pattern of understanding the narrative, the beliefs, the values, an then an application emphasis and a meditative prayerful reflection for Friday and the weekend.


The New Bible Dictionary  I. Howard Marshall et al (IVP Academic) $45.00

The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible  Gordon Fee et al (Eerdmans) $40.00

The New Bible Dictionary  I. Howard jpgOf course, people who teach about reading and learning the Bible tell everyone they should own a few good reference tools, a good Bible handbook, a Bible dictionary, maybe an atlas, and a concordance. If you have any questions about reference tools, we’d love to try to answer your questions.  I think if I were buying just one such tool, I’d get the reliable, sturdy, The New Bible Dictionary now in its third edition, edited by I. Howard Marshall, J.I. Packer, et al, published by IVP Academic ($45.00.) I can’t tell you the number of people who have commended it because they themselves have found it beneficial, informative, a real asset to their Bible reading.

 The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible .jpgIf I were picking just one Bible handbook, I’m quite fond of the awesome, lavish, ecumenically minded The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible edited by Gordon Fee & Robert Hubbard (Eerdmans; $40.00) although it is expensive. Considering the the hours you will get lost in it, and the insight you will glean will be worth every penny.

If you are interested in either of those two “tools of the trade” reference books we could do a 20% discount on those – just remind us when you order and we’ll honor that extra discount deal.


But here is what I also think: everybody needs a good study Bible.

A study Bible has annotated notes for almost every passage and explains what is going on in theopen ESV.jpg Scriptures at that point.  Of course there are other features, standard in any good study edition – sidebars that offer extra little background articles or meditations, character studies, timelines,  maps, and introductions to each book of the Bible. The large concordances in these big volumes make buying a separate concordance unnecessary for most of us; the cross-references give you plenty of recommended verse to look up to supplement whatever you are studying. The background data and facts and insights about the culture and theology of the ancient world  in any good study Bible are worth their weight in gold. 

Of course, it should go without saying that the Bible is meant to be read as God’s Word and the study notes are fallible aids;  here’s a summary of a good piece by Justice Taylor that was in his Gospel Coalition blog on why and how to use a good study Bible.

A good study Bible, by the way, should not be confused with a devotional Bible that has little devotions scattered throughout, often with some niche-marketing theme.  There are inspiring Bibles for all sorts of interests and  needs and concerns and they have their place but those are not quite the same as a bone fide, well-balanced study edition. And, speaking of balance, we tend to shy away from study Bibles put together by one person – Scofield, MacArthur, Ryrie, Lucado, Jeremiah, Meyers,  etc.  No matter how educated and smart some preacher may be, he or she can’t be expected to know everything about everything.  The best study Bibles are created with a team of vetted experts. 


It is my opinion that the three best overall study Bibles on the market are:

niv-study-bible1.jpgESV Study BIble face out.jpgNLT Life App Study Bible.jpgNIV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible

Life Application Study Bible (in various translations.)  

Let me tell you why, as briefly as I can.

I determine this mostly due to the sheer quantity of features and the number of notes found in these outstanding, nearly epic, volumes. But also I value their ordinary usefulness for most folks; from the moderate, orthodox, reliable, nature of the content to the tone, design, and approachability, these are the best; we hear it all the time of folks whose Bible reading comes alive once they purchase a solid study Bible designed, as these are, to help the ordinary believer.  The three I mentioned above are head and shoulders more thorough and more helpful than most others with their tons and tons of helpful background aids, notes, comments, explanations cross-references, indexes, pull-quotes, sidebars, maps, graphics, color. And they are in the most popular and widely used translations.

I don’t have to explain to BookNotes readers that any book (and certainly any study bible resource) is going to be written out of the viewpoint and angle of vision of the person or team writing it. That’s not a bad thing and the best study Bibles attempt to be balanced, honest, and (usually) up front about any theological biases they hold. As with the Isaiah authorship example discussed below, I think the NIV Study Bible is more likely to show several sides to controversial interpretations of passages and be clear why they often hold to a more conservative conclusion; the various study editions using the NRSV are almost all less conservative, consistently, but some don’t even admit to it, as if their bias is just natural and right; similarly, the ESV Study Bible notes are often exceedingly conservative, even if their notes are extraordinarily smart and beautifully explained. 

One important question, then: what translation do you want to use?

If you favor the conservative, somewhat stately English Standard Version (ESV), then, obviously, the ESV Study Bible is going to be your go to. Crossway very expertly publishes them and we stock ’em. And what a beautiful array of sizes, designs, editions.

If you like the popular New International Version (NIV), their NIV Study Bible is a natural pick.  It is exceptionally well done.  (D.A. Carson recently edited the equally thorough NIV Zondervan Study Bible, but, to be honest, I just don’t get its distinctives. Some think it is more rigorous than the classic NIV Study Bible, a few think it more conservative; it does seem to use “biblical theology” with that emphasis of a unified theme and a gospel-centered focus, which is good. I just haven’t used it myself, so don’t yet realize all that it offers, robust as it is.)  HERE is a fair-minded review that compares the two in great detail.

These are manufactured by Zondervan and, yep, we stock ’em in all their varieties.

If you like the contemporary-sounding,  upbeat, and gender inclusive New Living Translation (NLT) then you most likely will want the Life Application Study Bible in the NLT. (Those creatively worded, practical Life App study notes with an emphasis on living out the meaning of the text (I call it the “so what” study Bible) are also available in the NIV, the KJV, and the NKJV, by the way.  For a season or two they made the Life Application Study Bible notes in the NRSV but that didn’t last; if you can find one in a crusty used book store, it’s worth picking up if you use the NRSV. We often recommend this Life Application Study Bible to those who aren’t used to studying as it really does tell you why and how knowing some background stuff helps, and what to do about it in daily living. In that sense it rewards study with clear and pastoral guidance.

I hate to get hairy, here, but, for what it is worth, the NLT does have a considerably more rigorous, less “application” oriented study Bible, a major work called The NLT Study Bible. I’m fond of the Life App notes, character studies, the mega-themes that are always explained in a “why it matters today” chart, so I’m going to suggest the Life App study editions, even though the NLT Study is as thorough and rigorous as the serious NIV Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible.  The NLTs are published by Tyndale and they do a very nice job.

(By the way, just a fun fact: acquaintances of ours like Albert Wolters (of Creation Regained) worked on the original NLT translation; Al headed the team that did Job, as I recall. Tremper Longman was involved as were a host of really respected Hebrew & Greek scholars we respect. It is well done!)

New Interpreter's Study Bible.jpgWe do not know of one truly fabulous study edition that is the stand-out must-have for those who prefer the NRSV.

I think my favorite  study edition in the NRSV is the New Interpreter’s Study Bible edited by Walter Harrelson (Abingdon; $48.99.) It draws somewhat on the amazing multi-volume set of commentaries of that name and has that same thoughtful engagement.  Walter Brueggemann, just for instance, contributed. It is one I often consult. It is hefty — weighing in at almost 4 lbs. — and includes the Apocrypha.

Harper Collins Study Bible.jpgThe Society of Biblical Literature helped sponsor the latest edition of the Harper Collins Study Bible with the senior editor being Harold Attridge with expert help from Wayne Meeks, Jouette Bassler and other major critical scholars (HarperOne; $44.95.)  Many think it is the best NRSV study edition, but it does seem a bit dry at times… although there are some wonderful contributors. This comes in hardback or paperback, with or without the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books. These sell for $34.99 in paperback or $37.99 in hardcover, without Deuterocanonicals and $39.99 in paperback or $44.99 in hardcover with the extra Deuterocanonical books.) 

Discipleship Study Bible.jpgThe Discipleship Study Bible (Westminster John Knox; $40.00) This  was created almost a decade ago with the editorial direction of Bruce Birch, Brian Blount, Thomas Long, and Gail O’Day, all serious scholars with great commitment to the mainline churches.  I like what the publisher said about it:

Other NRSV study Bibles provide factual information about the biblical text, but don’t include extensive guidance for Christian living. The Discipleship Study Bible is unique in offering both. Its annotations emphasize the personal and communal implications of the Bible for today without sacrificing the tools needed for understanding the ancient texts on their own terms. In combining these approaches to Bible study, a group of gifted writers, editors, and scholars have produced a truly comprehensive resource that includes introductory essays to each book of the Bible by top-notch contemporary Bible scholars

Apparently this is going out of print and we only have a few of these left, but wanted to list it so you knew of it. 

All three of these NRSV study volumes have excellent scholarship, if a bit heady at times, with a bit of a critical bent. They are ideal for moderate mainline folks. We happily sell all three but still wish for a more user-friendly, thorough, and theologically consistent NRSV study bible.

life with God Bible.jpgIn the NRSV we also really, really like the Life With God Bible (HarperOne) in somewhat smaller than compact handsome red or deep brown leather or paperback,  which doesn’t have tons of notes and features, but what it does have is really interesting;. It is almost a “study Bible” but it has, admittedly, a somewhat different agenda and not so many notes and maps and such. (It was created in cooperation with Renovare, Richard Foster’s renewal ministry.)  The Life With God Bible was compiled by a team headed up by Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard and Walter Brueggemann.  You can imagine why we like it so.

It comes in a hand-sized, offered in a rich, red leather ($39.99), a deep brownish/gray leather with Deutercanonical Books ($44.99) and in paperback ($24.99.) 

By the way, speaking of the NRSV study editions, why some favor The New Oxford Annotated is beyond me: there are, in contrast to the others I’ve mentioned,  considerably fewer notes and many of them are nearly useless.  Their opinions are not well argued , other than the ubiquitous and dishonest “Biblical scholars agree.”  For instance, in contrast, The NIV Study Bible notes offer an explanation for one authorship of Isaiah alongside an explanation for three separate Isaian authors.  They argue for the former, but not without giving the later its due.  The New Oxford dishonestly says “Bible scholars agree” that there are three Isaiah authors.  Apparently they don’t get out much.  Once I looked up 10 troublesome passages to see what various studied editions might say–stuff like Romans 13 or Paul saying women should be silent in church.   While Bibles like the NIV Study Bible tended to give reasonable explanations, sometimes showing various viewpoints on what the text in question might mean, often the Oxford had nothing!  Or it offered  arcane details that seemed tone deaf to the reason anyone might need help with the passage.  The cross references are meager, the concordance slim and the articles more often than not pretty dry.  And yet, religion departments and liberal seminaries recommend it.  For the price, it just isn’t as good as it ought to be.

Well, sorry to digress on the perplexities of the New Oxford Annotated — that’s just my way of comparing the benefits of a good  and helpful study Bible (and a less than helpful one.) The NIV Study Bible and The ESV Study Bible are, in my view, the Cadillac’s of the biz. They are the crème of the crop, semi-scholarly but clear, with an admittedly evangelical (and in the case of the ESV, Reformed) bias, with solid info designed to help Bible readers understand the Bible, deepen their faith, and live out their discipleship. 

The NIV is a bit easier to read and uses gender inclusive language for men and women, which is keeping with the meaning of the Biblical text and common usage, of course.  The ESV, based largely on the old RSV, uses antiquated masculine language, I suppose because the editors believe in old school lingo. Some who worked on the editing of the ESV translation complained that the NIV was driven by a gender agenda, but that was, in my view, the pot calling the kettle black.  There is little doubt, though, that the ESV claims to be more accurate and  elegant.

(And, there is little doubt that the Crossway publishing company creates the best-made popular level Bibles around; I am continually impressed with their aesthetic and crafted quality and the cool, but rarely gaudy, classy design of their numerous covers and layouts. They think well about paper choices, bindings and stitching and such.)

bird bible cover design.jpgBoth the NIV and the ESV translations, as I’m sure you know, are available in various sizes and with a vast array of cover designs. Both publishers have gone out of their way to come up with handsome and beautiful (and sometimes a bit nutty) designs with faux leather that feels soft and looks great. Even their study Bibles come in a real variety of sizes and colors, designs and looks.  Their respective web pages show off all  the options and we can get them all.

Please let us know if you are looking for any sort of Bible and our staff can walk you through the complicated maze of searching them all out.

Do you know the fairly recent Common English Bible translation, popularly called the CEB?  It was created a few years back by a long-standing, hard-working committee of Presbyterians, United Methodists, Church of the Brethren and others.  One person on the committee told me they wanted to create a solid translation that was as lively as the Good News (not a bad translation, actually) and the Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message but that was not only contemporary and upbeat and politically aware, but honest and accurate, and that read well out loud. (They famously spent a year testing it out in a variety of focus groups, getting feed Deep Blue Kids Bible.jpgCEB Student Bible.jpgback on the hearing of it, in nursing homes and college campuses, in big churches and small ones, among varies ethnic churches and in different parts of the country.)  The CEB is a really interesting rendition and I wish it were better known.  Their children’s study Bible (The Deep Blue Kids Bible) is mostly really great and their teen edition (The CEB Student Bible) is very good, too.  Each come in a variety of styles and we stock them all.  We’d love to talk more about this if you have any questions…

CEB Study Bibles.jpgA year ago or so the CEB team put out a large study Bible called The CEB Study Bible. (Abingdon Press; $54.99 in hardback; $59.99 with the Apocrypha; there are also some leather-like editions that we have.) It has everything you’d expect in a big study Bible, lots of notes, sidebars, extra articles, expert maps made by National Geographic for this project. Over a hundred different inter-denominational scholars worked on it – some you surely know, from a real variety of corners within the broader church. It’s 2240 pages.

CEB Vintage Tweed study bible.jpg(There is a very classy “Vintage Tweed Hardcover” edition of the CEB Study Bible coming in mid-March that I myself have my eye one; you can pre-order it from us at the discounted price shown at the order link at the end of this newsletter; it will regularly retail for $59.99.)

This recent study edition has amazingly interesting notes, and it is hard to explain – some of it seems a bit progressive, with good notes about lament and injustice and the implications of women named as leaders of the early church (like, say, Junia at the end of Romans.) I won’t say it is inordinately subversive, but it does seem to pack a punch in some of it’s notes.  There’s lots of standard stuff in there -charts and maps and background info and nice introductions to each book.  Again, it isn’t terribly well known yet, but we’re happy to stock it here.

So, if you need some fresh energy to your Bible reading and want to dig into Bible study a bit more, be sure you have a study Bible.  Or, perhaps, just switch up your translation, reading a plain text Bible from a different translation then you are used to.  

We are fans of the study Bible, and can help you further in finding the one that is best for you, and then the size, shape, color and price that you prefer.  Just give us a call or send us an email.


I am usually not a fan of shoe-horning every Biblical text into a pre-determined theme and hence, worry a bit about the mothering Bible or the leadership Bible or the worship Bible. 

These four, though, are done by remarkable and thorough Biblical scholars that bring into their notes a bit of insight about how the Biblical text is to be applied to our whole lives before God.  In these, the scholars have such regard for the authority of the Word of God that they wouldn’t dare fudge it’s meaning or squeeze texts into some marketing niche. What they are passionate about is seeing how previously under-appreciated (or nearly ignored) themes that regularly appear in the Scriptures might be brought to the fore bringing us new insights.  These, then, are not clever marketing ploys to exploit a market, but are at time brilliant interpreters doing what few have done before.  We’re happy to promote them and hope you enjoy knowing about them.

Faith & Work Study Bible.jpgThe NIV Faith & Work Study Bible  senior editor David Kim (Zondervan) $44.99 in hardback; $74.99 in black/gray faux leather 

I suppose you know that we have promoted the “faith and work” conversation for decades and have long promoted Christian books which help professionals and others learn to relate their deepest faith commitments to their work-a-day world, careers, and jobs.  Whether you are have paid employment, are retired, a student or one who takes seriously the calling of parent or grandparent, you will relish this study edition that highlights Biblical themes that help you in your daily vocation.

Rev. David Kim is the Director of the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York (and before that worked in campus ministry at Princeton University.)  He and his team highlight standard insights, do basic introductory stuff as would any study Bible but when it is warranted they bring out the vivid teaching of God’s missional care for the world and how work and calling matters in the unfolding of God’s plan.  You surely know the Bible has hundreds of verses about work, and hundreds more that might be marshaled for helping us develop a Biblical vision of life in the marketplace.  This is a wonderful study Bible and we can’t say enough about it.  In fact, there are 75  “Deeper at Work” stories which “deliver strength and encouragement from real-life experiences.” (Is it dumb that I’m kinda proud to know a few of the folks whose testimonies are included?  I’ll admit I’m jazzed to see folks I know described as something like modern day Bible characters!)  

Another good feature of this are the 45 “Core Doctrine” articles that feature teachings from Christian leaders through the ages; this Bible assumes that you have to know core stuff about the Bible and it’s teaching if you are going to faithfully integrate faith and work.  This is solid, no-nonsense content.  Take a look at the first few pages and the explanation of “the cultural mandate” of Genesis 1 and you’ll see what I mean.  This is pure gold!

You may also appreciate the “31-Day Journey” through the Biblical narrative, a nice guide and exercise to help readers grasp the Scripture’s overarching storyline. I already know one person who used this small feature to create a half a year’s worth of Bible curriculum for his youth group.

A number of unsung scholars and writers worked on this.  Other contributors who you know from BookNotes include Timothy Keller, Richard Mouw, Nancy Ortberg, and Jon Tyson (of New York’s Trinity Grace and a speaker at the upcoming Jubilee 2017.)  This really is an excellent study Bible, worthy of having in your library. I’m sure you’ll find it valuable.  Check out this interview with David about the project done by the good folks at Bible Gateway. 

Jesus Bible all 3.pngThe Jesus Bible: Sixty-Six Books. One Story. All About One Name  edited by Louis Giglio, Max Lucado, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Randy Alcorn and others (Passion Publishing/Zondervan) $44.99 in sturdy linen hardback;   $69.99 in Brown Leathersoft or a Robin’s Egg pale blue Leathersoft  All have a 8.7 font size.

Wow. This brand new edition is profound yet accessible and has features that help us meet Jesus throughout the whole of Scripture.  The now out of print Gospel Transformation Study Bible in the ESV did this well, and, now, we have a variety of big name evangelicals weighing in on how to see Christ’s unfolding redemptive plan in every book of the Bible.  I like their slogan — “there was no B.C.”

Included in The Jesus Bible there are 7 compelling essays on the grand narrative of Scripture – introduced by Louie Giglio, founder of the extraordinarily popular Passion Conferences.  (This past year, by the way, in three days of worship and music, they also raised over 1 million dollars to fight sexual trafficking.)  

I like the almost square sized shape of this hardback, made with a good linen cover (sans dust jacket.) The text is single column with room for notes and some journaling throughout. There’s ribbon marker and over 300 full page articles that help us “treasure Jesus”  and which will “encourage you to faithfully follow him as you participate in his story.”  Visit their spiffy website and watch the video trailer here — do come back here, though, please.

NIV-Cultural-Backgrounds-Study-Bible-3.jpgThe NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture Senior Editor, Craig Kenner & John Walton (Zondervan)  $49.99, hardcover; Tan/Brown imitation leather, $79.99;   “Context changes everything” it shouts on the back cover of this very handsome, very colorful, new study Bible.  This edition brings behind-the-scenes background information to the fore so you can see what is really going on–in context, all guided by one of the world’s leading experts on this exact matter, the page from Cultural Background Study.jpgremarkable Craig Keener and John Walton.  There is so much rich meaning to be found when you learn just a bit about the historical setting, the archeological evidences, the word meanings or the cultural customs that are in and around any given passage.  I am sure you recall a time when a pastor or Bible teacher said “back in those days what this saying meant was…” or “if you only knew what buildings or statues or walls were in that town as Jesus spoke, you’d realize – ” and the like.  This gives targeted book introductions that explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written.  It has verse-by-verse study notes, of course, but the notes feature new dimensions of insights to even familiar passages by explaining cultural context stuff.

pages from NIV Cultural Background Study Bible.jpgKey Hebrew words (in the Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) terms are explained and expanded.  In fact, there are over 300 in-depth encyclopedia-like articles that explain key contextual topics.   The full color reproductions of artifacts, images from around the world, and the hundreds of helpful drawings and illustrations make this nearly lavish. The full color maps are made with world-class excellence.

Years ago we regularly sold books about the customs of Bible times, books with lists of the cities and tribes and worship practices.  Many books we carry still offer insight into the literary stylings of ancient near Eastern culture and the writing styles of First Century Judaism.  I think the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is going to appeal to a lot of folks and it will be a very useful took for anyone tasked with teaching the Bible.  We are proud to stock it and eager to promote it.  You can watch a short video of them describing this project here.  Be sure to come back to us, though!


God's Justice BIBLE.jpgGod’s Justice Study Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil Senior Editor, Tim Stafford (Zondervan) $39.99  I reviewed this when it first came out and exclaimed how great it was – some nice sidebars and articles, some graphic touches that show the overarching plan of God to bring healing and reconciliation and restoration to the broken creation. (I like the single column layout on the page, too.) What is exceptional about this sturdy, useful, edition is that is uses scholars from around the world, and, further, that they are tuned in to the often-missed themes of justice and public righteousness that are evident in any careful reading of these texts.  If you are interested – or, maybe, if your not interested – in social justice, this Bible is a must.  If you want to learn the meaning of texts from dozens of well-informed, reliable third world Bible scholars, men and women from every continent, then this will bring a somewhat fresh take.

As I said when this first came out, the insights are not excessively political or overly fixated on justice; that is, they are honest before the text and eager to serve readers well by producing a tree_poetry_song.pngtree_beginnings.pnguseful and reliable study edition. The introductions to each book are very, very good, interesting and informative, well worth reading themselves!  But, realize, these texts about justice, about God’s desire for flourishing and public justice and about evil and our role in promoting God’s reign in Christ, are really there and those who can help us see and understand and respond well are allies in our discipleship; perhaps they will help us see a bigger picture of God’s unfolding plan than we saw before.  I think this particular tree_letters.pngstudy Bible is a tremendous resource and I highly, highly recommend it; whether you love the NIV or not, this is such a great study Bible you should seriously consider it. 

I happen to know a few of those who worked on The NIV God’s Justice Study Bible and they are leaders of great integrity, I assure you.  Thanks be to God for this wonderful opportunity to have as our Bible teachers not only some of the best folks writing today, but men and women from contexts sometimes quite different then our own.  Check out their beautiful website here, and then come back to us and order one today.

And, I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t offer a great thank you to those who are designing Bibles well, and even those who are doing somewhat the opposite of study Bibles — simple reader’s editions with single columns, even those, like the new ESV 6-volume sets, without verse numbers, offering an distracted reading experience.  See this wonderful video here if this intrigues you. We have had the video over at the Hearts & Minds facebook page and wanted to share it here. It is beautiful; don’t miss it.


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