The NIV First-Century Study Bible from Zondervan gives us an edition of the New International Version which broadens present-day understanding of the Bible by including “Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament,” Hebrew words studies, “Day in the Life Articles,” and other study notes, sidebars, timelines, and illustrations meant to introduce us to biblical times, places, and peoples.
For example, the word study for Genesis 16:13 says:
GOD WHO SEES
el roi אל-רועי
"This has a double meaning: 'God of seeing” and “God of my seeing'.”
In Ruth 4:1, the word study sidebar offers this description of a word familiar to Christians yet perhaps not with the full understanding of the original biblical perspective:
"The goel fulfilled the legal obligation of reacquiring property lost by family members because of difficult times."
Most Christians who have read the books of the Hebrew prophets see the connection between Isaiah 40:3 and John the Baptist who was likened to “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord…” The footnote for that verse tells us, “This was an important passage for both the Dead Sea Scrolls community and John the Baptist…” Then the opposite page has a photograph of “The Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found,” which helps us to envision that place.
Just prior to this illumination of the text, however, the footnote for 40:1-2 refers to “The consolation of Israel,” which brings to mind the fulfillment acknowledged in Luke. As that footnote states:
“The idea that Israel had served its time of hard service and would be restored and comforted seems to have influenced a man named Simeon who recognized Jesus as the coming Messiah (see note on Luke 2:25-35).”
Turning, then, to that footnote in Luke 2, we read:
"The ‘consolation of Israel’ (v. 25) probably alludes to Isa 40:1-2, which not only has Messianic implications but also inspired the Dead Sea Scrolls community to flee to the desert to await the consolation, or salvation, expected in the Messianic age. Simeon’s words in verse 32 went further than predicting the salvation of Israel; they included the salvation of Gentiles….”
Looking for an example of the “Day in the Life,” my Bible opened to an article on the “Galilean Fisherman,” relevantly placed alongside John’s account of the apostles’ fishing after Jesus’ Resurrection. The article details the many aspects of a fisherman’s day, while the adjacent page illustrates “An artist’s reconstruction of a first-century fishing boat.” The article also informs us that Bethsaida “where at least three of the disciples were from…” means “house of fishing.”
In the back matter of this edition, the “Study Helps” section lists a “Topical Index to Articles” as well as a glossary, concordance, index to the maps that were scattered throughout the text, and full-page maps of world empires and the travels of God’s people.
Those travels come full circle in Revelation 22, when Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” (v. 13.) The footnote for that verse goes on to tell us:
“Here Jesus takes on the title used for God at the beginning of the book…. This appears to be a culmination of John’s revelation, not an afterthought. Jesus is synonymous with the one Lord and God.”
Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020