August 9, 2013

NIV Study Bible

As a lifelong student of the Bible I’m blessed to have study editions in most of the major English translations. When I begin to research a topic or background material for a book, blog, or discussion in my Bible study group, I gather my favorites around me, look up what’s needed, find all sorts of insightful information, then go borrow my husband’s NIV Study Bible!

For decades I borrowed, and he carried around the first study edition of the New International Version (NIV) until the bonded leather began to split around the edges like chapped fingertips. So I bought him an updated edition, covered in genuine leather, and promptly began to borrow it too.

Almost without fail, the footnotes in the NIV Study Bible gave me something I hadn’t found anywhere else, so why not just get my own copy? Besides not wanting another big, bulky Bible, I objected to being called a “son of God.” If you say “hey, man!” I might turn around, but call me “son,” and I probably won’t respond and definitely will not connect well or identify with what’s said.

The King James Version (KJV) can get away with a heavy male orientation as age and poetic beauty bring special entitlement. The wordplay on “man” includes both male and female anyway, so no problem there, and, if the Bible refers to males only, that’s fine too. In fact, a verse can specify “sonship,” and we daughters of God can see how that legal reference gave optimal rights during Bible days.

Then, everything changed.

The new NIV came out.

Lovers of the 1984 version might object to not finding everything they’re used to reading, but guess what I found in Romans 8:14: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Yes! That’s my italics, and that’s me - one of God's countless children.

That wasn’t the only change though. The new NIV Study Bible comes in a compact edition. Since the extensive study aids and color photographs carry more weight, this option still has heft and bulk but fits into one hand. To be more specific, the stats for the compact NIV edition shown below state the size as 2.3 x 5.2 x 8 inches and shipping weight at 2.8 pounds.

Binding: Listed as “leather,” Zondervan has a trademark on this Italian Duo-Tone cover with attractive stitching that also reinforces the edges of the compact edition. When closed, the cover pops up slightly, but opened on your lap or desk, the Bible nicely lays flat.

Font: If you have difficulty reading small print, the text may be a strain, especially because of the light ink. Although the font used for the footnotes is even smaller than the text, the darker ink makes it readable, so the biggest challenge, visually, may be the tiny, light ink font used for cross-referencing. In case that’s a concern for you, I’ll post a link to a large print edition in hardback, which will be bigger (2.2 x 7.3 x 10.3 inches) and heavier (4.8 pounds) and not as prettily bound as the compact version shown but should include the same study aids.

Study Material: In the front matter of the NIV Study Bible, Compact Edition, you’ll find a three-page layout briefly describing “Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament” such as Sennacherib’s description of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. when Hezekiah became a prisoner in the city where he once reigned. A chart of “Old Testament Chronology” follows with time periods and approximate dates to set each Bible era within the context of world history. Similarly, the chart “From Malachi to Christ” and article “The Time Between The Testaments” also help to show the Bible as part of the ongoing history of mankind. Then, at the back of the book, you’ll find “Index to Topics,” “Index to Notes,” an extensive concordance, and maps of Bible terrains.

Notes: Besides notes to introduce you to the “Author, Date and Sources,” “Purpose and Themes,” “Outline,” and other information relevant to each book of the Bible, footnotes flower and flourish at the bottom of each page but pruned from overgrowth into actual scriptures. (If you have ever seen a Bible with only a verse or two squeezed up top and the rest of the page overrun with elucidation, you know what I mean.) This page-by-page layout also deserves additional accolades because the footnotes have been exceptionally well-packed with information to set the verses in context, aid reader-comprehension, and present different views in the balanced perspective and soothing voice of a respected peacemaker.

Long before the NIV Study Bible contained the present updates and expansions, those impressive footnotes kept me grabbing my husband’s Bible to gain more light on a subject or more insight into a difficult passage. Lord willing, I won’t ever need to do that again. For my birthday last month, he gave me my very own NIV Study Bible in the compact edition like the one described above and shown below and open now beside me for keeps.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

NIV Study Bible, Compact Edition, indexed

NIV Study Bible, Large Print, Hardback edition



  1. Very good review. I also have the compact updated NIV Study Bible. The full color photos, maps, timelines, and the use of the 3 symbols trowel, seedling, and little blue person icon have aided me a lot in seeing what emphasis the note is focusing on. And yes making use of pronouns that include universal verses to all people help in understanding what the verses mean. People mad a big deal about the 2011 NIV being gender inclusive but it really aids us in what the scriptures mean. It got blowed out of all proportion and people abandoned the best modern dynamic equivalence english translation to the damage of their own understanding and edification. Thanks for the great review. God bless

  2. Thank you, Brandon. Personally, I like the 2011 edition best.