NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Recommendation

D.A. Carson, Gen. Ed, NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Zondervan, 2015. 2,912 pages.

Of Study Bibles
I’ve always been a fan of study Bibles. Although some find discomfort with having text of Scripture and commentary sharing the same page, I personally feel it a rich experience. Having access to explanatory notes written by top biblical scholars in their respective fields is a real privilege. It allows for us to dig deeper into the meaning of the text.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is huge, having 2,912 pages! The text is small, but readable—at least for this 26 year old. The text is very nicely laid out in one column for more natural reading. Each testament has its own introduction, as do each biblical section (Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, etc.) Each book has its own introduction and commentary written by leading biblical scholars. The Bible is in full color, filled with pictures, charts, and maps. In the back there are 28 articles on major themes of biblical theology as well as sizable concordance.

Immediately evident is the level of scholarship of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.
Of study Bibles in print today, it is only matched by Crossway’s magisterial ESV Study Bible. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is a rich resource having a magnificent team of evangelical contributors. The General Editor is preeminent New Testament scholar D.A. Carson. The team of associate editors is equally impressive:
  • Andrew David Naselli: Assistant Editor 
  • T. Desmond Alexander: Old Testament and Biblical Theology
  • Richard Hess: Old Testament, Archaeology, Maps
  • Douglas J. Moo: New Testament and Biblical Theology

Old Testament Wisdom Literature has is my favorite biblical genre. Ecclesiastes has topped Romans as my favorite book of the Bible. I was ecstatic to see the Craig G. Bartholomew as author of the notes for Ecclesiastes. Bartholomew has authored of the best commentary on Ecclesiastes on the market. His Ecclesiastes is from the phenomenal Baker Commentary on Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms Series (BCOTWP). In addition to Bartholomew, Bruce K. Waltke is author for the notes for Proverbs. Waltke, like Bartholomew, has written a standard commentary on the book he authors for in the study Bible. Waltke’s two volume commentary on Proverbs from the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) is the best. In addition to Bartholomew and Waltke, Richard Hess has authored a top commentary on wisdom with his Song of Songs (BCOTWP). Hess authors notes for Song of Solomon.

In addition to a powerful section on the Old Testament Wisdom, the contributors to the rest of the Old Testament are impressive as well. Some notable OT contributors include T. Desmond Alexander, Richard Hess, Robert L. Hubbard, John Oswalt, and Tremper Longman III. John Oswalt like Bartholomew and Waltke has written a standard evangelical commentary  with his two volume The Book of Isaiah in the NICOT series.

The list of New Testament contributors is excellent. Notable among the list include D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, Craig Blomberg, Eckhard Schnabel, David E. Garland, Robert W. Yarbrough, Karen Jobes, Colin Kruse, and Andrew Naselli.

In lieu of a section on systematic theology in the back, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible has 28 articles on major themes in biblical theology. Some notable articles include “The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus is Central” by Tim Keller; “The Glory of God” by James Hamilton; “The Kingdom of God” by T.D. Alexander, “Holiness” by Andrew Naselli;  “People of God” by Moisés Silva, “Mission” by Andreas Köstenberger, and “The Consummation” by Douglas Moo .

Biblical Theology
The real distinctive of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is its emphasis on biblical theology. (For an explanation of the different branches of theology you can read my post here). This study Bible focuses on the overall story of the Bible analyzing how each book contributes to God’s story of redemption.


In a way I do feel a real connection to this publication. Associate editor, Andrew Naselli earned a PhD from Bob Jones University Seminary before earning another PhD at Trinity. I did my undergraduate and graduate work at BJU Seminary.  While I feel BJU Seminary has many weaknesses, one real strength it has is its emphasis on biblical theology. Courses I took in Old Testament and New Testament theology were outstanding. Seminary exposed me to the powerful tool of biblical theology,  which I have found absolutely essential in my short time in ministry so far. In future preparation for teaching and preaching, this study Bible will make a fine complement to the ESV Study Bible

Online Access
One weakness of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is its freely included digital equivalent. Here, the ESV Study Bible really does shine over it. Through Crossway’s, you can access the entire ESV Study Bible commentary, articles, etc. in a clean column next to the text of Scripture. This is both beautiful and practical—allowing users to edit the appearance of the text to exclude chapter and verse numbers for a flowing reading experience. Crossway also allows for the full text of the ESV Study Bible to be downloaded into their ESV Bible app—which allows me to carry the ESV Study Bible with me everywhere I go (which comes in handy in a pinch, like when I've asked an interpretational question I didn't have an answer for!) :-)

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible does not have its own dedicated website like the ESV Study Bible. Instead, it links through either BibleGateway or Olive Tree. For me, at least, this is not nearly as convenient as having a dedicated website or seamless integration into a stunning app like the ESV Study Bible. 

Apart from the limitations of online access, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is an outstanding resource. The contributing scholars are impressive. Its emphasis on biblical theology is unique and needed. The ESV Study Bible, my all time favorite, focuses more on systematic theology—which makes sense considering Wayne Grudem is its General Editor. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, with its emphasis on biblical theology, will make a nice complement to the ESV Study BIble.  I will continue to use my ESV Study Bible as my primary study Bible, but the NIV Zondervan Study Bible will now be its loyal companion in my study. Overall, it is an excellent volume and I'm thankful that we another amazing resource to aid us in digging deeper into God's Word!

Rating: Five Hatch Green Chiles out of Five