Each new years seems to bring a new study Bible. Some offer general information, while others focus more on cultural backgrounds, while others are meant to be for families, and so on. In October, publisher Thomas Nelson, hoping to emphasize, encourage, and ease personal study, released the most recent of these with the Know the Word Study Bible.
The Bible is repeatedly announced with enthusiasm and the proclamation that it offers a trifecta of means for studying Scripture. This trifecta includes a book by book study, verse by verse study, or topic by topic study. It is your typical study Bible in that it is organized with introductory material about the book (book by book study), notes on key points of each verse (verse by verse study), and articles within each book (topic by topic study). Overall it is what you would expect in terms of layout and content of a study Bible.
The goal is to aid a person’s study of Scripture by providing appropriate information. This goals seems to be met very well. The information that is provided does well at maintaining the fine line between helping the Bible study without actually doing the study for the reader. Instead it just simply offers some insight and forces readers to continue on their own in order to reach their own conclusions. Following this trend is the tendency to not obscure some simplistic topics. We are great at creating complexity out of simple, straightforward information. Yet the information provided here lays out concepts such as God’s will or faith and works without any gray areas.
While those two areas indicates success in accomplishing the goal, that does not mean that this Bible is not without concerns. I bring out four points that are noteworthy here:
- Words of Christ: This Bible has taken the steps to highlight the words of Jesus Christ in red. I have long had a problem with this, because by highlighting the words it is paramount to bringing those words to an elevated status above all others. As a result people tend to focus on them more (this is a concept I lament not focusing more on in my review of the I Am Bible). Certainly this is not the first or the last Bible to do this, yet I think this is something that people should think through. I will say this alone would never qualify me from not recommending a Bible because my hope is that with teaching, people would simply learn to look past that.
- Writers and Editors: It took me a long search to finally figure out that the author of the notes and articles is Sarah Young (author of Jesus Calling). I found it frustrating that the publishers were not more open about who was involved. This may be to avoid the controversy that has followed Sarah Young as a result of her books in hopes of appealing to broader audiences.
- Weightiness: While I said above that a good job was done at trying to give enough information to help, but not so much that the work is already done for Bible students. However, it is notably quiet on key points and passages that one would expect discussion to take place (i.e. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Some examples include Ephesians 1:4, in which the notes simply state that predestination is part of God’s plan. No indication of meaning is given for this verse. Instead simply assumes that everyone understands the term in the same way and that they must accept it in that form without ever describing what that form is or what other views may exist. Another notable example is Romans 8:28-29 (yes this is another verse that uses the term predestined, but that is not the focus here). There is great significance in the phrase “to be conformed to the image of his son” yet there is notable silence on the topic.
- Weightiness (Part 2): Related to the issue of weightiness is the issue of the articles provided. The Bible is promoted as being able to study topics. In reality these topics are drawn together by articles that are placed throughout the Bible near the passages that may discuss those topics. For each topic there exists five articles about one passage. To say that one can study topical issues using this study Bible is misleading. First off, the articles are so brief (usually a paragraph or two) that they offer little help and insight. Second, in most cases to address only five verses about a topic out of the entirety of the Bible can hardly be considered a ‘study’ because it fails to consider the context of the entire Biblical narrative.
While some of these concerns are minimal and not noteworthy, some of them are severe enough that impact my over review of the Know the Word Study Bible.
Let me be clear that I am not only hesitant to give a blanket approval of the book, but also to give a blanket rejection of it. I recognize that sounds like I am avoiding my responsibility as a reviewer, but my reasoning for this is simple. Reading the introductory material, notes, and articles of an entire Study Bible is a massive task and while I tried to do an incredibly rich survey, I did not endeavor to take in ‘every’ word. Because of this I am hesitant to withhold or give my recommendation. I will say the following. I am against Sarah Young’s ministry through the book Jesus Calling and the resulting empire it has created. However, there was a lot of good information in there, as I would expect based on Sarah Young’s background. At the same time, there are some concerns about it that would cause me to not recommend it to people. Instead, there are other Bibles that I have more confidence in that I would recommend in its place (MacArthur Study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, Holman Christian Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible or NIV Zondervan Study Bible are good ones to consider). That is my final stance on this particular Bible.
To find out more information or purchase the Know the Word Study Bible click here.
Please note that I received a copy of this Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishers at no cost for the purposes of review. However the thoughts and opinions expressed within this review are the result of my own reading and were not influenced by anyone else.