A Bible Above the Rest

I’m not here to pass judgment. Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what I’m here to do, since this is a book review. I’ve got to tell you, spoiler alert, that I am duly impressed with the “NIV First-Century Study Bible” with notes by Kent Dobson. Now you may be wondering how does a piece of work like yours truly go about accessing the worth of a Bible? Honestly, I could have just gone by sheer mass. Seriously. If it wouldn’t be some sort of vortex opening super sin, you really could kill a man with the latest hard cover edition. The publisher used thinner than normal paper. Not flimsy or shoddy, just thinner. I would hate to imagine the size and heft if it had been printed with standard paper. The injuries my wrists take just getting out my copy of “Absolute Watchmen” are intense. I would need an assistant to get this off the shelf if they hadn’t taken appropriate measures. Now before you think I didn’t put any thought or consideration into this at all, let me show you that I do know how to do my non-paying job.

NIV stands for New International Version. According to the Preface, “The complete NIV Bible was first published in 1978. It was a completely new translation made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. The translators came from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, giving the translation an international scope. They were from many denominations and churches – including Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and others. This breadth of denominational and theological perspective helped to safeguard the translation from sectarian bias.”

The even created a committee to keep up on biblical scholarship and to those ends the NIV Bible has been revised twice. The latest copy available builds on those revisions and reflects the latest effort to best translate international scholarship to English. That kind of work impresses me. But then, just in case their efforts to be as neutral and throrough in their interpretation as possible slips up, that’s where Kent Dobson comes in.

Dobson lived and studied in Israel where he earned a Masters Degree in History and Geography of the First Temple Period from Jerusalem University College. He also studied Comparative Religion at the Rothburg International School of Hebrew University. And Dobson provides all kinds of notes throughout the Old and New Testament and each Book has an introduction that provides outside context to the religious text you’re about to read. I know this is going to sound stupid, but I’m still going to say it, someone could really use this to study the Bible!

An important reason to not only have outside context notes as well as the best attempt at neutral translation can be found with everyone’s much loved Leviticus 18:22 which gets bandied about as the Biblical argument against homosexuality. “The NIV First-Century Study Bible” says:

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

However when we go to the note it is revealed that, “Most of the Old Testament information about homosexuality is in the context of either rape or ritual prostitution. The Bible associates homosexuality with Canaanite depravity and cultic pagan worship. A clear break from Canaanite practices is a major theme in Leviticus, from dietary restrictions to sexual relations.

That’s a bit different, eh? And it’s there, thanks to the addition of Kent Dobson’s notes.

It’s not every day a gal is asked to assess the worth of a Bible, and I have to say, I never really thought I would find that much here to set it apart. Yet as they say, “The Lord (in this case) works in mysterious ways” and I’m sitting here with a Bible I’m pretty enthusiastic about reading. Who knew?

If you find yourself in the market for a Bible for spiritual or academic reasons, I heartily recommend the “NIV First-Century Study Bible”.