Two Great Study Bibles —and Missions…
It is wonderful how many study Bibles are in use these days. Here are two which have very widespread backing. But how well will readers of these Bibles catch on to the mission theme which is basic to the Bible? Not very well, although both have something to offer.
The NIV Study Bible has got to be one of the most monumental achievements in modern times.
One reason it was now possible is because never in history has there been a larger, more financially capable mass of Bible reading people than there is in the U.S. today. This enables the huge, advance financial investment necessary to produce Herculean efforts of this kind.
Only enormous teamwork could have produced, first, the new translation, the NIV— which is a story in itself—and then the extensive study apparatus of this particular study Bible.
Just think, both Bibles have practically a seminary education built into their footnotes! And, to be able to buy them for a little over $20—when a single course in seminary would cost $250.
What you get in the case of the NIV Study Bible is over 2000 pages, 35 charts, diagrams and drawings, 57 maps, 20,000 study notes (its most remarkable asset), 35,000 concordance references, 100,000 cross-reference entries, etc.
But What Do They Say?
No longer do huge numbers of people use the long-famous Scofield Reference Bible. It helped many people, and Scofield was himself a highly mission-minded man. He helped found the Central American Mission, for example. But what does the Scofield Bible say about missions? Absolutely nothing. It faithfully traces 280 themes by chain reference throughout the Bible, not one of which has anything to do with Missions. The NIV Study Bible does only a little better. The Disciple’s Study Bible is substantially better.
A Quite Different Bible
The latter also employs the NIV text and the same cross references. But otherwise it is a quite different type of study Bible. Its comments at the bottom of each page refer in every case to one of 27 major Bible doctrines, a virtual systematic theology which has been taught for some years in the Sunday School program of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The disadvantage of this is that these comments refer you away from the text, in one sense. The advantage is that specialists in each of the 27 themes contribute the great bulk of the material in this Bible, rather than scholars in the text itself. The result is remarkably different. You really need both Bibles, the one to comment on words and phrases in the text, the other to comment on the subjects and implications of the text.
In the Disciple’s Study Bible the concordance is one third as large, but about 200 pages have been added, the large sections covering the following:
40 pages of “Summaries of the (27) Doctrines” (one page on Missions)
30 pages on “Histories of the Doctrines” (one page on Missions)
95 pages of “Life Helps: Relating Doctrine to Life,”( 2.4 pages on Missions)
28 pages giving the chain references for the 27 doctrines. Here we see references to missions only 33 times throughout the Bible, in only 6 of the Old Testament books, and 9 of the NT books. By comparison, under the doctrine “Christian Ethics,” there are over 1,000 references, giving three times as many to “Property Rights” in this section as are given to the entire theme of Missions!
But despite the small content, since Mission specialists are the ones dealing with their dimension of the Bible, the Missions content in this Bible is truly superb. See the excerpts on the opposite page.
Check Your Own Bible
See how your own study Bible introduces Genesis. Look up what is said beneath Genesis 12:1-3, Exodus 19:3-6, Psalms 67, Isaiah 49:6. These present the acid test for a study Bible. In each case the Disciple’s Study Bible comes through magnificently. The NIV Study Bible misses out almost completely on the middle two, although it has an amazing statement under Isa 49:6, “Together with Gen 12:3, Ex 19:5-6, this verse is sometimes called the ‘great commission of the Old Testament.’” Not bad!