I spent a few hours perusing the new 2011 NIV Study Bible last night and want to offer my first impressions.

1) It is in full color. This new edition is loaded with beautiful new color photos. Also there are numerous new charts and graphs which have been adapted from various other sources such as Mark Strauss’ Four Portraits, One Jesus and The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. I did note in a few places that the headings of some of the passages had a thin red outline around the words which made the text seem out of focus. Since I wear bifocals I checked with a couple of co-workers to make sure it wasn’t just me. The transparency of the paper is very nice which had little show through of color photos on the other side of the page. The colors add a vibrancy and richness to the layout.

2) I was told that the notes would be “slightly changed” to bring them into alignment with the 2011 NIV text. The word “slightly” is certainly true. Granted, I could not check too many of the 20,000 notes in just a few hours but what changes I did find were minor. The note on Romans 16:7 was changed from “Junias. The preferred reading of the Greek text is Junia, a feminine name” to “Junia. A feminine name.” The rest of the note remains unchanged. The note on Romans 3:24 reflects the change in translation from “observing the law” to “works of the law” (see the same in Gal. 2:16). The notes on Gal. 1:2 and 1:11 incorporate the new “brothers and sisters” reading in the text but otherwise these notes are unchanged. The note on Gal. 3:3 reflects the change in translation from the former “are you trying to attain your goal by human effort?” to “are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”.  The older note read, “human effort. Lit, ‘the flesh,’ a reference to human nature in its unregenerate weakness.” It now reads, “the flesh. A reference to human nature in its unregenerate weakness (see NIV text note).” The new NIV text note reads, “In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.” I was surprised that there was nothing new added to 1 Tim. 2:12 given the importance of that verse on the complentarian/egalitarian debate. Other notes which reflect the change in translation but did not alter the note otherwise include: Hebrews 12:7 (“sons” to “children,”) and James 1:2 (“brothers” to “brothers and sisters,”).  Psalms 1 & 2 omit a comment at the beginning of the note on the Psalm as a whole which read “Author and date unknown.” Perhaps my biggest surprise was to see the note for Mark 1:41 remain the same even though there is a significant change in text. The 2011 text adopts a variant reading which changes “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached . . .” to “Jesus was indignant.” The note for the verse reads, “touch the man. An act that, according to Mosaic law, brought defilement (see Lev 13, especially vv. 45-46; see also Lev 5:2). Jesus’ compassion for the man superseded ceremonial considerations.” In the new text there is nothing about Jesus being compassionate. That he was indignant certainly calls for some clarification. A new note would have been nice here, especially since I agree that the new reading is the better one. One important change is in the NIV text note on Rom. 3:25. Although the text reads the same in both editions (“sacrifice of atonement”) the former text note has been changed from “Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin” to “The Greek word for sacrifice of atonement refers to the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant (see Lev. 16:15,16).” The note on the verse has also been slightly changed. The former read,

sacrifice of atonement. The Greek for this phrase speaks of a sacrifice that turns away the righteous wrath of God. Without this appeasement all people are justly condemned to suffer eternal punishment. See NIV text note here; see also note on 1 Jn. 2:2. faith in his blood. Saving faith looks to Jesus Christ in his sacrificial death for us.”

It now reads,

sacrifice of atonement. The Greek for this phrase speaks of a sacrifice that satisfies the righteous wrath of God. Without this appeasement all people are justly destined for eternal punishment. See note on 1 Jn. 2:2. through … his blood … received by faith. Saving faith looks to Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for us.”

3) There is a new chart on Messianic Psalms (p. 856) which is taken from The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. I noted two problems. The first Psalm treated on the chart is Psalm 8 and under the column marked “Further (contextual) evidence it reads: “All things are under his feet (Ps 8:8), which cannot apply to human beings.” First, the reference is incorrect and should read 8:6. The larger problem is that the note depends on the singular pronoun “his” which the author says cannot refer to “human beings.” However, when you read the 2011 NIV text here it reads at verse 4 “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” There’s all sorts of answers I think that can be given here but I think for someone making a simple cross reference from the chart to the text it can be confusing.

4) On page 1596 there is a color reconstruction of Herod’s Temple. There is a note at the top right of the page which reads “Dimensions of rooms, steps, doorways, cornices, and exterior measurements are mentioned in history (Josephus and the Mishnah) but are subject to interpretation, and all drawings vary.” The problem is there are no dimensions on the reconstruction which were present in the older edition. This will certainly be corrected in a future printing.

My first impressions are overall very good. I’m not sure how many will want to replace their current NIV Study Bible for this one simply for the added color and slightly modified notes. The larger draw will be for those who want the updated 2011 text. Having said that the NIV Study Bible still remains one of my favorites. Note for note I still find that it can hold its own even against the ESV Study Bible. If you’re looking for a great study Bible with the NIV text this is the one to own.