Zondervan continues to be the gold standard when it comes to study Bibles. Coming this August we will see the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Here are just a few of the features:

  • The full text of the NIV
  • Hundreds of full-color photographs from around the world
  • In-depth book introductions explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written
  • Over 10,000 verse-by-verse notes reveal new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar passages
  • Dozens of charts, maps, diagrams in vivid color
  • In-depth articles on key contextual topics

Behind the scholarship of the notes stand two noted evangelical scholars: John Walton and Craig Keener.

I’ve picked two notes from the sampler we have. One from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

In Genesis 5:24 it says “Enoch . . . was no more, because God took him away.” Part of the note on this verse reads:

“As a further observation, we should note that Genesis does not indicate where Enoch was taken, so we should not necessarily assume ascension to heave. Utnapishtim (the survivor of the flood in the Gilgamesh Epic) was a favorite of the gods and was also ‘taken’ so that he did not experience death. But he was taken neither to heaven nor to the underworld, but to a faraway, inaccessible place ‘at the mouth of the rivers’ (Gilgamesh Epic, 11:205-6). None of these offer transparent explanation of Enoch’s experience, but they show a variety of possibilities to be considered that otherwise might not be recognized. As a result of his piety (‘walking with God’), Enoch was ‘taken’ as an alternate to dying, the stated fate of all others in the genealogy.”

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus talks of salt losing its saltiness. The note reads:

“Some commentators note that much ancient salt contained impurities, which could dissolve; but Jesus also uses a graphic image–how can true salt stop being salt? When asked what to do with unsalty salt, a later *rabbi advised, ‘Salt it with the afterbirth of a mule.’ Mules are sterile and thus lack afterbirth; his point was the question was stupid. If salt could lose its saltiness, what would it be useful for? Jesus compares a disciple who does not live out the values of the kingdom with unsalty salt–salt that cannot fulfill its purpose.”

This study Bible will be available in a hardcover ($49.99); black bonded leather ($79.99, indexed – $89.99), brown/tan Italian Duo-Tone ($79.99, indexed – $89.99) , and a Sage/Leaves Italian Duo-Tone ($79.99, indexed – $89.99).

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament; Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context; Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan; The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; and A Survey of the Old Testament.

Craig S. Keener is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and holds a doctoral degree in New Testament Studies and the Origins of Christianity from Duke University. He is the author of several commentaries on books of the New Testament including the award-winning 4-volume commentary on Acts from Baker Academic.

Here’s a short video featuring both authors.