Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dig Deeper

The advertisement above ran in a recent issue of Christianity Today. You probably cannot make out the actual copy in the ad, but it says:

There are many reasons the Today’s New International Version Study Bible from Zondervan is the first choice for serious students of Scripture. Verse-by-verse notes. Detailed historical and archaeological commentary. The incredibly detailed topical index. Satellite-generated maps. The clarity and accuracy of the TNIV translation. For digging deeper, there’s no better choice than the Zondervan TNIV Study Bible.

I like this ad for a number of reasons:

  1. I'm glad to see Zondervan promoting the TNIV in an Evangelical publication like Christianity Today. This is yet another move by the publisher that directly addresses one of the concerns I voiced in my "open letter" earlier this year.
  2. As it says in the ad, the TNIV can be used by "serious students of scripture," going beyond any assumption that it is strictly a popular translation. My reading of the TNIV, especially in some of its choices away from its predecessor, the NIV has demonstrated some very significant wrestling with texts on the part of the translators. Wayne Meeks' choice to use the TNIV in his second edition of The Writings of St. Paul, a scholarly and essentially non-evangelical work, also confirms the strong academic potential of the TNIV. But more will have to be done, which I'll mention in a moment.
  3. Ultimately, this ad is not simply highlighting the TNIV, but more specifically, The TNIV Study Bible. This is currently the Bible I teach from at church, and find it to be the best choice for that task among the current options. I've never carried a study Bible with me before the TNIVSB, but it's a good choice until I can get a wide margin text edition from either Zondervan or Cambridge one day. When I first saw the picture above, I wondered if someone from Zondervan snuck into my house and took a picture out of my copy. Nevertheless, the TNIVSB is worthy of this kind of exposure. If you haven't already, see my review here.
Perhaps now that the TNIV has been out a while and can be evaluated on its own merits as opposed to the rhetoric of an uncharitable disinformation campaign, ads like this may spur potential readers to take another look. This is all well and good, but where do we need to go from here? How do we dig even deeper, to borrow from the theme of the ad?

I would suggest that we need to see more advertisements like this, but we need to see some specifically with newly written testimonials from academics like Don Carson on the Evangelical side of scholarship and perhaps even someone like Wayne Meeks representing the non-evangelical world as well. I've found that many who want to have nothing to do with the TNIV simply go on the rhetoric they've heard. When I start mentioning names like Carson or Timothy George or even TNIV translators such as Doug Moo, Bruce Waltke, and Gordon Fee, those who think they won't like the TNIV often have to stop and really consider why they think this way. Throwing respectable names around doesn't solve the issue of whether a translation is reliable or not, but would hopefully cause others to examine why these individuals have endorsed the translation.

There have been rumors, denials, and maybe's floating around a while, but I'd really like to see the TNIV expanded to include the Deuterocanonicals. Let me reiterate to those who haven't heard me say it, that I do not consider these books to be inspired Scripture. Nonetheless, the Deuterocanonicals are essential for a comprehensive understanding of the context of the New Testament. Further, there's a long Protestant tradition of including the Deuterocanonicals, or "apocrypha" in Bible translations, often in a section between the testaments. These writings were in Luther's Bible, the KJV, the RSV and many others along the years. If we want to see more works like that of Meeks' using the TNIV, this will be essential.

Finally, while I like the ad above, I immediately noticed that only a small section of a TNIVSB page appears. If the camera had zoomed out, we would immediately see that there's no space to include notations to go along with those highlights and markings. One can highlight a Bible as much as one wants, but highlights alone are useless (in my opinion) without accompanying notes. I know that regular readers will perceive me as a broken record by this point, but I still suggest that a small percentage of TNIV users, specifically teachers and pastors want wide-margins in which to write their own notes. Yes, I know the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible is designed for teachers and pastors, but it will not have margins wide enough to completely fulfill this need. Those who want a wide margin TNIV will continue to look for something more. Hopefully publishers realize these users are the gatekeepers' gatekeepers.


Jay Davis said...

I saw this ad also and thought it was nice. But the TNIV is so thick...too big for me. I had hoped it would be like the NIV Study Bible size and font. And of cources I would love a wide margin text edition. Hopefully the covers will get a little more basic. I use the TNIX XL and calfskinned it -( TNIV XL leaves little room for notes though.

ElShaddai Edwards said...

Maybe you can convince me otherwise, Rick, but I just don't get the current trend of magazine-style Study Bibles with their palettes of different colors, font faces and sizes, illustrations filling every crook and cranny of each page, etc.

It's not just the TNIV - Holman is guilty as well with the Illustrated HCSB Study Bible and even their new Apologetics Study Bible that I looked at tonight. Full pages of textured color backgrounds that obscure the text rather than emphasize it.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the restraint of Tyndale's new Discover God Study Bible. I guess I'm of the NOAB generation when text+notes was more than sufficient...

That said, it is heartening to see Zondervan use more serious language with the TNIV. Hopefully they will follow the Reference Bible with many new releases attractive to "mature students".

Apprentice2Jesus said...

One day...ONE DAY... I live for that Cambridge edition of the TNIV.

Even a take off of the Zondervan NASB wide margin study Bible would be SOOOO nice! Until that day, I continue to try to find a way to use the TNIV Study Bible, as unwieldy as it is.

ElShaddai Edwards said...

I live for that Cambridge edition of the TNIV.

Which one? There are two Cambridge editions of the TNIV... just not readily available in the USA:

The "Popular Edition" is 5"x7.75"; the "Personal Edition" is 4"x6".

R. Mansfield said...

EE: The TNIVSB doesn't strike me as a magazine-style study Bible. It's not that much different in layout from the traditional study Bible other than the single-column format. Yes there is some occasional red, but to mark chapter numbers and distinguish study notes. I don't find it distracting at all.

Brad Boydston said...

I like the ad, too, because it features a portion of the text printed in black and I can actually read black type. Unfortunately, and the reason I haven't purchased the TNIV Study Bible, is that it has red lettering in the gospels. And I can't get my eyes to focus on blocks of red type. Am I the only one?

R. Mansfield said...

Brad: Agreed on the red letters. At least the red in the TNIVSB is not the bright red often found in Tyndale Bibles.

Two publishing "gimmicks" I'd get rid of if I could wave a magic wand are red letter Bibles and thinline editions. Of course, I realize some folks genuinely like thinlines, but I wish that Zondervan offered non-thinline editions across the board for all of they're Bibles.

Jerry said...

I use the TNIV study bible, but don't carry it around, way too big. Instead I stick with the TNIV XL, while I impatiently wait for the Reference Bible to come out. Little letters and preaching don't work together very well for me.

Red letters are the bane of my existence right now (BTW I never overstate anything) as I am doing a study of John's gospel on Sunday evenings

Gary Zimmerli said...

Excellent article, Rick! I also went back and read your "Open Letter" as you suggested.

I'm really enjoying my TNIV XL, so much so that I went back to my NASB for a few hours last night, and decided I just can't hardly use that any more, especially when I consider that the accuracy of the TNIV approaches that of the NASB, yet it has the easy readability of the NIV.

Maybe we are still in the vanguard. We should just hang in there, and eventually the TNIV will be an accepted and widely used Bible.

In the meantime, it's so lonely using a TNIV that I have to come to the blogs for a little intelligent conversation! ;-)

Apprentice2Jesus said...

Zondervan really needs to kick this up a notch. Just today I was in a Barnes and Noble. Granted, this is NOT the best place to buy a Bible, but it is a gauge. They will stock the stuff that moves.

So, on the one hand, the OBVIOUS ABSENCE OF A TNIV just might mean they're all sold out!

On the other hand...

I shudder.

Zondervan, please kick this up! Get the "normal" TNIV's out there so pastors (like myself) can have some good tools to work with and get our congregations motivated to consider this great translation!

By the way, as to the Cambridge addition I would like, I guess I'd have to go with the bigger size just because of print.

What I would REALLY love is if they reproduced the TNIV in their wonderful wide margin format!

Admin said...

Really, if Zondervan had a clue, don't you think they'd at least slip you $100 to professionally host this blog somewhere with its own domain?

It'd sure be better than the outdated stuff they have on the web.

Peter Kirk said...

Admin, why do you think there is a need for this blog to have its own domain? I would hate to see it financially dependent on Zondervan, which would compromise its independence.