One of the better study Bibles to come along recently is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. A number of Accordance users have requested these study Bible notes; and no doubt, they will be pleased to hear that we are making it available today for the Accordance Library.
What’s the big deal about cultural backgrounds when it comes to studying the Bible? In the “Quick Start Guide” to the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, there is a quote from one of the editors, Dr. John H. Walton, that reads “Even though the Bible was written for us, it wasn’t written to us. When we take our Western, modern culture and impose it on the text, we’re putting in meaning that wasn’t there, and we’re missing the meaning that the text has.” Thus, we often make assumptions about the Bible because we read it through the lens of our culture and experience. It's better to try to understand the message as closely as we can through the eyes of the original audiences.
Now, you might also ask, with all these great backgrounds commentaries available for the Accordance Library, why would I want to use the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible? I’ve said before that background commentaries are my favorite kind of commentaries. Excellent background commentaries such as the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentaries and the IVP Background Commentaries are at the top of my Commentaries folder in Accordance, so that I can easily access them in the Accordance Info Pane. I certainly look at cultural backgrounds before I look at any kind of interpretive or theological approach. However, study Bibles often make an excellent “first stop” in researching a biblical passage because you can get a more distilled amount of information very quickly. The content found in a study Bible may be all the information you need, and it’s a fast way to access it. But that information can also lead you on to the kind of content that is more in depth—such as the other commentaries we offer.
Now, any study Bible is expected to have abbreviated commentary notes that accompany the biblical text. When it comes to the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, here’s the best part: much of the content in this study Bible comes from the Zondervan and IVP backgrounds commentaries I mentioned above! Of course, there’s much more than this. As described in the already-mentioned “Quick Start Guide,” the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible includes the following features:
- Book Introductions answer questions about who wrote the books of the Bible, to whom, and when, as well as informing readers about the larger cultural and political context in which a book was written. In the Old Testament, dates of writing and specific authorship for each book are less clear than in the New Testament, where such information is marginally less controversial, although still debated. That’s why the Old Testament introductions include “Key Concepts” and the New Testament Introductions include “Quick Glance” information to help readers orient themselves.
- The Old Testament includes a helpful chart that explains the nuances of meaning contained in Hebrew words that don’t have exact equivalents in English. That chart is called “Hebrew to English Translation Chart.”
- Also included before the Old Testament is a helpful article entitled, “Major Background Issues from the Ancient Near East” that is a must-read before you begin your OT study.
- The New Testament includes a reference feature entitled “Key New Testament Terms” that is designed to help clarify and further define the cultural contexts behind these terms. It’s included as a background feature to define and explain terms that often repeat in the New Testament notes.
- The NIV Center-column Cross Reference system aids in deeper study of the Bible’s themes, language and concepts by leading readers to related passages on the same or similar themes.
- Over 10,000 study notes have been placed close to the text that they amplify and explain. These have been designed to provide the reader with a deep and rich understanding of the nuances that the original readers and hearers of the Bible would have intuitively understood. They focus on the land, the literature, and the political and cultural contexts that the Bible’s authors lived in, and emphasize how the people of Israel were both influenced by, as well as how they were called to be different from, their surrounding culture.
- Full-color in-text maps, charts and diagrams, along with some 320 essays, summarize and explain important background information and ideas from Scripture.
- Front and end matter features include author information, an author’s introduction with helpful questions and answers about this Bible, more information on the NIV translation itself (in the NIV Preface), and many other helpful study tools.
- The NIV Concordance is a tool designed to help readers who remember a key word or phrase in a passage to locate the verses they are looking for. Words and names are listed alphabetically, along with their more significant verse references.
- Color maps at the end of this study Bible complement the color maps in the interior of the Bible to help readers to visualize the geographic context of what they are studying.
Just as a reminder, in most cases when we release study Bibles for Accordance, the Bible translation itself is not included and sold separately. However, there’s great advantage to having a study Bible in Accordance because unlike a print copy where you’re stuck with the translation it came with, Accordance allows you to put any set of Bible study notes with any Bible you want—original language or translation.
For a limited time, you can get introductory discounted pricing on the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible when you add it to your Accordance Library.
NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes