Back in 1988, I was working at New Life Book Shop in Ruston, Louisiana, when Holman Bible Publishers released the Disciple’s Study Bible (DSB). Holman offered a free copy of the DSB to any bookstore employee who could sell 12 copies. I was very up front with the customers to whom I showed this new study Bible. I told them I would get a free copy if I sold 12 of them, but they were under no pressure. Each person who purchased a copy of the DSB for my goal of 12 had to sign their name so that I could prove to Holman I had fulfilled my end of the deal. Not only did I get my copy of the DSB in a very short time, I still have it.
The Disciple’s Study Bible was not a difficult Bible to sell because it was unique—and really still is. Yes, there has been a newer edition since, but the 1988 edition in particular contains more content, and many still prefer it over the newer version. The editors of the DSB organized all of the supplemental helps around 27 doctrines of the Bible. Like most study Bibles, notes are placed under the biblical text; but in the DSB, each note begins with a heading alerting the reader as to which of the 27 doctrines is being described. There is an index to the doctrines that allows the reader to trace a particular theological thread from Genesis to Revelation. Want to read up on the history of a particular doctrine? Also included are 27 articles tracing the themes from the Early Church to today. A brief bibliography at the end of his historical article provides the reader with direction for further study.
Even the introductions to biblical books in the DSB are of a theological nature, focusing on doctrinal themes prominent in a particular book of the Bible. And there are numerous charts covering not just doctrines, but historical theology as well. And so that all doctrinal study isn’t just a dry, intellectual exercise, an entire section of Life Helps allows you to apply the theological teachings of the Bible in practical ways to all areas of life.
I’m still glad to have the print copy of the Disciple’s Study Bible that I “earned” 30 years ago, but I’m even more excited to have it digitally in Accordance to have these notes with me at all times to be referenced at a moment’s notice. The DSB notes are based on the 1984 New International Version, but Accordance users can place them in parallel with any Bible text or translation.
The classic 1988 edition of the Disciple’s Study Bible is now available for the Accordance Bible Software Library. Introductory Discounted Pricing is available for a limited time.
Disciple's Study Bible (Classic 1988 Edition)
Regular Price $29.90
Dr. Gene Getz has lived a life dedicated to teaching the Bible. With degrees from Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton Graduate School, and New York University, Dr. Getz taught at both Moody and Dallas Theological Seminary before becoming a church planter. He is known for his Bible teaching ministry through dozens of books, radio programs, conference speaking, and church ministry.
With The Life Essentials Study Bible notes, you can now access the teaching of Gene Getz right from Accordance! This unique set of study notes brings together a lifetime of Getz’s emphasis on “supracultural” principles of the Bible—that is, those biblical principles that surpass culture and apply to all people in all times.
The Life Essentials Study Bible is the next best thing to “being there” for Dr. Getz’s teaching. In these notes, he covers the entire Bible in 1500 unique sections. Each one contains “A Principle to Live By” along with detailed commentary. However, the best part is the video link with each section—yes, that’s 1500 unique videos comprising over 250 hours of total instruction!—that delivers Gene Getz teaching the Bible himself. Every study also includes a “Reflection and Response” section for personal reflection or discussion with a group.
Note: Video access in this product is not yet implemented in the Android app.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of The Life Essentials Study Bible notes in Accordance 12.
Want to study through a book of the Bible by yourself or in a group? The Life Essentials Study Bible has 59 text and video studies on Matthew, 12 for Philippians, 152 on the Book of Psalms and more for every other book of the Bible! Want to study a topic in the Bible? The “Principle Finder” section organizes all 1500 studies by subject. Each book of the Bible also contain an introduction and list of the Principles covered in the book by Dr. Getz.
The Life Essentials Study Bible was originally designed to complement the text of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. However, in Accordance, you can pair these notes with any Bible text or translation you like. When studying these notes in Accordance 12, video links will launch the internal Accordance web browser so that you can see Dr. Getz’s teaching on a passage in parallel with the study itself. Note that while Accordance usually does not require an internet connection after content is downloaded, access to the videos will require internet access.
Life Essentials Study Bible
List Price $44.90
Regular Price $34.90
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
This podcast on Study Bibles provides helpful information on understanding, selecting, and using these resources. It also explains how to construct the best workspaces on both computers and mobile devices. Once the most popular of Bible study helps, Study Bibles are now more portable and efficient than ever in Accordance.
Check out more episodes of the Lighting the Lamp podcast!
New for the Accordance Library, we are pleased to announce the release of The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible notes from Reformation Heritage Books. This title is unique as it is the only set of Reformation-based study Bible notes geared to the classic King James Version of the Bible, although Accordance users can place it in parallel with any version they choose.
The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible comes with thousands of study notes with integrated cross references, as well as introductions to each section and every book of the Bible. Since it is designed to be read with the classic King James Version of the Bible, explanation of difficult or outdated words are also integrated into the notes.
The heritage of the Protestant Reformation finds focus in an included overview of two millennia of church history as well as the inclusion of ancient creeds, confessions and catechisms—each of which also contain their own introduction. The articles in the notes of this study Bible are perfect for family devotions.
To discover even more about the rich features of The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, see this video from Reformation Heritage books that extolls the benefits of the original print edition upon which the digital version for the Accordance Library is based.
Click the above image for a full-size product illustration.
Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes
In the probably-bit-off-more-than-I-can-chew department, I've recently begun teaching a Sunday School class on "Understanding the Old Testament." My intention in this class is to give folks a birds' eye view of the Old Testament, exposing them to parts of the Bible they rarely visit and often struggle to understand. To do this effectively, I can't afford to spend a lot of time going into depth on individual passages. So naturally, I've spent the last six weeks or so going through Genesis 1 and 2! At this rate, I may finish when I'm sixty!
My inability to skim the surface aside, I've been preparing a Keynote slide show each week to help focus my class's attention on the main points I want to get across. And since I tend to procrastinate, I'm thankful for great Accordance resources and a few simple tricks that make preparing this slide show a snap!
First, let me talk about some of the resources I'm using.
Bibles: As readers of this blog are probably aware by now, my preferred translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). It offers a good mix of readability and fidelity to the original languages, and is generally unafraid to offer a fresh translation of those well-known passages most translations are unwilling to modify (John 3:16, Psalm 23, Matthew 5-7, etc.). Of course, when I want to bring out an aspect of the text which is made clearer in another translation, I won't hesitate to use it. For example, when I want to bring out the structure of the underlying Hebrew text, I'll generally turn to the English Standard Version (ESV). When I wanted to discuss whether Genesis 1:1 should be translated "In the beginning God created" or "When God began to create", I used the Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS) as an example of the latter rendering.
Finally, while I don't show the underlying Hebrew text to my class, I do use the tagged Hebrew text in my own preparation to teach.
Commentaries: While I'm going into the first three chapters of Genesis in some depth, I am not doing a lot of verse-by-verse exposition. Rather, I'm focusing on bringing out the literary structure of these texts and the way they would have been understood by their original audience. Consequently, I don't often turn to expositional and critical commentaries when preparing for my class. Instead, I tend to go to background commentaries like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament (ZIBBCOT) and the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament. I once read a review by a New Testament scholar I admire who panned the use of background commentaries because any more traditional commentary worth its salt will usually provide the relevant historical background information. While that's certainly true, the challenge is often finding those nuggets amid all the verse-by-verse exposition. I love these background commentaries because they're focused on the kind of information I most want to bring out.
For much the same reason, I often find myself turning to Study Bible notes before full-blown commentaries. Study Bibles like the ESV Study Bible often have concise but highly relevant information, as well as helpful charts and images that can easily be incorporated into a Keynote presentation.
Graphic Resources: Some of the commentaries and study Bibles already mentioned are a great source for visuals that can be dragged into Keynote slides. ZIBBCOT had a great illustration of the three-tiered cosmology which most ancient peoples assumed to exist, and it made such concepts as water above the sky much easier to explain.
The ESV Study Bible offered a concise chart of the days of forming and filling in Genesis 1 that helped me think through how to structure that particular slide of my presentation.
Another graphic resource I use heavily is The Accordance Gallery of Bible Art. Filled with great classic artistic depictions of various Biblical episodes, I tend to use the images in this tool to illustrate broad concepts and to add visual punch to title slides. While I'm still a little early in the Old Testament to make much use of the Bible Lands PhotoGuide, I did use the view of Israel from atop Mount Nebo to illustrate my slide that talked about the Old Testament being "The Story of a Land."
I likewise used an image of the high priest offering incense from Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the slide on the Old Testament as "The Story of Redemption."
While I will turn to other Accordance resources from time to time, this combination of Bibles, background commentaries, study Bibles, and visual resources has served me well in quickly putting together my Keynote presentation each week. In my next post, I'll show you some of the tricks I use to get the information out of Accordance and into Keynote as quickly and painlessly as possible.
All this week I've been pontificating about study Bibles, examining their history from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century to the last few decades. After that I asked if the advent of Bible software had made the study Bible obsolete, and concluded that quite the opposite is true: Bible software is actually opening up new possibilities for the study Bible. In today's post, I want to close out this series by offering a few anecdotes about my own experiences with study Bibles and their authors. Basically, this post is meant to offer a little light-hearted Friday entertainment.
A multi-purpose resource. Before heading to college, I invested a decent amount of cash in a good quality leather-bound NIV Study Bible. It remained my primary Bible for many years, and I still have it on my shelf. This study Bible was very helpful to me both in my classes and in the campus ministry I became involved with, and I have fond memories of reading it while lounging on Landis Green. I also remember that it doubled as a very comfortable pillow. When I was finished reading, I would lay back on the grass, place it under my head, and doze in the sunshine. Some might excoriate me for putting my Bible to such practical use, but it did make me appreciate that Bible all the more. That's the one function of a print study Bible even Accordance can't duplicate!
Note to self: Ask Dr. Ryrie for the NASB! Some years ago I visited Dr. Charles Ryrie in his home and helped him with his installation of Accordance. Before I left, he was kind enough to show me some of his rare book collection, including a first English edition of Calvin's Institutes and a Luther hymnal signed by no less than Philip Melanchthon. Then he offered me a signed copy of his study Bible in my choice of translation. Up to that point, I think he had been somewhat impressed with my knowledge of Accordance and my enthusiasm for church history, but I apparently blew it when I chose a translation other than the NASB. He gave me the translation I asked for and signed it for me, but not before I saw a look of mild disapproval cloud his features. Oops!
How Important is the Choice of Translation? Dr. Ryrie wasn't the only professor who had strong feelings about which translation is best. When I was in seminary, several of my professors were writing the notes for a new study Bible which was originally slated to be published with one of the latest translations. As I understand it, contractual issues eventually led to its being published with a different translation—one some of the professors contributing to the project were not particularly excited about. I imagine it would be frustrating to help create a study Bible and then have to use it with a translation you would not normally choose. Thankfully, Accordance users can pair any study Bible with any translation they like, so those professors don't have to be frustrated any more.
Well, those are all the study Bible-related anecdotes I have to offer. I hope you've enjoyed this series about the genre.
This week we've been looking at the history of the study Bible format and some of the reasons for its popularity. Those reasons include (1) a desire on the part of readers for easily understandable interpretive guidance (especially during periods of religious controversy), (2) a desire on the part of religious leaders to popularize a particular understanding of the Bible, (3) a desire on the part of publishers to promote a particular translation, and (4) a desire on the part of some readers for ready help with a particular aspect of Bible study (application, apologetics, etc.). Because the study Bible combines study helps with the text of the Bible in a single print volume, the reader can consult it with far less effort than is required by a separate dictionary or commentary.
That explains why print study Bibles have sold well, but isn't that advantage of convenience nullified by the advent of Bible study programs like Accordance? In Accordance, an in depth commentary or encyclopedic dictionary is just a triple-click away, so one might expect study Bibles to lose much of their appeal. When someone can get reams of information so quickly, why would he want a study Bible which can only provide a concise treatment of any given passage? If we assume that more is always better, we might expect study Bibles to sell poorly in electronic form.
Contrary to this assumption, study Bibles are just as popular as Bible software add-ons as they are in print. It would seem the study Bible has other advantages than its convenient one-volume format. In fact, far from making study Bibles obsolete, Bible software has actually set them free from the limitations of print.
As we saw in yesterday's post, many study Bible notes have been explicitly paired with a particular translation. This means that if I really like the helps in a study Bible paired with a particular translation, but happen to prefer a different translation, I'm forced to choose between the study Bible notes I want or the translation I want. Some study Bibles, such as Ryrie, have tried to get around this by printing a different edition for each major translation. Others have engaged in a kind of serial monogamy with respect to translation, switching over time from one translation to another.
In Accordance, of course, you can display the notes from any study Bible with any translation you want; or, for that matter, with a whole bunch of translations displayed in parallel. This liberates the study Bible from its association with a particular translation.
Accordance also makes it easy to access the study Bible best suited to a particular task. A college student may prefer the ESV Study Bible notes for general study, but when debating with a professor, he might want quick access to the Apologetics Study Bible. While leading a Bible study on campus, he might rely heavily on the Life Application Study Bible. With Accordance, he can load these three hefty volumes on his iPhone and access the one he needs at any given moment.
While Accordance makes the study Bible more useful and flexible than it could possibly be in print, the question still remains as to why people would want to use a study Bible when they have instant access to larger, more comprehensive resources. The answer is simple: sometimes a concise treatment of a subject is preferable to an exhaustive one. Although Accordance can quickly show you what a dozen commentaries have to say about a given verse, you still have to read all that information to benefit from it. Looking up the note on a verse from a favorite study Bible may be all you really need at a given moment, and it requires far less time and effort to sift through.
For these reasons, the study Bible has successfully made the transition to the digital age. I think we can all agree study Bibles are in no danger of becoming obsolete any time soon.
In this series of posts, I've been giving a brief sketch of the history of the study Bible. We began with the first English study Bible, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and considered the fact that it met needs that were keenly felt at that point in history. It was highly successful, but the sectarian nature of its marginal notes made it as unpopular as it was popular, and there was a bit of backlash against printing Bibles with explanatory notes. We next looked at the Scofield and Thompson Chain Reference Bibles, both of which were published near the turn of the twentieth century. These two study Bibles which are still published today forever demonstrated the effectiveness of the study Bible format. Today we look at the latter decades of the twentieth century to the present, when a dizzying array of study Bibles have been introduced.
It started as a trickle and eventually became a flood. The Oxford Annotated Bible, based on the text of the RSV and written for an ecumenical audience, was introduced in 1962 and quickly became a standard text in many university religious studies programs. The Dake Study Bible appeared in 1963, with marginal notes written from a Pentecostal perspective and based on the text of the KJV. The Ryrie Study Bible, written by dispensational theologian Charles Ryrie, used the text of the NASB and became something of an heir-apparent to the venerable Scofield Bible. Then, in 1986, Zondervan released the NIV Study Bible, and everything changed.
The NIV Study Bible was the first study Bible (with the exception of the original Geneva Bible) which was explicitly branded as belonging to a particular translation. Now, much of the impetus behind some of the other study Bibles I've mentioned was to offer a study Bible for those who favored a modern translation over the KJV, but the NIV Study Bible actually made the translation central to its brand identity. This created a kind of synergy in which the growing popularity of the NIV drove adoption of the study Bible, and the study Bible gave buyers another reason to choose the NIV translation.
The notes in the NIV Study Bible were written from a broadly evangelical viewpoint, which meant it could be used by Protestants from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds. Again, that helped validate and strengthen the broad appeal of the translation itself.
The NIV Study Bible became a runaway success, and it didn't take long for other publishers (and Zondervan itself) to try to duplicate that success. Some have tried to do so by appealing to a broad market, others have focused on a specific audience, and still others have experimented with study Bibles aimed at specific tasks or interests.
First, there are the translation-branded study Bibles which seek to do for those translations what the NIV Study Bible did for the NIV. These include the ESV Study Bible, the NLT Study Bible, and the HCSB Study Bible. While each has its own distinctives, they all are written from a broadly evangelical point of view.
Then there are study Bibles geared toward specific religious groups, such as the Catholic Study Bible, Jewish Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible (Calvinistic/Reformed), Fire Bible (Pentecostal/Charismatic), and others aimed at Lutherans, Wesleyans, etc. These study Bibles are typically printed with the translations most favored by the groups they target, but the translation itself is not the basis on which these study Bibles are marketed.
Finally, there are study Bibles which focus on specific Bible study tasks or interests. For example, the Life Application Study Bible has notes aimed at helping readers apply each passage to their own lives. The Apologetics Study Bible is focused on providing answers to difficult questions and challenges which may arise from a given passage. The Archaeological Study Bible offers information about the historical background of a given passage and includes appropriate images and illustrations. Where most study Bibles offer general explanatory information about a passage, these task-oriented study Bibles are more specialized tools.
Not too long ago, the market seemed to be glutted with study Bibles aimed at surprisingly narrow groups of people. There were study Bibles aimed at people with certain occupations or hobbies, people of specific genders and age groups, etc. I think this ever-increasing specialization of the study Bible has died down some in recent years, and that's probably a good thing. Still, the effectiveness of the study Bible format is demonstrated by the fact that publishers have tried to use it to get very narrow demographics to become more engaged in reading the Bible. I imagine we'll continue to see publishers release new variations of the study Bible from time to time in order to see what sticks.
Before there was Bible software, there were study Bibles—printed Bibles with brief commentary in the form of marginal notes. In this series of posts, we're looking at the history of study Bibles and the reasons for their ongoing popularity. In part 1 of this series, we looked at The Geneva Bible, which was almost certainly the first printed study Bible in English. Its explanatory marginal notes offered guidance in how to interpret the Bible at a time when many people were first beginning to read the Bible for themselves, and it became a powerful means of disseminating the Reformed/Calvinistic viewpoint. As we saw, the Geneva Bible eventually became a victim of its own success. Objections to its sectarian nature led the King James Bible to be published without explanatory notes, and the study Bible format was not revived for several centuries.
Interestingly, the historical circumstances which led to the resurrection of the study Bible format were strikingly similar to those in which the Geneva Bible appeared. At the beginning of the twentieth century, theological liberalism was gaining influence in many large denominations and their flagship seminaries, challenging long-standing understandings of the Bible and sparking a conservative backlash. Many pastors and laypeople felt inadequate to respond to those challenges and were looking for some help. They found it in the Scofield Reference Bible, a study Bible by American minister C. I. Scofield which articulated a fundamentalist, inerrantist, and dispensationalist understanding of the Bible. The Scofield Reference Bible quickly became popular among theological conservatives.
Another study Bible published in the early twentieth century was the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Where the Geneva Bible and Scofield Reference Bible offered brief commentary from a particular doctrinal perspective, the Thompson Chain's marginal notes listed topics or themes articulated by a given verse, along with a cross-reference to the next verse that speaks to each theme. By following each "link" in these topical "chains," the reader could see the development of these themes throughout the Bible.
The success of these study Bibles, both of which have been repeatedly revised and remain popular more than a century after their initial publication, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the study Bible format. But the real heyday of the study Bible didn't come until the latter decades of the twentieth century, which saw a proliferation of study Bibles in a variety of formats and emphases. We'll look at some of those in my next post.