Book Review: NIV Teen Study Bible

NIV Teen Study BibleReviewing a Bible requires rumination upon the purpose of writing book reviews. Many a book review offers reflections upon on the meaning, implications, and history behind the content of publication. For the Christian Bible, however, these tasks involve entire academic fields within the Academy and constitute the life-work of the Church. Hence, to summarize the contents of the Bible for a mere review remains foolishness at best, for one could not possible hope to do justice to what must be said. And yet, though the contents of this book review focus on the style and structure of the NIV Teen Study Bible, we must not forget our need to study and live its contents, for as Ronald Reagan once said, “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.”

The Bible we are reviewing today is the updated New International Version Teen Study Bible[1] with features written by Larry and Sue Richards.[2] This Bible has catchy a catchy cover, and is sturdily constructed, though this leaves is somewhat large and heavy, at least at Teen Bibles go. The study features of this Bible are not your typical footnotes and commentary, but rather in-text features boxes explicating the meaning of the text, integrating real life into the messages of the Bible, summarizing key ideas, and offering panoramas into the metanarrative of the Bible story. These features, the preface, and introductions to each Biblical book are short and concise, and focus on the application of the text than on literary, historical, or specifically theological aspects of the books. For someone new to the Biblical text, the brevity of these introductory materials comes as a welcome relief from what is often a deluge of information included in a study Bible.

Throughout the NIV Teen Study Bible there are Q&A inserts on Bible trivia, as well as “Dear Jordan Letters.” These features, while potentially fun and informative, seem to reinforce the idea that the Bible is a self-help book or source for trivia rather than something to be studied, reflected upon, and applied. Another problematic feature are the “Bible Promises” inserts, where various verses are highlighted to demonstrate the promises of God. While the theology on most of these seemed relatively sound, they too reinforced the modern American conception of the Bible as a self-help sourcebook for things that “make me feel good.” Conversely, a genuinely useful feature was the “We Believe” section involving the Apostles Creed. The first few pages of this Bible outline the Apostles Creed and where its various components come from in the scriptures. Then, wherever a phrase from the Creed originates (John 3:16, for example), there is a periscope into the meaning and theology of the creed as found in that passage. This feature highlights the Biblical nature of the Apostles Creed, as well as drawing together how both Testaments proclaim God’s Good News for the world.

Overall, this does not come across as much of a ‘Study Bible.’ Instead, it reads more like a ‘Life Application Bible for Teens, a title which is (apparently) too long for the front cover. There are some valuable study resources included, such as the maps section, topic indexes, and “We Believe” sections on the Apostles Creed. But the materials here are directed more toward the lives of teens, though (as noted above) there are some concerning tendencies included in the features of this Bible. On balance, this Bible would be a good starting Bible for a teen beginning to think about their faith, and the NIV Teen Study Bible is recommend for someone engaging Christianity anew or beginning to apply the Word to their lives. That said, those gifting this Bible should be careful to follow up on their gift and be willing to suggest other Bibles and resources for those seriously approaching and questioning the Bible and Christian theology. In conclusion, the NIV Teen Study Bible is a readable and useful Bible—engage this book and apply it to your life.

[1] I am well aware of the problems with the New International Version in general. The point of this review is not to reiterate those concerns, but to comment on the presentation of this specific Bible. It is worth noting that all translations are imperfect interpretations.

[2] Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2011.

I received this book from Zondervan and Book Look Reviews in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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