NIV Faithlife Study Bible

NIV Faithlife Study Bible May 25, 2017

I was supposed to join in a blog tour about the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible, but got overwhelmed. But I still want to make sure that I mention it, because I have to at least share what got me excited about this study Bible. As is often the case with such volumes, it was was an infographic:

Faithlife Hebrew Cosmology

I’ve blogged about artistic renditions of ancient Hebrew cosmology here on the blog before. But this seems particularly appropriate to mention on the day when Ascension Day, and the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, coincide. What better to raise the question of how our view of the cosmos today relates to that found in the Bible? And what better day to highlight a study Bible that challenges readers to think about these things?

You can see a pdf with a collection of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible‘s infographics on the publisher’s website.

The official web site link for the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is:

Here is a promotional video about this study Bible:

Michael Bird also recorded two videos about it:

An interactive sampler can be accessed here:

Have you used the NIV Faithlife Study Bible? What are your favorite study Bibles? What are your favorite inserts or infographics from them?

"Thank you for the reply Dr McGrath, I am very much aware, and have read ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
"Ehrman is an atheist, as was Casey. Both are convinced that mythicism is bunk and ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
"The way I read it is that Lataster makes the point that being a secular ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
"I liked James's point that the archons of this aeon quite clearly could mean earth-bound ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m sure it’s just artistic license that depicts all the waters together (the waters above the firmament and the great deep) as forming a perfect sphere.

    But I wonder if the ancients would have seen any boundaries to these waters. Were the foundations of the heavens and the earth actually floating in the great deep, or did they reach down to some solid surface below the great deep. Did the great deep have a bottom?

    • Ian

      If there are similarities with other ANE creation cosmologies, Then perhaps the model we read in Enuma Elish is relevant. There (if I remember correctly) the void in the waters in which the cosmos is created is the inflated carcass of Tiamat. Which would suggest a lack of boundaries. It’s been a very long time, so I don’t remember if there are ‘foundations’ in that account. I’d be interested in your last question too.

      • Yes, and we see echos of Tiamat in the Old Testament great serpent or leviathan.

        I’m just not sure whether the ancients would have contemplated an infinitely large expanse of dragon or waters; or perhaps an expanse that was simply too vast to fathom.

        • Nick G

          “It’s turtles all the way down!”

          • Sure, but are they sea turtles or tortoises?!

    • Marja Erwin

      There’s the Homeric world-view. I think both of these have the land floating in the ocean. I don’t understand how that’s supposed to work.

  • John MacDonald

    Dr. McGrath said: “What are your favorite study Bibles? What are your favorite inserts or infographics from them?”

    I didn’t grow up in a religious home, so the first bible I owned was The New Jerusalem Bible as part of a course I took on the New Testament in university. It had fantastic study notes.

    That bible will always remain special for me (even though I no longer have it), because back at that time I was also reading Nietzsche and encountered Nietzsche’s quote that “Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that whole life to a place behind this existence in the LIE of the ‘risen’ Jesus (Nietzsche, Anti Christ, Chapter 42).” I was familiar of the noble lie from Plato and Euripides, but was shocked that Nietzsche was making an accusation of this kind against Christianity. I immediately went to the truth/lie entry in the index in the New Jerusalem Bible, and was pointed to numerous examples of justified lying, such as this one:

    (A) God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets:
    “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22.”

    This is when I first began to wonder if Nietzsche was right that the first Christians lied about the risen Jesus?

    Carrier frequently explores this motif, saying in a recent blog comment where we were discussing the idea that:

    “I agree it’s an intriguing argument. Especially since the idea was well known in that period: it’s the entire basis of the argument in Plato’s Republic, one of his most popular and well-known dialogues all throughout antiquity, and the Medieval Catholic Church very definitely engineered itself along the very lines described there. As does the modern Neocon movement, indeed explicitly, as Strauss argued religions are false but the public must never be told that, so all leaders must profess to be religious, so as to control the masses, exactly what Plato said…and just as he thought he was describing something noble but in fact something nightmarish, so also the neocons don’t realize how horrifying their worldview is.” Carrier,

    If anyone would like to read my thoughts on how Christianity may have begun as a noble lie about the risen Jesus to sell Jesus’ ethical message of loving your neighbor and enemy, I have outlined my thoughts in a blog post and reader comments here:

    • Did you write this “palpatinesway” post?

      • John MacDonald

        Yes, I wrote it. I kept getting more ideas after I wrote it, so I added a bunch of comments in the reader comment section. It’s just speculation, but it’s fun to think about. Not having grown up in a religious house, and my first real in depth encounter with the ancients was through the BBC mini series “I, Claudius,” it wasn’t that hard to imagine the ancient Christians may have been underhanded. My favorite quote about religion is “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

        • Then you seem to be referring to yourself in the 3rd person when you write:

          “Blogger John MacDonald responded to Dr. McGrath that:”

          A noble lie?

          • John MacDonald

            Writing style isn’t my strong suit. lol I do make a delicious garlic shrimp dinner, though.

          • The best secular account I’ve read of the rise of resurrection beliefs is Kris Komarnitsky’s “Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box?”

            He’s not a scholar, but he cites scholars continuously, and his book has been recommended by a number of scholars, including James McGrath.

            Lying, or “stretching the truth” comes into play a little in this account, but not as much as you would think.

          • John MacDonald

            Komarnitsky sounds interesting. I’ll look it up!

            The biggest problem with “The Noble Lie” theory of Christian Origins (although not as devastating as the “James, the Brother of the Lord,” passage for mythicists) is that the disciples were reported as being martyred for their beliefs – and common sense seems to suggest they wouldn’t die for a lie. There are two possible responses here. One is that we really don’t have good evidence the disciples were martyred for their beliefs. The second is that the disciples may have been willing to die for a lie if they thought doing so would bring about a better world. Carrier outlines this possibility as follows:

            ““Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.” – Carrier

            So maybe the first Christians invented the story of the risen Christ to lend divine clout to Jesus’ ethical message of loving your neighbor and enemy, in hopes of bringing about a better world.

          • Only apologists come up with the rather silly “apostles wouldn’t die for a lie” argument.

            There is little to no evidence that the apostles were martyred outside of traditions cited centuries later.

            But even if they were killed for being Christians, there is certainly no indication whatsoever that they could have saved themselves by confessing the “lie”.

            And as Komarnitsky points out, all that was required to jump start the resurrection movement was a few apostles experiencing a bereavement vision, an experience still commonly cited today.

            “Oh no, Mr. Centurian, please don’t kill me … I was just kidding!”

          • John MacDonald

            Beau said: “And as Komarnitsky points out, all that was required to jump start the resurrection movement was a few apostles experiencing a bereavement vision, an experience still commonly cited today.”

            Agreed. This whole Christian megalith was birthed by a couple of guys having bereavement visions, or at least a couple of guys “claiming” they were having such visions.

            I once asked Bart Ehrman how we can distinguish in the New Testament between what people saw/read of Jesus, what people hallucinated about Jesus, what people dreamed about Jesus, and what people invented out of whole cloth about Jesus, since any of these could presumably be a source for a New Testament pericope? Bart said he wished he knew. lol

          • Well Komarnitsky suggests that a few bereavement hallucinations (of the sort reported all over the world even now) may have been followed by the sort of ecstatic worship services described in Paul’s letters. Groups of people feeling “the presence” of Jesus in worship settings. This grows into witness lists later.

            Komarnitsky also discusses the scholarly position that the witness lists were for the purpose of granting leadership authority.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes, that fits the evidence. So does the “Noble Lie” theory. So does the “there really was a miracle” theory – lol. It’s interesting that in Jesus studies that we get an embarrassment of riches of possible models, such as when we get portrayals of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, or a charismatic healer, or a Cynic philosopher, or a Jewish Messiah, or a prophet of social change, or a mythical celestial being.

            This reminds me of something Robert J. Miller said:
            “On specific issues in historical-Jesus studies, the evidence is often quite ambiguous and the use of methods and application of criteria are irreducibly subjective, so that, even within a group of fairly like-minded scholars, consensus is often elusive.” (Robert J. Miller, “When It’s Futile To Argue About The Historical Jesus: A Response To Bock, Keener, And Webb,”: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 9, no. 1 / 2011: 88.)

          • There are many possibilities, but they don’t all weigh equally on the plausibility scale.

          • John MacDonald

            We’re only human/People disagree.

            We make an explanatory interpretation, use it to explain the evidence, explain away any evidence that may seem contrary to the model, and use that model as a lens through with we can view the evidence. But there is often more than one lens that will fit the evidence, and people disagree about which one they “prefer” – just as different people will find different flavors of ice cream as the one they “prefer” to have for dessert. “What best fits the evidence” is not a completely arbitrary judgement, but there are going to be subjective preferential differences between different observers. It’s to be expected.

            It’s analogous to teachers using a rubric of various criteria to assess a student project. The rubric is intended to make the assessment as objective as possible, but it is still possible that two different teachers, applying the rubric, would give the same project different grades.

            Even the replicability of professional academic peer review judgments sometimes turns out to be limited. See:

          • Will Barton

            It’s not quite as subjective as ice cream tastes

          • John MacDonald

            I was using “ice cream” just to point out that preferential choices can be somewhat subjective, regardless of how rigorous we are in terms of our judgement criteria and methodology.

          • Very good. Historians might not appreciate their hard work being compared to picking an ice cream flavor.

          • The theory of the jolly old elf who delivers toys on his flying sleigh is an explanatory interpretation.

          • John MacDonald

            Your being silly – lol. Above I said: “What best fits the evidence” is not a completely arbitrary judgement, but there are going to be subjective preferential differences between different observers. So, some scholars will always say Jesus is best understood as an apocalyptic prophet, while others will maintain that, no, Jesus is best understood as a Cynic sage.

          • John MacDonald

            In his early essay “Violence and Metaphysics”, Derrida suggests that a successful deconstructive reading is conditional upon the suspension of choice.

          • No sillier than corpses rising from the dead.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes. In a debate (Southern Evangelical Seminary, 2009) with Mike Licona about the resurrection of Jesus, Bart Ehrman points out that historians must try and determine the most probable explanations, while miracles by definition are the most improbable explanations. They are considered to be miracles because they overturn scientific laws.

          • Hence my Santa Claus reference.

          • John MacDonald

            Didn’t you know Santa was the second shooter at the grassy knoll? They found the hoof prints of eight tiny reindeer!

    • Guthrum

      Is that Bible version still available ? I remember our pastor had one back around 1980. At the time the RSV was popular, and the New English Bible was coming out. Also popular and new then was the Good News For Modern Man, and The Living Bible.
      One of my favorites is a Cambridge KJV, leather bound. It is compact, center referenced, and tiny print.I can’t remember who gave it to me. It gets attention.

      • John MacDonald
      • Gary

        Heard a sermon one time, where the pastor lamented the disappearance of the RSV. The shortest verse also disappeared. “Jesus wept”. I also like it, because it emphasized “Thou shall not kill”, instead of “Thou shall not murder”. I think the Catholic bible is the closest to the RSV. Except they got rid of the “young woman”, and replaced it with “young virgin”. Every bible version has it’s own political statements attached to it.

        • Guthrum

          I got a nice RSV the other week at a thrift store: ribbon, red letter, concordance, maps, and black imitation leather. It looks new. $1.05

          • Gary

            I got mine many years ago from an evangelical that didn’t like it, and she used an NIV instead. Had put many notes in it. Then, without my knowledge, my wife gave it away to a library book sale a couple years ago (it was beat up, but still good for me). All my notes gone. So I bit the bullet and ordered an Oxford RSV commentary bible. All I can say is, keep your wife close, and keep your bible closer. Then bought an Oxford NRSV just in case my RSV bites the dust. But still like the Original RSV best.

          • Guthrum

            I also got a NKV hardback with thumb indexes for the books – same price – $1.05. Last year I saw a NIV thin version, but passed. Now I wish I had bought it. There is an NIV Explorers version there now, but I have one.

          • Gary

            I think I need to go to more thrift stores.

    • John MacDonald

      One of the big themes I outline in the blog post is the connection between the New Testament and Euripides’ Bacchae.

      The key verse from the Bacchae seems to be when Cadmus says “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you think, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele, for this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race.”

      Imagine my surprise when I found out today that Dr. Dennis R. MacDonald just published a book called:

      “The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides (2017).”


  • Sixtus

    I’m disappointed to see that this version of the NIV still skirts entirely around the issue, raised by Rashi in the middle ages, that the opening of Genesis in Hebrew can be interpreted as a temporal clause: When God began to create . . .. This translation of course destabilizes any notion of creation ex nihilo, a fact acknowledged in other modern translations, such as 2 study Bibles based on the NRSV (Oxford and Harper-Collins, my favorite) as well as the Jewish Study Bible (Oxford). Even the footnotes in every study version I’ve seen of the (Catholic-oriented) NAB covers this. Genesis 1:1 is my litmus test for a worthy study Bible.