Review of NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible

by Apr 1, 2018Bible Typography, Books

The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible (subtitle: Confidence for Such a Time as This) is a fruit of the ministry of the Kairos Journal, a conservative evangelical publication dedicated to making timely application of the Bible to the cultural season in which we find ourselves in the Western world.

This edition features over two-hundred page-long article inserts drawn from Kairos on multiple topics, all of which are related somehow to the passages of Scripture near which they are inserted. The article inserts are well written and generally careful, though their connections to surrounding passages are not always equally obvious. The articles are not generally expositional: their purpose is not, like many (most?) study Bibles, to explicate the biblical text but to apply it to current issues. Quotations from prominent Christians (both historical and contemporary) also dot the text, including Ambrose of Milan, Frederica Matthewes-Green, John Adams, and Tertullian. Profiles of other prominent Christians are also included, including brief articles on Nell Bridges, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Justin Martyr and Jim Elliot.

The selection of current issues is indeed timely: “Family: Homosexuality and Transgenderism,” “Sanctity of Life: Euthanasia and Suicide,” “Government: Peace and War,” and “Education: Evolution and Intelligent Design” (though readers may wonder how much the Bible has to say specifically about “Economics: Taxation”—and explanatory notes in this study Bible acknowledge that indeed they are looking for principles more than explicit statements).

Brief introductions are provided for Bible books.

The above is what I wrote for the Christian Library Journal; they don’t like me to be too negative, and that’s fine. But I really have to say this somewhere, and my blog is apparently the place: I am stymied by this study Bible. Who thought this was a good idea? Every article insert I read was good: well written, responsible, interesting. But the pages inside the covers of a Bible are just not the place for a bunch of articles on topical issues. I don’t complain as much when such articles are placed in appendices before Genesis and after Revelation, as in the ESV Study Bible—particularly when the articles make an obvious effort to be exegetical and theological; that is, closely tied to the Bible text (even if they are topical). But profiles of famous Christians, though they have a definite place, should find that place outside the actual pages of a copy of Scripture.

Of the first ten pages of the Bible, starting with Genesis 1:1, six and a half of are taken up with articles, three and a half with Bible text. The ratio does not stay the same throughout this study Bible, but it is emblematic. I am all for anything that will get people studying the Bible and all for anything that will get them reading sound Christian writing. I just think the two things should be kept more distinct.

I would not recommend this study Bible, because it isn’t a “Study” “Bible.” It’s a Bible—the NKJV is a fine translation—with a bunch of articles stuck between its pages. Those articles do not tend to help people study the Bible. They stand at a remove or two away from it. That in itself is not wrong: we need to apply Scripture to current events and to learn church history. But when I see the Bible text sprinkled with hundreds of full-page articles, I get the implicit message that the Bible is boring and needs enlivening—or that some people with some nice things to say wanted to use the Bible as a platform to say those things.

I had a rather negative gut reaction to the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible, though a genuinely positive impression of the work of the Kairos Journal. I’ll have to check them out again; it’s been quite a while since I’ve done so. A number of the names associated with it were familiar to me. There was a preponderance of Southern Baptist conservatives, and this is welcome. The biggest thing that encourages me about this Bible is that I see in it the fruits of the conservative resurgence thirty years on.

But spend your money on something else.

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