Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of specialty Bibles. Unless it’s a different translation, there’s no need for a new Bible every few years. However, receiving free review copies gave me a chance to “test drive” a few different Bibles. I would rate the Teen Study Bible as adequate. If your teen does not have a Bible yet, it might be worth purchasing. However, a good-quality hardback NIV Bible will do just as well–and will not be embarrassing for your child to carry to college or adult Bible studies. For that reason, I’m automatically rating this Bible a bit higher than I normally would because it’s not fair to dock a teen-specific Bible for being a teen-specific Bible. That said, it still falls short of the mark.
The good: The paper quality is nice, the layout is clear and easy to read, and the colored informational inserts are appealing. If I were a new teenager given this Bible, I would spend some time glancing through the special sections. The Apostle’s Creed is sprinkled throughout the Bible, along with life-application tips similar to an advice column.
Here’s the problem: If I were a teenager, or if I were a parent giving this Bible to my teenager, I would not want the Bible interpreted for me in facile ways that may or may not agree with my particular denomination’s teaching. This is not, for example, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. This is an NIV Bible that should, at face value, be ecumenical. Different denominations (and congregations, not to mention parishioners) have different theological interpretations of hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, alcohol consumption, or divorce. With just one glance through the special sections, I found one “advice column” that smacked of wishful thinking (The advice about alcohol is to avoid drinking? Who thinks that will be sufficient to help teenagers with drinking problems?) and another that promoted some seriously flawed social agenda without any theological underpinning. Had I purchased this Bible for my teenager, I would have returned it. Supplying helpful information, such as maps, historical context, glossaries, and a conversion of Biblical measures to modern-day metric and imperial units is great. Organizing information into reference charts is also wonderful. Preaching theologically unsound and over-simplistic sermons, not so much.
This all sounds quite negative, so let me reiterate what I said earlier: I am not a fan of special-interest Bibles. If I were, I might not be so critical of the specific texts of the “life application” inserts. Does this Bible try to make Scripture accessible to a teenage audience? Absolutely. Do I like the execution? For the most part, yes, but I still feel that a standard NIV Bible is a better bet.