Book review: NIV Teen Study Bible

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.

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6 thoughts on “Book review: NIV Teen Study Bible

  1. chickie says:

    Ana, I am very interested in a bible for young children (preschool level understanding and a reading level up to maybe as high as 2nd/3rd grade) and would love to hear about it if you find one. I am looking for illustrations, but not a picture book, just a picture or two for each story. I don’t want scriptures, nor do I want adult language like we’re trying to understand the Canterbury Tales. I’m looking for captivating and interesting retellings of major biblical stories in which each story has a beginning, middle, and an end. I want violence glossed over. The stories needn’t be happy, often they’re not. But they don’t need to give my kids nightmares either.

    We’re battling stories being too hard to understand, stories that lack basic story elements (like background info and a resolution to whatever the story’s about), and stuff that’s just plain boring. They like Veggie Tales, though those are really abstract and hard to connect to the actual character the story is supposed to be about.

    Is it that hard to say there was this dude named noah, and god otld him a flood was coming so he built the most gigantic ship ever and gathered animals and blah blah blah… LOL not quite like that, but hopefully you understand what I”m getting at 🙂

    I had one when I was little. I know this book exists. I’m willing to pay a small fortune for this book. Not much looking forward to having to be the author of this thing!

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Chickie, did you see my review earlier about the NIrV Adventure Bible, also Zondervan? It’s a pretty penny (around $30 for hardcover), and it’s a simplified NIV for children with full-color illustrations. It’s far too hard for preschool, but an advanced 2nd grader could handle it. It is the entire text of the Bible, so it may not be as glossed over as you want.

      I’m assuming you’ve seen the Toddler Bible and similar first Bibles?

      Let me know (by email if you prefer to keep it private) exact age and rough reading level, because preschool to 2/3 grade is too broad. 🙂

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  2. annapurna1951 says:

    My comments may be of little value.

    I use the two Bibles side by side: The King James and Douay-Rheims translations. The differences between the two are very slight at best, passage by passage. When I quote the Bible, I use the King James version.

    I looked at the NIV and felt it lacked the richness of language contained in the other two.

    My copies, hardbound and illustrate with gold-leaf edging, cost twenty dollars a piece.

    Are these or any other “adult Bibles” suitable for children? I think not. Even adults struggle with the imagery and symbolism of the easy-to-read modernized Bibles. Children lack the intellectual ability to grasp the moral, ethical, or philosophical principles covered. Adult interpretation and explanation, preferably by the parents, are required.

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