Truth be told, there are too many study Bibles. A quick Amazon search came up with thousands of study Bibles, over 400 just for the NIV. I tend not to recommend study Bibles, as the notes and other information are hit and miss. But last week I recommended to my Gospels course students the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Three things I really like about this Study Bible are as follows:
-Craig Keener is the editor for the NT portion, and John Walton the editor for the OT; and they are both solid biblical scholars and good representatives of the evangelical tradition (with a “big tent” mentality)
-The study notes and occasional excurses are informative and do not over-interpret a verse. The notes seem fair and flag up when the information points in more than one direction.
-The study notes try to stick to cultural information and do not push into settling on one interpretation of a debated issue. This is important because I worry about study Bibles instilling in readers too much confidence in a 3-sentence “solution” to a complex exegetical problem.
A study Bible is not meant to be a solution to all exegetical problems. Rather, this study Bible succeeds in helping readers of the Bible set the English translation text they are reading into the ancient world of Israel and the early church. I like that use of a study Bible because it does not reinforce theological partisanship. If this were the only study Bible in your personal library, I would be quite happy with that (for laypeople). (Next step, learn Greek and Hebrew. Then Aramaic.)