TNIV Study Bible Review

TNIV Study Bible

Last year I requested and received a hardback review copy of the TNIV Study Bible from Zondervan. My intention is to review and compare the study bibles for three popular new translations; the TNIV, ESV, and NLT. I completed my ESV Study Bible Review first, and this review will be the second one. The NLT Study Bible review should be ready soon.

The delay in posting this review has been twofold. First, I have not been actively blogging this past year due to time commitments to my family and career. Secondly, there is going to be an update to the NIV/TNIV text family in 2011 which you can read about in this Christianity Today blog post. However, I believe there is still some value in reviewing the current study Bible for the TNIV as well as my prior commitment to doing so.

This Bible is very well made and handsomely bound in all editions. It uses an easy-to-read single column design with cross-references located at the outside margin. My preference is to relegate them to the interior margin, or the gutter, and push the text to the outside margin. A small complaint, and the layout works well enough. The single column text is more important to me, and I prefer it to a double column layout. This layout was also used in the TNIV Reference Bible and it is equally easy to read.

The TNIV Study Bible makes widespread use of red ink in the illustrations as well as the chapter numbers. While it is better than being completely black and white, it is not nearly as elegant as the ESV Study Bible’s usage of full color. The same applies to the text itself as this is a red-letter text edition with no black-letter only option being available. I don’t care for red-letter text, but some people seem to prefer it given how wide spread it has become. The tint of the red ink is slightly pink and is not like some of the extremely bright inks that are used in other Bibles. I’ve made an image that displays a page spread from the gospel of Matthew to demonstrate the usage of red ink in the TNIV Study Bible:


Interior layout of the TNIV Study Bible

The content of this study Bible is very similar to the very popular NIV Study Bible. I owned the original NIV Study Bible from 1985 and it was very helpful to me as a teenager. I recently gave it to my brother-in-law as he needed a hardcover Bible that would withstand some abuse. The TNIV title page gives a publication date of 2005 and so I am assuming that the study notes are an adaption of the notes found in the 2002 revision of the NIV Study Bible. I would make a comparison to confirm this but I don’t have a copy on hand. Comparison to my 1985 NIV Study Bible showed that there is a very similar approach to the design and commentary found in the notes. They are generally helpful, but I have found that I prefer the notes in both the ESV and NLT Study Bibles. At present, my review copy of the TNIV Study Bible is being used by a 16 year-old girl as she is studying the Pentateuch. She likes this Bible really well and has had no problems with the translation and find the notes to be helpful when she consults them.

At this point, I would like to start wrapping up this review with a comparison to the ESV Study Bible. If you looked at the image above you will see that there is a nice line diagram of Herod’s temple at the time of Christ. It is mostly black and white with marginal use of red ink. Where the ESV really shines is in it’s usage of color for it’s maps and illustrations. You can make the best comparison by visiting a bookseller that has a lot of study Bibles for sale and see the difference in person. However, I have made an effort to show you here by making an image for comparison which you can see below. This is a capture of the color treatment given to Herod’s temple from the ESV Study Bible:

Herod's temple in the ESV Study Bible


The TNIV is my primary Bible translation and I absolutely love it. If you wish to have a copy of the TNIV for yourself, the best source for it right now is the TNIV Reference Bible (review here). If you really must have a study Bible then I recommend the ESV Study Bible (review here) because of it’s better illustrations and inclusions of articles, something omitted from the TNIV Study Bible. While the TNIV Study Bible would not be a bad selection, I would advise waiting for the update to the NIV/TNIV in 2011 before making the investment. If you find this Bible at a discounted price it is a worthy copy of the TNIV translation and it is a good reference book.

For another take on the TNIV Study Bible, read Rick Mansfield’s review here:

Review: The Zondervan TNIV Study Bible

4 thoughts on “TNIV Study Bible Review

  1. I was given the TNIV reference Bible at my ordination and I use it week in and week out. I am a little disappointed with Zondervan’s decision but hopefully the Study Bible will be comparable to the ESV’s monolith!

  2. For another all black letter, single column selection might I recommend the new (2010) HCSB Minister’s Bible. I find it (as well as the new NKJV single column, all black letter) a joy to read and the message bright and new in the format we have longed for.

  3. I’m holding out for the HCSB Study Bible, due in Oct 2010. I looked around for contact information to request a review copy, but couldn’t find anything after a 20 min search.

    I bought one of those Minister’s Bibles for a friend and it was a nicely designed Bible. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I have a copy of the TNIV Study Bible and am a bit frustrated with all the little superscripts and symbols. If you look at Page 1776, John 1:14. The word “Son” has these funny brackets under it. What does it mean?! There is no mention of it in the

    I have a degree in physics and this stumped me. The TNIV authors cited the reason for creating the TNIV was to cater to 18 to 34 years olds who are on the verge of leaving the church.

    Soooo… They create a study bible that does not have clear instructions on how to interpret all the other stuff around the bible text. Sure, they have a sample of Genesis 1:1 on page xvii of the Introduction and there are all of these superscripts and stuff on the side without any arrows pointing to the various features explaining what they are! What a HUGE missed opportunity!

    People in the 18 to 34 age range are expecting “Balloon Help” when they look at something. Since this is an unpowered paper book, AT LEAST you can use arrows to point something out and assign a unique name or phrase to it and then search for it in the introduction text for a complete explanation.

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