Deciding on a good study Bible is a big, and often difficult, decision. It is also made all the more difficult when there are so many different types of them available. It would seem that for many new Christians (or those who are just starting to study and want to find a great study Bible) having so many choices can be overwhelming…and rightly so! There are just so many options available and each one emphasizes a different area of study, contains a different translation (King James Version, or New American Standard, etc.), or they have certain features that others do not have (a center column reference for example). It seems to me nothing can be more important in the life of a Christian than having a firm foundation in Christ and then building upon that by developing a Christian worldview[ref]A worldview is the sum total of beliefs an individual uses to interpret the world. After conversion we need to not just profess to be a Christian, but we need to learn to think like one as well through renewing our minds (Romans 8:6-8, 12:2; Ephesians 4:20-24; 1 Peter 1:15)[/ref]. The best way to do that is by studying and engaging in Christian apologetics. Enter The Apologetics Study Bible[ref]*Special Note: In 2012 the Holman Christian Standard Bible was updated and revised. This study Bible uses that translation of the Bible (more on that later in this review). I am reviewing the hardcover version of the 2007 release. I have not yet used the 2012 updated version which has a slightly different cover as well. See the picture below and compare it to the one at the beginning of the article:[/ref]! In what follows I would like to give a brief overview of the Apologetics Study Bible by covering its unique features in detail and follow that up with a summary where I will talk about the pros and cons. I will conclude with a recommended reading list of 21 articles in the Apologetics Study Bible for those who are new to Christianity or new to the study of apologetics that will get us on the right track to start thinking like Christians.
List of Features
Notes: As soon as you open The Apologetics Study Bible you find seven pages labeled “Notes,” and this is an important feature for a study Bible because if we are studying, as opposed to just simply reading, then a section for notes is a vital feature.
List of Books of the Bible and Contributors: Certainly you would think, “Don’t all Bibles list the books of the Bible in the front?” Actually, they do! In this instance it is different in that it not only lists the books of the Bible but it also gives you the name of the scholar(s) who wrote the introduction for that particular book of the Bible, as well as which page to find it on, which I found to a unique and helpful feature. I have favorite Christian scholars (and so will you as you grow and learn more) that I read and just from reading this list I can see if any of them wrote introductions to specific books of the Bible.
Articles: This is the biggest strength of The Apologetics Study Bible! The articles span a wide range of topics. From articles on creation, the trustworthiness of Scripture, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, can we believe in miracles, questions on morality and ethics, issues related to those who have never heard of Christ in relation to hell, articles related to other religions/worldviews, the seeming problem of a God with the attributes Christians ascribe to Him yet the world being suffused with evil/suffering (also known as the problem of evil), and I could go on and on! Also the articles are very accessible for everyone, although they are written by top Christian scholars whether they are a Christian philosopher or Christian theologian. Here is a quote from the preface of The Apologetics Study Bible as to what their goal was as far as the difficulty of the articles,
“Though the notes and articles are not written for academicians, you can be confident they distill and present the very best of current Christian scholarship.”
Twisted Scriptures: This particular feature is a strong one and makes this study bible so stand out. There is a page in the beginning of this study Bible (after the listing with the titles and authors of every article) which contains a list with all of the Twisted Scriptures and the page numbers you can find them on. What this feature does is help you to identify key Scriptures that cult groups (like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons) and other religions/worldviews twist out of context to try and make them say something they aren’t. This is a great feature, especially for those who are just learning and don’t have much experience in discernment yet, but it also serves a quick reference for those of us who do. Great feature!
Notable Christian Apologist Biographies: Having these biographies of notable Christian apologists from the past really helps, as the history of defending the faith is very important and you can get to see how each of these apologists have contributed to defending Christian truth claims and paving the way for us to get where we are today! Very good introductions to each of the past apologists.
Other Material/Features: As noted in the beginning of the study Bible on page XII, there are other notable features and material. They are only listed according to page number. Several of them are self explanatory but I would like to briefly explain a few of them as I have found them to be very helpful and would be excellent for beginners. They are as follows:
Contributors: Fairly self explanatory as it gives a list of the scholars who contributed to the study Bible, whether they wrote an article, an introduction to one of the books of the Bible, the Twisted Scripture section, etc.
Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible: This section is a very important one for several reasons. First off, it gives not just an introduction to the issues related to this particular translation (such as translation philosophies, etc.), but some of the principles mentioned apply to all translations and should be studied carefully. Second, You can see what the translators sought to achieve by producing this particular translation. I have to say, as someone who is studying Greek and plans on studying Hebrew and Aramaic (if I, Lord willing, get to go to BIOLA University), the more I use this translation the more I like it. It is a great balanced translation between word for word translations and paraphrase translations. This introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible also gives you important information such as the textual basis for the translation work (in other words, the original language manuscript tradition that they chose to use to translate into English), the use and role of gender in translation work, how to read the footnotes, etc.
Holman CSB Bullet Notes: I found this to be a great feature as well. What they have done is taken certain words and added a bullet point beside it as you read the text of the Bible and it will look like this:
You can then go the back of the book to the section labeled Holman CSB Bullet Notes and find it listed in alphabetical order and it gives you the definition of that word. Very handy, especially for the beginner!
Index: This one is self explanatory as it is an index of selected people, places, words and topics listed in alphabetical order and it gives the page number on which it can be found.
Annotated Bibliography: This feature, along with the articles and Twisted Scripture sections really make this Bible more than worth its price tag! Apologist Douglas Groothuis (author of Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case For Biblical Faith) has a bibliography of recommended books to read to grow as an apologist ranking them as beginner, intermediate or advanced and it is an incredible list at that! It is divided into the following categories and subcategories:
- I. Recommended Books In Christian Apologetics
- A. Recommended reference and general books in apologetics and philosophy
- B. Recommended periodical that address apologetics
- C. Recommended books on Christian apologetics
- II. Recommended Books Related to Religious Pluralism and World Religions
- III. Recommended Books On New Religious Movements
HCSB Concordance: Again, this is pretty self explanatory as it is a concordance that has specific words, topics or people/places mentioned in the Bible and and gives you list of the verse or verses that contain that specific word. Very handy resource.
- Charts and Maps: All study Bible contain maps and charts, but this study Bible has some unique charts that I find very helpful and informative.
It has a Timeline of Apologists and Notable Works that consists of four pages and is dated at the bottom. Great resource for those interested in the history of apologetics.
Another important chart is the Selected Important Old Testament Archaeological Finds which gives you the name of the find, the date and its importance.
The preservation of the New Testament is of paramount importance. This study Bible has a chart comparing the New Testament textual evidence to other notable historical works so that one can see just how incredibly preserved the New testament documents are!
One of my favorite charts is the Naturalism vs. Theism chart. It has three columns: Phenomena we observe, followed by a theistic context, then a naturalistic context and lets you decide which context best explains the particular phenomena observed. Excellent feature!
New religious movements are on the rise and there is a chart in here that compares them to Christianity! Very handy!
The next chart contains a Comparison of World Religions in which Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all compared to one another across 4 categories: Doctrine of God, Human Predicament, Way of Deliverance and Ultimate Goal.
The last chart is one that reconciles the chronology of the Hebrew kings in the Old Testament.
After that the study Bible contains color maps that other study Bibles typically have such as Paul’s missionary journey’s, Jerusalem in the time of Christ, etc.
The Apologetics Study Bible has way too many pros for me to list here. Among the notables are the articles and book introductions written by the top Christian philosophers and theologians, the Twisted Scripture sections, the apologetics bibliography and much more!
As far as cons, I can only think of one and a possible second one. The first is that it doesn’t contain a center column reference which I really prefer in study Bibles. However, the benefit of everything else outweighs the absence of a center column reference. The other for me is not a con but it may be for others. This study Bible is only available with the Holman Christian Standard Bible and not in any other translations. To me this is a very positive thing because this is one of my preferred English translations. If you for some reason or another do not like the Holman Christian Standard Bible then this could be a con for you instead of a pro. I rate this study Bible at the top of my list for study Bible recommendations!
This study Bible will be excellent for you! I also like it being a somewhat experienced apologist who is looking to grow and eventually get trained and be an apologist full time. It is just simply a great resource to have. Note also that I am reviewing the hardcover. It comes in a variety of formats from the hardcover to the finest of leathers and everything in between. I would like to leave you with the following list of 21 top articles (out of the more than 125 that are in this study Bible!) I have chosen that I feel would really benefit the new convert to Christianity, someone just learning the importance of defending their faith or someone who just has a lot of questions about their faith and they may be afraid to ask (you shouldn’t be, as even the Biblical writers asked God questions [See Habakkuk chapter 1!]). They cover a broad spectrum of issues from engaging with the culture, evidence for the truth of Christianity, important moral and ethical issues, other religions, etc. I have them listed in the order that they appear in the book by page number.
Article Title,Author,Page Number
1. What Is Apologetics?,Kenneth D. Boa,XXV
2. How Apologetics Changed My Life.,Lee Strobel,XXVI
3. Writing History-Then and Now.,kirk Lowery,XXX
4. Is the Old testament Ethical?,Christopher Wright,116
5. Has the Bible been Accurately Copied Down Through the Centuries?,Norman Geisler,468
6. Aren’t All Religions Basically the Same?,Craig Hazen, 566
7. What Is a Worldview?,Ronald Nash,923
8. What Is the Relationship Between Science and the Bible?,J.P. Moreland,1314
9. Who Are You To Judge Others?,Paul Copan,1417
10. What About Those Who Have Never Heard About Christ?,William Lane Craig,1696
11. How Does One Develop a Christian Mind?,J.P. Moreland,1700
12. Why So Many Denominations?,Charles Draper,1709
13. What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?,Scott B. Rae,1716
14. Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?, William Lane Craig,1728
15. What Are Self-Defeating Statements?,J.P. Moreland,1741
16. How Can Jesus’ Death Bring Forgiveness?,Chad Owen Brand,1763
17. The Incarnation: How Could God Become Man Without Ceasing To Be God?,James A. Parker III,1776
18. How Can the Bible Affirm Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom?,William Lane Craig,1850
19. Isn’t That Just Your Interpretation?,Paul Copan,1858
20. Isn’t Christianity Intolerant?,Paul Copan,1882
21. Does the Bible Teach That Humans Are More Than Their Bodies?,J.P. Moreland,1894
I pray this review helps you and you really consider the value of this resource!