Book Review: NIV Fast Facts Bible

NIV Fast Facts Bible: Fascinating Trivia From The Most Read Book In History, published by Zondervan

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest review.]

Although I review books very frequently, I seldom get the chance to review Bibles. There are at least a few reasons for this. One, I have a fair number of Bibles in my collection already, and I got most of them before I started this particular blog. As a result, I do not tend to feel it necessary to look around for a lot of Bibles, as I have most of the Bibles that I would wish to have (there are some minor exceptions, as I would appreciate a Jewish Complete Bible and a Peshitta Old Testament, but these are rare and somewhat obscure exceptions). Additionally, it tends to be rather expensive to buy Bible translations, and although I have an insatiable appetite for books, I do not have a very extensive budget for them, which greatly limits the Bible buying I am able to do. Additionally, the way I tend to review books involves rapid but intensive writing, and a highly critical approach, and I tend not to consider this sort of reading to be appropriate for dealing with scripture, as it can be very easy for a reader of a review to mistake an intensely critical comment about the human translators to be a comment about the God-breathed texts themselves. That said, when I had the chance to review this particular book, I took advantage of that chance for several reasons. For one, it was free (and the Scottish in me loves free books, as anyone who has ever seen my library can attest to), and for another, I did not previously have any NIV Bibles in my library, and whatever my own feelings about the text, it is a popular version and so it deserves at least some familiarity on my part.

How you feel about this particular Bible will depend on two things. First, it will depend on how you think about the NIV translation as a whole. The somewhat nameless committee on Bible Translation baldly state in their preface to this volume their belief in the legitimacy of higher criticism and the freedom to correct those parts of the Masoretic text that they believe to be corrupted. Of course, the fact that for the New Testament the NIV is based on the Alexandrian text is a fact that is well known and a matter of some controversy [1]. This particular Bible is clearly not designed for a scholarly reading audience, given the fact that it does not have study notes (unlike my trusty, if somewhat decrepit, Thomas Nelson NKJV Study Bible), as well as the fact that it lacks explanatory notes and appendices (aside from a one-page table of weights and measures at the end) suggests that this particular volume is not directed to pastors or Bible scholars as its intended audience. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as one cannot sell millions of copies of a book to Bible scholars, given they are a somewhat small audience to begin with, and this book clearly has mass appeal in mind.

There are some very odd ways in which this particular Bible handles the text of scripture. For one, it puts a couple of familiar passages (namely Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 [2]) in a special type of smaller italicized font that would seek to denigrate their legitimacy, neglecting two important facts. The first is that those texts that do not have lengthy ending of Mark that most Bibles use (because it appears in the Byzantine M-text) have a shorter ending that still provides closure, as opposed to the illegitimate avoidance of any closure whatsoever as is done by modern textual critics. Second, those versions of the Bible (many of them somewhat dubious gnostic-influenced texts from the Alexandrian tradition) that do not include John 7:53-8:11 in its current location include it in other locations, suggesting it was a legitimate text that nevertheless sometimes got misplaced by errant but ancient scribes. Even those texts that do not present that kind of serious difficulty receive somewhat curious treatment that appears to be at least somewhat influenced by a gnostic hostility to the flesh. For example, Numbers 16:14 has Dathan and Abiram telling Moses, “Do you wish to treat these men like slaves” when the Hebrew actually reads as “Will you gouge out the eyes of these men?” Reading the footnotes would give you the correct meaning, but the text as translated is vague and amorphous while the Hebrew as written is vivid and precise and physical in nature. What is it about the vivid imagery of Moses (a man who, it must be remembered, killed an abusive Egyptian taskmaster as a young man) being accused of gouging out the eyes of those who would question his authority that is so offensive that it must be replaced with something that would be extremely offensive to God and to Moses (namely a leader of God treating those God had freed through his hand from slavery as slaves). This is a curious mystery. On the plus side, this version does not include the Johanine pericope in 1 John 5:7-8 that was a fraudulent addition to the Vulgate that sought to present the non-biblical doctrine of the Trinity, although it does include the text in a footnote and briefly explains its late origins.

The second aspect that will determine how one feels about this book is what this book does include, and that is an introductory section that includes glossy texts that show life lessons of the book distilled into very simplistic statements, key passages about love and faithfulness and similar matters, notes about the authorship of the work (and the meaning of the names of the authors and other people in the books), as well as a “By The Numbers” feature that tells exactly how many chapters, verses, and words each book of the Bible contains. In addition to this every book of the Bible has a review section including quiz sections with amusing themes like Minutae & Miscellany, Time Traveler, Hot Seat, Then vs. Now, Who Dunnit, and so on. Many of the facts and trivia question in the book feature humorous puns. (One of them, for example, for 1 Kings, calls Solomon “The King With The Bling.”) Additionally, there is a strong interest in women, children, and social justice in the trivia questions and facts included about the books. Some of the notes are rather technical, as the notes for Lamentations include a note on the fact that most of Lamentations is composed of acrostic poems (as is Psalm 119 and a few other psalms, for that matter), which ought to appeal to those readers who are most inclined to take the poetry of the Bible seriously on a technical level. These language and subject concerns, as well as the absence of study notes but the interest in sometimes very obscure trivia questions would indicate that the intended audience of this book is made of biblically inclined teenagers and young adults who are interested in a contemporary version of the Bible that includes enough facts to impress friends and youth pastors and maybe even parents with one’s biblical knowledge but that does not include the sort of textual basis or study notes that would be useful for doctrinal precision.

So, is this a Bible worth having? Though this Bible has some flaws (For example, the introductory page to 2 Peter copies a note from Proverbs that says the book has at least three authors, Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel. I suppose that this error will be corrected in future printings.), the trivia questions in this book would liven up many of my own dinner parties and are extremely intriguing and sometimes exceptionally obscure. If you are in the market for a somewhat lighthearted and thought-provoking NIV Bible that will provide the opportunities to talk about the Bible with others in a way that does not seem stodgy and that can provide for some fun and enjoyment, this Bible is useful. Likewise, a teen or young adult that wants a portable Bible, has good enough eyes to read the small print easily without getting a headache, and has a great love of Bible trivia would greatly appreciate this particular Bible. It would appear that many people would be able to appreciate this particular Bible, and it does appear to have been constructed to appeal to its large and enthusiastic target audience, so I can easily imagine this particular book selling well and being eagerly read, which would fulfill its purposes well.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/book-review-if-the-foundations-be-destroyed/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/book-review-early-manuscripts-modern-translations-of-the-new-testament/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/the-difference-between-the-last-great-day-and-the-eighth-day/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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