Book Review: NIV: God’s Justice

NIV: God’s Justice: The Flourishing Of Creation & The Destruction Of Evil, edited by Tim Stafford

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

On the one hand, the textual apparatus of this Bible is one that I have discussed several times before, and about which little needs to be said. This is an NIV Bible, with its choice of the Alexandrian text favored by Hort and Westcott that was inexplicably called the “neutral” text when it was being polished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I do not wish to repeat my comments about that text here [1]. The layout of this Bible is quite attractive, though. There are ferocious study notes that remind one of the Geneva Bible that deal with questions of divine justice, both in what it provides to those who have been exploited on earth, and what it means for those who have been doing the exploiting. The Bible is set in a single column design where poetry is clearly differentiated from prose as well, and the result is a hefty Bible of about 1800 pages or so that is well-qualified to serve as a study Bible, if you are looking for an NIV Study Bible at least. That is not even to discuss the beauty of the color scheme that helps to organize the books into categories and provide very attractive division between books and sections of the Bible in the text.

Although this is not the sort of Bible I look forward to packing up and moving soon, or to lugging around in a backpack, this Bible has a lot to offer for those who are concerned with justice. Most of the books of the Bible begin with a page or two of introduction about the book’s material and how it relates to justice, written by a wide variety of men and women from around the world. The chief editor of this project did not believe it would be just for the book to only be written from the point of view of the main audience of this book, namely relatively well-off Western Christians. Instead the book has perspectives from North America as well as South and Southeast Asia and Africa and Latin America. To be sure, some of the writers struggle with what the text means and fret over how God’s laws are abused in many areas, and thus fail to realize that God’s law is just even if others are not just, and that one has to separate the inherent justice of God’s ways from the context in which God’s laws were enacted because of the hardness of men’s hearts, and from the unjust ways that even just laws can be applied. This is a book, moreover, concerned with justice in many forms–justice on an individual level, justice on a societal level, questions of socioeconomic justice as well as justice for women, and so on. This is likely a book that will provoke a great deal of thought and reflection among those who care about justice, in light of the fact that righteousness cannot be viewed in separation from questions of justice and equity, and that we cannot be right with God if we are not just towards other people.

This Bible is well-organized and thoughtful. As already mentioned, the Bible is divided with color-coded designs into different sections: The Law, the Historical Prophets, the Songs and poems, the Major and Minor Prophets, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. After showing a beautiful graphic design on one page, the most books of the Bible begin with an introduction, contain the text of the Bible with textual notes and footnotes related to judgment, including cross references, and stories taken from the lives of contemporary believers around the world dealing with injustice, and then each book (or section of books) closes with a series of discussion questions and a prayer. Some of the questions are rather pointed. For example, here is one of the questions for Joshua: “Deuteronomy presents the destruction of the Canaanites as divine punishment, an attempt to eliminate their vile and immoral religion and make sure that it will not lead Israel astray. Do you accept that a just God can make such a judgment? [Note: This is a rhetorical question, I hope.] Does it make any difference if the destruction was aimed at the oppressive elite in the walled cities, rather than at the common people? [Note: Should it?] (289).” This is a Bible full of questions, and even if not all of them are sound, and there is more than a little bit of political grandstanding to be found here, this is a Bible that will at least encourage its readers to reflect upon questions of justice in our present world, which is something to be encouraged.

[1] See, for example:

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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