It’s difficult to review a Bible. I mean, what are you going to disagree with? And yet this is a review of a Bible – The Proclamation Bible. The Proclamation Bible, published earlier this year, is the text of 2011 New International Version, and while there are pros and cons of this translation (as there are with every translation), I’m pretty happy with it. Some of the quirks of the 1984 NIV have been addressed, and while some are concerned about the gender-neutral language that is used, I think the translators have walked a pretty good line between the original meaning and making it understandable for 21st century Christians.
What sets The Proclamation Bible apart from other NIV11 Bibles is the introductory material that is presented in two forms. The first form is in a series of essays written by proven and faithful bible teachers, pastors and scholars, many of whom have spoken at Equip Conference or have been involved in the training and theological education of the contributors of the kiwifruit blog. These essays have the collective purpose of giving the bible teacher confidence and encouragement that this Word must be clearly proclaimed (Col 4:4). The first three essays set forth what the Bible actually is (the living word of a living God), the overarching nature of this word (the fulfillment of the promises of God to save his fallen creatures), and then declare the reliability we can have that what we have today in our bible is actually this word as written. The following essays then turn to the practice of reading, understanding, applying and declaring this Word, from understanding the overarching message of any one book (the ‘melodic line’), to applying the Old and New Testaments, to the practice of preparing a sermon or bible study (either for a small group or 1-1 ministry). The last essay is a wonderful, brief, and very readable summary of how Christians have interpreted the Bible over the past two millennia.
The second form of the introductory material is found before each book of the Bible. While many study Bibles will divide each page in half, with the Bible text above the line, and the comments and explanation below the line, the Proclamation Bible moves this to the pages before each book. This has two great advantages. Firstly, it allows the principles set forth in the essays at the beginning of the Bible to be enacted. A summary statement (the melodic line) of the book is given, its place in the overarching narrative of God’s saving work is articulated, the overall structure of the text set out, and points to consider (i.e., theological and applicatory issues to address in preaching/ teaching) are briefly stated. Secondly, it forces the reader of the Bible text to actually apply those principles themselves as they read. We must work hard at the text, praying for the work of God’s Spirit to give us understanding (2 Tim 2:7). There are no shortcuts, and this is of great benefit to us who live in a world where if understanding and answers aren’t presented to us on a wiki-plate, we move on. The Proclamation Bible gives us the tools to do the job, but then leaves us (with God’s help) to get on with it.
Five things strike me about the nature and tone of this introductory material It is humble. There is a constant refrain that this is God’s word. He speaks it, he remains in control of it, and while we must strive to handle it faithfully, we do this humbly – coming as thirsty people to a gushing well. But this humility is not some postmodern inability to know anything. For there is also confidence that God speaks by his word, and speaks powerfully, lovingly, and effectively. The tools that are given are given so that we can correctly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:5). This confidence leads to an expectation of competence. While a couple of the essays assume some prior understanding of their respective fields, the overarching expectation is that the methods and tools set forth in the material will allow the reader to engage with God’s word in a way that is faithful to the text. This is because handling God’s word is a serious business. In his immense mercy God has communicated with us, that we might know what he is like, what he has done, and how we must respond to him. Just as when I communicate I expect those I communicate with to listen and seek to understand what I’m saying, and not try and make my words mean what they want them to mean rather than what I want to say, so too the editors and contributors of The Proclamation Bible have done all they can to ensure that as we read the Scriptures we are hearing God as he has spoken to us. However, lastly, this is all one because of the joy that Scripture brings. Our loving creator has not left us in our rebellion. He has spoken his creative and redemptive word to us, and by that living and enduring word we are not only brought to life, but brought to crave that which will sustain and strengthen us to live this redeemed life (2 Peter 1:23 – 2:3). This is a beautiful word! And for those of us more aesthetically motivated, from the font, to the binding, to the colour palette, this is a visually beautiful book as well!
The Proclamation Bible is available