Back to the Bibles

Last year we ran an extensive series of posts on the lucrative market of “specialty” Bibles, particularly for teens and children. That market just keeps on pumping, so it seems like a good idea to make this an annual feature. Today we’ll talk about new or new-ish Bibles for various age groups and demographics; tomorrow, a look at two new family devotionals.

Before you buy a Bible for a child or teen, you should think through what purpose you want it to serve. Obviously, we want to help our children grow to know and love the word . . . but how? The text itself matters most. If you haven’t decided what translation you prefer for the kids, see our comparison of popular translations first. After the text, Bible publishers throw all kinds of choices at you involving layout, supplemental material, in-text features, trendy franchise characters and design quality. Some of these additions are helpful, some are not, and some may be well suited to one family but not another. Here’s our post about what to consider before you buy.

Finally, we evaluated fifteen popular children’s Bibles and eleven teen editions in various translations. If you don’t find the version you’re looking for today, check the earlier posts.

Here’s what’s new:

The NIV Jesus Bible, Zondervan, 2014, 1760 pages, for ages 9-14.Bible-JesusNIV
It’s about time! Bible publishers are waking up to the fact that the whole word, both old and new testaments, are about Jesus, and I give a lot of credit to the success of The Jesus Bible Storybook by Sally Lloyd Jones. This is an all-new children’s addition of the NIV, with features never before seen, and it’s hot off the presses this week. The introductions to each book include a paragraph wondering “Where is Jesus [in the book]?” and devotionals scattered through the text ponder aspects of Jesus’ life, attributes, and work. “Live like Jesus” text notes encourage the development of Christlike character. Throughout the Old Testament, messianic prophesies and foreshadowings are indicated with a Star of Bethlehem. Full-color inserts show Jesus’s family tree, Jesus in the Psalms, a timeline of his life, a chart listing his miracles and parables, and Evidences of His Resurrection. These all seem helpful and worthwhile—I especially like the family tree and parables list.

The NIV is translated from a broadly Evangelical slant, and the devotionals sometimes reflect a touch of moralism—e.g., things happen because of a character’s obedience, rather than the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. But at the same time, “It is our faith in Jesus that makes us righteous before God.” Bible shoppers should also be aware that the NIV has been involved in controversy over “gender inclusive” language for almost 20 years, and though the current version doesn’t go as far as Today’s NIV (TNIV), the translators have changed several singulars to plurals and replaced masculine pronouns with gender-neutral nouns like “one” and “person.” Marvin Olasky of World Magazine cites the latest here.

  • Value: 4.5 (helpful features; not the most trustworthy translation)

Bible-ESVstoryThe Story ESV, Crossway, 2013, 992 pages (paperback), for all ages.

“Designed for the believer and unbeliever,” this unadorned ESV text is notable for including within its pages the “Story” evangelical booklet from Spread Truth Gospel Ministries. Conservative and Reformed churches have been using 12-page Story booklet (seen here) as a handout to new Christians and unbelievers to introduce the major themes of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. Book introductions show how the four themes develop throughout the Bible. The 6-point type is too small for a young reader, but this may be a good choice for a teen who just wants the text and a little direction, and don’t overlook its value as an evangelism tool.

  • • Value: 4 (good reading and introductory text)

ESV Journal Bible, Crossway, 2012 (latest edition), 1380 pages. For all ages.

The Journal Bible is available in a variety of covers, including a very handsome leather wrap cover edition (with corresponding handsome price!). It’s the ESV text with all the notes and intros and headings, with the addition of an extra-wide, lined margin for note-taking. I have an ESV literary study Bible that I like mainly for the extra-wide margins—more Bibles should have this as a matter of course. I’m not sure about the wisdom of paying a lot of money for a Journal Bible that the reader is going to fill up—at least we hope she will—with notes, when as we know our understanding and interaction with the word grows as we do. Bible journals are best kept in a separate volume, I think, but this might make a good gift for the college- or career-bound Christian who already has a lot of familiarity with the word but needs to learn to engage it for herself. The lined margins encourage just that.

  • Value:4 (good, but limited)

NKIV Extreme Teen Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2012, 1792 pages, for ages 13-18.

The New King James has two new versions for young adults. This is the older one. Book introductions are divided into “Then” (historical setting), “Now” (theological significance) and “Reality Check” (contemporary relevance). Reality is a big theme in this Bible, which follows the In-text feature model of repeating headings, like “Making It Real” (short devotionals), “World App” and “Life App” articles on contemporary issues, “God’s Promises,” character profiles, and “What’s It Mean?” definitions of biblical terms and ideas.

  • Value: 3.5 (good overall, but seems a bit like a “first attempt” at creating an NKJV teen Bible)Bible-ignite

NKJV Ignite: the Bible for Teens. Thomas Nelson, 2013, 1600 pages, for ages 13-18.

In trying to determine the difference between these two Bibles, I would guess that Ignite is for the more active, less reflective teen. The in-text features are shorter and punchier, and the topical index is in the front rather than the back—as if the reader might want to get in, get it, and get out. The table of contents also lists books alphabetically rather than canonically, for the reader who’s less familiar with their arrangement. “Spotlight” icons scattered throughout signal a 100-day reading plan for new Christians or kids just starting to read the Bible on their own: the first reading is Genesis 1:1-2:3, with a summary, application, and directions to the next Spotlight given both by scripture reference and page number. A “fire” theme is carried on throughout: “White Hot Topics” that discuss Bible characters and applications for today; “Flashpoints” about social or personal issues; “Sparks” (God’s promises); and “Soul Fuel” (memory verses). The Flashpoint and White Hot Topic features refer the reader to other sidebars on the same topic. It’s almost too much for me, but the material seems very sound and I can see how it would be helpful to a young person who is just beginning to explore scripture on his own.

  •  Value: 4 (features seem more thought out and suitable for the age group)

HCSB Big Picture Interactive Bible: Connecting Christ through God’s Story. Broadman &Holman Kids, 2014, 1350 pages. For ages 6-10.

Bible-big.pictureLike the NIV Jesus Bible, the purpose of Big Picture is to trace the coming of Christ throughout the Old Testament and his meaning in the New. Two features I especially like: the Table of Contents, which usually just lists the books and page numbers, is expanded to represent an outline of the whole Bible, so readers can get a good sense of the sweep of the story just by looking at the Contents. Also, instead of a Bible dictionary in the appendix, the “Big Words” feature explains words, concepts, people groups, and nations as the reader encounters them. So as we read through Exodus, for example, we learn the meaning of Passover, Sabbath, Egypt, Ephod, etc. As one who’s always been disinclined stop reading in order to look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary, I really like this.

Other features include “Christ Connections” (Jesus in Old and New Testaments), “Seeing the Big Picture” (basic commentary), “Big Questions” (both observation and discussion), and 100 memory verses. The text also includes 146 full-page, full color illustrations with “Augmented Reality.” I’m still not exactly sure what this means, but you can download a free app on your phone that will enable you to see enhanced, interactive versions of the pictures as the stories are narrated. “Reality” doesn’t seem like the best word, because the pictures are too cartoony for my taste. I’m going to guess that the augmented reality doesn’t add much, but the other features make up for it. The font is larger than many children’s Bibles, making for a lot of pages and a hefty chunk to carry around. But hey, they’re young and strong. For more about the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, go here.

  • Value: 4.5 (like the text features, a few points off for the illustrations)

The Story: Teen Edition. Zondervan, 2011, 498 pages (paperback). For ages 13-18
Not to be confused with the ESV Story Bible, above, this is a continuation of Max Lucado’s “Story” project, all based on the NIV translation, which has expanded to include devotional books, illustrated storybooks, a children’s Bible, and now a “Bible” for teens. I put the word in quotes because it’s not an entire Bible, but a collection of readings strung together with narrative commentary, arranged in 31 chapters. “Flip feature” icons signal the theme of each chapter or plotline; supposedly by flipping through the volume you can follow the theme. Footnotes explain biblical concepts, such as righteous and covenant, and a helpful timeline accompanies each chapter. There are no scripture references anywhere in the body of the text, not even in chapter headings; you have to look up the references in the appendix. The appendix also includes discussion questions for each chapter and a character list. Obviously the use of this particular edition is limited, I would say, to a new Christian or Bible-familyimmature reader who needs to get the full picture.

  •  Value: 3

The Family Reading Bible, NIV. Zondervan, 2010, 2336 pages. For all ages.

Just like it says, this version is meant to be used during family devotional time. It sets out three reading tracks, first a short path for “tight schedules and children under nine”: 150 readings that take about three minutes each. The long path is for “longer devotional times and older kids” and includes 270 readings, at least one from every book of the Bible. The “Off the Beaten Path” readings follow specific topics, such as “Nature Goes Berserk, “Angels and Demons,”
“Great Escapes,” and more, as well as readings for holidays and specific times of the year. The in-text features are geared to family interaction, with observation questions (“Just the Facts”), discussion questions (“Let’s Talk”) and applications (“Why This Matters”). The latter is not a question but a statement—moms and dads may have other ideas about “why this matters,” but they are free to improvise. Each reading includes an introductory paragraph as well as the questions and application. Even though it won’t all be read by following the various tracks, the entire Bible text is included, making this a good choice for families who want to go right to the source but may need a little help getting into regular devotional times. It’s a good idea that I would like to see developed in other translations.

  •  Value: 4

Do you have any more you like, or would like us to check out? Let us know! And come back tomorrow for some new family-style devotional books.

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3 Responses to Back to the Bibles

  1. Janie April 28, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Thanks for the recommendation, Natalie! We’re fans of the Seek and Find Bible here, too.

  2. Natalie April 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    I bought my 8 year old the ESV Seek and Find Bible. It has the full text but it also has some of it summarized with illustrations and written at more of his reading level. Each of these then ends with 3 questions to think about, a key verse, where to find the story, and each one points to Jesus.

  3. Beth April 17, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Could offer suggestions/reviews on the available audio Bibles for teens. For teens with reading disabilities I would like to find am audio version.

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