Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bible Review: NIV Rainbow Study Bible

Holman Rainbow Study Bible: NIV Edition. New, Improved User-Friendly Design. Purple Leathertouch Indexed. B&H. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The introduction states,
"The Holman Rainbow Study Bible is a simple yet thorough Bible based upon the premise that every verse of every Bible falls under one of twelve thematic headings. Each of the twelve headings is assigned a different color; then each verse of the Bible is color-coded to the heading to which it is most closely related…The Holman Rainbow Study Bible allows the serious Bible student the opportunity to study and teach the great Bible themes while avoiding a time-consuming or complicated system."

My thoughts: Between the KJV Rainbow Study Bible and the NIV Rainbow Study Bible I've now spent several months reading the Rainbow Study Bible. So I've had some time to judge its merit.

I will say that I do like the NIV Rainbow Study Bible a bit better than the KJV edition. Notably because it is in paragraph format.

What I like most about the Rainbow Study Bible is the fact that all the words of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit are underlined. I also love the format and design of this one. I love the font size--so comfortable on my eyes. I love the size of the Bible, and also how flat it opens. It makes for a great reading experience.

There are twelve themes and colors. The themes are: God, Discipleship, Love, Faith, Sin, Evil, Salvation, Family, Outreach, Commandments, History, and Prophecy.

Is the system easy to learn? Yes and no. I won't lie. It may take you several weeks to memorize the colors and what they mean, ESPECIALLY, if you are concerned with distinguishing the subheadings and the headings. Yes, it's easy to learn that purple represents God and that pink represents outreach. The general headings aren't overly difficult. But the subheadings under each heading add depth and substance. And it's my recommendation that readers take the time to DECONSTRUCT the system, the color codes. And work with the verse, looking for layers of meaning and trying to figure out how it fits.

It isn't as simple as saying all "discipleship" verses are about DISCIPLESHIP. And if I just pull all these verses out and read them, I'll know everything I need to know on the subject, and I can teach a great lesson. The subheadings within each heading can make that complicated, to say the least.
  • Discipleship: obedience; praise; service; worship; spiritual formation; commitment; fellowship; spiritual gifts; fruit 
  • Love: joy; kindness; mercy; mourning; lament; comfort; compassion; peace; sympathy; humility; charity
  • Faith: prayer; miracles; courage; confession; repentance; fasting; healing; hope; confidence; conviction; belief
  • Outreach: teaching; counseling; questioning; instruction; testimony; ministry; preaching; evangelism; gospel; doctrine; sayings
  • Salvation: blessings; deliverance; holiness; Heaven; the tabernacle; angels; eternity; resurrection; second coming; judgement of the godly; grace
But after reading the Bible for several months, you do get better at understanding and interpreting it. For example, you'll pick up that most--if not all verses--about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven will be blue for salvation. You'll see the consistencies of the system come together the more books of the Bible that you've read. 

So. If you are willing to work at it, then this is a good choice as a study Bible. But it takes work. There isn't a system of reading the Bible, of interpreting the Bible, of studying the Bible, that isn't time consuming. You've got to be willing to engage with the text. To perhaps deconstruct it. To question it. To seek for interpretation (meaning) and application. To purposefully seek to understand the verse IN CONTEXT and not just on the basis of its color. You can reconstruct it again. 
For example:
  • Why did they choose "pink"? why did they choose the heading "outreach" for this verse? 
  • Which of the subheadings does this fit into? Does it fit comfortably into one subheading? Or is it a blend of several?
  • Does it fit into any other headings or subheadings? Is it saying more than one thing? Which is most important? Do I agree with their choice? IF I was color-coding this verse, this paragraph, this chapter--would I do it any differently?
  • What other verses fit with this verse? How does it connect with the passage? the chapter? the book? the rest of the Bible? Are there any other verses that directly "help" me understand this one better? 
"Outreach" in the book of Romans
  • Romans 1:1, 5, 13-16, 
  • Romans 3:1-4
  • Romans 9:1
  • Romans 10:14-15, 18, 
  • Romans 11:1-4, 13-14, 
  • Romans 14:1-6, 13-16, 20-22
  • Romans 15:14-16, 18-20, 22-24, 28-29
You'll notice that the heading "outreach" can mean a variety of things!

I do think it would make an interesting topical Bible. One could certainly make a point of studying over the course of several weeks or months various topics. Such as "What does Paul have to say on salvation in his letters?" Or "What can the gospels teach me about love?" 

What Matthew teaches about "love"
  • Matthew 2:10, 5:4, 5:7, 5:12, 5:38-48, 6:1-4, 6:26, 30, 7:12, 9:36, 10:29-30, 11:28-30, 12:7, 12:11-12, 14:14, 15:32, 18:12-14, 18:21-22, 18:24-27, 19:19, 20:34, 22:37-40, 23:37, 25:35-40, 26:7, 10-12, 26:37-38, 26:75, 27:57-61
What John teaches about "love"
  • John 3:16, 3:29, 4:36, 8:10-11, 8:56, 10:11, 10:15-16, 11:5-8, 11:19, 11:31, 11:33-34, 11:36, 12:7-8, 13:1, 13:4-5, 13:12-15, 13:34, 14:15, 14:21-23, 14:27, 14:31, 15:9-13, 15:17, 16:5-6, 16:27, 16:33, 17:23-24, 19:38-40, 20:13, 20:15, 20:20, 21:15-17
What Paul teaches about "salvation" in Titus
  • Salvation: Titus 1:4, 2:11, 2:13-14, 3:5-7, 3:15
Just like when you're using a concordance or doing a key word search, the results will have to be refined. You'll find some verses that are KEY and just what you're looking for at the moment. But you'll also find plenty that aren't quite what you're looking for. 

I think one could also use it in studying books of the Bible. The colors can give you a quick, at-a-glance preview of the book which further study will only illuminate. 

  • Outreach: Titus 1:1-4, 2:1, 2:7-8, 2:15, 3:12-13, 
  • Salvation: Titus 1:4, 2:11, 2:13-14, 3:5-7, 3:15
  • Commandments: Titus 1:5-6, 1:7-9, 3:1
  • Family: Titus 1:6, 2:2-6, 2:9-10
  • Evil: Titus 1:10-16, 3:3, 3:9-11, 
  • Discipleship: Titus 2:12, 3:8, 3:14-15
  • Love: Titus 3:2, 3:4-5
So would I recommend it? Yes and no. I wouldn't recommend it as your one and only Bible. I think it would probably be easier to go with a more traditional Bible. But many believers have more than one Bible. And I think it would make a good addition to a Bible collection.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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