The Zondervan Starting Place Study Bible is exactly what you could hope for from a Bible by that name. I would have absolutely appreciated something like this as a new believer and can even appreciate it now. The Bible contains multiple different forms of notes to aid the reader in understanding, including character introductions, Q&A, context notes on things like history and culture, and classic study notes on the bottom of the page. The study materials are drawn from The Essential Bible Companion, NIV Quest Study Bible, NIV Foundation Study Bible, NIV Archaeology Study Bible, NIV Student Bible, and NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible.
Features include (from the publisher):
- Full text of New International Version (NIV), the translation known for clarity, accuracy, and readability
- Perfect study Bible for those beginning their Bible journey
- Ideal gift for new believers
- 88 Bible Characters: Explore the lives of the Bible’s most fascinating personalities
- 282 Q&A Notes: Get answers to your most perplexing questions
- 146 Context Notes: In-depth articles on the cultural and historical context of Scripture
- 138 Bible Truths: Core Christian beliefs and their basis in Scripture
- Book Introductions provide you with a helpful overview of each book of the Bible
- Over 6,000 study notes explain the text, verse-by-verse
- Exclusive NIV Zondervan Comfort Print® typeface
- 9.7-point print size
As mentioned above, I would have loved this as a new believer in Christ. I found opposing views of scripture to be incredibly frustrating when I asked those who held them. What I would have appreciated is something like this Bible which states things simply in some places of controversy. Though the notes do come across as biased occasionally, I love that the Bible points out differences in interpretation such as the notes for Romans 9 which introduce differing soteriological (pertaining to salvation) views including Arminianism and Calvinism, without necessarily advocating for one or the other.
Another thing I greatly enjoy about this Bible is that it manages to be clear, understandable, and easy to grasp without being condescending, overly simplistic, or so vague that they cannot cause a new believer to grow in the faith. The context notes touch on topics that many who are old in the faith may not even be incredibly familiar with such as ancient creation narratives and textual criticism.
New believers, or those simply looking for a place to start to dig deeper into scripture will benefit from this Bible through more than just facts and notes. Throughout the Bible can be found numerous questions and answers relevant for the questioner. How do Christians practice evangelism in a culture that resists “proselytizing”? does the Bible have answers for all of today’s moral dilemmas? and what happens to a Christian between death and the day of judgment? are all questions addressed with care and wisdom. In addition to these questions that contain answers there are also many “Think” questions, which are rhetorical and inspire the reader to think about a passage or how they might respond in a given situation.
The translation, NIV, is perhaps not my favourite, however, it’s easy to understand and I would argue adequately conveys the main message of the text. It is a good translation for the beginner student of the Bible.
Overall, I find the study notes on the Starting Place Bible to be both clear and informative and I believe it to be an excellent place to start, both for those who are new to the faith and those who are seeking for a place to start when it comes to studying God’s word.
I received a copy of this Bible in exchange for my fair and honest review.