A few weeks ago I posted about the Gospel Transformation Bible (herein GTB). I received a copy from the Book Depository recently and here is a mini-review (it’s only a mini-review because I haven’t read it all in the past week that I’ve had it!).
For this review what I’ve done is read through fairly familiar parts of scripture (generally ones I’ve preached through recently) and read through those comments. Here are some thoughts so far.
First, it’s obvious that, unlike most study bibles, in the GTB not every verse is commented upon. Usually the comments are on verses grouped together in the movements of the passage. Sometimes a single verse is commented on, sometimes whole sections are left out. The purpose of the comments in the GTB are to show how each part and section, and sometimes verse, points us forward to or grounds us in the gospel. This is a laudable and, to my knowledge, unique effort.
What notes there are, are great! There is always an attempt to comment first on the original context, briefly explaining not only the meaning of a passage but also how any themes of the text are seen in the gospel. Some comments also reflect purely on the character and nature of God.
In this way the GTB’s notes seek to show how the gospel applies to our lives from every part of scripture. It avoids the error of many study bibles commenting, in particular, on the Old Testament and falling into moralism (eg, See how this character did this? Do that also…) in their applications.
The notes also helpfully avoid controversial readings of the text by giving simple and helpful theological reflections. For instance, its comments on Genesis 1 and the days of creation is balanced and though the comments are brief it doesn’t read as though the commenter is taking any particular position on the text (ie 6-literal days or long periods of time). Another great example is in Revelation 20 and the ever debated meaning of the millennium. The GTB notes avoid the debate by simply summarising the content of the verses – and I found these notes not only hard to disagree with but found myself nodding in simple agreement.
The introductions to each book are also well written and attempt to not only outline the structure of each book but also how the book as a whole reveals the gospel.
It’s not all perfect though. No study bible is ever going to be exhaustive. For instance the notes on Leviticus 11, the list of clean and unclean animals, is very brief. What is written is good, but perhaps it could have spent more time briefly outlining how the sections of the text and how the undercurrent of ‘death’ makes sense of the laws. Minor criticism aside what is written is still helpful and still points to the fact that the whole of an Israelites’ life is to be brought under God’s lordship – even their diet! This whole of life worship is seen clearly in the New Testament where Paul exhorts Christians to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and obedience to God in all aspects of life is the proper response to the wonders of his sovereign mercies in Jesus (paralleling Leviticus 11 in the context of the Exodus and the Christians’ obedience in Romans 12 in the context of Romans 9-11).
The Bible, read well, will always grow your love and faith in Jesus. The notes of the GTB will only aid that. For instance, here is the final reflection on 1 Samuel 17 (David vs Goliath)*:
The main takeaway for believers today involves seeing parallels between what David did and what Jesus does for us today. David, by his confidence in and relationship with God, functions as a representative champion of his cowering people. Christ, similarly, is the representative champion of his cowering people. Both David and Christ win a victory the results of which are imputed to their people. Christians today are not meant to read the story of David and Goliath and mainly identify with David, but with the people who need saving.
Reflecting on the rescue that our true and final champion, Jesus himself, has won on our behalf, our hearts are moved to worship and to greater trust in him.
And to that I can only say, ‘Amen and Amen!’
The Gospel Transformation Bible is available at The Book Depository from between $40 for a simple hardcover and up to $140 for calf-skin leather.
*I’ve personally used David and Goliath’s narrative in 1 Samuel 17 as a sort of litmus test for the quality of a study bible. If the main applications or comments on this story do not point to Jesus I tend to move on quickly.