INTERVEW. Jonathan Petersen

Jonathan Petersen

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Dr. Michael Williams

The NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition includes thousands of new or updated study notes based on historical discoveries, cultural findings, and thematic insights; over 100 new commentary articles; and the NIV Comfort Print® typeface.

In this Q&A, Bible scholar Dr. Michael Williams talks about the NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition (Zondervan, 2020) (website).

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Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

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Dr. Michael Williams: Until I retired in 2018, I was the senior professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary. In addition to courses in Old Testament prophets, poetry, and narrative, I’ve taught courses in biblical and ancient Near Eastern languages.

Other books I’ve written include:
Seek and Explore Devotions for Kids: 365 Days of Hands-On Activities (co-authored with Yvonne Van Ee), Hidden Prophets of the Bible: Finding the Gospel in Hosea through MalachiThe Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for ExegesisThe Basics of Ancient Ugaritic: A Concise Grammar, Workbook, and LexiconHow to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of ScriptureTodah Mishneh: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. TigayThe Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today, and Deception in Genesis: An Investigation into the Morality of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon.

How is the process of working on a study Bible unique from other scholarly collaborations?

Dr. Michael Williams: Other scholarly collaborations I’ve engaged in have been focused on a particular area (such as missions, prophecy, or poetry), a particular biblical book (such as Genesis or Deuteronomy), or a particular audience (such as academics, pastors, or church planters). The NIV Study Bible is not limited in these ways. Every book of the Bible receives the same high level of careful scrutiny and explication. And the audience is broader as well.

Our goal is that this work benefit Christians in any life situation who are intent on growing in their faith and making the gospel known throughout the world: evangelists, missionaries, teachers, preachers, liturgists, Bible study leaders and participants, and anyone else who wants to delve more deeply into the riches of biblical revelation.

There has been no greater privilege and responsibility for me than to work with other committed Christian scholars to make the meaning of the biblical texts as clear, accessible, and applicable as possible for the universal church.

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Since this is a revision to the 2011 NIV Study Bible, can you think of a specific study note or feature that you personally helped refine on account of better cultural or thematic understanding of a passage?

Dr. Michael Williams: As evidenced by my writings explicating how the OT texts are Scriptures that ultimately testify about Jesus (John 5:39), it was important to me (and to the other editors as well) that this revision of the NIV Study Bible have more of this accent in its introductions, notes, and other study helps. One introduction that I was personally tasked with rewriting in a way that highlighted this emphasis on ultimate fulfillment in Christ was that of the book of Ezekiel. Here’s a sample from the last few lines of the section on Theological Significance in that introduction:

“The book’s theological center is the life associated with God’s presence and the death associated with its withdrawal. This central theological focus is evident from the time in which God must withdraw from the defilement of his covenant people to the culmination of his grand design of redemption. The message of Ezekiel, which is ultimately eschatological, anticipates — even demands — the life-giving presence of God in Jesus Christ, revealed and proclaimed by the New Testament.”

Helping readers more clearly see the links between the Old Testament and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ is an exciting enhancement of this new revision and has been one of my main goals as an Old Testament professor.

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How has your involvement with the Committee on Bible Translation, the group that oversees the NIV text, helped you as you were working on the NIV Study Bible?

Dr. Michael Williams: The CBT consists of 15 evangelical scholars from around the world who are experts in various fields of study pertaining to the Bible (for example, Old Testament, New Testament, ancient Near East, Rabbinics, Intertestamental Literature, etc.) and who bring their expertise to bear in committee discussions regarding how to translate the Bible most faithfully to the original texts and most clearly to the modern English reader.

The editors’ many years of involvement with the CBT enables us to understand the rationale behind the translation. Because we’ve been there for all the discussions (some quite lengthy and difficult), we know what theological, literary, contextual, and cultural issues were involved in the formulation of the NIV translation. This experience allows us to communicate those issues accurately to readers. The result is a translation, notes, introductions, essays, and other features that benefit from the best contemporary scholarship, are internally consistent, and provide deeper insight into the meaning and context of the sacred texts.

What is your hope for this study Bible?

Dr. Michael Williams: My hope for this study Bible is that readers will be able to encounter the Scriptures with a greater understanding that results in a stronger faith in Jesus and love for God. I hope that our work may lead readers to more fully realize the abundant life God intends for them and that, as they live out this abundant life, unbelievers may more clearly see truth about God and the new humanity he’s forming and calling them also to join through faith in Jesus Christ.

If only one person, after reading a note or comment in this revision, says, “Ooooh, now I get it!” then all the work will have been more than worth it.

Read interviews with the other editors of the NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition:

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