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Review: Life Essentials Study Bible

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Though it's all true, it misses the point. Completely. The Life Essentials Study Bible: Biblical Principles to Live By (Holman Bible Publishers, 2011) is the most depressing Bible I have ever seen.

Dallas Seminary professor Gene Getz spent seven years studying the Scriptures, distilling over 1,500 "supracultural truth[s]" that he calls "principles to live by." Thus, the reader discovers in Judges 2 that "Adults are to model and teach God's will to the younger generation." Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 45) reveal, "When facing intensely emotional experiences, we should give ourselves permission to cry." Some principles are more traditional: 1 Corinthians 15 teaches, "We must not only believe in Christ's death for our sins, but in His bodily resurrection."

Getz's introduction touts the imperative mood of every principle: "We are to," "We should," "We must." Reading these principles, whether in the lists prefacing each book or in their haphazard distribution throughout the text, is a disturbing exercise. Every principle is true. A few of them are even helpful. Nothing is wrong with this Bible, except that all of the principles are about us. We must. We are to. This Bible isn't about God; it's about me! "Obadiah teaches us principles of God's moral sovereignty," writes Getz, as if God's moral sovereignty were something we do.

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Theologian Michael Horton comments, "We domesticate the Bible; we turn it into a handbook of life principles that will improve our lives, something we can control." The Life Essentials Study Bible is a me-centric document. Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2 teaches us, according to Getz, that "We should always praise and thank God for His blessings"-not that Yahweh kills and makes alive.

Finally, the translation (the HCSB) is distractingly informal, and the text's formatting is hard to read. QR codes decorate its pages like ink blotches. If you believe that God speaks good news, and not just good advice, then don't buy this study Bible.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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