Saturday, July 18, 2015

Holman NKJV Study Bible Review

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Holman NKJV Study Bible, Large Print Edition (ISBN 978-1-4336-0751-6).  The receipt of this Bible had no bearing on the outcome of this review.

I received the two tone brown, “leathertouch” binding.  It has 1 brown and 1 black ribbon.  According to Christianbook, this is a sewn binding.  It has 2,304 pages.  It lays fairly flat for such a thick Bible.  Of course, in Genesis or Revelation it is more difficult but still lays open and readable.  Holman has a page here for the study Bible that promises a digital study tool is coming soon.  This Bible is available in the same binding with tabs or in hardback.  Retail price is $89.99; Christianbook offers it at $30 off.

The first thing that struck me when unpacking this Bible is its size.  It is 10.5 inches high, 7.5 inches wide and 2 inches thick.  Since it is a large print study Bible that is no surprise.  The size makes it too unwieldy for me to use in preaching.  It works best on a desk or table.

One unfortunate matter also caught my attention quickly - the pages stuck together.  This is probably a result of whatever method was used to gild the page edges.  I tried fanning the pages several times through, but this did not free up all the pages.  Eventually I had to go through the Bible page by page.  Many were stuck so badly that I had to rub two fingers together in the center to get it started.  This was time consuming but once done the  Bible is easy to use.

This is a two column setting with cross references in the middle.  It is paragraphed and include section headings.  Textual notes are at the bottom of the Scripture section.  Study notes are at the bottom of the page separated from the Scripture by a horizontal line.  Verse numbers are in blue ink.  I found this made it easier to ignore them when reading.  I didn't find it hard to find an individual verse either.  This is also a red letter edition.  I am not a fan of red lettering so I tend to be critical of the practice.  My complaint is with readability.  As a devotional practice, it is appealing, but what really matters to me is legibility.  However, this red lettering is bold and consistent.

Upon opening the Bible itself I really noticed the print.  This is a very readable font (10.25 pt) for my aging eyesight.  The notes are smaller, but still readable for me. 

The paper is average quality.  There is definitely some ghosting (words, etc showing through from the page behind).  In some places there is line matching but not everywhere.  Most of the time I didn't find the ghosting distracting.  In some places where a bar or picture is on the page behind it was more annoying.

I've used this several ways.  First, I used it for sermon preparation.  I did not find the notes as helpful since I usually prefer textual notes that explain words.  The NET Bible notes are the type I use.  These notes did explain the text well, but the notes were more like my sermon than references for building that  sermon.

Secondly, I used this for personal reading and study.  Here I found it to be excellent.  After reading the text, I read the notes to see if they were helpful.  As an example, I read James 3:13-18 which has a section title "Heavenly Versus Demonic Wisdom."  The phrase "lie against the truth" in verse 14 is explained  by "Denial of truth is a constant threat in churches that tolerate false teachings."

A third way I used this Bible was for researching questions that came up in my daily reading.  I am currently reading through the NASB.  The study Bible had some explanations that I didn't find in a couple other study Bibles I used for comparison.  For instance, I wanted to find out what the "Book of the Wars of the Lord"  is (mentioned in Numbers 21:14).  The study notes say this is "an early source of Israelite documentation of God's victories on behalf of His people, perhaps in poetic form."  There are 15,000 such study notes in this Bible.

There are 66 maps spread throughout the Bible including those on typical glossy paper in the back.  The maps are all full color.  I was delighted to discover that the ones interspersed in the text are printed on the same Bible paper as the text (not that thick glossy near-cardboard)!  One example is found in Matthew 15; It is a map of the ministry of Jesus beyond Galilee.  Another shows the ministry of Elijah and Elisha.  A small section of it is show below.

There are 141 full color photos as well.  Again, these are printed on the Bible paper.  They are also integrated into the study notes.  A picture of an ancient baptismal at Avdat, Israel is included in the notes on Romans 5-6.  A picture (partially shown below) of trees from Gethsemane is found under the notes for Mark 14:21-27).  These color pictures are a wonderful addition to the resources found in here.  My scan doesn't do justice to the quality of these pictures.

There are also 19 illustrations such as this drawing of Noah's ark.

19 charts are included;  I found them useful.  I'm reading an Old Testament passage every day.  I found the charts gave a good overview to some aspects of my reading.  The first is one showing all the priests of Israel.  The second is one listing the Old Testament feasts.  Another lists the all the prophets.

Other features are a 62 page concordance, book introductions and book timelines.  I would like to see more detail on the timelines.  I like the timelines; they help give some historical context to the Scriptures.  Both one and three year reading schedules are found in the back.  21 articles and essays on practical and theological issues are found through the Bible, such as “The Historic Reliability of the New Testament” by Craig L. Blomberg.

Once I got past the stuck pages I began to really like using this Bible.  I haven't read all of the notes.  I did not find anything objectionable in what I did read.  The page layout and physical form of this Bible contribute to the readability.  I really appreciated having the maps included within the text.  I used them more because of this feature.  I am delighted by the full color printing on regular Bible paper.  As I mentioned above, I wouldn't use this a sermon preparation resource.  I would recommend this for devotional reading and study.

I like this Bible.  I like it enough either to keep it or to give it some one else.  I am considering sending it along with my son when he returns to college this fall.  I would love to see this in a leather binding and printed on more opaque paper.  But I say that about most Bibles I see today.  I think Holman has produced an excellent study Bible.


  1. What I am looking for is an actual sample of that translation so that I can see what it is like. So far, I can't find that. Not really interested in personal likes or dislikes, since that does not tell me what the bible actually says.

    1. This is the New King James Version Bible text. It has been around for quite some time. You can read it online many places, such as Bible gateway.