At the IBA recently, there was a bit of a mad scramble to pick up books to review for PIBA (Proceedings of the IBA) and I got to choose between a large (it made Raymond E. Brown's work look like a pamphlet) hardback on something obscure on a Gospel or a pink suede Bible. Can you guess what I chose to write my 1000 words on? I now have a shiny new Bible to add to my collection-which I spoke about recently to my sixth year class. Well at least now I know how to make their jaws hang open....how can you not be cool with a bible collection? Though if by collection you mean a few hundred packed in boxes and piled in various different shelves and corners then I am your curator :)
Fire Bible: Student Edition (FBSE) is a study bible, designed specifically for university students. The FBSE is based on the original notes in the Full Life Study Bible which was revised as the Life in the Spirit Study Bible and is published in this English edition by Hendrickson and Life Publishers. It is marketed as being the “first true Pentecostal Bible for students” which “ignites a generation in the Word of God”.
While most Christian denominations have several editions and translations of the Bible that are deemed to be “official” or that are recommended for use in Liturgy or private study, there are very few Pentecostal Bibles in existence. The Full Life Study Bible was started in the early 1980s as an individual missionary project by the late missionary Don Stamps (1938-1991). While serving in Brazil, he recognized a great need among pastors and lay workers for a study Bible written from a Pentecostal perspective. The Full Life Study Bible was written for those who would study the text in depth and made the assumption that the reader had some previous biblical knowledge. This edition is now out of print as the Life in Spirit Study Bible was published by Zondervan. This edition had very few changes from the original version. The FBSE reviewed here was published in April 2010 by Hendrickson and Life Publishers and is based on the New International Version of the Bible. The notes and format of the Full Life Study Bible have been edited with students in mind. If the two editions are compared, the FBSE is at pains to explain theological terms clearly and fully. No assumption is made of any prior knowledge of the Bible or Pentecostal theology. The language level is deliberately aimed at high school students and those in college or university. However, it is very different to Bibles that are normally written for teenagers and young adults, such as the Teen Study Bible (Zondervan, 1999) which is written in language that is directly aimed at “hip and cool” teenagers.
The style of the FBSE stays away from a more devotional format and instead tracks what the editors see as twenty major theological themes throughout the biblical text. Each book of the Bible is given a thorough introduction. For example, with the book of Psalms, there is an outline of the book with notes on the divisions, including authorship, the predominant Divine Name, frequent topics in the text and the resemblance to the Pentateuch. The background to the text is given in some detail, including a good introduction to the technicalities of the Hebrew poetry within the text. The purpose of the psalms is discussed, though here the commentary does some disservice to a Jewish understanding of the Psalms, describing them as “Holy Spirit-inspired prayers and praises”. The introduction surveys the 150 psalms with a focus on the different genres of psalms and notes the special features of the poetry, in the style of “need to know facts”. Each introduction to a book from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament has a section on “New Testament Fulfillment”, in this case focusing on the prophetic psalms and how the psalms are used in the New Testament. There is also a section on dividing up the psalms to read them in conjunction with the rest of the Old Testament in one year, with 44 days given to the psalms. Ample space is allocated for note and personal reflections on the text. The biblical text (NIV) is given at the top of the page with roughly half the page given over to notes and commentary on the text. Various terms in the text are explained in notes and there is commentary on each verse.
The FBSE is marked as a key resource for Campus Missionaries, who are Christian students who accept responsibility to preach the Pentecostal message of “forgiveness and new life through faith in Jesus” and at various stages in the commentary on biblical texts, a link is given to where the text is useful in one of the five commitments of Campus mission (Serve, Give, Pray, Live and Love).
There are over eighty “key issue” articles such as “Creation”, “Divine Healing”, “Assurance to Salvation” and “Food Sacrificed to Idols”. There are 45 easy-to-read charts, illustrations and maps and clearly laid out indexes (both subject and themes). There is a concordance for finding biblical verse more easily by looking up key words. The detailed glossary (p 2265) provides practical definitions to terms used in the bible itself and in the study notes. In keeping with the focus on making the text accessible to a younger audience, twelve key themes are marked out throughout the text using symbols (e.g. a dove for “Baptized in/Filled with the Holy spirit”, and a bolt of lightning for “victory over Satan and demons”. One of the most useful and indeed fun lists is a chart of weights and measures that are used in the Bible (p 1953), converted into modern American and metric equivalents.
The FBSE is also well made, with good quality paper and a solid binding that will withstand the rigours of daily study and use. The font is small (7 font) though the style, layout and heavy black font means that it is not as difficult to read as some versions The cover is sturdy and well designed for the target audience, though all may not find the pink and grey suede soft cover (flexisoft) of my review copy to their taste, a variety of colours are available.