The NIV Application Commentary series has been a go-to for pastors for since Zondervan began publishing the it two decades ago. NIVAC volumes are known for being accessible and affordable, but most of all, these commentaries have a reputation for helping applying the biblical text to twenty-first century life. Pastors from various denomination and professors from diverse theological seminaries have praised this series for being biblical, relevant, and budget-friendly. The series is incomplete and volumes are still being released.
The History and Purpose of the NIV Application Commentary Series
Since the 1990’s, the NIVAC series has been producing commentaries that give equal time to the first century, in relation to interpreting the biblical text, and the twenty-first century, in relation to applying it. It has never been the intention of the publisher or the editors to provide technical volumes that dive deep into the original language, non-biblical literature, or the latest scholarship. To be clear, authors may reference these topics, but they are not the focus of the commentaries.
The purpose of the series can be clearly seen in the three ways each biblical passages is discussed. First, the author writes about the “Original Meaning” of the passage, which is where exegesis occurs. Next, comes “Bridging Contexts,” in which parallels are drawn between first-century and twenty-first century living. “Contemporary Significance” is third, which is where the author suggests applications, which may include illustrations, quotations, statistics, and other aids for public speaking.
Robert Yarbrough’s review in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society of Gary M. Burge’s Letters of John volume in the NIVAC series can be used as a representative example of how authors use these pre-assigned categories. Yarbrough notes that of the pages in Burge’s commentary “48% are devoted to exegesis, 14% to erecting bridges and 38% to application.” The reviewer adds, “This truly is an ‘application’ commentary compared to most, as its title promises.”1
The Theology of the NIVAC Series
Theologically, the NIVAC series is evangelical. The authors, who come from various denominational traditions, generally come to conservative theological conclusions. One particular volume came under criticism after its author was suspended by the seminary where he taught.
Peter Enns, who wrote the Exodus commentary in the NIVAC series, was suspended by Westminster Seminary in 2005, after the publication of a book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which some say challenged the doctrine of inerrancy.2 The book was well-reviewed by notable commentators such as Tremper Longman III and Joel B. Green. However, it was criticized by notable commentators such as D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale.
The controversy did not directly concern the Exodus volume in the NIVAC series, which is one of the best reviewed commentaries in print today. Nevertheless, some reviewers have suggested not purchasing the volume because of Enn’s authorship.3
Author Interviews from the NIVAC Series on Best Bible Commentaries
I am pleased to have interviewed authors from the NIVAC series.
Roy Gane Q & A on Leviticus and Numbers
Preview: “The whole writing project personally edified me and drew me closer to Christ, first as I saw the loving character of God reflected in the sacrifices foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ and in the way he reached out to his people and interacted with them as close as he could get from his sanctuary residence among them.”
Andrew E. Hill Q & A on 1-2 Chronicles
Preview: “I enjoyed writing about King David as a worshiper, and a worship leader. In part, because of the interest one of our sons has in the character of King David. I was also prompted to develop the topics by the work of former students who wrote thoughtful papers on the subject of King David and worship (appropriately credited in the commentary).”
George Guthrie Q & A on Hebrews
Preview: “As I came to the climax of the christology in Hebrews, particularly 9:11-10:18, the decisiveness of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins really impressed me and has continued to be a cornerstone of my own faith.”
NIV Application Commentary — Old Testament Volumes
Links go to Amazon.
Old Testament Volumes
— Ezra (no volume yet) —
— Nehemiah (no volume yet) —
New Testament Volumes
- Yarbrough, Robert W. Source: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 42 no 2 Jun 1999, p 370-372