Review: Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (5th ed.)

34460428At over three million copies sold, the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible edited by David and Pat Alexander is arguably the most widely used study tool since it was originally published in 1973. Now, in a newly revised and updated fifth edition, Pat Alexander has built upon the great legacy of the previous four editions with updated visuals, new and revised articles, and more.

The feature list of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is quite astounding, and the presentation is even more attractive. Over 800 full-color pages, packed with valuable illustrations and reliable insight. In fact, there are over 700 full-color photographs and illustrations that vividly illumine a world of characters and events known to many through the biblical narrative. Beyond the photos and illustrations, there are a countless number of vibrant, full-color maps and charts of historical background information.

The content of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is equally as pleasant as the visual appeal. The contributors to the volume include Richard Bauckham, John Goldingay, R.T. France, Ben Witherington III, Gordon Wenham, I. Howard Marshall, Richard Hess, Michael Green, Walter Wangerin Jr., and many more. The format and organization of the volume is a section-by-section guide to the Bible, including explanatory notes and insights into the biblical world. The volume opens with a sizable introductory section (95 pages) that is devoted to orienting readers towards the Bible and biblical interpretation. There follows a canonical guide through the Old Testament (~ 430 pages) and the New (~ 250 pages), as well as a “Rapid Factfinder” (~ 34 pages) section that serves as an A to Z directory to both the book and the Bible.

The design of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is to offer readers a supplemental resource to be used alongside the Bible. This is not necessarily a reference work or textbook, as some might imagine. It is a resource that has been intentionally organized and presented to bring the reader into the biblical world by gathering together information only otherwise found in a number of different reference works. In this sense, the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible functions as a supercharged Study Bible that is divorced, or separated from the biblical text. This affords the room necessary to illuminate the biblical world in a way not possible in the space provided by a standard Study Bible, and this to the benefit of the reader.

The Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is a classic by any count. There is a reason so many have found this volume to be a blessing to their personal Bible study. It’s clear and concise, readable and informative, and attractively presented. It truly is the best book to have next to your Bible. I would recommend getting the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible over all major Study Bibles on the market. The content and visual appeal are attractively paired, and the list of contributors is as good as one could ask. Skip the Study Bible and grab the Handbook! It will offer more to your personal study than you think. Trust me!

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