November 26, 2020

Recommendation and Review: The Books of the Bible (TNIV)

576.jpgSo now that a whole new crop of you are sure that I don’t believe the Bible at all, let’s all try to actually read it, OK?

The Books of the Bible is an edition of the TNIV translation in rearranged, reformatted text without verse numbers, chapter numbers or subheadings. (Chapter and verse numbers appear in light print at the bottom of the page and there are section breaks.) The Books of the Bible web site lists all the changes made in this edition:

* chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (a chapter-and-verse range is at the bottom of each page.)
* individual books are presented with the literary divisions that their authors have indicated.
* footnotes, section headings and other supplementary materials have been removed from the text (translators’ notes are available at the back of each book.)
* the books of the Bible have been placed in an order that provides more help in understanding, based on literary genre, historical circumstance and theological tradition
* single books that later translations or tradition divided into two or more books are made whole again (example: Luke-Acts.)
* single-column setting that clearly and naturally presents the literary forms of the Bible’s books.

I’ve been using TBotB for a couple of months, often reading it in our family scripture readings. I don’t have any comments on the TNIV itself, other than to say my own limited knowledge of greek has steered me away from the NIV, though I have used it many times and find it a very readable and easy to understand translation.

The purpose of the Books of the Bible project is to change the reading experience in ways that will make the Bible more like the actual reading of what the authors intended, and less an experience created by editors. Of course, TBotB has its own editorial agenda in the arrangement of the books. Still, I’ve found it to be a stimulating and positive experience, and I recommend it to anyone who has been frustrated by the lack of “plain” Bible texts available.

One of the useful high points is the excellent introductory material for each book, which is perfect for readers and students of whole books. While I prefer the ESV Literary Study Bible in a class, Books of the Bible would be useful in a group study setting if everyone had a copy.

It’s a great edition for personal reading, but not a version of the Bible to use in a small group. Many readers will be unable to navigate without constant reference to the contents and it can be very hard to “sync” up with a particular verse or pericope.

A fine addition to the library of anyone doing Bible study, and a good tool to enhance your reading of the Bible.

Available from IBS direct in three colors. Nine dollars a single copy. PDF samples are available.


  1. I glanced over their website. Quite a good idea; one of the reasons I like reading the Message is its lack of verse numbers. Good to see another bible without ’em.

    Verse numbers are great for finding your place, but that’s all they were ever meant for; I too am very annoyed by how they’re regularly abused. I have so many false beliefs thanks to 20 years of people ripping scriptures out of context and teaching me their misunderstandings; I’ve spent the past decade trying to undo all that, and find anyplace i’ve gone wrong. In almost every situation, the error comes down to context, and the solution is to read the bible. The whole bible. Not snippets of it.

  2. David Reimer says

    The iMonk wrote: While I prefer the NIV Literary Study Bible in a class…, and I’m wondering if he really meant “ESV Literary Study Bible”. [Note to iMonk: feel free to delete this comment if it was just a slip of the keyboard!]

  3. I remember one of my professors, Bill Murray (who had doctorates in both Greek and Hebrew) telling us about how most of the people who had issues with the TNIV had little or no understanding of Greek or Hebrew. From what I understood from him (i could be completely misrepresenting him), its not too different from the NIV, it even clears up a few things that the NIV chokes on, and, if its of any interest, he made it clear that he thinks the NIV is a superior translation of the Hebrew than most of the other mainstream translations (NASB/ESV).

    The bigger point that I was trying to make there is that there was a fairly large controversy surrounding the tNIV, but there weren’t many language scholars involved in the debate. Otherwise, though, this seems like a cool idea. If I had nine dollars to spend, i’d get one right now.

  4. This makes me happy and also wonder why all of our Bible’s are not like this. I mean I understand the HISTORICAL (and commercial!) underpinnings behind our version of the Text. But why separate Luke-Acts, for instance if they were two volumes in one book to begin with? And like the above commenter, verses are great for finding your place…but my hunch is that the addition of verses has contributed more to aberrant theology and praxis within the Church than anything else.

    Way to go IBS, and may Zondervan follow suite!


  5. Can anyone recommend any other “no verses” version of the Bible? I generally dislike the NIV (and assume the TNIV is similar), and would prefer something like the NKJV. I’ve always enjoyed Phillips for general reading, but his translation is a bit chatty for serious reading. Any thoughts are appreciated.

  6. Two things:
    1) The TNIV is a marked improvement over its older sibling, NIV. It cleans off the overly evangelical patena that built up on the NIV. It’s still a good “evangelical” translation (whatever that might mean), though.
    2) While the idea of rearranging the texts to a) match the authors’ literary divisions; b) group books together according to genre; and c) bring together books that have been separated, all sounds fine and good to a point, it does seem to be a bit presumptuous on the part of the editors who compiled it all. Do they know the literary divisions the authors’ wanted? How do they know this? Do they think they are somehow superior compilers than the original communities that formed the canon? It seems so, for they now have rearranged the text in a “better” way. Yet, there seems to be no thought given to why the texts are arranged the way they are in the first place. Why was Acts separated from Luke? This was not some dumb arbitrary decision.

    In the end I think it is gimmicky. It should sell a few copies. And if it will get people to actually read the biblical texts, then great. But, we ought not be persuaded that the rearrangement is a better one. We are a part of a long and rich history that includes the use, distribution, and eventual compilation of these texts we call Scripture. We should not be so quick to circumvent that history.

    [I am now stepping down from my soapbox.]

  7. Love it love it love it. I ordered a “Books of the Bible” TNIV a few months back, one for me and one for my wife (so i guess i ordered two). It’s been a fantastic personal resource. I still read NRSV for church and planning and sermons, but i love the ease and novelty of TBOTB.

  8. Now that’s a Bible I could actually get interested in! No cross-indexed Magick Book Grimoire of Chapter-and-Verse verbal-component spells and putdowns, but the holy books as they were originally organized, grouped by subject and theme, with forewords to put each book in context.

  9. Even though it is NOT a Bible, but just the stories retold as in a novel, I can recommend Walter Wangerin’s “Book of God”. Even the Resurrection of Jesus is handled well. (Many novelizations of Bible stories tend to not make it real, etc.

    When I read it, I was most impressed by how many small details made it in.

  10. Warning: Most pre-caffeine comments are silly.

    Did Bill Murray get his doctorates before or after Groundhog Day?

  11. This is great! I’ve been looking for something like this for some time. Thanks for pointing it out. I followed your lead and noted it on my blog as well.

  12. Chris,

    Have you read the Books of the Bible? I wasn’t sure if you were making your comments from your personal experience of reading it, or if it was your impression from the description.

    I think the main point of reordering the books is to:

    1. Show the interconnection of various books to help readers see the historical and theological connections
    2. Show that their is no “correct” order of the book s of the Bible. The Bible we have today was ordered that way for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be that way. The NT ordering of the Books of the Bible makes a lot of sense to me: You have the “Pauline section” – Luke and Acts (Luke being a companion of Paul), and then the Pauline epistles in (arguably) chronological order. Then there is the “Hebrew section” – the Gospel of Matthew (focused on the Jews), the book of James (written to dispersed Jews), and Hebrews. Then there is the “Petrine” section: Mark (traditionally believed to be a student of Peter), 1 and 2 Peter, and then Jude (which has many similarities with 2 Peter). Lastly there is the “Johannine” section: Gospel of John, 1-3 John, and the Book of Revelation.

    I am still getting used to flipping around in this Bible because I am used to the traditional ordering, but I personally like the ordering of the books, and find it refreshing.

  13. Thank you, Michael Spencer, for shaking me loose from the constraints of the traditional ordering and numbers systems. I got my copy of The Books of the Bible this week, and it is like a breathe of fresh air.

  14. Thanks for your review of the Books of the Bible. I love reading without verse and chapter divisions, and without these to stop me, I generally read longer passages and am able to follow the entire thought patterns much better. I have used the TNIV translation since it came out, and even though it seems many in my denomation (Southern Baptist) have a bone to pick with it, I find it to be a good and accurate translation of scripture. I have been very blest from reading it.