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Blog / The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: An Interview with John D. Barry

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: An Interview with John D. Barry

John D. BarryA new Bible has been published that includes a combination of robust study notes, state-of-the-art color graphic, charts, and illustrations, and refreshingly fair treatment of multiple points of view on scriptural passages that provide curious readers with the facts they need to form their own opinion on the nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, NIV Faithlife Study Bible Encourages Readers to Stay Curious about God’s Word]

Bible Gateway interviewed John D. Barry (@JohnDBarry), general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible (Zondervan, 2017) (@NIVBible).

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Describe your role as general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible.

John D. Barry: I oversaw the NIV Faithlife Study Bible from idea to reality. It began as a digital resource at Faithlife Corporation. At Faithlife, I had the honor of recruiting and leading an incredible team of editors and project managers. Together, we executed the collective vision of the company to create a study Bible that fed the curiosity of readers—answering their toughest questions and allowing them to go in-depth. To accomplish this goal, we worked with talented researchers and leading scholars and pastors. My particular role involved designing the vision for the content, project plans, and personally reviewing nearly every note, article, and graphic—as well as writing quite a bit of content. I also directly worked with the publishing team at Zondervan to envision and bring to reality the print version.

Describe the team of people involved in its creation.

John D. Barry: The NIV Faithlife Study Bible is the product of rich collaboration of a team of scholars. In this regard, there’s no single author for a given set of notes; any given note has been expanded and reshaped by multiple editors. In addition, for each major genre of the Bible, a top scholar offers an overview article. Also included are articles on how we got the Bible and how to study it, from some of the foremost in the field of biblical studies. These articles help you wrestle with the difficulties of biblical history and interpretation. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible also contains a series of thematic articles from top scholars and pastors, helping you to understand the Bible and apply it to your own life. We also worked with leading graphic artists to create a new set of media—to enrich your understanding of the biblical world.

We created a study Bible that works with multiple translations. We affectionately call this “translation independence.” Unlike other study Bibles, it was written on the basis of the original languages, not a translation. This means that, for example, its insights work equally well with the NIV and NKJV.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, One Way to Explore the Rich Nuances of the Bible]

What was the vision behind this Bible?

John D. Barry: Bible study can completely transform our lives. Yet, as a nation America is less engaged with the Bible than ever before—this is primarily because the Bible is viewed as inaccessible. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible makes the Bible accessible, answering key questions about the biblical text.

This was our original vision: to help people get closer to God through their Bible study by removing the barriers for interpretation and bringing the biblical world to life. Often all that stands between people and faith is a question—the NIV Faithlife Study Bible answers the difficult questions. As editors, we draw on the full breadth of biblical scholarship, presenting the most relevant piece of data related to a particular passage so that you can understand the book that has shaped God’s people. We help you find your place in God’s story.

What makes this Bible unique?

John D. Barry: Imagine if you could set across the table from a friend in a coffee shop who was an expert in Biblical Studies—asking him or her your questions as you studied the Bible. And then imagine if that friend taught you how to think about the Bible, rather than what to think about it. Your friend would fairly present the various interpretive options and allow you to make your own interpretive decision. This is what the NIV Faithlife Study Bible does, per passage of the Bible. And it does so while standing in the grand tradition of the Christian faith and while respecting the authority of the Bible. This makes it unique. To do this, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible focuses on the biblical languages and ancient world—looking at what the Bible meant, to help you understand what it means, here and now.

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible’s stated aim is to feed reader’s curiosity. Why is it important for believers to maintain a spirit of curiosity about the Bible, even if they’ve read it many times?

John D. Barry: There’s no end to the depth of the Bible. Even after serving as general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible and as editor of Lexham Bible Dictionary, I still learn more everyday. My faith still grows each time I study the Bible and especially when I preach its message.

If God is infinite, then so is the potential of the growth of our faith in Jesus. When you learn something new about the ancient world of the Bible, the Bible’s languages, or how the biblical books relate to one another, you can’t help but love the God more who is the ultimate author behind this book. His work is incredible; the more you feed your curiosity, the more you will learn to be like Jesus—as the Holy Spirit works in you.

Which features of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible make it a unique resource to feed reader’s curiosity?

John D. Barry: The NIV Faithlife Study Bible feeds your curiosity through innovative graphics, in-depth notes based on the original languages of the Bible, and a balanced treatment of multiple viewpoints. We help you enter the story of the Bible and see how the Bible fits in the ancient world.

When we understand the Bible in its world and through its languages, we naturally see new connections to our own lives. For every passage, we as editors asked ourselves: “What questions will people have here?” Or, “What open questions does the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic text leave?” We then answered these questions based on the original languages, archeology, and history. We then asked: “What modern interpretive issues are connected to this passage?” We addressed these issues in a fair way to each interpretive view. We finally asked: “Why does this matter—how does it connect to the whole biblical story?” Whenever possible, we drew these connections, especially in passage overview notes and articles.

In its study notes, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible presents fair treatment of multiple points of view. Why was this decision made, and why is it important?

John D. Barry: The approach to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is entirely different than any other study Bible; this comes from a focus on the Bible’s languages, worldview, and context—while explaining modern viewpoints derived from the text. It’s these modern viewpoints where interpreters greatly differ. Faithful Christians often hold different views on major topics, such as the events of the end times. We help you understand the differences, fairly representing each view. You can then decide what you think.

Our coverage of interpretive issues is also very in-depth. Our approach is so detailed that there are often word-by-word notes. But we don’t do this at the expense of the larger story. To cover the macro-story of the Bible, we illustrate the biblical context with beautiful full-color graphics, biblical book introductions, and passage overview notes. Even our biblical book introductions take a different approach than what’s offered elsewhere. We emphasize the cohesiveness of a biblical book and the biblical narrative, yet address complicated issues of authorship and dating—presenting all the major viewpoints as we do so.

You’re also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Jesus’ Economy, which creates jobs and churches in the developing world. Can you tell us more about what led you to found this organization and about the work you perform?

John D. Barry: Bible study is critical and we have to be engaged in spreading the Bible’s message. The Bible teaches us to love the whole person. In this regard, Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to renewing entire communities: creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs. We primarily focus on areas where people have never heard Jesus’ name and where extreme poverty exists. As part of our efforts to create jobs, we also offer an online fair trade shop at

The goals of Jesus’ Economy and NIV Faithlife Study Bible are in direct alignment. Our goal with NIV Faithlife Study Bible is to help people fall in love with the resurrected Jesus and understand his message. Jesus calls us to spread that message, loving God and other people. Jesus’ Economy provides a direct way for people to love the impoverished through creating jobs and churches. We make it so that not only when you give, but also when you shop, you can help others. We interconnect creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs. Jesus’ Economy is a movement anyone can join at

I hope and pray that someday people all over the world will be passionate about the Bible and the God behind it. Because I know it’s transformative power—I’ve seen it and, by God’s grace, I’m a product of it. That’s why I’ve dedicated my life’s work to this.

Bio: John D. Barry is general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible and the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At, people create jobs for the impoverished by shopping fair trade. They can also give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as creating jobs, planting churches, or meeting basic needs. 100% goes to the developing world. Anyone can join the movement at

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Filed under Bible, Editions, Interviews, Study