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Blog / Philip Yancey: The Three Obstacles to Bible Reading

Philip Yancey: The Three Obstacles to Bible Reading

We recently launched the Insights for Students email newsletter, which draws on content from the NIV Student Bible. Philip Yancey, who worked with Tim Stafford to create the NIV Student Bible, offered to share some of the rationale behind that work—and behind the Insights for Students newsletter. We hope it gives you some added insight into both the NIV Student Bible and the newsletter based on it. Here’s Philip Yancey on the NIV Student Bible:

Philip Yancey, author of many Christian books, including the updated NIV Student Bible.

I grew up with the Bible and then got a strong biblical education in two different Christian colleges. I soon discovered, however, that most readers find the Bible an imposing, mysterious book. It is, after all, more than 1000 pages long, a collected book written over the course of a millennium by scores of authors. We need help in learning how to read and interpret such an important book.

As a journalist I often tackle a complex subject and try to break it down in such a way that a broad readership can appreciate it. With this mission, then, I took on the task of developing a “Study Bible for people who have never used a Study Bible.” Most people, I find, care little about scholarly debates on authorship and geography; they simply want to understand this grand book, God’s Word to us, in a way that applies to daily life.

For three years my colleague Tim Stafford and I worked to address the main obstacles to reading the Bible. After exhaustive research, we determined these were:

  1. I get discouraged.
  2. I can’t understand it.
  3. I can’t find what I’m looking for.

We developed the NIV Student Bible in direct response to those three obstacles. I now look back on those years of research with a deep sense of gratitude, for they formed a foundation for all of my future writing. Imagine, getting paid for three years to study the Bible!

The NIV Student Bible concept went through numerous variations before we got the right approach, and when it finally took off it exploded. More than six million copies have found their way into readers’ hands, and many readers have written to say, “For the first time, I can understand the Bible.” Those responses give us much pleasure for our original goal was to provide practical tools for readers who want to master the Bible but don’t know where to start. Now that the NIV version has been updated and refined, we look forward to leading a new generation of readers down the same path.

—Philip Yancey

Thanks to Philip Yancey for taking the time to share his thoughts! If you’re interested in seeing how Yancey and Stafford addressed the obstacles to Bible reading mentioned above, see these two resources:

  1. Sign up for the weekly Insights for Students newsletter at the Newsletter page. (Read more about Insights for Students.)
  2. Review the NIV Student Bible for free on Net Galley.

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