The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Comparison of Study Notes

After my post on the ESV Study Bible notes and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, several people asked me about how other study Bibles compare. I was asked about the study notes in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible was edited by Dr. D.A. Carson. Below are the same Bible passages as in the previous article followed by the study notes from the 2015 NIV Zondervan Study Bible. I used an online version, so there are no page numbers. Eternal functional subordination (EFS) does appear in the notes.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Cf. John 14:6. Jesus is the only way to the Father, and God reveals himself to his chosen people through Jesus.

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

As a result of his faithfulness to his mission, Jesus once again has returned to his exalted position as divine Son of God with “all authority in heaven and on earth”

Mark 10: 40: but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared

Though James and John will follow Jesus in the ultimate expression of cross-bearing discipleship (8:34-38), this will not earn them the places they seek.

John 1:3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus was God’s agent in creating all that exists (v. 10; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2; Rev 3:14).

John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The Father loves the Son. See 5:20; 10:17; 15:9; 17:23-24,26. placed everything in his hands. See Matt 11:27; Luke 10:22. (emphasis original)

John 5:18-19: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

by himself. On his own initiative. The Son cannot act independently of the Father. can do only what he sees his Father doing. Their Father-Son relationship is not reciprocal; Scripture never says that the Father does only what he sees the Son doing. They have distinct roles: the Father initiates, sends, commands, commissions, grants; the Son responds, obeys, performs his Father’s will, receives authority. The Son is the Father’s agent, though much more than an agent. whatever the Father does the Son also does. This is why (“because”) it is impossible for the Son to act independently and set himself over against the Father as another God. It is also another claim that Jesus is God (see note on 1:1). (emphasis original)

John 12:49: For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

See notes on 5:16-30; 8:28b-29.

5:16-30 The Authority of the Son. Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath (vv. 1-15) triggers some opposition that he quickly transforms into a teaching about the nature of his sonship to the Father (see “Sonship,” p. 2664). The Father has granted the Son authority to raise the dead (see “Death and Resurrection,” p. 2670) and to judge (see “Wrath,” p. 2681).

8:28b-29 Restates Jesus’ argument in v. 16; 3:34; 5:19-30; 6:38.

John 14:28: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

The Father in his undiminished glory is greater than the Son in his incarnate state. That is the primary thought here, for the context shows that Jesus anticipates his departure precisely because it means he will return to that glory (17:5). This does not imply that Jesus is less than fully God because “greater than” does not refer to their being and essence (see notes on 1:1; 5:17-19,23; 8:24; 12:41). Yet “the Father is greater than I” also echoes 3:17; 5:19-30. The difference in roles between the Father and the Son means the Father sends his Son into the world and the Son obeys (v. 31); the Father “shows” him what to do and the Son performs it (5:20). The functional submission of the Son reaches back into eternity. (emphasis added)

Acts 1:7: He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

In line with Jewish expectations of their day, the disciples are thinking of the kingdom of Israel in nationalistic terms. While Jesus does not deny the future consummation of the kingdom, the “times or dates” are not to be their concern (cf. Mark 13:32; 1 Thess 5:1). Their role is to complete Jesus’ mission (v. 1) by taking the message of salvation to the ends of the earth (v. 8).

Acts 2:33: Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Jesus’ faithfulness to his Messianic role resulted in his exaltation “to the right hand of God” and a return to the glory he had before the incarnation (Phil 2:6-11). The Spirit guided and empowered Jesus during his earthly ministry (Luke 3:21-22;4:1,14,18), and now Jesus directs the Spirit.

Ephesians 1:4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In vv. 3-14 Paul emphasizes God’s eternal decision to grant salvation to believers in the following ways: “he chose us” (v. 4), “he predestined us” (v. 5), and “we were also chosen, having been predestined” (v. 11). Since this divine election of believers occurred “before the creation of the world” (v. 4), it is based solely on God’s gracious decision and not on any human merit (cf. God’s choosing Israel to be his treasured possession in Deut 7:6-8, or God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau before they “were born or had done anything good or bad” in Rom 9:11).

1 Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Figuratively, what is most prominent, preeminent. Every person has a relationship to another person who has a preeminent status: for men (and women) this is Jesus Christ; for wives it is their husband; for Christ it is God the Father. The first pair references only men because the following discussion (vv. 4-16) gives separate directions for men and women. Paul is concerned about the proper relationship between husbands and wives in the church, not between men and women more generally.

1 Corinthians 15:28: When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The subordination of the Son to the Father is not one of divinity or dignity but one of function: God the Father is supreme, not subject to anyone; Jesus the Son, fully divine, carries out the Father’s will; the Spirit (not mentioned here) communicates the reality of God’s presence, truth, and salvation. (emphasis added)

5 thoughts on “The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Comparison of Study Notes

  1. Tim says:

    As a result of his faithfulness to his mission, Jesus once again has returned to his exalted position as divine Son of God with “all authority in heaven and on earth”

    Oh my word. Jesus never gave up his position “as divine Son of God.” Not in the slightest. Do they not understand the incarnation was about God becoming fully human yet never being other than fully God? This is a problem throughout the ESS doctrine. They take verses that pertain to Jesus nature – through the incarnation – of being fully human and conflate them with his nature of being fully divine from eternity past..

  2. roscuro says:

    Jesus was God’s agent in creating all that exists
    What?! Jesus is God, therefore, “all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17) He was no mere agent.

  3. Barbara Roberts says:

    D A Carson’s use of the word ‘agent’ in this sentence makes my skin crawl:
    “Jesus was God’s agent in creating all that exists.”

    And where Carson says, “The functional submission of the Son reaches back into eternity” he is without doubt plugging ESS.

    btw, Rachel, you said ’emphasis added’ a few times after quoting Carson’s notes. But on my screen I didn’t see any emphasis. Did you intend to put some parts of Carson’s notes in bold-face? If so, you might want to go back and do so.

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