The New Geneva
The New Geneva Study Bible was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 1995. The text used was the New King James Version. The General Editor was R. C. Sproul. The editors were Bruce Waltke, James Boice, Edmund Clowney, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer and others. It was the first study Bible written "from a distinctively Reformed perspective" (Keith Mathison). Dr. Sproul gathered a team of more than fifty Reformed scholars to work on this study Bible. "The result was the first consistently Reformed study Bible since the publication in 1560 of the original Geneva Bible" (Keith Mathison). This is the Scofield Bible of Reformed Theology!
In 1998, the study Bible was renamed as the Reformation Study Bible. The study notes in this Bible are the same as in the New Geneva Study Bible. The only difference being in the change of the name of the study Bible. In March 2005, the Reformation Study Bible was published using the English Standard Version (ESV). The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) contains the same study notes, modified only slightly to conform to the different Bible version that was used.
In this study I have used the original New Geneva Study Bible in all my citations. If you have the Reformation Study Bible before you (either in the New King James or in the ESV), you may not find the quotation on the page that I cite, but the study notes are basically identical in the two study Bibles. The quotations are accurate.
The New Geneva Study Bible (referred to in this paper as NGSB) was published in 1995. The stated purpose of this study Bible is "to bring the light of the Reformation to Scripture" (from a statement printed on the cover). This statement of purpose is problematic. The LIGHT does not come from the Reformation, it comes from the Scripture (Psalm 119:95). The Reformers were enlightened in many areas of truth, but it was because of the light of Scripture. The Reformation in many ways was a "back to the Bible" movement. So also today, our goal should always be go back to the Bible, not back to the Reformation. See Acts 17:11. See also our study, Should We Go Back to the Reformation? It is always best to go back to the pure spring rather than to go back to the stream further down from the source because the stream further down can become polluted along the way. God's Word is a pure, unpolluted spring of truth, and those who drink from it will never be disappointed. We can learn from the Reformers and from all great men of church history, but we must constantly test all things by the Word of God, and follow these men only insomuch as they followed Christ.
The General Editor of the NGSB is R. C. Sproul of Ligonier ministries, a fervent anti-dispensationalist. Other editors include James Boice, Edmund Clowney, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer and Bruce Waltke. It is interesting that one of the contributors was Allan MacRae who years earlier had served on the New Scofield Reference Bible revision committee under the chairmanship of E. Schuyler English.
From the cover flyleaf: "The NGSB offers a restatement of Reformation truth for Christians today--a summary of Reformed theology. . . Theological notes offer insight on Reformed theology. . . The NGSB is a powerful tool for a Reformed understanding of Scripture and meets the need for a theologically conservative, balanced study Bible that traces our Christian heritage directly back to the Reformation." R. C. Sproul in the introduction said this: "The NGSB contains a modern restatement of Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes. Its purpose is to present the light of the Reformation afresh." Frequently the theological notes found in this study Bible quote from The Westminster Confession of Faith.
Reformed theologians have long recognized the influence that the Scofield Reference Bible has had since it was published in 1917. In light of this they have undertaken a massive effort to produce their own study Bible that would teach and propagate their distinctive teachings. The result is the NGSB.
Let me say at the outset that this Study Bible with all its notes provides a classic statement of orthodox, Christian beliefs, and my heart says, "Amen" to most of what it contains. The men responsible for these study notes are respected Bible scholars who hold to a high view of Scripture and who have dedicated themselves to the task of making the Scriptures more understandable to the masses.
In this analysis I have concentrated on the areas of disagreement. In general my disagreements involve the distinctions between Covenant/Reformed theology and Dispensational theology. For further study see Problems with Reformed Theology.
In the article on Regeneration (p.1664) this shocking statement is made: "Infants can be born again, although the faith that they exercise cannot be as visible as that of adults." I wrote to R. C. Sproul (General Editor) to ask for clarification of this statement. I received a written response from Sprouls assistant, V. A. Voorhis (dated 1/6/2000) in which he made the following statement:
When the NGSB speaks in the notes of John 3 of "infants being born again," it is speaking of the work of quickening God does in them which inclines their will to Him. In Protestantism, regeneration always precedes faith and if God quickens them, the person will surely come . . .Often, regeneration and our subsequent faith happen apparently simultaneously but logically, regeneration must precede faith. An infant’s faith may not come until years after God has worked by His Holy Spirit to regenerate him or her. Two Biblical examples of infants who were born again are seen in Psalm 22:9-10 and Luke 1:15. [emphasis mine].
According to this teaching a child can be born again or regenerated as an infant and not come to faith in Christ until years later! This may or may not have been the teaching of the Reformers, but it certainly is not the teaching of the Word of God. See our paper, Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
They teach that baptism corresponds to the Old Testament rite of circumcision and that it is a sign of the covenant of grace (p. 1557). "No prescription of a particular mode of baptism can be found in the New Testament. The command to be baptized may be fulfilled by immersion, dipping, or sprinkling; all three modes satisfy the meaning of the Greek verb baptizo" (p.1776). [Note: the term baptizo means to “immerse, to submerge.” It does not mean to sprinkle. Also how can dipping or sprinkling be an adequate picture of burial? See Rom. 6:4. When you bury someone, you don’t sprinkle a few handfuls of dirt over the person!]. Baptism is "the initiation rite into the covenant community" (note under Genesis 17:12). "Baptism and the Lords Supper, corresponding to and replacing the old covenant rites of circumcision and Passover, are covenant ordinances" (p.30). "Baptism and the Lords Supper replace circumcision and Passover" (p. 584). Since Reformed theology fails to make proper distinctions between Israel and the church, they wrongly connect infant circumcision with Christian baptism resulting in the erroneous doctrine of infant baptism. See the next paragraph.
This Study Bible promotes the practice of infant baptism: "Baptizing the infant children of believers has been the historic practice of most churches...Historic Reformed theology contests the view that only adult, believers baptism is true baptism, and it rejects the exclusion of believers children from the visible community of faith... The practice of infant baptism is neither prescribed nor forbidden in the New Testament . . .The scriptural case for baptizing believers infants rests on the parallel between Old Testament circumcision and N.T. baptism as signs and seals of the covenant of grace . . . Infant children of believers have the status of covenant children and therefore should be baptized, just as Jewish male infants had previously been circumcised. The Old Testament precedent requires it" (p. 38). They also argue that "household baptisms" probably included infants (p.38). This is refuted by Acts 16:31-34 where we are told that the jailers whole house believed in God (v.34), thus showing that they could not have been infants. A careful study of the book of Acts will demonstrate that only believers were baptized in water.
Verses which speak of the kingdom being free from the threat of wild animals should be
understood "figuratively" to describe the peace and security and
"reconciling love" that is found during this present church age from the first
advent until Christs return (see notes under Isaiah 11:6-9 and Hosea 2:18). Note: In
Genesis 1:29-30 the Geneva Study Bible says "animal diets were originally
vegetarian." Why do they understand Genesis chapter 1 literally and Isaiah chapter 11
figuratively? See our two papers Do
I Interpret the Bible
Literally? Six Tests To See if I Truly Do and
Consistent Literal Interpretation (Showing
the Inconsistencies of Non-Dispensationalists)
When was it written? “Most scholars favor a date about A.D. 95" (p. 2004). If
95 A.D. is the correct date, as most scholars believe, then this is a death blow
to preterism. It would then be impossible to say that the things predicted in
Revelation were fulfilled in 70 A.D. as preterists argue. Even R. C. Sproul, the
General Editor, is a partial preterist, and this note in his own study Bible
serves to condemn his own view! [Preterism is the view that most prophecies have
already been fulfilled in or around 70 A.D.]
"Christians have been set free from the law as a system of salvation" (p. 1856). "The Christian is free from the law as a system of salvation, but is under law toward Christ as a rule of life" (p. 259). This is typical of Reformed theology's teaching that the we are not under the law for justification but we are under the law for sanctification. See our study What is The Believers Rule of Life?
The NGSB presents four interpretations of the days in Genesis 1 without really declaring any one of them to be the correct interpretation: "Some view these as literal, sequential 24-hour days. This interpretation usually entails the view that the earth is relatively young. Other scholars, nothing that the Hebrew word for day (yom) can refer to periods of time (e.g. 2:4) have proposed the day-age theory. Still others suggest that literal, 24-hour days are intended, but that these days were separated by extended periods of time. Finally some scholars argue that the days of creation constitute a literary framework designed to teach that God alone is the Creator of an orderly universe, and to call upon human beings made in the image of the Creator God to reflect Gods creative activity in their own pattern of labor. This framework hypothesis views the days of creation as Gods gracious accommodation to the limitations of human knowledge-an expression of the infinite Creators work in terms understandable to finite and frail human beings. This last group of scholars observes that the universe gives the appearance of great antiquity, that the phrase morning and evening seems inconsistent with the day-age theory and that the notion of intervening ages between isolated 24-hour days is not apparent from the text" (see note under Genesis 1:5, p.7). It appears, from the argumentation above, that the editors favor the "framework hypothesis" while at the same time allowing for the other views. Are they saying that what God wrote in Genesis 1 was really erroneous but that He had to write it this way in order for man to understand? It should be noted that although the Scofield Bible and New Scofield Bible have notes supporting the Gap Theory, most dispensationalists of today have rejected it and believe in a recent creation with the universe being created in six literal days. See our studies entitled, The Six Days of Creation and The Gap Theory.
"Under the new covenant...the sabbath is renewed, with the day changed from the last to the first day of the week. The Apostles and early Christians worshiped on the first day of the week and regarded it as the Christian Sabbath" (p. 584). Where in the Bible are we ever told that the Sabbath was changed from the seventh day to the first day? Why was Paul not informed about such a change because he continued to refer to the seventh day as the Sabbath (Acts 13:27)? Why was Luke not informed about such a change because he continued to refer to the seventh day as the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 13:42; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4)? See our study, The Sabbath and The Lord's Day.
"The church is continuous with Israel....the church is His Israel (Gal. 6:16). See page 1864. The phrase "the Israel of God" would include "both Gentiles and Jews" (note under Gal. 6:16). But under this same note this concession is made: "It could also refer to the elect of the Jewish nation for whose salvation Paul was deeply concerned" (p.1858). Spiritual Israel consists of "all elect persons both Jew and Gentile" (see note under Rom. 11:26). See also the note on page 1638 where "Gods Israel" is identified as "the seed of Abraham" and "the company of believers in Jesus" (that is, the church). A careful study of the term "Israel" in the New Testament shows that the term is either used of the nation Israel as a whole or of the believing remnant within. It is never used of the church in general or Gentile believers in particular. Galatians 6:16 refers to the Israel that belongs to God, i.e. saved Jews. See the following study: The Use of the Term "Israel" in the N.T.
The note under Romans 3:24 teaches that justification is grounded not only in Christs death on the cross where He bore the penalty of Gods judgment against us but also "it is grounded in Christs lifelong obedience in which He fulfilled the precepts of Gods law for us." "In His active obedience, Christ fulfilled the positive commandments of God on behalf of His people. This positive righteousness is granted as a gift through faith to believers" (p.1670 and see also the note on p.1718). This idea of "vicarious law-keeping" is not in line with the teaching of the epistles. I would recommend the discussion of this point in William Newells commentary on ROMANS (see pages 190-193). This is an important point that is missed by many believers. For a full discussion of this important issue, see Vicarious Law-Keeping (Christ's Active Righteousness.
This is explained at length on pages 30 and 584. Much of the discussion pertains to what they call "the covenant of grace." Where in the Bible do we find such a covenant? I did a "phrase search" in my computer Bible program. I searched for the phrase "covenant of grace" and found that it occurs nowhere in the Bible. I also searched for "covenant of works" and found that it occurs nowhere in the Bible. Dispensationalists recognize fully that Gods grace is clearly seen in some of the major Biblical covenants such as the covenant that God made with Noah, the covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant God made with David and the new covenant. But why do Reformed men construct a whole theology around certain covenants that are not even mentioned in Scripture?
"The fruit of regeneration is faith. Regeneration precedes faith" (p. 1664). "When once regenerated and having the will set free to choose God and the good, a sinner turns away from the former pattern of living and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour" (p. 1904). This is a troubling doctrine which says that a person must have life before he can believe, whereas the Bible teaches that a person must believe in order to have life (John 20:31; 3:16; 1:12; etc.). It is absurd to teach that a person must be saved (regenerated) in order to believe! See our paper Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
The NGSB teaches that it is. See note under Ephesians 2:8. See our booklet, What is the "Gift of God" in Ephesians 2:8? It is important not to confuse the gift with the reception of the gift. Faith is the hand of the heart that receives Gods great and gracious gift of salvation.
The NGSB denies that Christ paid sins penalty for all men and teaches instead a "definite atonement" whereby "Christ died [only] for His elect people" (p. 1682). The editors believe that Christs substitutionary death does not apply to all but to the elect only (see note under 2 Peter 2:1). They also teach that Christ actually saved and redeemed and reconciled all those for whom He died (see p. 2040). Thus the "all men" in 1 Tim. 2:1,4,6 is interpreted to mean "all types of people," that is "God does not choose His elect from any single group" (p. 1909). In John 3:16 "the world" means "the elect from all over the world" (see note under John 3:16). See our lengthy paper For Whom Did Christ Die?
The NGSB teaches this doctrine: "It is usual in Protestant theology to define predestination as including both Gods decision to save some from sin (election) and the corresponding decision not to save others (reprobation)" (p. 1487). "Reprobation is taught in the Bible" (p. 1784). In response to this, the note by C. H. Mackintosh is appropriate:
It is deeply interesting to mark the way in which Scripture guards against the repulsive doctrine of reprobation. Look, for example, at Matthew 25:34. Here, the King, in addressing those on His right hand, says, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."’ Contrast with this the address to those on His left hand (v.41): ‘Depart from Me ye cursed [He does not say 'of My Father'] into everlasting fire, prepared [not for you, but] for the devil and his angels." So also, in Romans 9. In speaking of the "vessels of wrath," it says "fitted to destruction"--fitted not by God surely, but by themselves. On the other hand, when speaking of the "vessels of mercy," it says, "which He had afore prepared unto glory." The grand truth of election is fully established; the repulsive error of reprobation, sedulously avoided (The Mackintosh Treasury, p. 606 footnote).
We find the same in 2 Thessalonians where election is taught in chapter 2, verse 13, but it does not say, "God hath from the beginning chosen some to damnation." No, the reason men are damned is clearly spelled out in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (they are damned because they did not receive the love of the truth and they did not believe the truth that they might be saved). In summary, those that go to heaven have only God to thank; those who go to hell have only themselves to blame. For a balanced view of what the Bible teaches regarding God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, see God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility.
"Total depravity includes total inability, that is, being without power to believe in God or His Word" (p. 809). In light of this Paul must have given the wrong answer to the jailer in Acts 16:31. He should have said this: "You cannot do anything to be saved. You have no ability whatsoever to do anything. You are dead and totally unable to believe in God or in His Word." The correct Biblical teaching on inability is discussed in the following document: Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
The note under 1 Corinthians 13:8 is weak because it suggests that the gifts of tongues and prophecy "function until the end of the age" (that is, until the second coming). If this is true then the gift of tongues has not yet ceased and it is still operative in the church today, as the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches teach. See our book God's Gift of Tongues.
A lengthy article on sanctification is found on page 1806. In this article nothing is said of the believers positional sanctification in Christ and also nothing is said about the believers death to sin, which according to Romans 6 is one of the foundational truths of sanctification. These same omissions are found in the section on "sanctification" in the Westminster Confession of Faith. See our studies entitled What is The Believers Rule of Life? , The Christian Life and How to Live It and Jay Adams’ Teaching on Sanctification.
"The golden age of blessing [the kingdom] is an era of salvation from sin and fellowship with God leading to a future state of complete joy in a reconstructed universe. The kingdom is present in its beginnings but future in its fullness; in one sense here already, but in the richest sense still to come" (p. 1638). This sounds much like the "already/not yet" language of the progressive dispensationalists! See our paper entitled Progressive Dispensationalism
"The idea that Christians will be taken out of this world for a period after which Christ will appear still a third time for the Second Coming has been widely held, but lacks scriptural support." The editors believe that the rapture and the second coming are one and the same and that this event coincides with one general resurrection and one general judgment prior to the eternal state. See our study on The Rapture.
The NGSB teaches that the rapture and the second coming are one and the same event, not two events separated by seven years (pages 1898-1899). Note: The Old Testament saints could see only one coming of Messiah. We now know that there are two comings of Messiah separated by about 2000 years or more. So also, the Lords second coming may at first appear to be a single event, but upon closer inspection we learn that there are actually two phases to the second coming and that these two phases are separated by a period of seven years (Daniels 70th week). Discerning Between the Two Comings of Christ
The Reformation Study Bible teaches one general final judgment: "At the second coming Jesus will bring an end to history. He will raise the dead and judge the world" (p. 1898). "When Christ comes again and history is completed, all people of all times will be raised for the judgment and take their place before Christs throne" (p. 1549). The Bible clearly distinguishes between the judgment seat of Christ, for believers, and the great white throne judgment, for the unsaved (separated by more than a thousand years). 2 Peter 3:7 does not speak of a general judgment of all men. Rather, it specifically speaks about a day when the ungodly will be judged.
How do Reformed men understand the Great White Throne Judgment? "Amillennialists and postmillennialists have generally understood this passage as one among many references to a universal final judgment at the Second Coming" (p. 2031). Of course, dispensationalists recognize that the Second Coming will take place 1000 years prior to the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 19). Discerning Between the Two Comings of Christ, the Five Judgments and the Two Resurrections
On page 2031 a remarkable concession is made (see note under Revelation 20:5,6): "If this resurrection (the first resurrection mentioned in Rev. 20:5-6) means bodily resurrection . . . the premillennialists are correct." How then do they understand the first resurrection? They see it as a spiritual resurrection "coinciding either with spiritual new birth or with going to be with Christ at the time of bodily death" (p. 2031). "The first resurrection is either the life of Christians who have died and are with Christ in heaven, or life in Christ that starts with spiritual new birth" (p. 2004). For a helpful discussion of the judgments mentioned in Scripture and the two resurrections, see our notes entitled, The Five Judgments and the Two Resurrections.
Harry Bultema (1884-1952) pastored Christian Reformed churches in Iowa and Michigan. He was a reformed theologian but in his study of prophecy he came to realize that the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, did not teach one general resurrection. He published his findings in his book Maranatha--A Study of Unfulfilled Prophecy. This book was re-published by Kregel Publications in 1985 (it was originally published in the Dutch language). His discussion on the first resurrection is very insightful and more detailed than most of the writings of dispensationalists who treat this subject.
The NGSB denies a literal thousand year reign of Christ. The editors understand the thousand years as "the entire period that begins with the resurrection of Christ" (p. 2005), that is, the time period from the resurrection of Christ to the Second Coming. They would thus teach that the present age is the millennium, and thus the kingdom is here and now. They also teach that "Satan has been bound through the triumph of Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection" (p. 2004 and see note under Col. 2:15). It is amazing what Satan can accomplish in this present age, even though he is bound! And if Satan is bound now, then when is He going to be released (according to Rev. 20:7-9)? The NGSB has no explanatory notes on Revelation 20:7-9. See The KINGDOM.
"Ezekiels restored temple is not a blueprint, but a vision that stresses the purity and spiritual vitality of the ideal place of worship. It is not intended for an earthly, physical fulfillment" (p. 1315, emphasis mine). Dispensationalists follow this rule: When the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense. Reformed theology seems to follow this rule, as illustrated with the millennial temple: When the plain sense contradicts our theological system, seek some other sense lest we end up agreeing with the dispensationalists! It is interesting that the NGSB does not even comment on the animal sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel 43:18-25. Another example of a non-literal interpretation is found in the note under Revelation 11:3 where two witnesses are said to "symbolize churches rather than specific individuals." How a church can be "clothed in sackcloth" (Rev. 11:3) and how a church can be described as a "dead body" (v.9) are problems that are left unexplained. See our paper Do You Interpret the Bible Literally? Six Tests to See if You Do and Consistent Literal Interpretation (Showing the Inconsistencies of Non-Dispensationalists).
--George Zeller, March 2000, revised May 2004 and December 2007
The Middletown Bible Church
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