NASB Side Column Reference Bible (2017) Review

 

Since at least 1973, the Side Column Reference Bible (SCR) has been a mainstay of the New American Standard Bible. It is the “workhorse” Bible for many a pastor, student, missionary, or at-home Christian who wants to know God better. It is the one Bible that I keep going back to, irrespective of which translation that I try to use. Why, though? What is it that makes the SCR the ideal choice in a Bible? I hope to answer that in this review…

 

Disclaimer: Today’s review Bible, the NASB Side Column Reference Bible in black calfskin was provided by the Lockman Foundation at no charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not asked for a positive review, simply an honest one.

 

Product Details from Lockman

A one inch outside margin and over 95,000 cross-references will enhance your daily reading and study. This Bible features a single column of Bible text making reading smooth and steady.

Features

  • 1″ Wide margin
  • Concordance
  • Maps
  • Side-column cross references and text notes
  • Single column, verse format layout
  • Presentation Page
  • Family record section
  • Black Letter
  • 2 Ribbon markers
  • Gold page edges
  • 10-point text size
  • 75″ x 7.00″ x 1.50″

 

To the question of what makes this Bible the ideal choice…

As I have mentioned before, most people have only one Bible that they use on a daily basis; it is an uncommon event for them to purchase a new one and so choosing a new Bible can be a very momentous event (and from what I have been able to participate in at local bookstores, a very emotional one as well). Hopefully this review helps you to make your decision…

 

Translation Choice:

It is no secret that I love the NASB and there is perhaps no choice more important that which English translation that you use. New American Standard Bible is absolutely uncontested as the most literal translation that you can invest your resources in; a sentiment backed up by a number of college professors and pastors that I know. Almost every pastor I know, regardless of what they teach from, owns an NASB and uses it for comparative study. NASB, being the update of the 1901 ASV, well lives up to its tagline that the most literal is now more readable. Some have said that the NASB sounds “wooden/stiff;” I disagree. After 21 years of use, I find the NASB to be as familiar as talking to an old friend.

The Margins

I love wide margin bibles and this is no exception. Margins are 1-inch wide and while I have seen as large as 1.25 in times past, this seems to be the standard size. Every page has these luxurious margins for your notes and personal cross references. In fact, it is this feature alone that makes this your personal bible. No one else will ever put the same content into their Bible.

 

Let’s digress for a moment. There are two brands of pens that I would recommend for writing in your margins and I will link them below.

http://pilotpen.us/categories/ball-point-pens/better-retractable/

F-301 Retractable Ballpoint 0.7mm Assorted 9pk

 

Both of these pen series will provide rich color with little to no bleed through. I have tried a number of different pens and highlighters in various Bibles and I have found that I like the Pilot Better Retractable and the Zebra F-301 the best for writing notes and underlining. Your results may vary. As far as highlighters go, I still have not yet arrived at a product that I like well enough to recommend. 

What do I recommend to write in the margins of your SCR Bible? There really isn’t one specific answer. In some Bibles I like to write key points from a sermon I am listening to. In other Bibles I like to do topical reference lists. With my NASB, I always have at least one that has word studies in it.

 

Notes and References

95,000 references guide you through virtually every possibility of Scripture interpreting Scripture. There are one or two Bibles that offer more references such as the Westminster but, for most pastors, this Bible will go far beyond your daily needs Accompanying the references are translators notes, showing alternate translations as well as what variant Greek manuscripts may or may not have in the text.

 

If you are unfamiliar with a Bible from Foundation Publications (Lockman’s publishing brand) it is somewhat difficult to explain why I think the references are a big deal. There are some other Bibles with excellent references, Concord, ESV Classic, and others but Foundation Publications Reference Bibles stand in a class by themselves, ok maybe Westminster joins them. I always advise people to choose a Bible as if it were going to be the only tool you have to study the Bible ever again and in choosing the SCR you will be sufficiently supplied with tools to study and to teach others. We will talk about additional tools in another section.

 

Size and Portability

This is considered a full size Bible with dimensions of 9.75x7x1.50 inches. To look at it, you would not think it would be easily portable. For a book of its size, I expected it to be a little heavier. I am very parapatetic (I like to walk and talk) and I am also very Italian (I talk with my hands and in both cases there was no issue. While I am not as hard on my Bibles as Dr. Stanley, I do put them through their paces and I am confident that this will hold up nicely.

It was a little big for the pocket I normally use in my laptop bag but easily fits in the main pocket. If you are curious as to which Bibles work well with which briefcases, I have found that Solo and Swiss Gear do nicely. When you are traveling, this Bible should fit in most luggage or laptop bags easily.

Cover & Binding

As would be expected, the SCR uses a smythe sewn binding. In regular English, that means that it is sewn together so that you do not have to worry about chunks of the Bible falling out (I live in Arizona and have made the mistake of leaving a glued Bible in the car. That is not a cleaning bill I plan to get again). It also means it will lay flat, ready for study, no matter which book you open to. This particular method would allow, if you were so inclined and I am not, for folding your Bible in half. I am not inclined to do that because eventually it will damage the spine.

The calfskin for the cover is very soft and limp. It does not rival the venerable 2002 edition but I do not really see anything to complain about; it is what I expect from an ironed calfskin cover. The calfskin SCR is leather lined for an even softer more supple feel.

 

Caring for your calfskin

For some of you, this may be your first calfksin Bible and I want to add a little note. The most important advice I can give you is to use it. Your skin has natural oils that will keep the leather soft and supple. Do not use household oils. If you need a particular product, I recommend you contact Leonards Books and they can give you several ideas.

 

How long should this SCR last? That will depend on you, the user. With proper care, I could see 20 years of use before a rebind would be needed; here in the desert that might be closer to 10. The block itself could last 50 years.

 

The Paper

At last we come to it, the major concern of those buying Bibles today, the paper…

How you view the paper is largely dependent upon your experience with other Bibles. I would classify this as a semi-premium Bible because of its price point. I have 4 versions of the SCR, 1973, 2002, 2013, and 2017. The 2002 has the best paper of the three. That being said…

I like the paper. There isn’t really see through like there was on the 2013 edition. Comparatively speaking, the 2013 SCR was no where near as bad as some of the garbage other publishers try to pass off as a quality Bible. Some people are super particular and if they see any shadow, at all, they don’t like the book. Those folk will not like this edition. Others, like myself, are more realistic and will note that even though you see a little shadowing, you cannot read the text on the opposite side of the page like you can in other Bibles.

I want to write in this Bible, what will happen? Earlier, I mentioned two series of pens that I recommend; if you use these, you will be fine. You should not experience bleed through. I cannot speak to any liquid highlighters as I do not plan to try them. The gel and dry-liners should not have any issue either.

Here is some official information from Lockman:

“New:

30 gsm, 1520 pages per inch

Whiteness ~84

Opacity ~83

 

Past/current paper:

28 gsm, PPI 1350

Whiteness ~87

Opacity ~77

 

The new paper is a brighter color which provides better contrast with the print. It’s smoother and more consistent in opacity across the page. It’s more thin reducing the thickness.

 

It will take a while for the new editions to filter into distribution depending on binding and there will be a mix of edition for quite a while. There is not a way to tell when purchasing, so the new ones will get out over time and I don’t know how long that will take.”

 

I am pleased with the paper overall.

 

Tools

The other tools that are available are the NASB Concordance, Book Introductions and Maps. These are fairly uniform across Foundation Publications products so there is not much needing to be said.

Final Thoughs

This is an excellent Bible. I give it a 9.5/10. I am only taking half a point off for lack of goatskin as a cover option. While we wait for the new update, I commend this Bible to you for your daily study and ministry needs.

 

**Additional/better pictures to follow**

 

3 Comments

  1. JOHN PODGORNEY

    Great review Matt! I appreciate your thoroughness and honesty. Thanks for showing us what’s available.

  2. Good review and nice pictures. Maybe you could include some pictures on how it lays flat in Genesis (the pic of Rev 9 is good but sometimes there is a concordance in the Bible that holds the back down).

    You note it has better paper than some of the earlier versions but the pictures look like there is a fair amount of ghosting (but maybe that’s just me).

    Is the text spacing identical to the earlier versions?

    Thank you for not focusing so much on how awesome the cover is. So many Bible reviewers are really impressed with the flexibility and feel of the leather. I find that if the text is not as legible as I like or too squished together that no matter how nice the cover is I tend not to read it.

  3. Excellent review, Matt! I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. 🙂

    I was worried about the paper quality and wanted to know more before deciding whether to purchase one or not. I think I might do it now even though I just got a good pre-owned SCR from the early 90’s (I don’t have a specific date as the publication info page was removed by the previous owner.).

    Thanks!

    Keith

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