Baylor Annotated Study Bible Review

Baylor Annotated Study Bible Review

 

The newest member of the General Reference/Academic Study Bible category is the Baylor Annotated Study Bible, an interesting new offering which is a joint venture between Baylor University Press and Tyndale House Publishers.  (Before we continue, I want to mention that neither Tyndale House nor Baylor University solicited this review, nor did they provide a copy for review; I sourced my copy on my own.)

Baylor Annotated Study Bible Photos

 

This may be a fairly lengthy review as there will be some comparisons between Baylor’s offering and the other Bibles in the category. Those Bibles are New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Interpreters Study Bible, Harper Collins Study Bible, CEB Study Bible.

 

Translation

With one exception, the Academic/General Reference Bibles are offered in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Another publisher, Abingdon offers two Bibles in this category, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible and the Common English Bible Study Bible.

The NRSV is, widely, considered to be the most ecumenical of the Bible translations. This is proven accurate by its acceptance by Protestants, Catholics, and the various Eastern Orthodox Communities. The Old Testament is superbly done but the New Testament is not really a favorite of mine.

I am reviewing an edition with the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical which I wish more Christians would read as there is some very helpful historical information contained in them.

 

The Physical Form

Cover and Binding

My copy is a green hardcover with dust jacket. There is also an imitation leather option available. Both should prove fairly sturdy.

The Baylor Annotated Study Bible includes a smythe sewn binding. This binding is even more important in a textbook. For a Bible that is required for classroom use, which this is, you need a strong binding that will hold up to very rigorous daily use in the classroom.

Paper

Of the 5 Bibles in this category, Baylor offers the best paper. It is very similar, if not exactly the same, as the paper in the Tyndale Living Bible shown in the photos. I estimate it at about 36gsms. It is nicely opaque and will hold up to writing very well. My recommendation in this particular case would be colored pencil. Since it may be used in multiple classes, colored pencil will make it easier to keep track of your personal annotations.

Layout & Font

The Bible text is laid out in a double column paragraph format. The notes are laid out in a single column beneath the text. As with the Oxford Annotated and Harper Collins Study Bibles, the cross references are interspersed among the notes. Baylor, it seems, offers more cross references than either of the two “Academic Standard” Bibles.

Font size looks to be 9.75-10.5 for the Scripture and 8.75-9.5 on the footnotes. As you would expect in a textbook, we have a black letter text. Any serious student will tell you this is the preferred coloration as you will most likely color code your notes.

For reasons unknown to me, none of the 5 Bibles in this category offer notes pages or wide margins. I find this curious since they are intended for college and seminary students.

Content

Bible Timeline

This feature stood out more than any other feature. There is a 10-page Bible timeline/chronology. Visual learners will appreciate the timeline as it helps to lend understanding to Redemptive History.

 

Introductions

A standard feature of study Bibles, all 66 of the books in the Protestant Canon include an introduction. The introduction appears to be brief, but this is a trick your eyes are playing on you. In addition to the Author and some background information, the Introduction actually is the outline. The major sections of the book are broken down in the introduction for your convenience.

I would like to see interpretive challenges discussed but this is not a deal breaker for me. No doubt in the classroom, the professor will have access to the various interpretive challenges and present them to the class.

Annotations

There are approximately 5000-7500 annotations, mostly on par with the Oxford Annotated but quite a bit less than New Interpreters (Approximately 15000) and Significantly less than CEB Study Bible (around 18000-20000 notes). The annotations, while broadly academic, do have a distinctly Baptist flavor. This is not surprising given Baylor’s status as the World’s largest Baptist University.

The notes on Genesis 1 are acceptable to me as a conservative Baptist. They provide background and reference other creation narratives from the ancient world, but they do not seem to attempt to discount the veracity of the Genesis narrative nor do they attempt to detract from it as history. Instead they shed more light on how the ancients would have viewed creation and also look at God superintending creation.

In Revelation, the notes took a turn I did not expect. Like the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, they take the Idealist Approach to Revelation while the other three take more of a historicist and/or preterist approach. Many, perhaps even most of my conservative Dispensational Baptist colleagues, would take issue with the idealist approach but I cannot. To the best of my knowledge and research, a blend of futurist and idealist approaches is the best understanding of Revelation.

Like the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, the notes are conversational in nature. I actually find myself talking to the text in the Baylor as it causes me to think out loud. Can I reason through the text and arrive at the thoughts in the text? Do I disagree with the text? Am I reading my own biases into the notes? If you are the type that likes to interact with the supplementary material, you will enjoy the Baylor Annotated Study Bible.

Interestingly, the Apocrypha is not annotated whereas it is in the other Bibles in this category. I really do not have an opinion one way or another on this. The Apocrypha will never feature in a sermon from my pulpit as I only use it for historical reference.

Glossary and Concordance

No true textbook could ever be without a glossary and a topical index (concordance).

The glossary is 12 pages and covers terms related to textual criticism and historical context. It is very helpful.

The full NRSV Concordance is provided and it really does not need comment. It is an excellent subject/topical reference to the Scriptures.

Compared to the CEB Study Bible

Baylor’s offering is superior in that it offers a more widely acceptable translation and the notes are more thought provoking.

CEB Study Bible is the only one in the group that is full color, but it also features a very new translation of the Bible. It also tops Baylor in the numbers of notes and cross references offered.

Which would I choose? I have to choose Baylor vs CEB. NRSV is a formal equivalence translation where Common English Bible is a very dynamic equivalence translation. For academics, a literal translation is the preferred choice; one of what you are learning is how to interpret the text.

Both of these Bibles should be owned but the Baylor is to be preferred.

Compared to the New Interpreter’s Study Bible

The comparison here is much more difficult. New Interpreter’s does have more study tools available, but the notes are very close to the Baylor Annotated Study Bible despite New Interpreters being designed by a Methodist Publishing House.

I cannot choose one over the other and, fortunately, I do not have to since I have both. The Baylor Annotated Study Bible is my first reach and then I immediately go to the New Interpreter’s Study Bible to compare. I grew up in the Wesleyan tradition but later in life became a Baptist. They are very similar, and I find the notes in both cases to be like learning from an old friend.

 

Compared to the Harper Collins Study Bible

I confess that of the 5 Bibles in this category, the Harper Collins Study Bible is the one I like least. The Harper Collins is similar in size and content to the Baylor, but it is much more liberal in the annotations. Because of its association with the Society of Biblical Literature, the Harper Collins Study Bible is billed as “the standard general reference for understanding the Bible.” I emphatically disagree and I will bear that out in another article.

The Baylor Annotated Study Bible, while not truly conservative has far less bias in the notes than the Harper Collins. If I were asked to choose, Baylor wins hands down.

 

Compared to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (The Scholar’s Choice)

This, again, is a very difficult comparison. Oxford offers more supplemental content in terms of articles for understanding the Bible. Oxford also offers in text maps and charts where Baylor does not. Oxford does offer some timelines and chronologies but the offering from Baylor is superior, offering more content.

Oxford gives more material in the introductions but, I feel like Baylor prompts you to think through the text more. It seems to me like Oxford give more of the answers.

As was the case with the New Interpreter’s, I do not recommend trying to choose one over the other. They are similar but different enough to merit owning both.

 

For Everyday Use

The size of the book, paper, and font lend themselves nicely to the idea of the Baylor Annotated Study Bible being an everyday carry Bible. I have thousands of resources in the cloud as well as in various software programs, but I confess that the Baylor will continue to be in my briefcase alongside my preaching NIV. I have not begun to mark in it (I need to get some new colored pencils in my preferred brand, Prang, first) but I do intend to do so.

It works very well in most lighting situations. I do prefer to use it at my desk instead of in my reading chair as I find myself reaching for my notepad frequently while reading it.

 

For Pastoral Use

Could I actually use it during sermon preparation? Yes, and more than the others in this category. The background information and textual criticism notes fill a need in lesson prep. There are ideas here that are not treated in the pulpit but need to be. I would encourage pastors to own a copy.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, I like it. There are some minor changes I would make but all in all it is quite satisfactory. It goes without saying that I recommend college and seminary level students to own a copy. Sunday School Teachers; I also recommend that pastors own a copy.

 

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