Tag: General Reference Bible

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.

 

Oxford Annotated Bibles Combined Review (Recovered and Updaated)

Oxford Annotated Bibles Combined Review (Recovered and Updaated)

 

 

(There are two version of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) that are available, NOAB 4thEdition in NRSV, both with and without Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books and the NOAB Expanded Edition in the RSV) .

 

NOAB 4th Edition (NRSV) Photos

NOAB Expanded Edition (RSV) Photos)

Before we get into the review, some technical information:

Product Information

Type: Ecumenical/General Reference/Academic/Seminary-Grade Text

Translation Choices: NRSV (NOAB 4th Edition) and RSV (NOAB Expanded Edition)

 

Number of Pages (NOAB 4th Edition) 2416

Number of Pages (NOAB Expanded Edition) 1904

There are approximately 500 more pages of content in the NOAB 4th Edition vs the Expanded Edition. The Expanded Edition is much closer to the original Oxford Annotated Bible (which was also RSV and which I also own). I leave it to the reader to decide whether or not this is a positive.

 

Features (from the OUP Bibles Official pages)

  • Wholly revised, and greatly expanded book introductions and annotations
  • Annotations in a single column across the page bottom, paragraphed according to their boldface topical headings
  • In-text background essays on the major divisions of the biblical text
  • Essays on the history of the formation of the biblical canon for Jews and various Christian churches
  • More detailed explanations of the historical background of the text
  • More in-depth treatment of the history and varieties of biblical criticism
  • A timeline of major events in the ancient Near East
  • A full index to all of the study materials, keyed to the page numbers on which they occur
  • A full glossary of scholarly and critical terms
  • 36-page section of full color New Oxford Bible Maps, approximately 40 in-text line drawing maps and diagrams
  • 10-point type for NOAB Expanded Edition, 9-point for NOAB 4th Edition

 

Product Description from Oxford University Press

The premier study Bible used by scholars, pastors, undergraduate and graduate students, The New Oxford Annotated Bible offers a vast range of information, including extensive notes by experts in their fields; in-text maps, charts, and diagrams; supplementary essays on translation, biblical interpretation, cultural and historical background, and other general topics. Extensively revised (NOAB 4th Edition)—half of the material is brand new—featuring a new design to enhance readability, and brand-new color maps, the Annotated Fourth Edition adds to the established reputation of this essential biblical studies resource. Many new and revised maps, charts, and diagrams further clarify information found in the Scripture text. In addition, section introductions have been expanded and the book introductions present their information in a standard format so that students can find what they need to know. Of course, the Fourth Edition retains the features prized by students, including single column annotations at the foot of the pages, in-text charts, and maps, a page number-keyed index of all the study materials in the volume, and Oxford’s renowned Bible maps. This timely edition maintains and extends the excellence the Annotated’s users have come to expect, bringing still more insights, information, and perspectives to bear upon the understanding of the biblical text.

Classic but not stodgy, up-to-date but not trendy, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: 4th Edition is ready to serve new generations of students, teachers, and general readers.

 

Initial Thoughts

OUP sent me the NOAB 4th Edition in the New Revised Standard Version, without Apocrypha, free of charge in exchange for an honest review and I acquired, at my own expense, a copy of the NOAB Expanded Edition in the Revised Standard Version. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised with the NOAB and there are a number of things about it that I like.

 

I find myself being surprised at liking the Apocrypha. Some of it is fictional but there is a wealth of historical information regarding the segment of world history that transpired between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Update (May 2020): Many conservative/evangelical readers are almost entirely unfamiliar with the Apocrypha. After reviewing it for a couple years, I am convinced that there is historical value that informs our understanding of the period between the Old Testament and the New. I recommend all Christians read it, keeping in mind of course, that it is not canonical Scripture.

Translation Choice:

The NOAB is available in both Revised Standard Version and New Revised Standard Version. Let’s look at some information on each translation:

RSV: (from Wikipedia and other sources)

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English-language translation of the Bible published in several parts during the mid-20th century. The RSV is a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) authorized by the copyright holder, the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.

The RSV posed the first serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized (King James) Version (KJV). It was intended to be a readable and literally accurate modern English translation, not only to create a clearer version of the Bible for the English-speaking church but also to “preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries” and “to put the message of the Bible in simple, enduring words that are worthy to stand in the great Tyndale-King James tradition.

 

The Isaiah 7:14 dispute 

The RSV New Testament was well received, but reactions to the Old Testament were varied and not without controversy. Critics claimed that the RSV translators had translated the Old Testament from a non-Christian perspective. Some critics specifically referred to a Jewish viewpoint, pointing to agreements with the 1917 Jewish Publication Society of America Version TaNaKH and the presence on the editorial board of a Jewish scholar, Harry Orlinsky. Such critics further claimed that other views, including those of the New Testament, were not considered. The focus of the controversy was the RSV’s translation of the Hebrew word עַלְמָה (‘almah) in Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” rather than the traditional Christian translation of “virgin”.

Of the seven appearances of ʿalmāh, the Septuagint translates only two of them as parthenos, “virgin” (including Isaiah 7:14). By contrast, the word בְּתוּלָה (bəṯūlāh) appears some 50 times, and the Septuagint and English translations agree in understanding the word to mean “virgin” in almost every case.

 

NRSV: (from nrsv.net and Wikipedia)

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Christian Bible is an English translation released in 1989. It is an updated revision of the Revised Standard Version, which was itself an update of the American Standard Version.

 

The NRSV was intended as a translation to serve devotional, liturgical and scholarly needs of the broadest possible range of religious adherents. The full translation includes the books of the standard Protestant canon as well as the books traditionally included in the canons of Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity (the so-called “Apocryphal” or “Deuterocanonical” books).

The translation appears in three main formats: an edition including only the books of the Protestant canon, a Roman Catholic Edition with all the books of that canon in their customary order, and The Common Bible, which includes all books that appear in Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox canons. Special editions of the NRSV employ British spelling and grammar.

Principles of revision for NRSV

Improved manuscripts and translations

The Old Testament translation of the RSV was completed before the Dead Sea Scrolls were available to scholars. The NRSV was intended to take advantage of this and other manuscript discoveries, and to reflect advances in scholarship.

 

Elimination of archaism

The RSV retained the archaic second person familiar forms (“thee and thou”) when God was addressed but eliminated their use in other contexts. The NRSV eliminated all such archaisms. In a prefatory essay to readers, the translation committee said that “although some readers may regret this change, it should be pointed out that in the original languages neither the Old Testament nor the New makes any linguistic distinction between addressing a human being and addressing the Deity.”

Gender language (This is what makes the NRSV somewhat controversial, though it is no secret that NIV and NLT do similarly)

In the preface to the NRSV Bruce Metzger wrote for the committee that “many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text”. The RSV observed the older convention of using masculine nouns in a gender-neutral sense (e.g. “man” instead of “person”), and in some cases used a masculine word where the source language used a neuter word. The NRSV by contrast adopted a policy of inclusiveness in gender language. According to Metzger, “The mandates from the Division specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture.”

 

As it happens, I prefer the RSV though it is hard to explain why. The NRSV’s Old Testament is very well done, perhaps even better than the NIV as is its parent, the RSV. NRSV feels somewhat more like a Dynamic Equivalence translation even though both RSV and NRSV are essentially literal.

Update (May 2020) I have warmed to the NRSV more than at the time of the original publication of this article. However, I still prefer the RSV to the NRSV. I have neither qualitative nor quantitative explanation for this fact other than to state it as a fact.

 

Content:

The supplemental articles are essentially the same in both editions, despite the fact that the last update on the RSV was in 1977. There are articles on interpretation of the text, source materials (original language texts used), contemporary methods of Bible study and others.

An estimated number of footnotes is not provided; I would guess at between 8,000-10,000 notes. They are comparable to the Harper Collins Study Bible (Incidentally a much better name is needed for this) or to the NIV Study Bible, but nowhere near the monstrous 20,000+ study notes that are provided in the ESV Study Bible. I would say that the closed comparable Bible in terms of content would be the New Interpreter’s Study Bible from Abingdon Press.

The Book Introductions are fairly brief in both versions, no more than just a couple paragraphs really. They cover mainly historical background information. I have to say that the introductions were a major disappointment for me. In a Bible that bills itself as the Academic Standard, there are some points that I would expect to see treated in the book introductions that are just not there. I would expect to see interpretive challenges being addressed, especially the “disputed” letters from Paul (Colossians and Ephesians which some question Pauline authorship of), such as in the Reformation Study Bible or the MacArthur Study Bible. I would also expect, in the Academic Standard, that you would see a section in each book introduction of how Christ is portrayed in that book and how that book fits, overall, into the Scriptures. Perhaps I am over reacting but if the point of studying the Bible is to better know Christ, then a section on how each book of Sacred Writ describes Him seems to be quite essential.

 

There are no conspicuous cross-references (center-column or end of verse) and I am completely annoyed by that fact; yes there are references in the footnotes but that is hardly the point. I have a number of reference Bibles that I use (first choice is Thompson Chain followed by KJV Westminster) and so, the lack of obvious cross-references is not a deal breaker for me; this too is beside the point. Most of America has only one Bible and they use that daily. Oxford certainly has enough room to include center column references or end of verse references; they could even go in the gutter.

I realize that in an edition with the Apocrypha, the inclusion of references will make it gigantic but there are other study Bibles (NIV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible) which all include extensive references and, frankly more content, than Oxford includes in its Annotated Bibles

 

Paper, Layout, and Binding

Like Cambridge University Press, Oxford still sews its Bibles and this is an absolute must with a study Bible. The paper has a slight feeling of cotton when you touch it and I love that. The paper is more opaque in the RSV Expanded but the NOAB 4th Edition has nothing to complain about. I did not see any ghosting and I feel safe in saying that you can write in this Bible with no issues.

 

The text, in both Bibles, is black letter for optimum visuals, especially if you color code your notes. We have a double column for the text notes and a single column for the annotations. I actually prefer this layout as it breaks up the page nicely but still gives me that solid textbook feel.

I really wish there were wide margins; AMG was able to pull off serviceable margins for their study Bible and I am confident that if they tried, OUP could as well.

Update (May 2020) The lack of wide margins and/or notes pages continues to aggravate me. Again, Oxford bills the Annotated Bible as the Premier General Reference Bible so why is such a glaring omission made, especially in light of the fact that the college and seminary student is almost guaranteed to add their own notes in the text.

Overall Impression

My minor complaints notwithstanding, these are fairly good Bibles to own. I like it better than the Harper Collins and the CEB Study Bibles, and for no other reason than ease of carry. NOAB 4th Edition is slim enough to fit in my laptop bag with a handbook, dictionary, and some other tools while NOAB Expanded Edition, being more of a hand sized Bible can be easily carried outside of my bag, allowing me a larger complement of study resources.

For daily use (Added May 2020)

I find the NOAB Expanded Edition to be the version that gets the most use. The larger font is easier on my eyes for longer periods of study. Additionally, I have the NOAB 5th Edition in Accordance Bible Software so I am never without the notes since I always have Accordance with me (iPhone, iPad, or MacBook -one of the three is always within reach).

 

Should you buy the New Oxford Annotated Bible

If you are a student of the Word, yes. Any student or teacher should have multiple study resources to use when approaching the Scriptures and I can see why many seminaries consider this to be the Academic Standard. Should it be your primary Bible? I cannot answer that, except to say that I think your main Bible should be as free of commentary as possible. As my mentor Doug tells me, “I want to hear what God has to say to me first. Then I will see what he told someone else.” I could not agree more. Study Bibles are a good, valuable tool when used properly but no source of commentary should ever be consulted before the Holy Spirit; if He can write the book and preserve it for thousands of years, He can certainly tell you what he means.

 

Harper Collins Study Bible Review (Recovered)

Harper Collins Study Bible Review (Recovered)

 

This review was originally published in 2015 and was lost during a server failure. It has been recovered and is being republished for your convenience…

 

Harper Collins Study Bible Photos

I am bringing a different review from my normal tract, but it is one that I think is important and because of its importance, I am going to go a little more in-depth than I may have previously.

I will  be looking at the Harper Collins Study Bible which is published by Harper Collins in association with the Society of Biblical Literature. Without any gilding the lilly or adieu whatsoever, let us dive right in to this review of  the Harper Collins Study Bible…

The Harper Collins Study Bible falls into the category of an Ecumenical Study Bible. The dictionary defines ecumenical as being interdenominational, in the connotation of there being a single church. and the Harper Collins Study Bible certainly fits into that mold; it is designed to appeal to both Protestant and Catholics. The publisher identifies it as a general reference Bible and like many of the general reference Bibles it tends to go toward the Historical-Critical Method of Textual Criticism, also known as higher criticism. 

From Theopedia…

Higher criticism, arising from 19th century European rationalism, generally takes a secular approach asking questions regarding the origin and composition of the text, including when and where it originated, how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced, what influences were at work in its production, and what original oral or written sources may have been used in its composition; and the message of the text as expressed in its language, including the meaning of the words as well as the way in which they are arranged in meaningful forms of expression. The principles of higher criticism are based on reason rather than revelation and are also speculative by nature. 

Translation Choice

The Harper Collins Study Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version. The official NRSV website, http://nrsv.net offers the following:

The NRSV is the only Bible translation that is as widely ecumenical:

•The ecumenical NRSV Bible Translation Committee consists of men and women who are among the top scholars in America today. They come from Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic church, and the Greek Orthodox Church. The committee also includes a Jewish scholar.

•The RSV was the only major translation in English that included both the standard Protestant canon and the books that are traditionally used by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians (the so-called “Apocryphal” or “Deuterocanonical” books). Standing in this tradition, the NRSV is available in three ecumenical formats: a standard edition with or without the Apocrypha, a Roman Catholic Edition, which has the so-called “Apocryphal” or “Deuterocanonical” books in the Roman Catholic canonical order, and The Common Bible, which includes all books that belong to the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox canons.

•The NRSV stands out among the many translations available today as the Bible translation that is the most widely “authorized” by the churches. It received the endorsement of thirty-three Protestant churches. It received the imprimatur of the American and Canadian Conferences of Catholic Bishops. And it received the blessing of a leader of the Greek Orthodox Church.

In the interest of candor, I have not really formed a definitive opinion on the NRSV; I certainly am not in favor of the level to which they have taken the gender inclusive language but by and large I am not 100% opposed to it nor am I 100% in favor of it. It is one of the translations that I reference when studying and I will leave it at that. 

Update (May 2020): Having spent more time with the NRSV, I find the Old Testament to be very well done indeed. One of my focus areas for study is in the realm of OT, specifically the Messianic Prophecies and NRSV is one of the best, if not the best OT translations available.

Notes

This Study Bible is clearly intended as an academic textbook and the notes certainly bear that out; the academic flavor is quite obvious. For some of my readers, this will pose a problem, for others it will not.  I find that, for lesson preparation, I do like the academc feel of the notes. I want to know what the scholars say about a text, what the pastors say about a text, what lay people say about a text and then I bring all of that together into my lesson,.

Just like the text, the notes are laid out in a double column format and it is here where you will find any cross references that are provided. The notes offer quite a bit of historical background to the text. If one were to couple the notes that are provided here with the Bible Background Commentary from InterVarsity Press, you would have a very solid foundation laid with the historical and cultural background of the Scripture. 

There are a few problems with the notes. For example, in Acts Chapter 9, the notes provided reference both 3rd and 4th Maccabees but I am not really sure why. When I checked the references, they do not really seem to bear on the text in Acts 9. The notes on Revelation seem to be preterist, including a chart that identifies the Emperor Domitian as the “Neronic Antichrist.” This is an interesting point of view (and one I emphatically disagree with). Also, like The Common English Bible Study Bible and the New Interpreters Study Bible, the Harper Collins Study Bible does not seem to take the Prophet Daniel to have been a literal person. I find this curious but it does seem to be a catholic point of view and this being an ecumenical study Bible I am not surprised to see such a position being taken. 

The best way that I can describe the notes is to call them interesting, which they certainly are. If you are not familiar with the points of view taken here, you will most likely be intrigued by what you find here.

Some of my more conservative pastoral colleagues advise avoidning these types of notes. Here is the issue I have with that approach: your congregation will encounter these ideas from other Christians so you need to be prepared. There are areas where we can disagree and still be Christians bothers and sisters and areas where we cannot disagree. If there is that which you disagree with in the notes, better to have an open honest discussion with your congregation than to have them ill prepared for a lively discussion.

Introductions

Surprisingly missing from the Harper Collins Study Bible are the outlines that you will find in most of the major study Bibles that are on the market. I actually find myself not missing them; I prefer the Inductive Study Method and one of the key points of Inductive Study is to develop your own outline of the text that you are studying. 

The largest two sections of the Introductions tend to be about the historical background and the literary aspect of the text being treated. This is very useful since, as I said earlier, it is important to understand the historical and cultural background of the original readers and to translate that into application for people thousands of years after and thousands of miles away from when it was originally written. 

Update (May 2020) The historical and cultural background portions of the introductions are invaluable. Withhin the stream of Christianity, different people groups have approached the text differently throught the lens of theri cultures and historical backgrounds. HCSB does an excellent job of presenting thse views.

Articles

There are some articles included that are intended to help the reader understand the Bible. There are articles about strategies for reading the Bible, Israelite Religion, The Context of the New Testament, and the Bible and Archaeology. When approaching the Scripture from an academic standpoint, these will be some fairly useful resources. 

Physical Form

The text is presented in a double column format with no cross references in the text itself. Instead they are found in the commentary/notes in the bottom section of the page. The font size is around 9.5/10. We are given a sewn binding, not that anything else would make sense for a textbook. The paper, despite being fairly thin is opaque enough to prevent any annoyances from ghosting or bleed through.

Final Thoughts/Should you buy it?

Despite the fact that many of my conservative colleagues are sure to lambast me for this, I find myself liking this particular Bible. Should you buy it? Well that depends on what you want out of your Bible. If you are solidly grounded in your faith, buy it. If you are new to faith, there are better places to start. That is not to say that this Bible will harm your faith but starting here would be kind of like trying to do algebra before you learn arithmetic. It would be better to start with a simpler study Bible and eventually graduate to the Harper Collins Study Bible.  

My overall impression is that it is an interesting Bible; I would give it an 8. 

Disclaimer: Harper Collins Christian Publishing sent this Bible free of charge in exchange for a review. I was not asked to give a positive review, only an honest one.

Should I Use A General Reference/Ecumenical Study Bible?

Should I Use A General Reference/Ecumenical Study Bible?

I am asked, from time to time, about the use of General Reference Bibles aka Ecumenical Study Bible and, with me being extremely conservative and extremely Baptist, my answer generally surprises people.  As it happens, I do recommend their use by pastors, Sunday School teachers and the like.  There is some content which is available in a General Reference Study Bible that is not available in the Evangelical Study Bibles.  Today I will be highlighting four, all of whihc have been reviewed here…

 

CEB Study Bible

Translation Offered: Common English Bible, a Dynamic Equivalence (Meaning-Based Translation)

Grade Level: 6th Grade for Biblical Text, 10th Grade for Study Notes

Stand-out Feature: Full color study Bible, 1000 Pages, total, of explanatory articles, introductions, and outlines, 10,000 annotations

Major Seminary: Fuller

Publisher: Abingdon Press

Oxford Annotated  and New Oxford Annotated Bibles (These are actually two different Bibles, though both are called the Oxford Bible by some)

Translation Offered: RSV for Oxford Annotated Bible, Expanded Edition and NRSV for New Oxford Annotated Bible

Stand-out feature: OAB is offered with the full Apocrypha (including for the Orthodox  church), NOAB is offered in two ecumenical options (protestant canon only and full ecumenical edition including the Full Apocrypha, Catholic and Orthodox editions)

Grade Level: 9th Grade for Biblical Text and 12th Grade for Study Notes

Major Seminary: Oxford

Special Note: The New Oxford Annotated Bible is considered the Premier Academic Study Bible and is in use in virtually every mainline seminary.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Harper Collins Study Bible

Translation Offered: NRSV with Apocrypha

Stand-out Feature: Only study Bible endorsed by the Society of Biblical Literature

Grade Level: 9th Grade for Biblical Text and 12 Grade for Study Notes

Major Seminary: Unknown

Publisher: Harper One

 New Interpreter’s Study Bible

Translation Offered: NRSV with Apocrypha

Stand Out Feature: Condensed version of the Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Set

Grade Level: 9th Grade for Biblical Text and 11th Grade for Study Notes

Major Seminaries: Asbury, Duke, Grand Rapids, Fuller

Publisher: Abingdon Press

There is one more to come, the Baylor Annotated Study Bible. However I cannot comment on it as I have not seen my review copy yet.

 

Why do I recommend using a General Reference Study Bible? Franky, there is content that you won’t get in an Evangelical Study Bible. You will see more of a cultural and historical context in a General Reference Bible. You will also be exposed to alternate methods of textual criticism and other interpretive traditions.  There will be other articles on this topic, but for now, this is a good start.