Tag: Pastor

NASB MacArthur Study Bible 2nd Edition, Premiere Collection

NASB MacArthur Study Bible 2nd Edition, Premiere Collection

 

 

The 2nd Edition the MacArthur Study Bible has finally been released in Dr. MacArthur’s favorite translation, the New American Standard Bible. Like the NKJV, it has been added to the premier collection. (Note: Thomas Nelson provided this Bible to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review only an honest one and my opinions are my own.)

Disclosure: John MacArthur is my favorite Bible teacher and the MacArthur Study Bible is my favorite study Bible.

 

Additional Photos

Translation Choice

This particular edition of the MacArthur Study Bible is offered in the New American Standard Bible (NASB). NASB is considered, by many, to be the gold standard for Bible translation and study and I see no cause to disagree, with the lone exception of the NKJV.

NASB is fastidiously literal in the tradition of its predecessor, the American Standard version. Some say it has a bit of a wooden feel but I don’t really see that. It seems to flow rather well.

Cover and Binding

Like its NKJV cousin, this Bible has a milk chocolate colored cover in the same exquisite goatskin as the remainder of the Premier Collection. It is as silky, smooth, and soft as Ghirardelli Chocolate (my favorite) and, it is even more glorious feel than the NKJV; the NASB edition has a considerably more pronounced grain than the NKJV, the most pronounced grain in the Premier Collection as far as I can tell. The goatskin is easily equal to the famed goatskin covers of RL Allan and Sons and beggars anything that Cambridge produces. To say that this cover drips quality is a perfect exercise in the art of understatement; it would have to be Thomas Nelson’s magnum opus, a work of art worthy of the ultimate book man can get his hands on-flawless goatskin aged to perfection and surrounding the holy words of Scripture. I cannot imagine an edition of Sacred Scripture I could enjoy more.

A leather liner ensures the flexibility of the cover. There is a gold gilt line encasing the perimeter of the Bible and, in tiny, gold all caps, at the bottom of the page, we find the words “goatskin leather cover.”

The front of the Bible is totally blank and the spine has MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible , and Thomas Nelson stamped in soft gold lettering. I did not really comment on this with the NKJV edition but I really like the muted front cover. A blank front cover is less ostentatious than you will find on other Bibles. To be perfectly honest, I do wish it were available in black goatskin but I do enjoy the brown as well.

As with the rest of the Premier Collection, the binding is sewn allowing the Bible to lie flat irrespective of where the text is opened. Both the front and rear of the Bible contain overcast stitching to reinforce the sturdiness of the text Block. Believe it or not, the text block is not as tight as in its NKJV cousin. This actually feels more pleasant in the hand and it is also more pulpit friendly in that it lays flat just a touch easier than the NKJV Edition.

Paper, Typography, Ribbons

There are 3 satin ribbons, 3/8” wide and they are offered in red, baby blue and mahogany. For some, three is the ideal number, but is the minimum that I find acceptable. The general idea behind the three ribbons is that you will have one to mark your OT readings, one for NT, and the last one for Psalms and Proverbs. If this were a preaching Bible, I would insist on two more ribbons. However, what we are offered, here, is quite adequate to the task at hand.

The paper is a 39 gsms European Bible Paper. This Bible actually has thicker paper than its siblings in the Premier Collection and it feels very similar to the paper used in the Cambridge Concord Reference Bible. The edges of the paper have red under gold art gilding. The paper is quite opaque allowing almost no show through.

2k/Denmark has designed all of the fonts in the Comfort Print Family and they ply their trade impeccably in this Bible. The text of Scripture is 9-point and the notes are 8-point. I have to say that this is the easiest 9-point that I have ever tried to read.

Layout

The Scripture text is laid out in double column paragraph format. The notes, which are also in paragraph format, are laid out in a triple column format (extremely helpful given the addition of 5000 more expository notes). In between the text of Scripture and the Notes Section you will find the Complete NASB Reference System, comprised of 95,000 cross references, textual variants, and translator’s notes.

Helps

The shining stars of the MacArthur Study Bible are the helps provided. For 50 years, Dr. MacArthur has made it his mission to “unleash God’s truth, one verse at a time” and in the MacArthur Study Bible every tool a person could need to comprehend God’s Holy Truths is made available to the reader. Let us look at the helps provided…

25,000 Exegetical and Expository Notes on Scripture

While many study Bibles offer commentary on Scripture, the MacArthur Study Bible goes further. By adding 5,000 notes to the previous 20,000, the MacArthur Study Bible now rivals the ESV Study Bible as the most heavily annotated Bible available.

The notes that are provided draw out the meaning of Scripture (exegete) and explain said meaning (exposition). However, they do not stop there; these notes whet the appetite and draw the reader further into the Scripture. Several pastors both well-known (Steve Lawson) and not well known (me) consult the MacArthur Study Bible on a regular basis. I would go so far as to say that if a person desired to understand and teach the Bible to others, the MacArthur Study Bible would sufficiently stand on its own and need no other tools

Book Introductions

The MacArthur Study Bible’s introductions provide a wealth of information for the student. We are treated to the usual information such as author, circumstance of writing, audience, etc. The difference in the MacArthur Study Bible’s introductions is the Interpretive Challenges Section. Several books of the Bible are difficult to interpret (think Revelation if you don’t believe me) and the MacArthur Study Bible deals with those challenges head on by identifying the challenges and then addressing them in John MacArthur’s signature direct approach.

Overview of Theology

This section does not appear in any other Study Bible, including Crossway’s excellent Systematic Theology Study Bible or Ligonier’s Reformation Study Bible. I absolutely love this feature. It is a very succinct Systematic Theology, ideal to educate the new disciple or for a seasoned pastor to teach through. The closest comparison is found in the Ryrie Study Bible’s Survey of Christian Doctrine.

I would advise that any study in the MacArthur Study Bible should begin here. Each subsection is well sourced with Scripture, succinct and logical. I can think of no better foundation for a new disciple than this Overview of Theology.

Maps and Charts

The maps and charts provided give contextual insight into the Scripture and provide aids for those who are visual learners. (It is always hard to comment on maps and charts because they are very plain and straightforward.)

 

Final Thoughts

If you had not guessed by now, I love the MacArthur Study Bible. I have multiple Editions: the NASB, NIV, ESV, 1st and 20th Anniversary Limited editions in NKJV, and digital copies on two different software platforms. By any stretch, the MacArthur Study Bible is my most oft reached for tool and it should be yours as well. If I were to find any negative in the MacArthur Study Bible, it would simply be nitpicking. As I have said, it is the Premier Study Bible and now in the Premier Collection it comes in a format worthy of the ultimate study Bible.

 

 

CSB Verse by Verse Reference Bible Reviw

CSB Verse by Verse Reference Bible Reviw

 

Anyone who knows me will know that a verse by verse format is my preferred format for a Bible. Single column verse by verse is my ultimate but double column works just as well. In this article, we are reviewing the CSB Verse by Verse Reference Bible, which Holman Bible Publishers was good enough to send me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review and my opinions are my own.

 

Click me for photos

 

A Fun Fact to Start:

A.J. Holman is the oldest Bible publisher in the U.S. They beat out Thomas Nelson by just a couple years. With over 200 years publishing, they are one of the oldest Bible publishers still in operation (Cambridge University Press is still the oldest with nearly 500 years of experience.) Nowadays AJ Holman Company is the H in B&H publishing or Broadman and Holman if you like to use the formal name.

 

The Translation

This Bible is in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Previous to licensing to AMG for the excellent Keyword Bible, which I also reviewed, Holman was the exclusive publisher.

 

CSB is a mediating translation of the Bible, though Holman calls this Optimal Equivalence (OE). An OE translation strives to give the best balance between fastidiously literal (think NASB) or free flowing and meaning based (think NLT) . It is fastidiously literal where it needs to be and very free flowing where it needs to be. It reads, and sounds, fairly close to the NIV with the major distinction being that the Christian Standard Bible leans more toward the literal end of the translation spectrum than does the NIV. Both translations are on a middle school comprehension level; if you like to be technical, I would rate it as 8th Grade on the Flesh-Kincaid Readability Matrix. Most of parishioners will not have any comprehension issues with the CSB but the younger crowd will, naturally, need to grow into it.

 

Is it a scholarly translation? Well, that depends on what you mean by scholarly. It is not ecumenical and most definitely is not liberal. It is very well suited for discipleship and study. Here are just a few of the Bible teachers, seminary presidents, and university faculty who endorse/approve of the CSB: Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Ed Hindson, Dr. Tony Evans, Allistair Begg, Robby Gallaty, Dr. David Dockery, Dr. Gary Coombs, Pastor Matthew Bassford, Pastor and Theologian Kofi Adu-Boahen, and me, Pastor Matthew Sherro. Do not forget that a major and extremely conservative publishing house, AMG, has licensed the CSB for their Keyword Study Bible.

 

All that to say…In the pulpit, in the classroom, or in your living room, you can trust that the CSB is a faithful and accurate translation. You can build your teachings and devotions on the CSB without worry.

 

Cover and Binding

There are two options available, brown bonded leather (which I am reviewing) and black goatskin. The bonded leather has a paste down lining with a bit of a pebbled grain. To the touch, this is a higher quality of bonded leather than what other publishers are using so I do not think it will wear out quite as fast.

 

Most Bible publishers have gone back to sewing their text blocks which is outstanding. Now if they would just print and bind in the U.S.A. There are publishers who do and yet keep the prices affordable but I digress… The sewn binding ensures the text block will hold up well over the years.

 

Layout, Paper, and Font

The layout is double column verse by verse with each verse beginning on a new line. The Bible looks to be line matched which lends to the readability of the text. Verse numbers are in cranberry red to aid in finding the number.

 

Why is verse by verse important? Verse by Verse is the ideal format for those who preach and teach. Each verse begins on a new line making it much easier to locate the verse which you will use for preaching.

 

The font was designed by 2k/Denmark. Many Bible publishers have been using them and a single glance is all that is necessary to understand why. Their fonts are the perfect blend of utility and aesthetics. This Bible is no exception, in my estimation, it is the most reader friendly font offered in a Holman Bible. Of course this is a black letter edition, however, the chapter headings, verse numbers, and page navigation are all in cranberry to make navigating the text easier.

 

The paper is soft white, far more muted than in other Bibles, and, so, is very easy on the eyes. Being gloriously opaque does not hurt that Bibles cause at all.  Sometimes Bible paper can reflect the dazzling brightness of the sun into your eyes if reading outside. Thankfully this does not happen here.

 

It is a wide-margin edition, hitting two of my sweet spots in Bible design. Margins measure approximately 1.1 inches wide. I am using this Bible in conjunction with the Bible from AMG so I have not decided, yet, if I will write in this one as well. I do like the option and may add some mini word studies which I would not want to forget in the pulpit. It is not a journaling Bible, the margins are too small for that. Rather, it is clear to me that Holman desired to give the Bible teacher his best tool possible.

 

Helps

Footnotes

Holman is well noted for having the most translation footnotes in a mainstream translation at around 30,000 annotations depending on edition. The NET does have twice as many but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of pastors I know who are in possession of an NET Bible full notes edition (I actually have it on 3 different software platforms but I am a huge nerd.)

 

It looks as though we get the full body of footnotes and I am delighted to see that. We are treated to alternate translations, manuscript variants, etc. Got a question about the text? Look at the bottom of the page and chances are the translators have provided it for you.

 

References

There are around 63,000 organic references in the Scriptures (One verse illuminates another without being part of a topical chain.) and Holman gave us all of them. On each page, they can be found at the bottom of the right hand column. I have grown to prefer this as it prevents the flow of the text from being interrupted.

 

Full Concordance

Holman has provided a full concordance (though not an exhaustive one). It runs to 75 pages with 3 columns of entries per page. Sufficient content is provided to teach on just about any topic you can imagine.

 

Actual Use Scenario

I am pairing this with AMG’s Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible with the latter for study and this for preaching and teaching. I have told a number of colleagues that if there were a verse by verse CSB available, I would use it more and I aim to make good on that promise. I have also made the statement that this is what the CSB Pastor’s Bible ought to have been in the first place. Allegedly most pastors want a single column paragraph Bible for preaching, but I have not met a single one who shares that sentiment. The CSB Verse by Verse is the ideal CSB Preaching Bible and Holman should change the name and call it exactly that, the CSB Preaching Bible.

 

Should you buy it?

For CSB users, this is one of two must haves. If you have been paying attention, you have already deduced the other. I will go a step further…If you preach from CSB, don’t take any other Bible into the pulpit than this.

CSB Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible Review

CSB Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible Review

 

One of the top two Study Bibles, AMG’s Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible, has combined with one of fastest growing translations on the market, the Christian Standard Bible. Admittedly, the two have been together for a while but this is the first opportunity I have had to review the combination. This review, however, was not solicited by AMG but is, rather the result of a gift to our ministry.

 

Click for Photos

 

Why is the Keyword Bible important?

I have said that the Keyword Study Bible is one of the top two Bibles and want to explain why I think it is a vital investment for many Christians.

 

Most of the teachers in any particular church are not seminary trained, and in reality, the bulk of pastors around the world are not seminary trained, so they will have limited experience with the original languages of the Bible for lesson preparation. This is where AMG really shines in the Christian publishing world, it makes the original languages more accessible to the average Bible teacher. More on that when we get to the tools.

 

The Translation

The Keyword Bible is finally available in the Christian Standard Bible, one of the fastest growing translations on the market, one that I suspect will soon rival NIV. A couple of unexpected colleagues have recently adopted the CSB which prompted my looking a little further into the translation.

 

Similar to the NIV, CSB is a mediating translation. This is a blending of the rigidly literal word for word translation style of Bibles like he NASB and the free flowing meaning based style of translations of Bibles such as the NLT. There are areas where CSB is very literal, precise, and technical and other areas where it is free flowing and more meaning based. CSB calls this Optimal Equivalence; optimal is quite a fitting word for the translation.

 

Cover and Binding

This is a very highly grained genuine leather cover with a paste down liner. This is one of the few Bibles where I prefer a paste down liner, which AMG did give to us. Of course they sewed the binding; you cannot have a good quality study Bible without a sewn binding as they will not last.

 

Layout, Font, & Paper

The Keyword Bible has a double column format with center column references. The verses are laid out in a paragraph format as opposed to a verse by verse, where each verse would begin on a new line. We are also given a 1-inch margin although my copy is thumb indexed making the margins a little smaller but I won’t miss the margins

The font is crisp and deep ebony for the black letter and a rich cranberry for the red letters.

 

The Keyword Bible is one of those Bibles which demand to be written in and marked up (I have a brand new set of Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils waiting to do just that.) and the paper is quite opaque and a little thick. I would guess about 32 GSMs on the paper. Were I to describe the color of the paper, I would call it eggshell white; your colored pencils will work out very nicely on the paper.

 

Tools

 

What really makes this Bible different and sets it apart are the grammatical codes and notations. There are numbers, letters, and underlining within the Scripture text. Words that are underlined have the Strong’s number. You can look these numbers up in the dictionary in the back. If the number is bold, the entry will be expanded (annotated). If the number is not bold, it’s just the regular Strong’s entry. Not every word gives the Strong’s number. There are lots of them on every page, but there will always be one that I want to be coded that’s not coded. For these words I have to look them up myself and write the number over the word. Grammatical codes are a string of letters that appear before the word. They are only found in the New Testament. These codes show the part of speech for that word. There is a list of grammatical codes in the back and on a supplied bookmark.

Book Introductions

The book introductions are about a half a page each. They cover the history and customs (limited) of the people the book was written to or about, and gives information of the significance of the book. I cannot speak for others but this is one area that I would have liked to see developed a little more. Since Dr. Zodhiates is, himself, Greek, it would have been very nice to have some material on Greek culture. If nothing else, a 1 page article could have gone a long way towards helping to understand the New Testament better.

Notes Section

The notes at the bottom of the page discuss theological, exegetical, historical, and geographical points from the text. This is not like a standard study Bible with lots of commentary on every page. The main function of this study Bible is to be a linguistic aid rather than a commentary packed into a Bible. If you are looking for commentary, this Bible probably is not for you; if you want to better understand Scripture (especially if you are a Bible teacher) then this is not a should have it is a must have. If I could only have 2 Bibles for the rest of my life, this and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible are what I would choose. Between the two, you will find that you have everything necessary to grow in your knowledge of the Bible and of the Lord.

The study notes are provided by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates the founder of AMG. They are fairly influence free and exhibit mainstream evangelical thought. Unlike most study Bibles, though, this Bible does not provide notes on most passages of the Bible. Rather it provides notes on key passages of scripture and every verse has a keyword noted and linked to the dictionary in the back. On a side note, it is quite useful to understanding the New Testament that Dr. Zodhiates was Greek. Who better to explain a Greek Text than a native Greek?

 

Grammatical Codes

The Grammatical Codes section contains a page with all of the codes and 3 pages of examples. The codes show the verb tense forms of the Greek. The information explaining how to use the codes is found in the next section – Grammatical Notations. I would recommend placing the Grammatical Codes after the Grammatical Notations, so the explanation on how to use them comes before the codes themselves. The information is in this Bible, it’s just a little confusing at first because it looks like two separate sections when it really should be one section.

Grammatical Notations

The Grammatical Notations section is 20 pages and explains how to use the Grammatical Codes. The focus is on verbs. It covers the five features of verbs (tense, voice, mood, person, and number. They are written so that anyone can use them).  Each of the features are explained and plenty of examples are given. They give enough information to be helpful and get you started, but it doesn’t give you everything you need to know. This section is very clear about that and gives references to other works to help learn Koine (New Testament) Greek. This section is the most technical and difficult to use.

 

Pastoral Use

I have Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bibles in three of the four translations I use most-NIV, NASB, and Now CSB. I had an NKJV as well but passed it on to another pastor (replacing that one is on my agenda). As a pastor, and this would work out well for any other Bible teacher, I study with the Keyword Bible and preach from a somewhat smaller Bible.

 

The Keyword Bible calls out the essential Hebrew and Greek words for your audience to know. You could almost build your lessons around just those but I do not want you to do that. Historical and cultural backgrounds must be added to the original languages.

 

Final Thoughts

Pick your translation and own one- there is no excuse for a Bible teacher to be without a Keyword Bible. The Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible is far and away the best study Bible you can own, especially in light of how accessible it makes the original biblical languages. My friend and colleague up in Oregon, the noted pastor-scholar Kofi Adu-Boahen has called this the most underrated Study Bible on the market and he is absolutely correct- many of my fellow teachers have said they have never considered the Keyword Bible and that is a tragedy that they should willingly cheat themselves out of such an excellent tool. Another colleague, the eminent pastor, Randy Brown, speaks of the Keyword Bible in more even more glowing terms than I do. To repeat, every Bible teacher should own one.

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. 

New Interpreter’s Study Bible Review (Recovered)

New Interpreter’s Study Bible Review (Recovered)

 

New Interpreters Bible Photos

 

Recently Abingdon Press sent me three Bibles to review, The Common English Bible Study Bible, The Wesley Study Bible, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible. The CEB Study Bible review has already been completed and today we will be discussing the New Interpreter’s Study Bible. 

 

Before we get into the review, a little information from the publisher: 

 

Product Description 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible brings the best of biblical scholarship to the service of the Church. In this new study Bible, based on The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible with Apocrypha, sixty distinguished scholars have provided background and insight on the biblical text. Features of this valuable new study Bible include extensive historical and theological annotations on the biblical text; brief introductions and outlines for each biblical book; excursuses giving further background and insight regarding particular themes and passages; and nineteen newly commissioned maps detailing the biblical world at various historical periods. 

 

Features: 

  • Double-column format
  • Article, “Canons of Scripture”
  • Guides for Interpretation articles:

Reliability of Scripture 

Authority of the Bible 

Inspiration of Scripture 

Guidelines for Reading and Interpretation 

Varieties of Readings and Interpretations of the Biblical Text 

Culture and Religion Among Ancient Israelites 

  • Sectional headings
  • Book introductions and Outlines
  • Black letter edition
  • 19 color maps with index
  • Glossary
  • Old and New Testament Chronologies
  • 9-point text size
  • 50″ x 7.50″ x 1.75″

 

And now, let’s dive right in… 

 

Font Size, Paper, and Layout 

NIB’s font size is impeccable; it’s 9-10 point and incredibly readable, being laid out in a double column paragraph format. This, for me as well as many others, is one of the top three considerations when choosing a Bible. I don’t have the greatest eyesight and if I find myself straining to make out the text on the page, I won’t bother. I, personally, think that the text size is ideal for a study edition of the Bible, small enough that you are not carrying around too much weight and large enough to not cause headaches.  

 

The paper is a very bright white. Some white papers actually discolor after quite a bit of handling but that is not the case here. I have handled the paper extensively, turning every page several times to get a feel for the material and thus far there has been no discoloring from the oil on my hands.  

 

The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals 

This, I confess is new to me. My biological father was a catholic and my wife is a former catholic yet I can say that until this Bible I had never really looked into these books. As their name suggests, these are not part of the generally accepted canon by most Protestants. At the same time, I have been able to ascertain that some denominations actually do accept them. 

 

Of the Apocryphal books, I find the Books of the Maccabees to be the most interesting. Without going into a great deal of detail, there are a couple things I noticed: 

 

  1. It is in the Books of the Maccabees that we learn about the Feast of Dedication/Channukah.
  2. The most substantiation for the Antichrist having already come seems to be found here. If Antiochus IV was the Antichrist, the case would most certainly and most clearly laid out here. However, I do not see anything else in Scripture to suggest that Antiochus was the Antichrist, most especially since Jesus and Paul both spoke of him in a future tense. 
  3. The additions to Esther do not appear in all Greek texts of the Old Testament and they do not appear in the Hebrew OT at all, which leads me to question, seriously, the validity of including them in the Scripture.
  4. Beland the Dragon and Tobit bot appear to be works of fiction. If that is the case, their inclusion in a Bible would be most suspect. 

 

Overall, I am not opposed to Christians reading the Apocrypha; I certainly would not call these works authoritative but I cannot find the harm in reading them since they did comprise a part of Church History.  

 

Text Excursus 

This is a feature that I have only seen in one other Bible, the CEB Study Bible. These are kind of like a side-bar or a more in-depth foot note but they have less detail than a full article. Nearly every book of the Bible has at least one; in some cases, Ephesians for example, they provide interesting background information that most likely was not known otherwise.  

 

Special Note Section 

These are similar to the Text Excursi but much more bite sized. A number of them appear to be word studies.  

 

Introductions, Outlines, and Study Notes: 

In order to get more of a feel for the layout, I acquired a New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) from my local thrift store. NOAB is the main Bible used in Mainline Protestant Seminaries, is also a New Revised Standard Version Text, and could pass for the older sister of the NIB. Unless you are a teacher you will probably find it hard to get excited about an outline; I find myself rather enjoying them. In some study Bibles, the outlines will run a couple pages per book. Thankfully that annoying problem is not present in the NIB. These outlines are succinct without lacking substance. All of the essentials that you need to know to comprehend a book are outlined for you and you could use them as an expository teaching guide without leaving your congregation lacking or use them as a starting off point for an intensive in depth study. 

 

As to the Study Notes themselves, it is quite obvious that NIB is meant as an academic text. That is not bad but it does cut some people out of the prospective market. It, most assuredly does not have the pastoral feel of a MacArthur or Jeremiah Study Bible but that is quite ok. This is the one that you will reach for when you are looking for solid academics and not necessarily pastoral care.  

 

There are a couple features that are found in other Bibles that I would love to see Abingdon poach for this version: 

  • Interpretive Challenges (found in MacArthur Study Bible)
  • Christ in Scripture (Found in Nelson’s NKJV and Open Bible Study Bibles)
  • Major Themes of each Book (found in ESV Study Bible)
  • Word Studies (Found in Holman CSB Study Bible, Nelson NKJV Study Bible, and AMG Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible. 

 

The addition of those features could easily make this the ultimate Study Bible.  

 

The Book Introductions are a little different from what you may be used to. As I have already pointed out, this is one of the most academic study Bibles I have ever encountered. It is obviously assumed that the user of this Bible will fall into one of a few categories: an Undergraduate Student, a Seminary Student, a pastor, or a teacher in a church. Because of that assumption, the Introductions really shine in the NIB. There is the usual historical background and outline as well as a bit of commentary on the author but something I found, here, that I do not usually notice in other study Bibles is the theological commentary. Granted it is Mainline Protestant Theology and I am a Conservative Evangelical but I cannot stress enough how valuable it is to have the remarks on theology as a starting point for discussion. Many Christians have little idea what they actually believe or why; they don’t have any idea of what their Christological, Soteriological, Pneumatalogical, or Eschatological beliefs are or if they are even supposed to have one. This is not because they are defective Christians (we are all defective but I digress) rather it is because they don’t have any point of reference upon which to build. That being the case, I am glad to see theological opinion in the introductions, even if I don’t always agree. 

 

Translation

This is offered in the New Revised Standard Version, the academic standard text for mainline protestant seminaries. Though it does contain the Apocrypha, it is not the Catholic Edition (abbreviated NRSV-CE)

 

Overall, the New Interpreters Study Bible is a pleasant surprise. Because I am so conservative, I did not think I would like the NIB and I was nearly certain that I would not like the translation. NRSV is not a translation that would normally find its way onto my shelf nor would an “ecumenical” study Bible. There is enough valuable information inside, however, that the New Interpreters Study Bible has earned a place on my shelf and if you are a student of the Word, you may want to give it a look too.  

 

 

NIV Preacher’s Bible Review

NIV Preacher’s Bible Review

 

 

Zondervan’s NIV Preacher’s Bible is the NIV that many pastors have been desirous of for a long time. Does it stack up? Before we answer that let me disclose that Zondervan provided this Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

 

Preacher’s Bible Photos

 

We will go a little out of order in this review. Let’s begin:

Font

Sadly, the font is the area where I have to complain. While it is comfort print and would be fairly easy on the eyes for most people, it is rather small. Zondervan lists at 9.5 but I would put money on that being the font size with leading.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand why a “preacher’s Bible” has a font size smaller than 11-point. Your preaching Bible really ought to have as large a font as possible so that you are not needing to squint while trying to preach. Zondervan’s sister company, Thomas Nelson uses an 11.5-point font and a true 11.5 at that. It does make for a thicker Bible but I would call that a worthwhile trade off. Incidentally, the Preacher’s Bible has a cousin in the Large Print Thin-line which does have an 11-point font (in paragraph format).

I would like to point out that readability is helped out by line matching the text on both sides of the page.

Cover and Binding

This is without a doubt the best goatskin that Harper Collins (Zondervan’s Parent) has offered in the Premier Collection. The grain is very pronounced and quite delightful to the touch. We have an edge lined cover and a sewn binding.

It is a black goatskin that, I think, rivals current offerings from Cambridge. Harper Collins has really stepped up their game here. The goatskin is not quite on the level of R.L. Allan or Schuyler but you get very good quality for the price point.

Paper

This is a 36 gsm Indopaque paper. It is quite a bit higher gsm than in the NASB Preacher’s Bible that Zondervan offers. It is a crisp bright white, a considerable help to readability given the smallish font. The paper is nicely opaque and should hold up to annotations rather well. Always start with colored pencil or ball-point pen somewhere in the back of the Bible until you arrive at what works well for you.

Layout, Pagination, Intended Solution

Normally, I put the layout with the font but this is a unique NIV so the layout gets moved.

This is the only verse-by-verse layout offered in the NIV. Like the paper, this aids in readability to offset the smallish font. Verse numbers are set apart, as you will see  in the photos. They are more obvious than in the NASB cousin and makes it incredibly easy to find the verse that you are looking for.

Like what Zondervan did with the NASB Preacher’s Bible, the NIV Preacher’s Bible has the same pagination as the NIV Comfort Print Pew and Worship Bible- every page begins and ends with the same word in each Bible.

The Preacher’s Bible and Pew & Worship Bible offerings, in either translation solve a major problem for many pastors, myself included- having everyone on the same page, literally. In my younger days, I did not understand how few people had actually gotten inside a Bible and thought that pew Bibles were promoting laziness. These days, however, I realize just how many Christians are entirely unfamiliar with the Bible. The Preacher’s Bible paired with the Pew and Worship Bible allows the pastor to tell the congregation on which page to find the text for either the responsive reading or the day’s sermon.

Compared to my current NIV

Currently, I am using the Giant Print Reference Bible for preaching and will probably continue to do so given that it has a 13.5 font vs 9.5, even though it is a paragraph format. That is not to say that I will not use the Preacher’s Bible. It really is a very nice Bible and very helpful. More on usage in the next section.

The NIV Preacher’s Bible has the advantage on cover material, it is goatskin where the Giant Print Reference Bible is a bonded leather. It also has better paper. In truth, if it were easier to read, it would be the ideal NIV. Note: Most people will not have an issue reading the Preacher’s Bible, I just happen to be rather nearsighted.

Usage with distribution Bibles

We have two Bible distribution platforms at Abounding Grace Baptist Church, one of which distributes pew Bibles. We will be transitioning to distributing the Pew and Worship Bible along with placing them at the church. This will solve the issue of helping new disciples to learn the Bible. In so doing we will be able to tell parishioners where to find the day’s text.

For Carry

At less than an inch thick,  this Bible is very well suited to carry. It will easily fit into a laptop back, executive portfolio, or other such carrying item. The weight is negligible.

The Preacher’s Bible Compared with Large Print Thin-line

Overall, these two Premier Collection Bibles are fairly evenly matched. Aesthetically, the cover on the Preacher’s Bible is my preference. The Preacher’s Bible  has a much more pronounced grain and is more pleasing to the touch than the Large Print Thin-line, which is not to say that the Thin-line is not delightful to the touch, it just happens that enjoying a fairly pronounced grain is one of my quirky little oddities.

To my eyes (and your experience may be different), the Large Print Thin-line has the advantage in font size. Paragraph format is not my favorite format but it is what I am used to with the NIV and I confess the 11-point font is easier on my eyes.

Comparing with the NASB Preacher’s Bible

The two are nearly identical, not counting the translation. The NASB has a larger font by around half a point but that does not really affect readability of either. The big differentiator is the NIV makes the verses quite a bit more obvious and, if you own both, you may find verse navigation easier in the NIV.

Final Thoughts

The font is a problem for me. I hate complaining about a Bible but I did say I would give an honest review. I will overcome the font issue, for as long as possible, because it provides a solution for me as a pastor.

Overall, this is a really well-crafted Bible. Most pastors who preach from NIV will really benefit from this Bible. It is, after all, the NIV Bible that many, many pastors have wanted for a long time.

I hope that Zondervan will release other verse-by-verse Bibles in the future. Verse-by-verse tends to be the most practical format for preaching and it has become clear that Zondervan has realized this fact. I hope they will expand their offerings, at the least for pastors if not for the entire market.

God’s Word Translation Wide Margin Bible Review

God’s Word Translation Wide Margin Bible Review

 

I love a good wide margin Bible and the one I am reviewing, here, is one of the best that I have seen at this price point. Before we go any further, I would like to point out that God’s Word to the Nations Missions Society provided this Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review and I was not obligated to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.

The Translation

I am opening the review by revisiting the translation first. God’s Word Translation (hereafter GW) is done in a style called Closest Natural Equivalent.  It is a type of meaning based translation that, as its name suggests, attempts to render the original languages into the closest English possible. If I had to put in a reading comprehension scale, I would say probably 4th to 6th grade.

As English has become one of the two most used languages on the planet, GW is uniquely placed among English translations of the Bible because of its ease of comprehension.  Many of my readers have English as a second or third language and when one of them asks me to recommend a Bible, GW is one of my top choices (I always give three recommendations so that the choice belongs to the reader.)

Comparatively speaking, GW is very close to NLT on the Dynamic Equivalence end of the spectrum. I have been pairing it side-by-side with my NKJV and the experience has been very enlightening. I would compare it this way: NKJV is like talking to my peers (NKJV and I are both 37 and somewhat academic) and GW is like telling the same story to an Elementary Grade Sunday School Class. I would not say that it has a commentary feel when read in parallel but it does feel more like having a conversation with “regular people” as opposed to my theologically trained peers.

GW is a translation you can know and trust. Its position in my ministry is evolving. Currently, I am using it with new believers but I foresee it taking a more active role in my pulpit ministry. In many cases it will provide an excellent supplement to my NKJV. As a matter of fact, I can easily see the God’s Word Translation becomming one of my three main translations.

I find myself liking this translation much more than expected. It’s like spending time with my niece; I always come away more energized and having loved the time we spent together.

The Paper and Margins

The paper in this Bible and the margins are the shining stars. The paper feels to be about 36gsm. However, I have been advised that it is 39gsm. This is important becasue you want a thicker paper in a Bible that is designed for journaling etc. The paper is fairly heavy and opaque but the pages are still very easy to turn. The paper is kind of an off-white, not as cream colored as what Crossway uses but not a bright white either. I took it out into the Arizona sun and had no issues reading off the page; the glare that I expected was not there and neither was there much see through.

The margins are 1.5” and among the best that I have encountered in a wide margin Bible. My regular readers will know that I love a wide margin Bible and even had my favorite wide margin rebound in Bison Leather. Most Bible publishers consider a 1” margin to be wide but I don’t go less than 1.25” to call it a wide margin Bible so the margin size, here, makes it very easy to recommend the GW wide margin Bible to someone who wishes to get into Bible journaling. There is not really an inner margin (gutter) which I don’t consider an issue since I never write in the gutter anywhere.

In point of fact, I consider a wide margin to be the best format for a Bible. In a wide margin you have a true study Bible as you make a record of your studies and grow in your walk with the Lord.

The Cover, Font, Layout, and Binding

The GW wide margin is offered in a type of imitation leather called duravella. Much like trutone, it is a polymer based imitation leather that will easily hold up for 20 years or so. Depending on your usage it may last longer or you can follow some of my colleagues and rebind it in a more premium leather.

It is a sewn Binding which surprised me considering the price point. Sewing the binding matters because it ensures the Bible will last through years of use.

The layout is a line-matched single column paragraph format in a 10.5-point font. It is totally black letter, which in the case of a wide margin Bible is to be preferred. Many, myself included, annotate in red ink and a red letter Bible would most probably be a distraction. I would say, without reservation, that Crossway has found a rival in the typography department. Single-column paragraph format is not generally a favorite of mine due to visual acuity issues but this Bible is very easy on the eyes and a delight to read.

Would I Change Anything

There are a couple things I would add but they are mostly niggling details. I would like to see, at least, a second ribbon or, preferably, three ribbons total. The ribbons are frequently used to mark your place in a reading plan so I think we should always have at least three ribbons in a Bible.

The other addition that I would make is less niggling but I am not really certain how others would feel about it…I would like to see lined notes pages. I would, personally, prefer a couple lined pages with each book of the Bible and if not there, some at the end of the book itself. A Bible that is so clearly designed for note taking really demands that there be as much space as possible for doing just that.

How to Use

First and foremost, for pastors and other teachers, I would put lesson notes in the margins. Since we cannot always have lesson notes with us (I frequently find myself teaching with no advance notice) it is a definite plus to have teaching notes in the margins. As it happens, I like to place small word studies and key phrases in the margins of my Bibles.

For my non pastor friends, I recommend annotating points from sermons that you wish to remember. Symbols are often helpful and some even make drawings/charts to help remember.

As a Carry Bible

Some wide margin Bibles do not really lend themselves to being an Every Day Carry Bible. Thankfully, that is not the case with the GW wide margin Bible. At 6” x 9” it is fairly portable. I am pleasantly surprised, not by the portability of the Bible but at its readability. Normally, you do not get such a readable layout in this size of a Bible.

It’s fairly lightweight, maybe 32oz but I am not 100% certain. It is extremely easy to use one-handed. If you were so inclined, you would not have any issue using this as your main Bible.

Writing in the GW Wide Margin

I wrote in 2 places, for the review, and with 2 different pens. I do not, as a general rule, use a fountain pen to write in a Bible but I used a Pelikan m600 Souveran fountain pen with Diamine Imperial Purple ink on the presentation page. There was moderate show through but it is not in an area which will impact enjoyment of the Bible.

For the other writing, I used my normal Bible writing implement, a Uniball Jetstream. The Uniball did not leave any show through and I was rather impressed with that fact.

Many of my friends and colleagues use colored pencil for their marking and color coding, I recommend Prang as a 1st choice and Crayola as a 2nd choice, and the paper seems to be quite ideally suited to that.

I cannot recommend use of a Pigma Micron Archival Pen this time around. It is virtually guaranteed to bleed through

Final Thoughts

Overall I am much more pleased than I had expected. Considering a price point below $75, I had not expected the quality of paper that we are presented with. I am happy to say that I was wrong. The font and margins were in line with my expectations.

I would have to say, this is the perfect choice for 2020: a new format in a new translation that you may not have considered before. You may or may not make it your primary translation, but you should definitely use it. I think you may find the Bible speaking to your heart in new and exciting ways.