Friday, October 24, 2008

The Discipleship Study Bible Review

Over the past few weeks, I have seen more copies of The Discipleship Study Bible (DSB) at my local bookstores, both Christian and secular. I had purchased this study Bible a month or two ago, but kind of set it aside until now. So, I have decided to give a short review of it. Let me just say right off, that it is clear that The Discipleship Study Bible (DSB) is primarily aimed at mainline Protestants. I am not saying that Catholics couldn't profit from some of its insights, but mainline Protestants are clearly the intended audience.

So, here are the stats, courtesy of

The Discipleship Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version including Apocrypha—the first completely new NRSV study Bible in five years! Laity and clergy in mainline Protestant churches frequently want a study Bible that matches their congregation’s translation for worship and education (usually NRSV) while also providing resources for personal understanding and guidance for Christian living. Existing study Bibles based on the NRSV provide factual information about the biblical text but have not developed the personal application direction. The Discipleship Study Bible will be unique in providing a NRSV translation with personal application notes for a mainline Protestant audience.

The annotations in this study Bible give particular emphasis to discerning scriptural guidance for living together in community. Such living encompasses but is not limited to personal piety. The biblical text has an inescapable social dimension and the Discipleship Study Bible demonstrates attentiveness to the public and communal meanings and implications of the biblical text, including the social justice and social witness dimensions of Scripture. In short, this study Bible gives attention to both personal and corporate discipleship, to both spiritual and social needs.

The Discipleship Study Bible:
*Focuses on discipleship (Christian living for today) for a mainline denominational communion

*Concentrates on social justice, that is, acts of Christian care and concern for all God’s people and all of God’s world

*Concentrates on personal piety, that is, Christian acts of personal response to Scripture

*Is based on the scholarship and inclusive language of the NRSV translation

*Extensive (approximately 400,000 total words) introduction and annotations for each biblical book (including the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books) solicited from a group of distinguished biblical scholars for this project.

*Introductions to each biblical book to acquaint you with essential historical, sociocultural, literary, and theological issues valuable in understanding the biblical book in question.

*Annotations for each biblical book addressing the whole range of the Christian life. Both spiritual and social needs are given attention to help you recognize that Christian faith makes claims on every aspect of our lives. Attention is given as appropriate to personal piety as a dimension of faithful discipleship. But even more attention is devoted to the social dimension of the biblical text and faithful discipleship, especially matters of social justice.

*Concise chronology of events and literature in and surrounding Ancient Israel and Early Christianity

*Concise concordance

*Color maps

So, there you have it, the particulars of the DSB. At first glance it is pretty impressive, and for the most part it is pretty well put together. Of course, it is basically impossible to find the perfect study Bible....since that doesn't exist. Again, I feel somewhat out of place commentating on a study Bible not designed for Catholics or even to be broadly ecumenical, so I will just point out some of the DSB's positive and negative features. First off, I really like the size and feel of the DSB. It is smaller than most other NRSV study Bibles, yet big enough to contain plenty of study helps. In this regard, I think it is very similar to the original RSV New Oxford Annotated Bible. I really like the size! It is quite portable, and what is also nice is that the font/text is very readable. I initially thought that the Biblical text would be printed small, but no it is acually very readable and not a strain on the eyes.

In addition, most pages contain some sort of commentary. While most of the notes deal specifically with discipleship, some of them do discuss important historical notes that are integral to understanding the text. Yet, these notes often combine both. Here is an example:

Joshua 15: 1-12: "Inside the boundaries of Judah are also included the tribe of Simeon and other peoples (Edomites and Amelekites). Historically speaking, these boundaries were reached only at the time of King David. Here again we find a theological lesson: Israel's ideal limits exceeded the historical reality of the people. Thus, there is always room for showing greater loyalty to God, a prerequisite to possess and keep the promised land."

While one could agree or disagree with that statement, I do think it shows the flavor of the commentary. Ultimately, if you are into social justice, from a mainline Protestant perspective, than you will probably like this commentary. I also appreciated that they included a concordance and Biblical maps. I always find it odd that any study Bible wouldn't have Bible maps, but I have seen some without them. On the negative end, I am shocked that they don't include cross-references. I know that the publishers have promoted the DSB as falling somewhere between being scholarly and devotional, but to not have cross-references is truly unfortunate. Its kind of stupid don't you think? I guess they thought the inclusion of the concordance would fit that need, but I would much rather have cross-references. One other element that I thought would have been helpful would be to include a section with examples of people following the call to Biblical discipleship. They could have even spread these examples throughout the text. I always find it helpful to have examples of other Christian brothers and sisters who have heard the voice of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures and have then gone out and lived it. I think of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, or Francis of Assisi would be a few obvious choices.


rolf said...

Are there any rumors about an NRSV Catholic Study Bible. You would think with the Canadian Catholic market (since they use that translation in Mass), the universities (many of them Catholic) also use the NRSV, that a publisher like Harper Collins would put one out. Just a thought.

Timothy said...

I have not heard of any new Catholic Study Bibles being produced with the NRSV. The closest thing would be Ignatius Press's Ignatius Study Bible, which uses the RSV-2CE. They are almost done with the New Testament, although I would really like to see them pick up the pace a bit.

Kevin A. Sam said...

Tim, I'd agree, I'd prefer more cross-references than a concordance. If I need a concordance, I'll probably look it up on my computer or online. When I reviewed the DSB here, I said it was more of a devotional than a scholarly study bible. I think if I wanted scholarly notes, I'd go with the a commentary or the HCSB or NOAB. But I see nothing wrong in having a pure devotional bibles. I wish the NRSV had more.

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