Thursday, October 16, 2008

Study Bibles II

So, I have decided to start using a study Bible again. I have also narrowed it down to the versions that include the NRSV translation. Main reason for using the NRSV is obvious in that they contain the Catholic Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. It seems, to my knowledge, that there are then three main contenders:

1) The New Oxford Annotated Bible

2) The HarperCollins Study Bible

3) The New Interpreters Study Bible

So, before I go out and purchase one of these three, I wanted to read some opinions from those who actually use them. Is there one that you find most helpful when referring to the notes and articles? How is the study Bible put together? Should I get a leather edition or a standard hardback? Feel free to comment on all these questions or any other one that may be important.


rolf said...

I have the NISB and I have owned the NOAB (which I gave to a friend). I like the NISB because to me it seemed to have more complete notes instead of annotations. The NISB seemed to have more Catholic contributors and treats the Eucharist fairly in John 6:22-59 with an Excursus called 'The Eucharist in John.' The print size is 9 point which is slightly smaller that the NOAB but is very well spaced out. The NISB also has chapter titles in the text which my copy of the NOAB did not have, which I prefer. I have the genuine leather cover on my NISB which I like very much. If I buy a hardback study Bible (like my new REB) then I usually put a leather Bible cover on it. I wish I could tell you about the Harper Collins study Bible but I don't own one.

Anonymous said...

Tim, I happen to use all three of the Bibles you listed in this post.

The Oxford is the best quality, material wise, though my New Interpreter's is a hardback copy, so I can't speak to the leather edition of it.

Moving on to what counts, the Oxford finds its strength in terse, to the point notes, and excellent articles. The biggest drawback is that it is enormous in size, making me wish I'd bought hardback instead of leather. I actually prefer my old RSV Oxford(1977 edition) to the NRSV one that I am referring to now(2007 edition). Not that this one is bad, I just prefer the smaller size of the older one, and the fact that it was edited by Bruce Meztger. Oh by the way, I have also found a typographical error in the notes of my Oxford NRSV, it was actually a reference which indicated the wrong chapter.

The HarperCollins has TONS of critical notes, that being its strength. It is far more compact than the other two editions, which is good, but also not so good as it also has the hardest to read print of the three. I would say that while none of the three are very Christological in their approach to the OT, being their goal is to be critical, I'd say the HarperCollins is the least Christological of all. I used the HarperCollins as my main Bible for quite some time.

This brings me to the New Interpreter's, and this is where I will eat crow over some posts I made a few months ago. Honestly I do have some problems with it, just as I do the other two, but one of the problems is a huge one for me. It is in the form of an "excursus" on John 14.6 and states as follows:

"......Yet John 14:6 is often interpreted in ways that misuse its central theological claim. What John intends as particularism, many contemporary Christians wrongly interpret as exclusiveness. John 14:6 celebrates how Jesus reveals God for those in this particular faith community and is not a statement about the relative worth of the world's religions. John is concerned with helping Christians recognize and name their God and the distinctiveness of their identity as a people of faith."

Now, I may be reading this incorrectly, but to me this is saying in a roundabout way that Jesus is one of many ways to the Father, making him no better than leaders and founders of other world religions. It smacks of secular humanism rather than true Christianity. Now having said this, overall the notes are very good and pretty orthodox for a scholarly Bible. The print is not very large but it reads easily due to excellent typeset and letter spacing. One thing I love about it is that it is self-pronouncing, something you never see in modern Bibles anymore. This Bible differs from the other two in that it is far more theological than they. Now the part where I eat crow. While early on a couple of places in the notes kept me from using this Bible, I gave it a second chance and found that I typically agree with the notes, and thus far have not found another note so unpalatable as the one cited above. Actually this has replaced the HarperCollins as the Bible I use on a daily basis, so if I had to choose only one of the three it would be the New Interpreter's Study Bible. That being said, I don't think you could go wrong with any of the three.

Sorry to be so long winded, but hope this was helpful.

Anonymous said...

I have used all three and I generally agree with the two preceding comments. In addition, I would add:

The Harper Collins in hardcover was excellent quality in terms of physical production. The articles/notes, IMHO, are distinctly--groping for the right word here--secular, let's say. Historical and literary perspective but no real sense of an active, living faith. This one is the most "neutral", I suppose, but also feels the most textbooky. The layout, maps, etc. I found to be very good. I bought this as a set with the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary and Bible Commentary--both excellent study helps from that academic-sort of perspective.

I had the NISB in the black leather binding. The notes and articles were great, clearly the winner in terms of faith perspective. However, at least the volume I had, was severely marred by the physical production. The leather binding was clearly not on par with better bibles, the print was too light and the paper too thin, which made it extremely difficult to read--my old eyes just can't deal with that sort of thing anymore--and several wrinkled, folded, uncut pages. Ultimately, despite the fact that I liked the content, I just found it unreadable.

I have the last edition of the NOAB--the one done under Bruce Metzger. Actually, I have two--one with the super-duper supple leather (I forget--French Moracco maybe--cost like $170 a decade ago) and a hardcover. It falls right smack between the HarperCollins and NISB in terms of scholarly vs. faith-perspective and the physical quality, layout, etc are very good. However, it is my understanding that the new NOAB edited by Michael Coogan has had extensive additions, in part to keep pace the Harper Collins in the textbook market, and I also understand Metzger declined any participation for a number of reasons, including liberalizing the notes on passages dealing with homosexuality. One plus with the NOAB is there are lots of them out that were used as textbooks for college courses and you can usually find one cheap by browsing thrift stores around campuses.

Hope this helps. Any chance you'll be posting pics of The Discipleship Study Bible and more review? I live in the sticks and purchase by mail--I'm interested but can't find any place online that shows anything other than the cover. I'd like to at least have a sense of the layout, etc. before deciding to get one. Thanks.

Timothy said...


Thanks for your lenghty comments which are quite helpful.

I do promise to do a review of the Discipleship Study Bible very soon.