Monday, October 13, 2008

Study Bibles

I have noticed that there seems to be an influx of Study Bibles being produced at the moment, most notably the NLT Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and even the NRSV Discipleship Study Bible. Of those three, I have only purchased the NRSV Discipleship Study Bible, mostly because I like the NRSV and it includes the Deuterocanonicals. (Truth be told, I have yet to really spend some time with it.)

I always go back and forth on study Bibles, not so much on which one contains which translation, but rather on their usefulness. As my knowledge of the Scriptures has grown during the past few years, both through graduate work and prayer, I have often found myself disliking the idea of using a study Bible on a daily basis. Usually when I am doing class work or preparing to lead a Bible study, I refer to more in depth commentaries rather than seeing what a particular note has to say in a study Bible. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that there are so many study Bibles out there. It certainly is a wonderful aid for people who are first getting into serious Bible study or for those who like to have either scholarly or application notes available to them. So, I am certainly in no way anti-study Bible.

I am also not one of those who will not use a particular study Bible because a note or two disagree with my theology or that it dates certain books later than I think or that it may question authorship of particular books. I always tell folks who come to Bible study that the text is infallible, not the notes!

Recently, however, I have been considering going back to using a study Bible again. This is probably due to recent publications of so many new study Bibles. Many of them look, on the surface, to be very well put together and include a number of helpful study tools. One thing I have noticed is that many study Bibles are trying to become smaller. While I think that makes them more easy to carry around, I wonder if that limits the amount of space for a reader to take personal notes. I think, particularly in a study Bible, that this is essential. I have an older 1990 Oxford Catholic Study Bible. One of the reasons I liked it was the fact that it had quite a bit of margin space, however all recent "updates" have reduced the margin space considerably.

So, what do you all think? Is there a particular study Bible out there that you rely on? If so, why? Obviously I would like to have one that includes the full Catholic canon, but I am open to reading about others as well.


ElShaddai Edwards said...

Tim - I share your hesitancy about study Bibles, which is why I like the one I regularly use. The Oxford Study Bible with the REB translation is fairly light on notes (think the early N/OABs), but the notes that are there are historical-critical focused and/or have intertextual references. If you're not familiar with it, here are two links to consider:

The Oxford Study Bible (review)
Comparing notes on the NLT Study Bible (comparison to NLT, NOAB)

rolf said...

After reading your post I remember that my brother had given me a used copy of the REB standard text hardcover awhile back. I started reading through it and like the translation, so I ordered the Oxford Study Bible version of it, thanks for the info.

ElShaddai Edwards said...

Glad to help, rolf. Sometimes it's nice to have some other options than the standard fare...

Timothy said...


Thanks for the links. I remember seeing a OSB at a store a year or so ago.

Anonymous said...

Elshaddai, I like my old RSV Oxford because of the terse notes as well. I love the NRSV too, but the Oxford in the NRSV is enormous, and still manages to have far less notes than the HarperCollins. That being said, the Oxford's articles are what make it as a study Bible to me.

Tim, I have the Catholic Study Bible pictured on your post. While the notes seem few and far between, and I'm not much on the NAB translation, I use this Study Bible because in my opinion it has some of the very best articles and book introductions available, and they are written intelligently, yet in a very accessible manner.

I have been considering a purchase of the Orthodox Study Bible also, at the recommendation of my priest. Does anyone here have experience with this one?

Timothy said...


I haven't had a chance to really check out the Orthodox study Bible. To be honest, I have only seen it once in a Borders or Barnes and Noble that I was in. I was able to only briefly look at it because I needed to be somewhere else. One of the things that stood out was that it uses a number of quotes from the early Church Fathers, which I think is a nice feature. Although I am not sure if this means that the study Bible is more a patristic/devotional study Bible or one that also incorporates historical Biblical info as well.

ElShaddai Edwards said...

Here's one review of the Orthodox Study Bible:

ElShaddai Edwards said...

And here's another one...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links Elshaddai.

Anonymous said...

I left an anonymous above re: the Harper Collins, NOAB and NISB. I also have the Oxford Catholic Study Bible, The RSV NOAB and have or have had any number of others. I grew up with the Scofield which brings me to my major problem with study bibles:

IMHO, ALL(!) Study Bibles bring a paradigm to the text and consequently end up being five pound exercises in proof-texting. With age, I want fewer "helps" from men and rely more on Divine guidance and inspiration. However, I'm also aware that I'm comfortable with that because I bring so much previous study with me.

Study Bibles certainly fill a role and I still use them, primarily to refresh my memory of context for OT reading. Also, I don't always want to have 5 or 10 books scattered about while reading, or I want to get out and sit on the deck and study something, or I can take a Study Bible while waiting someplace--I don't always have easy access to other aids.

Having said all that, UPS should be delivering an ESV Study Bible in the morning. It's clearly the product of conservative Reformed/Calvinist types, but it looked so good in terms of layout, illustrations, etc. I just had to take the plunge. Much like St. Paul, I'll hold fast to what's good and ignore the rest.

In terms of translations, I prefer and tend to use the NRSV, RSV-CE Second, RSV, RSV-CE, and ESV. Note that all are basically RSV or based on the RSV. I ended up adding the ESV because it was the only RSV-based translation that offered a complete audio bible and I found it grew on me. I don't care for the NAB much.

Frankly, the selection of Study Bibles for these translations has been limited, at best, compared to the evangelicals gazillion SBs.