Thursday, May 28, 2009

NISB First Thoughts

So I finally succumbed to my self-imposed pressure to buy The New Interpreter's Study Bible. Of course, I use the idea of "pressure" merely as an excuse, but the real reason was that I had a 40% off coupon for Borders. I had been planning to purchase the NISB for some time, but just never really got around to it. Ultimately, the decision to go with the NRSV full-time, along with the 40% off coupon, were just too powerful of a combination. I am a weak man!

But now on to the NISB. As this blog entry suggests, I intend to give a few of my initial thoughts. (I hope to blog more about the NISB in the coming weeks, after I get back from retreat.)

** First off, I purchased the hardcover edition. The reason I did this was because I decided to primarily use a non-study Bible in ministry work. To begin with, study Bibles are typically much heavier to carry around with you on a day-to-day basis. Secondly, I don't really want to rely on the study Bible's notes when I am leading a study group. I think there is always a tendency, at least with me sometimes, to not prepare as well as I could, knowing that I have the study Bible with me. I don't want to fall into that habit. So, from now on, any study Bible I purchase will be hardcover, which will then remain at home or at the office. The NISB hardcover seems to be sturdy enough. The size of the book, itself, seems to be bigger than the latest incarnations of the NOAB and HCSB.

** It was interesting to note those involved in the production of the NISB, as well as those who wrote supporting reviews of it. Some of them, including Donald Senior and Roland Murphy (+), were involved in previous study Bible editions. Senior was the general editor of Oxford's Catholic Study Bible, while Murphy was an editor of the New Oxford Annotated Bible Second Edition. In addition to them, Bruce Metzger, who was the general editor of the NOAB (RSV) and NOAB Second Edition (NRSV), wrote a glowing review of the NISB. On the NISB, he wrote: "Of the current editions of Study Bibles, in my opinion the most helpful for pastors, teachers, and all students of the Scriptures has not been issued by Abingdon Press." I find it interesting that these three men, all of whom worked on well-known and respected study Bible editions, have given their support to the NISB. Of course, maybe I am reading to much into this, but nevertheless it is interesting. In any case, the NISB is an ecumenical study Bible, with scholars from many Christian traditions.

** One of the things I like about the NISB so far is its overall layout. The NRSV text is very readable and there is a clear dividing point between the text and the notes/commentary. In addition, there are some helpful "special notes" and longer "excursus" that are placed at appropriate places in the text. Most notably, there is a very helpful "excursus" on the Eucharist found in the section on John 6. The NISB also includes some nice Bible maps at the end as well. Thankfully, it does not include a concise concordance, which, IMHO, is not necessary for a study Bible. If you are going to do serious Bible study, make the investment and get a full concordance or refer to the ones online.

** The cross-references are included in the commentary. I guess that is fine, but I would rather have them in the margins, like the NJB, or perhaps collected together, like the NAB.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catholic Summer Reading Program

Join the Catholic Summer Reading Program
Since we have now entered the unofficial start to Summer, I thought I would pass along some information about a fine online reading program that is out there on the World Wide Web. The Catholic Summer Reading Program is an online program established by the folks who run Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. It's stated goal is to encourage people to "take some time to discover the rich treasure of Catholic literature." The site offers online discussion for both adult and child readers. Currently, you are able to vote on the book which will be read starting this summer. So far, Ralph Martin's Fulfillment of All Desire is #1 in the poll.

I had the privilege to be a student in Mr. Martin's class at SHMS a couple years back, where we spent some time going over his book. As the description says: "Ralph Martin, drawing upon the teaching of seven acknowledged "Spiritual Doctors" of the Church, presents an in-depth study of the journey to God. This book provides encouragement and direction for the pilgrim who desires to know, love, and serve our Lord. Whether the reader is beginning the spiritual journey or has been traveling the road for many years, he will find a treasure of wisdom in The Fulfillment of All Desire. It is destined to be a modern classic on the spiritual life."

It is a fine book, and makes for some wonderful summer reading. Whenever someone I know is contemplating reading through some of the great spiritual writers, like St. Theresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross, I always recommend that they read Fulfillment of All Desire first.

So, if you are interested in some good Catholic reading this summer, check out the Catholic Summer Reading Program.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Catholic Edition of the NIV....

...Psalms. Yes, this book actually exists. Not only does it exist, but it is even approved by the USCCB. This edition, published in 1996 by Catholic Book Publishing, states: "This is the Catholic edition of the Psalms of one of the very highly regarded and indeed most popular Bible translations in the world. This St. Joseph Edition is printed in large, easy-to-read 10 pt. type with references and notes at the bottom of each page." The Catholic Book Publishing site also has a .pdf which gives you a look at the book's introduction as well as Psalm 23.
My initial thoughts on this edition:
** The format of each page mirrors all the other St. Joseph editions that Catholic Book Publishing has released over the past fifty plus years. Basically, if you have an NAB or even an old Confraternity edition, then you know how the NIV Psalms are formatted. While I am not a huge fan of this, it is nice to see the scriptural text in a single-column format.
** The St. Joseph NIV Psalms also include cross-references, textual notes, and footnotes. At first, I figured that they just used the NAB footnotes, but alas I was wrong. Since I do not actually own this edition, I am not sure whether or not these notes were developed specifically for this edition. If any one has info on this, please let me know.
** So, why would Catholic Book Publishing even publish the NIV Psalms in a Catholic edition? Could it be that they recognized the revised '91 NAB Psalms were inferior in almost every way? At this point, I really have no idea. And the fact that I rarely see this edition at any Catholic bookstore I frequent causes me to question why it was produced in the first place.

Ascension of the Lord

And Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. –Mark 16:15-20

Monday, May 18, 2009

O NRSV with Cross-References Where Art Thou?

Yes, that is the question. You see, I have a friend who is looking to buy an NRSV-Catholic Edition which has scriptural cross-references. She doesn't want a large study Bible, like the NISB or HCSB or NOAB, but rather a normal sized NRSV Bible. Cross-references are something she definitely needs to have, but it would be nice to have Bible maps, Mass readings, and even a concise Bible glossary as well. As many of you know, I have made the NRSV my everyday, all-purpose Bible. The edition I use is the Cambridge NRSV with Apocrypha Reference edition. While not specifically a "Catholic Edition", it does contain all the Catholic books, cross-references, Bible maps, a handy glossary, and the cover is made of premium leather. I like it a lot. Is it perfect? By no means! But it is the closest edition that meets my everyday needs.

So, back to my friend who needs an NRSV-CE with cross-references. I am sure one exists right? Currently, the answer is no. There are a number of new editions of the NRSV-CE that have been published in the past few years, principally by HarperCollins. However, none of them have scriptural cross-references. All other Catholic translations, including the NAB, RSV-2CE, and NJB, come in editions with cross-references. She has used the Catholic Youth Bible NRSV in the past, but wants to upgrade to another NRSV edition. So, she is comfortable with the NRSV translation, along with its plentiful textual notes. There are a couple of editions, like the one I own, which she could get. However, that edition is not always available and can be a bit pricey. Yes, I know there is a bonded leather version available, but who would want to use a bonded leather edition? That's crazy!

So, this post is simply a call to all NRSV publishers to consider publishing an NRSV-CE with cross-references. As a matter of fact, I don't remember seeing many NRSV's in any edition that have cross-references. It's really not that hard, however it's definitely needed!

Update: Theophrastus reminds me of this hardcover edition by Oxford, which unfortunately is out of print.

Update 2: Reader Paul has alerted me to this one, by Collins in the UK.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Primary Sources?

The fine people at the Singing in the Reign blog have an interesting and somewhat provocative post about a dirty little secret in Biblical scholarship. The secret is that many scholars, instead of actually examining primary texts like the DSS, tend to rely on reading each others works. This is a nice reminder that you should always consult the footnotes in any piece of scholarship that you read. It is good to know whether a particular assertion by an author is coming from his own reading of a text or from another scholar.
This post is further proof that I need to firm up my understanding of Biblical Greek. Ideally, my desire is to take one of those summer intensive Greek courses in the near future. Although at this point, it may be a couple years before I can do it. So, until that time comes, perhaps I should try to firm up my understanding of Greek on my own. I know of a number of people who have done this, many of them later became professors of Scripture at the local seminary. And now with STB course work complete, I have the time to begin this process. Any recommendations as to a book/workbook on learning Biblical Greek?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NT Wright + NIV = Not Friends

Over the weekend, I began to read NT Wright's newest book Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision. So far, like many of Wright's books, I have enjoyed what I have read. Wright, at least to me, reads like he speaks. Maybe that isn't always a good thing, but for books like Justification, which aren't too terribly long or technical, I somewhat enjoy it. While the topic of "justification in Paul" is an extremely important topic for all Christians, it is also nice to view this debate, between the two Protestant's Wright and Piper, merely as an outsider. I hope to blog more on Wright's main points in the near future.

Until then, one section of the book that immediately struck me, particularly since I am always interested in Bible translations, is located in the section on "Rules of Engagement". Here, on pages 51-53, Wright takes issue with how the NIV translates Paul. (For all you fellow Catholics who may not be aware of the NIV, it is the best selling, most widely read English translation of the Bible in the world. It is a mediating translation, that is neither too literal nor dynamic. In many ways it mirrors the NAB, but is far more smooth and consistent.) He begins by stating that he had recommended use of the NIV early in the 1980's, believing that it injected "no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses (51)." However, over a two year period, while lecturing with the NIV and the Greek text, he discovered that "the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said (52)." He follows that up by saying: "I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about (52)." Ouch! He sites the NIV translation of Romans 3:21-26 & 29 as a major problem, particularly in its use of dikaiosu.

Now, again, I read Wright's critique as an outsider. I do not use the NIV, although I own a copy of the TNIV, which from time to time I will refer to when doing ecumenical Bible studies. While I have never examined, verse-by-verse, the (T)NIV, seeking to find its merits and problems, I have always appreciated its readability.

One thing that caught my attention is that it took Wright two years to discover the problems with the NIV. I would think that he would have noticed them much quicker. Yet, this may serve as a good example, either way, of why it is better not to promote or condemn a particular translation based simply on other peoples opinion, but only after using the translation over a year or two period. I know that some of the Bible blogs that I frequent feel this way about the TNIV, which some have condemned from the beginning.

I know, personally, that I always stayed away from the NRSV because I read forum comments by people who hated its use of inclusive language. Because of that, I really never gave it a serious read. However, I decided over a year ago to pick up a copy, just to have, and since then I have come to use it more and more. While I still don't like some of its inclusive language choices, I do appreciate many of it's other good qualities, which for me, sets it apart from other translations which have Catholic editions.

I should also point out that Wright does mention that "the NIV has now been replaced with newer adaptations in which some at least of the worst features have, I think, been at least modified (52)?" Any thoughts on that?

Monday, May 11, 2009

RSV Military New Testament for Orthodox Christians

Thanks to an anonymous blogger about a month ago, who pointed out to me the existence of the RSV Military New Testament w/Psalms for Orthodox Christians. I finally remembered to post about today, so there you have it! I wonder what edition of the RSV NT it uses, my guess would be the 1971 revision, but I could be wrong.

Here are the specs, via The Orthodox Marketplace:

The New Testament and Psalms in a pocket size volume - ideal to pack and carry. The Orthodox Military New Testament also includes devotional morning and evening prayers, a page to list the living and the dead for prayer, 8 full-color icon plates, and a devotional piece on the ten commandments and integrity in military service. The New Testament & Psalms for Orthodox Christians Military Edition is developed with the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) for distribution to the Orthodox Christian men and women of the armed services all over the world. Biblical text is the RSV. The full cost of this Bible is donated to the efforts of the American Bible Society towards Orthodox Christian projects.
Looks like it has some nice additional prayer aids included that even a Papist like myself could enjoy and benefit from. And heck, the cover is cool is that! Hmmm.....I wonder what Esteban thinks about this?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NT Wright, Justification, and the New Perspective

Scot McKnight, who is a popular Protestant speaker and biblical scholar, has begun posting his thoughts on the new book by NT Wright which deals with the issue of St. Paul and justification. The book is in response to criticism Wright has faced from Christians of the Reformed tradition, most notably the very influential John Piper. Wright is in favor of the "New Perspective of Paul" school, which was built by such prominent biblical scholars as EP Sanders and James Dunn. If you would like to read a brief overview of the "New Perspective", you can go here and here.

Below is a description of Wright's new book:
The work of Anglican bishop N. T. Wright on the topic of justification and Paul has provoked a focused yet enthusiastic wave of controversy in certain theological circles. Reformed theologian and pastor John Piper has recently published a strong critique of his ideas. This book is Wright's gracious yet pointed response to Piper and others who would claim that his understanding of the doctrine of justification is potentially dangerous and even destructive to the integrity of Paul's message and ultimately to the meaning of the gospel. Here Wright not only responds to his critics but also provides his most lucid explanation yet on the so-called new perspective on Paul, clarifying misunderstandings and providing a full articulation of his views. This irenic response is an important contribution for those on both sides of the debate-and those still in between. Whether you're a fan of Wright's work or have read Piper's book and would like to know the other side of the story, here is a chance to interact with Wright's views on the issues at stake and form your own conclusions.

The introductory post, at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed Blog can be read here, followed by the most recent here. While this is a "purely Protestant debate", as Scot points outs, I think it is essential that all Christians, including Catholics, keep up on these important debates within Christendom. I plan to pick up Wright's book sometime this week, since I now have plenty of time to do more reading with graduate course work being all completed! Yippie!

If anyone is interested, perhaps we could have a series of discussions on this blog about the issues focused on in Wright's new book. Yeah, that's right, a "Catholic Perspective on the New Perspective of Paul". If interested, please indicate in the comment box. Obviously, you will need to pick up the book in the next week or so.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Faith Database

One investment I have yet to make is to purchase one of those $500.00+ Bible software programs. Anytime I have a little extra money in the savings account, I am tempted to finally make this purchase. A year or so ago, I was very close to purchasing the Logos Bible Software, but put it off for some reason or another.

Recently, however, I was given the Faith Database as a birthday gift. While not specifically a Bible software product, it does contain 10 Bibles, including the ASV, Darby, Douay-Rheims, ESV, a Greek Interlinear, KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV translations. Most are included on the CD-ROM, while a few of them, accessible via the internet due to copyright restrictions I guess, are linked directly to the program itself. While the Bible study functions of the Faith Database are far less impressive than other Bible study programs like Logos, it does allow you to reference any particular Biblical verse to the early Church Fathers or other Church writings. For example, I clicked on the reference link to 1 Thessalonians 1:6, which provided, along with related Biblical passages, references to St. John Chrysostom's Homily 16 on Second Corinthians and Homily 1 on First Thessalonians. There was additional references to John Paul II's letter On the Laity and a talk given during a visit to Mexico in 1999 focusing on the sick.

In addition to the Bible translations, included in the CD-ROM are Ecumenical Council documents, Early Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, Christian classics, Bible art, Bible maps, and more. In particular, this product offers:

*10 Bible Translations
*88 Council Documents from all 21 Ecumenical Councils
*400 Early Church writings
*165 writings from the Doctors of the Church
*74 books from John Henry Newman
*112 books from G.K. Chesterton
*1300 Papal writings/encyclicals
*The Old Catholic Encyclopedia (1200 entries and 5000 images)
*Many classics including Gibbons' "Faith of our Fathers," Thomas a Kempis' "Imitation of Christ" and John Paul II's "Theology of the Body"
*1000 Bible Art Images
*Over 100 Bible Maps
*Illustrated Church history
*Search Catechism and Code of Canon Law

As I mentioned above, the Faith Database does not have the tools and applications that are included in many of the more expensive, complete Bible software that one can purchase. However, if you would like to own a very basic Bible study software, with links to Councils, the saints, and other Church documents, then this is a pretty good option. And at $39.95, you really can't beat the price. After purchasing the Faith Database, you can also get a subscription which will allow you to download ten more books each month for a year.