August 30, 2014
I began reviewing Bibles on the Bible Reviewer blog because I had so many. As word got around that I'm a Bible nut, people began asking my advice on which translation and/or study edition to get. Before responding, I tried to find out what each person wanted and needed as individual preferences make a huge difference in whether we actually read God's Word, which is, after all, the point.
Most Christians already have a favorite Bible, but having none myself, I read almost every English version, including footnotes from a variety of excellent study editions. Many aspects of each word-for-word, thought-for-thought, contemporary, or scholarly translation appealed to me for various reasons, and I'm happy to report that I discovered something unique in each - something insightful, something that helped me to take notice and really hear.
Then, finally.... Finally! After years of searching, I found "my" Bible: this one – The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, edited by Michael D. Coogan and published by Oxford in March, 2010.
The accuracy, the poetically graceful yet clear language, the unbiased footnotes and study aids, the "extra" books I did not even know about as a child – all of these features came together in a soft leather cover I'm sorry to say I couldn't find on Amazon. Before posting this, however, I made sure the paperback edition I did find is the exact Bible that has now become "my" Bible, my all-time favorite Bible, and The Bible I most highly recommend for drawing me closer to The Most High.
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books, including the poetry book Living in the Nature Poem and Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, paperback
March 15, 2012
The Oxford Study Bible contains the full Revised English Bible with Apocrypha (aka deuterocanonical books) and “A Complete Guide To The World of The Bible” in such articles as “Historical Contexts of the Biblical Communities,” “The Contribution of Archaeology,” and “The Social World” in both Testaments.
As a Christian writer and poet, I especially appreciate the articles on “Early Christian Literature,” “Literature of the Ancient Near East,” and the “Literary Forms of the Bible.” The latter, for example, talks about the biblical forms used for Bible poetry in the Psalms, of course, but in wisdom books and books of prophecy too. The article also discusses genres such as narratives, parables, and proverbs as well as the literary form prophetic books often took, and the general format found in epistles or letters.
Binding: Thick, glossy paper is my preference for the Oxford REB edition, and the cover has held up well. In other translations such as the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), my Oxford study Bibles have top quality leather, but on each, the spine bowed or pulled away slightly. Since the pages were sewn together, none fell out, but pages on this paperback edition (as shown in the ad below) seem to be strongly glued to the cover.
Font: The highly readable font in the text decreases slightly in size for the footnotes, but they’re still easier to read than most.
Format: In addition to the study articles already mentioned, each section of the Bible has an Introduction as does each of the individual books.
Footnotes: Whether in the RSV, NRSV, or REB, the footnotes avoid denominational differences and aim for a wider, ecumenical view. This is not to say the information straddles fences, but the emphasis is on providing readers information about wordplays, historical settings, and cultural backgrounds, rather than rhetoric aimed to sway readers toward one stance or another.
REB: The Revised English Bible translates thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word, providing a highly readable text that flows well in public or private reading. Some spellings and word choices reflect a British accent, rather than American English, but then the same can be said for the King James Version, which British scholars produced (word-for-word, deuterocanonical books included) over 400 years ago.
© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler
Oxford Study Bible, REB, paperback