Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Oxford Annotated Bible - RSV

My search for a study Bible has gone a bit retro. My initial desire was to settle on one of the newer study Bibles that have been produced in the last few years. I have been mightily impressed by the many study helps and the high production quality of the recently released NLT Study Bible and ESV Study Bible. Spending a few minutes looking at each in a local book store, I was instantly impressed. If I were not Catholic, I probably would be very happy to buy both.....in leather.

So, I have spent the last few weeks looking at the other possibilities that exist that contain all the Catholic Old Testament. I even devoted a blog entry on this topic. For the most part, the various NRSV study Bibles are the only option. (Let me point out right now that I am aware of The Catholic Study Bible by OUP, but I am not a fan of the NAB translation and the study notes are the same as in any edition of the NAB.) Ultimately, I was just not happy with the various NRSV options. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main reasons were probably the format/size of the study Bible and the overall quality of the notes. To this point, it seemed that many of them had an excess of notes that either really didn't add a whole lot or there were some that just focused on translation issues in the NRSV. (In particular, the NISB has quite a few notes that promote alternate renderings from the NRSV). This is not to say that in general the notes in the various NRSV study Bible were bad, but I just didn't find them worth the amount of space that was devoted to them. I do have a decent collection of commentaries that I use primarily anyways, so perhaps my desire to have a study Bible with lots of notes was not what I really wanted after all.

So, then I rediscovered my old RSV NOAB. I had used it a number of years ago, when I started to take graduate theology courses at the seminary. So, I decided to spend a few days with it. And to my surprise....I really liked using it. The first thing that jumped out at me was the size. It is a pretty small study Bible, considerably smaller than any of the NRSV editions available today. For example the New Interpreters Study Bible is 9.4 x 7.4 x 2 inches while the RSV NOAB is 8.8 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches. So, for me, that is certainly a plus. Next, I really like that the notes/annotations did not take up too much space on each page. They are, in general, very brief and contain only basic historical-critical info along with cross-references. And to be honest with myself, that's all I really want and need at this point. With condensed annotations, this allows the Holy Scriptures to be prominent on each page, with a generous type-size and font. Margins are OK, so some personal annotations can be done on the inner margins and the bottom of each page.

So, perhaps my search is over......for now. One other advantage that using the RSV has is that it is still in print. While I don't have really a huge problem with the NRSV, it is clear that the RSV is still superior in some instances over the NRSV. Also, the RSV is still used in many seminaries and is still in print. As a matter of fact, the NOAB RSV, which was published in the 70's, is still in print in both the hardcover and leather editions. Meanwhile, Oxford is continuing to publish new Catholic editions of the RSV. In fact, they are about to release a new large-print edition of the RSV in November. In addition, it continues to be the translation of choice for most English language documents that come out of Rome. Also, Ignatius Press, whom I harp on from time to time, are still in the process of producing the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, which when published, will be an excellent resource.

8 comments:

rolf said...

I agree it is the perfect size Bible. It almost feels like a standard large print Bible instead of a Study Bible. I have the genuine leather version which is really nice. My only complaint is the thees and thous which I have never been a fan of. If Ignatius could take this Bible as a starting point, and add chapter headings, the RSV 2CE translation, and add some concise Catholic notes, we would have the perfect Bible.

L. Wells said...

Tim, I think you made an excellent choice. The size is perfect, the notes are terse, and relatively conservative for a critical Bible, and it reads more stately than the NRSV. While the NRSV is great for the most part, and I use it heavily, in some ways it is an upgrade to the RSV, but in others I believe it to be a downgrade. The really great thing about the NRSV is that in the places where it gets quirky, the footnotes are there to clear things up.

I have found myself going back to my old RSV NOAB more and more lately too. The bottom line is that it is a classic Bible, the best in the Oxford series in my opinion. Another strong point is that Metzger was the editor, a name trusted and respected. A true classic like the RSV NOAB is just tough to beat, plain and simple.

Tim said...

The NOAB RSV is really a classic. Not only does it have some pretty solid/concise notes, but it really is the perfect size. I really don't know what the newer editions of the NOAB don't follow the same pattern. And more and more I think, pray, and read both the RSV and NRSV, I think the RSV is still superior.

L. Wells said...

Another positive about the RSV is that it is the most broadly accepted between Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant Christians, which is another reason I've considered going back to it as my main translation. It's nice to be "on the same page" when we talk Scripture with other Christians.

The problem with newer study Bibles is that they try to include too many notes and articles, when most Bible readers who are this serious about study will use commentaries and other books when they need help, making much of the notes just more weight to lug around.

Tim said...

I. Wells,

I agree with you 100%. The RSV remains the best ecumenically, which I think is a wonderful thing as well. It simply is the standard. I can use it in any type of group, no matter if it is a beginners Bible study or an advanced seminary course. Also, it easily is acceptable to most other Christian denominations. In this way, I think the RSV sill beats the NRSV in this.

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Tim B. said...

Tim, what do you think of the Oxford Study Bible REB? How would you say it compares to the NOAB RSV.
I like that it is also an ecumenical version that contains the deuterocanonicals/apocrypha.