Thursday, February 12, 2009

NRSV Compact Bible Battle


Well, here is another Bible review using the NRSV translation. Lately, it seems that I have been spending a lot of time analyzing NRSV Bibles. I think the main reason for this is the fact that there are more editions of the NRSV being produced which have the Deuterocanonicals included in them. If you consider the main translations that Catholics use, the NAB, RSV, or NJB, you quickly realize that there is not much going on with those three currently. However, the NRSV seems to be the exception. I have mentioned before that I am glad to see HarperCollins, HarperOne, HarperBibles, HarperCatholicBibles or whatever they are called, continue to publish NRSV Catholic editions. They have been coming in different sizes and covers, some with more or less study helps. (Still no cross references though!) So, I decided to do a quick review of the two best NRSV compact editions that are available with the Deuterocanonicals.
NRSV Go Anywhere Bible Catholic Edition:
The NRSV Go Anywhere Bible CE is published by HarperCollins and retails for around $29.95. It comes in three different types, a Catholic Edition, a Regular/Protestant Edition , and an Orthodox Edition (w/ full "Apocrypha"). This edition of the NRSV is the Anglicized version. In all cases, the publishers went with a imitation leather/NuTone™ covers which "combine extraordinary durability with the softness of calfskin leather." Right. However, what makes this compact NRSV unique is its shape. It is 4” x 8 1/4”, which makes it one of the most oddly shaped Bibles out there. I guess that means its compact, but maybe it doesn't. It certainly won't fit in a pocket or a purse easily.
The NRSV Go Anywhere Bible also includes the standard prefaces that come with the NRSV and a concise concordance. Oh I forgot to mention that it does have a Bible ribbon marker, which for many Catholic publishers is considered a "bonus feature".
I have used this Bible on a number of occasions, mostly for private reading before Mass or during daily prayer time. Two things instantly stand out: 1) The paper is very thin and one can easily see the back side of the page through the paper. It is pretty distracting. 2) The odd shape of the Bible makes it hard for it to lay flat, either on a table or in your hand.
The New Revised Standard Version Bible with Apocrypha: Pocket Edition:
This edition, published by Oxford University Press, comes with or without the Apocrypha. There is no specifically Catholic edition. It is also the standard NRSV translation, not the Anglicized version. It's size is truly compact, being 4 1/2" x 6 1/8". OUP has published this NRSV compact edition in multiple cover options, including genuine leather, bonded leather, imitation leather, and zipper closure editions. Depending on what cover you decide to get, the price range is anywhere from $29.95 to $39.95.
It should be pointed out that in some of the product descriptions online, like here, it states that this edition contains a concordance. This is not true. However, it does contain the standard NRSV preface, a table of measures and weights, and of course the much coveted Bible ribbon marker. The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals are placed in the middle, between the Old and New Testament, and they are ordered to reflect the various canons, beginning with the Catholic.
While this edition is very bare-bones, I find it easier to read and certainly more portable than the HarperCollins edition. It also lays out flat on a table and is much easier to take around with you. Therefore, I definitely recommend the Oxford edition over the HarperCollins one.

5 comments:

Michael said...

You know, it's funny. For nearly two decades the NRSV has been considered a dud, not in artistic quality, or for use by scholars, but in the one thing that really matters: sales. In its 20 year history, it has never really been a big seller, and for several years it seemed to be out of print because I couldn't find a copy anywhere.

Indeed, there was serious talk of the NCC declaring bankruptcy because donations from their member churches were way down and sales from the RSV and NRSV were flat.

At one point it was said that the NCC had so little money that they couldn't sponsor a revision of the NRSV if they even wanted to, because they didn't have the funds to pay for such a monumental task.

But then they give the publishing rights over to Harper Collins, and suddenly for the first time since its initial publication it is 'hot'. Sales are up, the number of editions is skyrocketing, publicity is way up, even evangelicals and conservative Catholics are snatching them up and you can't swing a dead cat in a Barnes and Noble without hitting a display counter advertising NRSV's.

Isn't it amazing what a little marketing can do?

Timothy said...

Michael,

Don't you think the USCCB/CBA folks who are working on the revision of the NAB OT should do the same once it is finished?

They really could learn a lesson or two from what publishers like HarperCollins and Zondervan. Instead, they will probably continue to license the NAB out to smaller publishing houses.

Michael said...

Well, the majority of the money from the NAB, and the main reason why it exists in the first place and will never be replaced in the US by another version, even if that version is superior, comes from the license that the printers of missalettes have to buy to reprint the NAB. Greater sales would definitely help, but what the USCCB is really interested in is licensing it to printers for use in missalettes.

The beauty of missalettes is that, unlike Bibles, parishes have to replace them every year.

Timothy said...

Michael,

Well, they should continue with their licensing of the NAB to missalette publishers for the $$$, but they really need to hand the actual NAB translation over to a top-notch Bible publisher who can not only market it, but also make it available in many attractive editions.

Michael said...

Actually, I think the NAB has a fair number of editions and is pretty widely available, even down here in the south where 'Catlicks' are rare, the bookstores are filled with NAB's.

The main reason why NAB isn't more popular is because Protestants are the majority in this country, and buy the majority of the Bibles, but Protestants just don't have much use for a Catholic Bible.