Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hendrickson's NRSV Gift Bible Review

As if I needed to buy another Bible, yet I decided to do so anyway! Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the new Hendrickson's NRSV Gift Bible with Apocrypha at my local Cokesbury store. I tend to like Cokesbury much more than the Family Christian stores that seem to be more numerous and popular. In my experiences, Cokesbury typically has a better selection of scholarly biblical works, as well as having a small Catholic section. But I digress.

This new NRSV Bible is pretty straight forward. It is the basic text of the NRSV, with the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals placed in the middle as they should be. This Bible seems to have the same page layout as the other NRSV Gift Bibles that Hendrickson produces. It comes in two different cover styles: Mocha on Cocoa or Cream on Blue. (Those are the publishers words, not mine!)

Here are the specs:

• Gilded page edges (silver on blue binding, gold on brown binding)

• Ribbon marker

• 9-point type

• Color map section

• Great for confirmations, birthdays and other special occasions

• O-wrap features a die cut window that displays the beautiful binding

While this Bible is pretty basic, I do have a few comments about it:

1) The cover material is Flexisoft Leather, which is the imitation leather that was discussed in the previous post. I tend to like the feel and flexibility of these covers. My only concern would be durability, and since these are relatively new to the market we will just have to wait and see.

2) I currently own two other flexisoft/imitation leather NRSV Bibles, the Go-Anywhere NRSV and the NRSV Catholic Gift Bible, both of them published by HarperCollins. While the other two contained some helpful extras, like a concordance, intros, some maps, I find that I prefer actually reading from this new Hendrickson edition. The page layout is much easier on the eyes, and there is a nice contrast between the bold paragraph headings and the Sacred Text. I also like the map section in the back of the Hendrickson edition best.

3) Once again, no cross-references! I simply don't understand why so few NRSV's have cross-references. At the very least, why not follow the lead of the ESV which includes OT cross-references in the NT as part of the textual notes at the bottom of each page. That's not too much to ask is it?

4) Interestingly, I was looking at the copyright info at the front of the Bible and noticed that the edition used by Hendrickson is "New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993 NCCUSA". This is interesting since only in the Catholic edition of the NRSV are the Deuterocanonicals dispersed throughout the OT. Also, the Catholic edition does not include the other apocrypha/deuterocanonical books that are accepted by some of our Eastern brethren, like 1 Esdras.

5) Finally, there is some inconsistency in how the apocrypha/deuterocanonicals are labeled. On the cover of the Bible, it is simply labeled as "with the Apocrypha". In the table of contents it is labeled as "Deuterocanonical Books" and in the text, itself, it is labeled as "The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books". Perhaps trying to appease everyone?


Theophrastus said...

I haven't seen the Hendrickson edition, but I certainly like many Hendrickson editions which are generally of high quality for the price.


Have you seen the NRSV Notetaker's Bible (from Oxford)? It comes in two editions: a regular hardcover (this is the one I would suggest getting) and deluxe cloth. It is fairly cheap from Amazon ($27 regular/$35 deluxe) or ($23 hardcover/$42 deluxe). Note that both editions are hardcover, but one comes with the standard "glossy textbook cover" and the other comes with a nicer plush true cloth cover. I think the cheaper one will work for most people. (Note this volume includes the Deuterocanonicals).

It is single column, has plenty of note taking space, and most important, has much thicker paper. This is my current favorite NRSV under $100.


If you want a great NRSV cross-reference, I'd suggest the amazing Oxford NRSV Cross-Reference Edition with Apocrypha ISBN: 0191000167. (Be careful ordering this one, as there is parallel edition with no Deuterocanonicals.) This volume is out-of-print but still available new from several online dealers (I especially recommend checking's "Marketplace"). The advantage of this edition is that the cross-references fully incorporate the Deuterocanonical books: the OT and NT include cross-references to the Deu and vice-versa.

I've never seen any cross-reference Bible in any translation as useful as this one.

Timothy said...


Yes, this is my first Hendrickson Bible, which like you said is very affordable and seems to be of high quality.

While I was at Cokesbury I did look at those two editions of the NRSV Notetakers Bibles. Unfortunately, they were both in plastic, so I couldn't really give it a good hands-on look. (Although I have seen some of the page layouts online.) One thing I noticed was that it was a bit heafty, but perhaps not to much to be burden for daily use. I am not sure. Either way, I think I may have to pick one up. (I think I have a coupon for next week at Cokesbury, which I may use for it)

As for the Oxford NRSV edition you mentioned, a friend of mine purchased it and I was able to look at quite thoroughly. You are right, the cross-references are a step better than the Cambridge Moroccan Leather edition that I own. Hmmm.....

Anonymous said...


I had one question, is the NRSV-CE (or w apocrypha) generally a bible that most catholics use and recommend? Here in southern california everyone uses the NAB or RSV. Catholic answers forums and EWTN seem to look down on this version because of the inclusive language and there is constant news about a non gender inclusive edition that may be used for the liturgy in europe. Thanks to your blog i purchased a copy. I said to myself, wow i guess there are catholics that use the NRSV!! Sorry for the off topic question.

Timothy said...


Thanks for the question. Here is the thing, all of the major translations have positives and negatives. This includes the NAB, RSV, NRSV, and the NJB. Anyone who is being honest will acknowldge this.

Oftentimes, I use my leather New Oxford Annotated RSV for study and class, simply because I like its size and because I ahve written numerous notes in it.

However, more and more, I tend to use the NRSV for daily use. First off, it is an approved translation from the USCCB, and it has recently been OK'd for use in Mass in Canada. (Although I am still awaiting to see what alterations were made.) Secondly, I like the fact that the translation uses the most recently discovered manuscripts. Thirdly, there is a lot of support materials that uses the NRSV, including concordances, interlinears, word studies, and commentaries. Lastly, I simply enjoy reading from the NRSV translation. Does some of the inclusive language become annoying in certain places? Yes! But the translators are honest enough to provide textual notes at the bottom of each page to indicate where they have done so. I appreciate the honesty. Utimately, I find that the NRSV is not too literal as the NASB or ESV, yet not too dynamic like the NIV or NJB.

Of course, everything depends on your personal taste, but I don't think there is anything wrong with using the NRSV. I certainly use it, while recognizing its weaknesses. Of course, I could do the same with all the other translations as well.

Timothy said...

Let me add one more thing about inclusive language. The NRSV uses inclusive language only in the horizontal sense, for human beings. The NRSV does not use it for God. God is always refered to as "He" where the text warrents it. This is not the case with the revised '91 NAB Psalms.

While the Vatican rightly will not approve any translation that uses vertical inclusive language, it seems that they are willing to accept some horizontal.

Anonymous said...

Tim, thank you for responding to my question. As a convert to the faith from a reformed/evangelical background i sometimes find it surprising that catholics bibles seem scarce. In my experience the bible you read said alot about where you stood theologically. In the catholic church i dont find that distinction at all, this is very liberating. This is probably a reason why we find all those arguments on other blogs or sites regarding the translations, without realizing it some converts havent discarded making the bible our only source of truth. No bible translation is perfect, i couldnt agree more. Hopefully the Lord raise up scholars and translators in the near future who will get it right.

Timothy said...


Yeah, we just don't have the numbers of different translation options that Protestants have to choose from. It basically comes down to the NAB, NRSV, RSV, NJB, JB, and DR. Within those six, you really have 3 schools, with the NAB, RSV/NRSV, and JB/NJB. (I have found that the Douay-Rheims, on the other hand, has much of the same following as the KJV-only folks.)

Of course, the vast majority of American Catholics use the NAB. For me, that is fine. In many ways, it is close to the NIV in translation style and availability for Catholics. You will find that more traditional/conservative Catholics will use the RSV-CE. The NRSV is still somewhat unknown, since it really is now only being publicized thanks to HarperCollins. As for the NJB/JB, it still receives a small following, often from very devoted folks who first used the original JB in the 60's. It also comes with some great study helps!

Overall, however, I don't think there is the automatic assumptions in the Catholic Church regarding the connection between your Bible translation and your theology. For the most part, I think you are right on with that observation.

Theophrastus said...

You are right about the NRSV Notetaker's Bible being thick, although it is no thicker than many history books or long novels (e.g., War and Peace) on my bookshelf. I think it only looks thick to us because the page size is a bit smaller than many books (e.g., 8x6 inches instead of 10x8 inches). (Frankly, I wish that they had used a larger page size.)

If you use the book on a desk or book stand or lectern, I think it is quite workable. If you are in the pew or standing and teaching without a lectern, I think the dimensions of the NRSV are inconvenient.

Theophrastus said...

Tim, did you accidentally leave out Good News (TEV) translation? It has the imprimatur.


I think you are a bit harsh on the Douay-Rheims. First, it is fascinating as a historical document, particularly the 1582/1610 edition, which includes extensive (and polemical) notes. While these notes express sentiments that are that are quite offensive to modern sensibilities, they provide a fascinating insight into the world view of the Catholic recusants. Second, the D-R (and, to a lesser degree, the Challoner revision) is still useful as a highly literal translation of the 16th century Vulgate -- it was useful to me in my own study of Latin.

Timothy said...


I don't mean to come off as being harsh towards the Douay-Rheims. I own multiple copies, including an early 20th century edition and the one with the Haydock commentaries. There are many things I like about it. As a matter of fact, I think I mentioned somewhere that I would love to see it get the treatment that the KJV does still these days, with various editions and styles. I think that would be a good thing. Don't you think the popularity of the DR would increase a bit if it came out in newer "hip" editions, like you see with the KJV, with new study tools and maps that weren't made in 1911?

However, the only problem I have with the DR is really not with the Bible itself, but it is with those who think that it is the only Bible that faithful Catholics should read. I think that is generally an ignorant statement, yet there are some people who hold that belief. Thats really my only beef.

Timothy said...

Oh yeah, you mentioned also the Good News Bible (TEV). I didn't really mention that since I rarely, if ever, see it being used. Even my non-scientific poll indicates that only about 2% of the people polled use it regularly. Plus, I rarely see a Catholic edition of the Good News Bible at any secular or even Catholic bookstores in my area.

Anonymous said...

I realize this post is over 3 years old, but I was wondering if this NRSV is the anglicized version? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article! It was very helpful. I am looking into buying this exact Bible. I'm switching up my translations, having been using the NAB for the past 7 years. Trying to mix things up! I also did find the colors very visually appealing, I'm not going to lie!