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.


rolf said...

Tim, Darn those 40% off Border's coupons, I have resisted the last three they have sent to me but it gets harder each time!

I have a copy of the NISB in genuine leather and out of all the study Bibles out there, I like it the best. Like you mentioned, the text is very easy to read. The font size (which I think is 9) but more importantly the word and sentence spacing make this an easy to read Bible. But even better is that the commentary notes are nearly the same size as the text and are also very easy to read.
The commentry notes contain a lot more information than the New Oxford Study Bible notes.
And for Catholics, there are many noted Catholic scholars who have contributed on this study Bible.

Terri L. Coons said...

I, too, considered the NISB before purchasing the NOAB 3rd ed. (which I am pretty crazy about). It was interesting to read your assessment; I'll certainly take a closer look at the NISB in person if presented with the opportunity.

However, for me the inclusion of a concordance is an absolute MUST. I carry the NOAB with me to bible studies, church, and wherever else I know I might be using it. It is definitely my primary bible and whenever I need to track down an applicable verse the concordance (coupled with the study notes and cross refs.) have yet to let me down.

In short, wouldn't buy a study bible without it. [Already eating crow: My secondary mostly-reading bible (with useful study notes), the CTS New Catholic Bible, doesn't have one ... and I miss it almost every other time I pick it up to read and start wondering about another scripture that I then have to refer to the NOAB to find.

You're right. I need a more robust concordance but don't want another tome to lug around. What do you think about the St. Mary's Essential NRSV Concordance?


Timothy said...


Yeah, those Borders coupons are a killer! 40% is just too tempting!

Overall, like you said, I have really liked what I have read in the commentary. Because of the noted Catholic Scholars, there seems to be a real sensitivity to Catholic interpretation, without it necessarily being a "Catholic" Bible. So far so good!

Timothy said...


I certainly understand the desire to have a concordance. In some of the personal NRSV editions that I have, they include them and are quite handy at times. I just don't tend to use them a lot when I am doing study or preparing for a Bible study. As for a seperate concordance, the one you mentioned is nice, but this complete one is quite good:

You can get it used for 45 bucks, which isn't too bad.

How is the CTS Bible working for you? I have one of them, in the really small travel edition. I don't use it much, but I think it is a very nicely put together Bible.

Theophrastus said...

I own the NISB -- I do like it a lot, although I am also painfully aware of its many shortcomings. The preface mentions that there was not an effort to harmonize style among the various contributors, and I found that very plausible. As a result, some of the commentaries are excellent; and some of them are less useful.

I think the NISB succeeds better as a auto-didactic text than it competitors, the HarperCollins Study Bible (H-CSB) (currently in the 2nd edition); and the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) (currently in the 3rd augmented edition). It mixes some pastoral commentary along with scholarly commentary.

However, I also think that the NISB is more partisan in outlook (which varies some in the text, but is basically liberal mainline Protestant) than the H-CSB or the NOAB. I think you will find, as I have, that some of the essays which harp on issues of the Bible as being primarily a text of social justice get on your nerves. (Of course, ethics, including social ethics play a large role in the Bible, but several commentators stress this point at length.) Similarly, in terms of specific issues hot-button issues (homosexuality and the Church, women clergy) you may find that some positions make you uncomfortable. All of this is not to say that the NISB does not have value; but I do wish the commentators editorialized less.

I really like the extra essays in the NOAB (and also those in Oxford's Catholic Study Bible and Jewish Study Bible -- in the latter work, they are spectacular, and I recommend it to you highly.) Of the "big three" the commentary in the NOAB is the most terse, and I have to confess, that's the way I like it.

If you are going to purchase a NOAB, you may wish to look for a NOAB 2nd edition. That was edited by Metzger and May, and includes much material not in your NOAB-RSV edition, while still keeping a relatively neutral tone. The NOAB-3rd edition is not as partisan as the NISB, but the NOAB-2nd edition may have been the high point in the series. Or, at least, that's my opinion.

I also recommend you may want to try the Oxford Jewish Study Bible. It has the advantage of a different (and interesting) translation and extended commentary on the books of the Hebrew Bible. Several of the notes explicitly consider Christological interpretations and reject them, but the discussion has a fair tone throughout.

Probably all of these editions are available in any major scholarly library nearby.


Regarding the Kohlenberger Concordance that you mention, it is of course outstanding; but it is an enormous book and I find that I never use my copy -- I simply use Bible software.


Regarding the CTS edition, I think it is most useful if one were attending church in the UK (or another district that used the JB/Grail Psalter). While I very much appreciate the CTS not translating the name of God, I think that in all other ways, the full annotated NJB dominates the CTS -- quality of translation, and quantity and quality of notes. My opinions may be colored because I am simply not fond of the JB translation.

Timothy said...


As usual, a lot to chew on. Where to start! :)

I wouldn't mind getting my hands on an NOAB 2nd edition. I believe it is out of print, but I may take another look at the used book shops. I am always weary of ordering out-of-print Bibles, since I have at times asked for certain earlier editions, but ended up being sent the most recent one. This has happened quite a bit with the NAB, which I have tried to get in an edition with the revised NT, but not the horrible '91 Psalms. I have been successful, but not always.

In regards to the hot-button issues you are definitely right. They do reflect a more liberal-protestant position, but less so than the NOAB 3rd edition. I am trying to remember what the NOAB 3 said about homosexuality in either Rom 1 or 1 Cor. 6, but either way it was far more progressive than the NISB. I think..... (Don't have that edition on me at the moment.)

Let me also mention that I agree with you that the Catholic Study Bible essays are quite good, but the new page format for the latest edition is horrible....IMHO.

As far as the NJB or JB, I agree that the NJB is superior in almost every way. I still wish they would provide more stylish editions of the NJB, while maintaining the single-column format. But, I don't think that will ever happen, particularly since the NJB seems to be perhaps on its last days. It isn't used in the Liturgy and who knows what the Ecole Biblique is doing these days.

Theophrastus said...

At some point I'd like to know more about your criticism of the page layout of of the Catholic Study Bible (CSB) (currently in its 2nd edition). I agree that the book is not particularly beautifully typeset: the columns are too close to each other, and the way that the footnotes sometimes stretch over the page and are sometimes in double columns is a bit weird. Is there something else that bothers you?

(I don't notice the typesetting problems much, though. I usually simply use the 525 pages of additional essays in the CSB, called "The Reading Guide" and skip the NAB translation. The "Reading Guide" is acceptably typeset.)

I think the biggest problem for the designers of the CSB is that the footnotes and book introductions are fixed for the NAB -- and some of those NAB footnotes are showing their age, and there are certainly not enough of them. This puts the CSB (and any attempt at a serious single-volume study edition of the NAB) at a big disadvantage. The CSB's solution -- to insert gray box cross-references to the introductory essays -- is rather ingenious.

I would use the CSB more, but as we have discussed, the NAB's presentation of the OT is simply unpalatable. However, sometimes I use the Reading Guide with translations other than the NAB.

(Even if one wants to use the NAB, one ideally would have two copies of the CSB -- one to read the the Reading Guide and one to read the Biblical text.)

Terri L. Coons said...

Tim and Theo,
Deciding to buy the CTS bible took some persuading (of the internal variety). I loved the idea of having a Grail copy of the Psalms but had no experience with the Jerusalem translation; I've always been rather positive/neutral on the NJB probably because I never had the study edition.

Overall, I enjoy it only slightly less than the NOAB 3rd ed. I have found the study notes to be mostly concise and quite helpful though not as in depth as the NOAB, which is to be expected. I hardly notice the Jerusalem translation except where an occasional term is oddly translated.

1. I read this bible daily because it has the Sunday and Weekday Lectionary listings. Also has the Liturgy of the Hours readings charts.

2. The size (Standard hardcover edition) can't be beat for the amount of useful study information contained therein.

3. I really like the cross references in the outer page margins. This makes it super easy to deepen my study on any given text. Other cross references are provided in the study notes as befit the noted subject.


1. I would not use this bible for group study sessions because of the Jerusalem translation being so rare in the U.S.

2. Doesn't have a concordance.

I mentioned in another post how complementary the NOAB 3rd ed. and this CTS bible have been together. And after further use and study, I stand behind that observation. They are very different and yet corroborative resources for internalizing scripture.

Re: the concordance recommendation, I think I'll stick with something I know I would use like the St. Mary's edition. However, I wonder if anyone knows how different it is from the 64 page concordance already in the NOAB.

Timothy said...


In regards to the Catholic Study Bible layout, some of my problems with it you mentioned. I agree with you when you say "the columns are too close to each other, and the way that the footnotes sometimes stretch over the page and are sometimes in double columns is a bit weird." But I also think the notes/commentary and the Sacred text blend in together to much. There is no real dividing line between the two. Visually, IMHO, I find that hard to read. The script itself is very bland. Again, that might just be me.

I have a genuine leather Catholic Study Bible 1st edition, which was published before the '91 revised Psalms. I love the format of this Bible! The Scriptural text is much larger than the notes/commentary and there is plenty of room in the margins for personal notes.

L. Wells said...

I agree with Theophrastus on the NISB. Some it is great, but some of it is simply far too liberal for me. The excursus on John 14 ("no one comes to the Father except through me")seems like an attempt to equate Jesus with leaders of other world religions. At any rate, overall it is a great study Bible, and I use it along with the NOASB 2nd edition, and 3rd augmented edition, and the HCSB 1st edition. I have wavered back and forth as to which I like best, each of the big three outpointing the others in their respective strengths.

Timothy, the 2nd edition of the NOASB is, IMHO the best of the NOASB line. It is still available, as I purchased one new maybe a year and a half ago, I think on Amazon.

L. Wells said...

Timothy, here is a hardcover edition of the NOASB 2nd edition available at Amazon.

Timothy said...

L. Wells,

Thanks for the link. I actually own the NOAB RSV as well. I still appreciate the size and page lay-out of this edition.

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