Friday, May 7, 2010

A New NRSV Study Bible?

Reader diakonos09 spotted a listing for The NRSV Study Bible which is set for publication in June 2010. I did a little looking around as well and found a couple of sites that listed the publication date for June 2011. In all listings, Harold W. Attridge, who edited the most recent edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible, is the editor listed for this volume and the publisher is HarperOne. As of yet, there is no listing of this new edition on either the HarperCollins/One website or the site. My guess for publication date would be 2011, but who knows. One would think that if they were going to be publishing "the" NRSV Study Bible, they would have started publicizing the product by now.

I wonder if there are looking to re-brand the older Society Of Biblical Literature HCSB as The NRSV Study Bible, much like the ESV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible. We shall see. Hmmm.....


Anonymous said...

I just picked up a new Orthodox Study Bible I found at Half Price Books here in Texas. Does anyone have any experience with this bible? It is a beautiful leather bible and looks very interesting. The bible has beautiful pictures. There web site is very informative. Thanks/Sharon

Diakonos said...

I agree, Timothy. The pending NRSV Study Bible/Attridge must be a new release of the HCSB (last published in 2006 I believe). Question is: what are they doing to revise/update to make it tempting/worthwhile to purchase? I cannot find any e-reference to it either.

Theophrastus said...

It is exactly the current HarperCollins Study Bible without the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, and is intended to replace the existing Harper NRSV Study Bible.

(Note that if you take the existing pages in the current HarperCollins Study Bible and remove the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, you end up with 1920 pages -- the size of the new volume.)

In other words, nothing worth getting excited about.

Timothy said...


Hmmm.... that is interesting. I wonder why they would fin thus necessary? Who are they trying to appeal to? Non-mainline churches?

Diakonos said...

Ah...well dang! I was kind of looking forward to something new and hopefully improved on the market. Oh well...back to role-playing Israel longing for the coming Messiah as I await the advent of the complete Ignatius Study Bible.

Theophrastus said...

Apparently, there is a market for academic study Bibles without the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon -- the New Oxford Annotated Bible also publishes editions both with and without.

In this case, since they already have most of the typeset text, the marginal cost of producing the new version is pretty much the cost of a printing run -- the only new design needed is for the front matter (cover, title page, table of contents, etc.)

Because the HarperCollins Study Bible is a leading classroom textbook (in addition to enjoying significant sales to individuals), it is likely that you'll hear a lot about any major new revision.

Anonymous said...

I would guess that this is part of an effort to saturate the market with as many nrsv options as possible, in hopes that if the women's nrsv and the orange NOAB and the leather ... don't entice then perhaps an nrsv study bible will do the trick. It's about the marketing.

Also, considering the substantial cost increase and size increase of including the deuterocanon, it seems logical that the NRSV would cut these corners whenever possible, if for no other reason than to save money. (EX: the NLT commissioned a new font to print 10% more text on the same number of pages for a substantial saving in print costs. The NRSV can accomplish similar savings through reducing number of pages by 12% by printing without the deuterocanon.)

These are of course no more than my thoughts.


Theophrastus said...

Brad --

The list price of the new volume is $40 as opposed to $45 with the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon.

Diakonos said...

Since the NLT was mentioned I have a question. A few years ago I bought a NLT advertised as "Catholic Edition" and indeed it has the deuteros inproper order. Then I read somewhere that the USCCB refused to give imrpimatur to it. Anyone know why? Anyone know of any positive recent developments in this regard?

Theophrastus said...

The NLT is a revision of a paraphrase The Living Bible. The Living Bible did come out in a Catholic edition with imprimatur from Bishop Pursley (South Bend).

However, by the time the NLT-CE came around, the rules had changed, and imprimatur for translations of Scripture were reserved for Bishops' Conferences. I think it is safe to say that the USCCB has been more conservative in giving imprimatur to Bible translations (and, of course, the USCCB sponsors its own NAB translation.)

Take this next paragraph with a grain of salt: it is based on a memory, and my memory may be playing tricks. But, I recall reading a comment from a Tyndale editor (Tyndale is the publisher of the NLT) that the publishing house had submitted the NLT for consideration, but the USCCB had failed to take action -- simply sitting on the application indefinitely (which I suppose is marginally better than it being "rejected" for imprimatur). The Tyndale editor expressed a great deal of frustration over the matter.

I don't know why the USCCB failed to grant an imprimatur to the NLT-CE. I can speculate: perhaps the USCCB felt there was not enough Catholic participation (if I recall correctly, none of the main translators were Catholic, although some of the in-house reviewers were); perhaps the USCCB was concerned that Tyndale is strongly identified as a Protestant publisher; perhaps the USCCB felt that the treatment of Romans and Galatians were not felt to be sufficiently Catholic friendly; perhaps the USCCB wanted to protect its own NAB effort. Again: all of this is just speculation.

In any case, this is now moot -- the NLT is now in a second edition (sometimes called the NLTse or NLT2) and first editions of the NLT are becoming scarce. There are no plans to produce a revision of the NLT Deuterocanon.

Diakonos said...

Thanks, Theophrastus. Man WHO are you? LOL. You seemt o have all the skuttlebut (sp?)

I did recall the the introduction to the Letter of James does say that James is Jesus' half-brother and I believe (memory and probably worse than yours) that such a note was also in Mark regarding the brothers and sisters of Jesus. But my remembrance is that these were written in such a way as to obliquely indicate Joseph and Mary as the parents. Perhaps that also added to the issue.

Francesco said...

Hi Theophrastus,

I have no more information than you on this subject(probably much less than you!), but if I might join in speculation I would say that another consideration that the USCCB probably had to consider is the back-and-forth with the Vatican on translation philosophy. After the RNAB New Testament and Psalms were rejected for use in the liturgy (and much more recently with Liturgiam Authenticam) there might have been a decision to not seem antagonistic. While obviously the NLT-CE was never going to be used at Mass, one could see how granting it an imprimatur would have been negatively interpreted in Rome: "the Americans are at it again!"


Anonymous said...


Either you misunderstood my point or I misunderstand your reply.

The NRSV appears to face a number of problems in its effort to recover from its historic decline. One of those challenges is this: however low the production costs may go, one key element to passing that lower cost on to the consumer is high volume sales. However excellent the nrsv translation may be, the volume of sales for nrsv bibles is quite low in comparison to the top ten translations (Food for thought: ESV Study Bible #1,147 on Amazon, Harper Collins Study Bible #14,980, NOAB 4th #9,709.) Under such circumstances the nrsv publisher would have to keep production costs as low as possible but would still need to sell each unit at a higher price than a more "popular" translation with a similar production cost.

Couple all that with the fact that the World Council of Churches has admitted that without the royalties of the NRSV they would run out of money and it becomes even more plausible that the publisher is likely in need of selling more product at lower production cost and higher retail in order to meet its obligations.

So how to do this? Recycle old material, repackage it at a lower cost, and sell it at a premium only till the niche gives out. In other words, a 20+ year old translation with old study notes minus the deuterocanon with a new cover and a new name for $40 instead of $45 (or a women’s study bible with pink cover and generic feminist notes; or a CS Lewis study bible with quotes pulled from material already owned by the house or in the public domain; etc.)

That's not a particularly good deal - but its what consumers face when Bibles are for profit.


Kevin Sam said...

Brad, I think you might be onto something that Harper should consider. Sell the NRSV in pink (for women), in metal casings (for military types), and paperback with "youth" and some cool graphics on it and Harper might find themselves selling more NRSVs.

Anonymous said...


Of course Harper is already trying out that model which works so well for others.

My favorite example, the camo covered Waterproof bible for deer hunters. Great for reading in the deer stand and - bonus - repells blood splatter. Available in several translations from Bardin & Marsee.

But then in my neck of the woods the deer hunters are mostly KJVO Pentecostal so that one might not work for Harper's NRSV.

Theophrastus said...

Brad -- You make excellent points about the dismal state of affairs with Bibles sales in America. But let me set aside the question of general Bible sales and instead focus on the much more limited market of academic study Bibles.

In terms of physical production and layout, Oxford and Harper could learn a lot from the ESV Study Bible. That book is gorgeous, with excellent production values, helpful maps, etc. (Compare with the unreadable, fuzzy [!!!] black and white maps in the HarperCollins Study Bible -- it is obvious that no one even bothered to check the HarperCollins proofs.)

On the other hand, when it comes to actual academic content, I think the ESV Study Bible falls short in many ways. Perhaps the ESV Study Bible will see some limited use as a classroom text, but I doubt it will ever seriously compete with the New Oxford Annotated Bible or the HarperCollins Study Bible (or even Oxford's Jewish Study Bible or Catholic Study Bible) as a textbook. The ESV Study Bible has generally been panned outside of conservative Calvinist circles.

In fact, if you watch the Christian Bookseller Association (CBA) Bible sales figures for August/September sales, (which usually appear in October/November) you'll see that the NRSV usually makes it into the top 10 around that time, which is likely the result of textbook sales at seminary bookstores belonging to the CBA. You'll notice a similar hike in the sales figures on Amazon at that time too. It is these textbook sales that keep those academic study Bibles in print -- my sources claim that the NOAB is the top selling Bible from Oxford University Press (which publishes a wide range of Bibles.)

(A brief digression: there is something odd about the Amazon sales figures. For example, currently the NOAB 3rd augmented edition is #6,961, and the NOAB 4th edition is #17,779. That's pretty weird! On the other hand, the HarperCollins, which you point yesterday was #14,980, today is #6,872.)

PaulW said...


I am surprised to read a commenter say that this new study Bible will be a replacement for the Harper NRSV Study Bible. This is a conservative Evangelical and fundamentalist Bible in the tradition of the Ryrie Study Bible. A truncated HarperCollins will not appeal to this market.

Theophrastus said...

I think it is safe to say that the 1991 Harper NRSV Study Bible has not been doing well in sales. There is not strong demand at this point in time for a conservative Evangelical NRSV Bible.

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