Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Sort of Retro Review: NOAB RSV Extended Edition
The New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV with Apocrypha Extended Edition is in many ways a remarkable study Bible. Not only because of its unique ecumenical origins, but more specifically because it has remained in print for over thirty years. Over the past thirty years, Oxford has published three additional editions of the NOAB, along with an augmented 3rd edition, with the NRSV translation, as well as two (and soon to be three) editions of the Catholic Study Bible NAB. Yet, the NOAB RSV remains in print, both in the hardbound and genuine leather edition. Why is that so?
In my mind there are a couple of reasons for this. First off, the RSV remains popular in a number of circles still today, most notably Catholic, some Orthodox, and the academy/seminary. The seminary where I received my degree encouraged the RSV-CE for its Scripture and theology classes. In addition, the RSV is still being published, in various editions, by Oxford University Press, Ignatius Press, Scepter, and Saint Benedict Press. It should also be noted that the RSV was the base text for the ESV and the RSV-2CE. It is used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (English language edition), along with the NRSV, and is the main translation used in many of Pope Benedict’s works. Therefore, any thought that the RSV would recede into history with the publication of the NRSV in 1989 has simply not happened.
Secondly, the NOAB RSV is a beautiful and useful study Bible even today. Does it have a lot of the nice study aids that the current 4th edition does, like in-text maps and charts, a concordance, and updated essays? No. However, it does posses a number of advantages over the newer editions of the NOAB, not counting the use of the RSV (including 1971 updated NT). Here are a few:
** The overall size, while certainly not compact, is a very portable 9 x 6 x 1.7 inches.
** Strong binding and genuine leather cover. My edition has always opened flat from day one.
** The type and page layout is very readable. There are no paragraph headings, but that is easily resolved by examining the commentary which is organized by pericope. You can get a closer look of the page layout here.
** The inner margin, as well as the bottom of each page, provides enough space to include your own personal notes.
** The notes contain plenteous cross-references and concise, yet helpful commentary. Rarely does the commentary take up more than half of a page, usually around a quarter. The commentary gives you the basic historical information you would need in an academic study Bible. The Old Testament commentary does reference the New Testament, most often through cross-references. Even the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha section, although unfortunately placed at the back, references New Testament allusions to these books. While the commentary is not Catholic, there has been very little that I could find objectionable. For example, while the section on John 6 could, one may argue, point out the Eucharistic overtones a bit more, there are other places, like in Matthew 13:55 which concerns Jesus’ “brothers”, which go out of their way to point out Catholic/Orthodox belief. If one keeps in mind that this is an ecumenical study Bible, he will find little to be concerned with.
For those of you who would like to have a one-volume study edition of the RSV, this is really your best, and perhaps only, option until the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible project is completed. I use this study Bible often and would recommend it to anyone.
(I did a shorter examination of this a few years back, which you can read here.)
Revised on May 18