Monday, October 10, 2011

NOAB RSV Changes?

This news from reader Jonny:

I ordered The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (RSV) in genuine leather a few months ago, and have been very pleased with its overall quality and usefulness as a study tool. I was so impressed, in fact, that I ordered two more for relatives as a Christmas gift! I was very pleasantly surprised to see when I received these, that Oxford University Press has completely overhauled and improved the quality of construction of the book!

Yes, my first copy was probably the best quality and my overall favorite Bible to use for personal study, but it had a couple of small quirks that I did not really mind. It was in genuine leather, but it was kind of a stiff, leather wallet looking leather that bent inside with the spine when the book was opened. Also, there were small creases near the top inside corners at some places throughout.

The newer edition is just beautiful. It is still has the sewn binding, but it is bound in a softer, more textured genuine leather that does not bend inside the spine when opened. Also, it is slightly smaller. In addition to being an eighth of an inch shorter it is actually a half inch thinner (just a bit shy of 1 1/2/”)! And the amazing thing is that that the pages look more opaque than the previous edition.

I ordered these both times from Amazon and got them delivered with free shipping. I have found that usually the new products that are shipped by Amazon are the most current edition, so I think this change must be very recent. I did not think that I would ever see a Catholic-approved Bible (minus the “expanded” Apocrypha books included in this edition) that would rival the overall quality of the Cambridge KJV that I own, but I think Oxford has done it now.

I wonder if the leather cover is the same as the one use for the NOAB 4th edition?


Prochorus said...

Tim, so to confirm ... this is a Catholic-approved Bible? I am thinking about getting it. I have the NABRE Study Bible, RSV-CE by Ignatius and the Orthodox Study Bible, Oh and the St. Benedict Press RSV-CE Study Bible (size large print - ordered that by accident) but I liked it so I kept it. Anyway other than the obvious of having another "perspective" on the Bible what makes this different than the others?

Timothy said...


The NOAB RSV is an academic study Bible. The original edition (minus the Expanded Apocrypha) did receive approval from Card. Cushing of Boston in the 1960's.

What makes this different is that it 1)Academic 2) A Full RSV Study Bible 3) Beautiful design and binding 4)Compact (compared to most study Bibles)

Prochorus said...


Thank you. I ordered it. Love your blog, it has been very helpful and informative.

mike7up said...

I've been wanting to order this edition in genuine leather for a long time. I used the hardcover for theology courses years ago. Now I couldn't resist after reading the description put up in the recent blog entry.

Steve said...

This is very interesting. I own, and love, this edition as well. It would be well worth it to me to sell\trade my existing copy, if in fact the edition mentioned here is now available on Amazon. I've always been quite happy with mine, but, the things mentioned here, primarily the tendency of the binding to bend in the middle, have always bothered me slightly.

Wonder if there is a way to find out if all the releases of this from Amazon are now "updated". I'd hate to order and get the same thing I already have.

Jonny said...


I ordered 2 copies and they shipped from different Amazon warehouses, and both were the new edition. If they do send you the older copy, simply don't open it and send it back, they should even pay the shipping cost. I would not try to order this one from an independant merchant advertizing on Amazon.

Steve said...


Thanks for the info. Good to know you ordered 2, and both were the "updated" version. In general, when I order form Amazon, I like to make sure it is coming from them for certain items. I'll definitely verify that first.

Anonymous said...


I ordered this edition from Amazon several weeks ago and it is the new edition you describe. It really is very nice. I haven't written in it yet. From what I understand the earlier edition (the bottom one in your photo) handled writing pretty well with minimal bleed-through. Do you think this newer edition's thinner paper (it must be thinner given the overall thinner size of the bible) can handle writing just as well? Any thoughts regarding this or anything else regarding the difference in paper? Are the margins narrower, thereby limiting space to write notes compared to the earlier printing?

TIm B. said...

I recently returned a NOAB to Oxford because it came with the binding on upside down. Oxford sent me a new one and it is the "new version".

I just figured it was a variation in manufacturing processes and didn't think twice about it. After reading this post, I pulled out my wife's year old NOAB and compared it to the new version. The comparison is exactly the same as what has been mentioned in the post. It is thinner and the leather seems a little nicer.

I wouldn't describe the leather as being as soft and supple as that of the NOAB 4th edition but it does seem to have a nicer texture. The slightly more rounded corners on the spine make it look nicer on my bookshelf too.

Thanks for posting about this Tim & Johnny.

Leland said...

I am interested in this Bible, but before buying yet another Bible on my never-ending quest for the "best one", I was wondering if anyone could answer a few questions to help me make the decision:

1. Do the notes give the perspective of different denomonations, including Catholic, where the text is interpreted differently? (e.g., John 6, Rev 12, eschatological related texts (Daniel, etc.))--are the notes fit for a Catholic-interpretation of scripture?

2. Are the notes comprehensive enough to help one understand what they are reading, especially in the OT?

3. Are the cross-references extensive (do they include the references included in the regular RSV Bible)?

4. I am gathering that the text is not the this the same RSV text that conservative Protestants rejected due to the OT translation? How does Isaiah 7:14 read?

5. Concordance?

6. Can you highlight the pages without bleeding through?

I am sure I could think of a dozen more but I am tired of typing....I am just tired of purchasing Bibles and wasting money---why isn't there a decent Catholic study Bible? One would figure that in 2000 years someone could have come up with one......

Thanks in advance.

Theophrastus said...


(1) No. The notes are moderately conservative historical-critical. They are not denominational or theological. They address the plain meaning of the text. Thus, there is no note at John 6:35, for example.

(2) This is partially a subjective question (what do you mean by "understand"?), but I think the introductions and notes are fairly clear and make the text easy to follow. However, unlike study Bibles with more extensive notes, they are not intrusive.

(3) The cross-references are included in the notes, and are fairly extensive, but more important, given in context. I am not aware of any "references included in the regular RSV Bible."

(4) Yes, it is a later edition of the same RSV that led to the (counter-reaction) creation of NASB. It is also the basis of the ESV. The OT is identical to the RSV-CE (so Isaiah 7:14 is identical to the RSV-CE "young woman"), but the NT is a revised edition that incorporates most RSV-CE changes and later changes.

(5) No concordance

(6) The pages are thin, so you will need to use a special highlighter to avoid bleed-through.

This Bible was (and still is) widely used as a college textbook in Bible classes, both at secular and non-secular institutions.

Hope this helps. I recommend that you go to your local public library to inspect this Bible (make sure you are looking at the 1977 RSV edition). I think that even a modest library is likely to have this Bible.

Chrysostom said...

Theophrastus is spot-on, but to add my two cents, I really can't recommend any Bible more than I can recommend this one (the RSV New Oxford Annotated Bible 3rd Expanded Edition with Apocrypha): it's remained the cream of the crop for thirty years.

I don't think the modern Oxford Annotated Bibles (the NOAB 4th Edition NRSV, for example) come close.

Leland said...

Theophrastus and Chrysostom,

Thank you for your input.....I think I may give it a try. I am just tired of being disappointed.....I lean more towards the conservative/traditional side and like my Bible notes to support traditional beliefs. I am not a fan of the historical-critical approach so you can imagine my surprise at the notes and intros in the NAB, NJB, and NRSV which state that certain books were not actually written by the traditional author, that Jesus had siblings, etc. If this bible has notes like that I will definitely pass. The JB has great notes and references, but the translation is not as accurate as I like.....the haydock certainly fits the bill but I can't get past the DR text. Not much left in terms of a single volume catholic study bible!

Any additional comments appreciated!

Chrysostom said...

The one we're talking about is pretty conservative from a historical-critical viewpoint (far more so that Fathers Brown and Fitzmyer, more conservative than almost anything outside of the so-called "scholarship" in the ranks of fundamentalist Protestants), but it still is most definitely historical-critical, and accepts JEDP Pentateuch theory (i.e. explicitly denies Mosaic authorship, which has been effectively disproved) and similar.

If you must stick hard and fast to the principles you mentioned, the only thing close is going to be the ICSBNT, and it broaches the historical-critical theories. The Navarre Bible is many volumes and expensive, but an excellent devotional/spiritual/"this is Scripture" commentary, and is the closest you're going to find, or the Haydock you've mentioned.

By closing yourself to historical-critical results (I myself am generally accounted a conservative in such matters, defending Pauline authorship of most of his letters, Matthean priority, not disregarding inspiration, and believing in what is called the "canonical criticism": I'm a far cry from Bible-as-literature-suspicion-of-hermeneutic liberalism, although I find Brown and Fitzmyer and Metzger engaging and meticulously researched, scholarship of the highest caliber, even if I dissent on many points), you nonetheless shut yourself off from a deeper understanding of the worlds and peoples, and thus the inherent meaning, of the Biblical texts, and a veritable goldmine, a treasure-trove, a mine of platinum and diamonds of history that it has illuminated.

Don't let the "demythologising" and extreme hermeneutic of suspicion all-too-often displayed in modern historical-critical annotations as of late (such as the NRSV NOAB 4th Ed.) turn you off of the method altogether, which (as our current Holy Father teaches) has many valuable insights to give if used responsibly and correctly, and not in the hands of virtual atheists.

I do agree that the NAB notes, especially in the Gospels, go far too far in endorsing the Q-theory two-source hypothesis as Gospel truth (pun intended), liberally peppering large sections of the book with unqualified hypothetical statements of the general form, "this parable/miracle was taken from Q and modified by Matthew and placed here to serve his theology". It's definitely out in left field as far as in-text study commentaries go (that all Catholic Bibles seem to have the problem to a greater or lesser degree may be part of the reason that love for the study of the sacred Scriptures hasn't taken off amongst Catholics - there are few (and none affordable) resources an average Catholic can be comfortably assured in reading - in addition to tradition, whereas Protestant Bibles come from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal). I get sick of reading "Why Mark wasn't written by Mark" after a while too, and it's re-hashed over, and over, and over.

(Split to 2 comments due to length)

Chrysostom said...

At least it's not Eastern Orthodoxy, which has no Biblical scholarship whatsoever. Orthodox appreciation of Scripture is about at the level where Catholic appreciation was when Pope Pius X (?) was still issuing encyclicals to the effect that it was nearly a sin to produce or read vulgar language translations instead of the Vulgate (the original vulgar language translation).

If you feel your faith would be challenged or shaken by some of these, I suggest you head over to the "Apologetics Course" thread and read some of the books I mentioned; after doing so, if the Bible were to disappear, you could still have faith, and it's a great boon - greater than you can know, if you have not experienced it - to know that one is actually justified, objectively and rationally, in one's religious beliefs, and not a fideist.

It's the next best thing to actual divine revelation or mystical experience, that most of us will never have, for achieving a strong faith and eliminating any cognitive dissonance accumulated from the clash between the Christian-Aristotelian and Mechanistic worldviews.

Specific titles that are quite useful to begin this process of cultural cultic de-programming are "The Last Superstition" by Feser for a crash-course in proper philosophical realism and a refutation of the modern mechanominist position, and "God and Philosophy" by Gilson once that foundation is established, then Frank Sheed's two books on theology, the two Summas, and then other series of texts.

Then feel free to reap the rewards of the historical-critical method without having to worry about a weakened faith when some new theory is thrown your way without warning.

This is what the nihil obstat and imprimatur used to be about, but now, from a conservative standpoint, they're next to useless with some of the trash that's received imprimatur these days.

The NJBC or Brown's Introduction to the NT can be quite "challenging to faith and morals" at times for many people who come unprepared; the NO and imprimatur should be a safeguard that an "average Catholic" can read it, and not be shaken or led astray.

Vince said...

Theophrastus and Chrysostom (and others) - what are your thoughts on Robert Sungenis's individual Bible Study Guides? (Has it been discussed somewhere in this blog?)

I found his other books, like "Not by Faith ALone", and "Not by Bread Alone" of very useful quality, but have not read any of the Study Guides.

(Please let's not go into his geocentrism eccentricity - I don't think it's relevant)

Theophrastus said...

Chrysostom: You wrote At least it's not Eastern Orthodoxy, which has no Biblical scholarship whatsoever.

I think that this statement is somewhat unfair. While the volume of critical Orthodox scholarship is fairly small, it does exist. See, for example at Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies. This charter statement makes it clear that this Journal embraces critical scholarship

Chrysostom said...

I stand corrected.

I was unaware there was any (literally) Orthodox Biblical scholarship (at least more recently than the era of the Church Fathers, and the Cappadocian Fathers didn't practise it much at all): it's just very little.

The standard Orthodox line I've heard in regards to it (Biblical scholarship) is, "The Comma Johanneum is legitimate because we believe in it" albeit from Orthodox priests, not scholars.

From those sort of statements I induced that the entire faith tradition of Orthodoxy was positively hostile to any kind of critical scholarship.

Chrysostom said...

Ah - I'm having a horrible time getting all of my thoughts in to a single comment today.

I also would have mentioned the "Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible", but I wasn't sure if it was relevant, for two reasons: it's been "about to be released" for longer than the ICSB, and it uses, in an uncritical fashion, the Textus Receptus in the form of the Patriarchal Text of 1904 (according to the website), and uses the Septuagint alone, without even recourse to the Hebrew, Latin, or Aramaic (as far as I can tell).

But, as far as I can tell, it's still moving somewhere; most of the Orthodox Church (Russian and Greek) that I have seen still uses/prefers the KJV for an English translation (not even the DRC!), albeit the RSV is officially approved. I think this can be done without including the deuterocanon, as I believe (I'm not sure, even though I was raised Greek Orthodox) the deuterocanon are instead considered merely "things to be read", and are devoid of doctrinal power in the Orthodox Church; i.e. the LXX-only books are considered of "lesser inspiration" than the books shared between the LXX and the MT. Someone correct me if I'm wrong (and I think that I must be, seeing as how strong the pro-LXX/LXX-only sentiment is in the Greek Orthodox Church).

I'll still pick one up when it comes out (if it comes out) and as long as it's either devoid of notes, or has notes of a higher caliber than the "Orthodox Study Bible" (what a disaster!), even if they do misinterpret the text from a Catholic perspective at certain points, I imagine it will end up being very popular with conservative Catholics, such as Leland in this thread and many others.

Speaking of Leland: for your qualifications, if you can or will not re-evaluate your stance towards historical criticism, the only Bibles that I can fully recommend are the Haydock DRC and the Navarre RSV-CE.

Someone let me known about the Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible if someone has heard anything - I have a feeling it's in "development Hell", no pun intended.

sean1i0 said...

Theophrastus, I have seen before that you are a scripture scholar, so I would like to ask your opinion on which is the better study bible: this one or the NOAB NRSV? I know that the NRSV apparently has access to many more documents than the RSV, but I also know that the RSV is highly respected as a translation (not that the NRSV isn't as well). Thanks for your time!


Leland said...


Thanks for your very thorough reply and for taking the time to do so. I understand your points regarding the historical- critical approach and it's value in providing alternative information that wouldn't be available otherwise. I am a scientist and can surely appreciate academic scholarship. However, I guess my primary problem with it is I feel that it does undermine my faith----maybe I am slightly weak in the faith department, not sure, but if we are supposed to believe in tradition I personally feel that anything contrary to it, particularly the results of so-called modern scholarship, should be disregarded. I guess I am just overly suspicious of such information and don't want to have to discern what is true, factual, or just the result of a subjective bias. I guess it all started when I read the intro to Matthew in the NAB--never mind some of the notes, and then it was finalized when I read some of the intros and notes in the I have a bunch of bibles I bought on my quest for the best sinle volume study bible that I don't like or use.....and I have come to the conclusion that I will have to learn to like the Haydock DR and it's antiquated language or the JB and it's poor translation, or simply use a Protestant edition.

I agree with you regarding the Navarre and Haydock....Unfortunately one is too $$ and only comes in multiple volumes and the other I have but can't understand!!

While I am ranting....why don't any of the catholic study bibles include concordances, cross-references, or other helps like Protestant bibles!?!?

Timothy said...


The NABRE study bibles from Oxford contain cross-references and a Concordance as well as the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. I truly think your best option is to get an ICSBNT and the full RSV-2CE. Use them together until the full ICSB is completed. I am confident that the ICSB will meet your needs.

Chrysostom said...

I definitely see with the "I sometimes want to read without having to engage in internal mental debate" part - that's why I have text-only editions and separate commentaries. (And the Navarre, at least the 3-volume/8-volume NT, and the ICSBNT.)

But at times that you are "up to it" (I probably am more than most, being a philosopher and amateur theologian, and very amateur NT scholar), you should look in to some of the historical-critical stuff, starting with something on the conservative side, like the NOAB RSV 3rd Expanded Edition, after reading some faith-strengthening apologetics material. The history (contained in what are called "background commentaries") of the Biblical circumstance and people alone are amazing and worth it, even without ever touching text criticism.

I have a problem with the NAB gospel notes as well; not least because they uncritically accept the two-source Q-theory, but the general tone, much like newer NOABs, is written from what feels like a probing atheist's perspective.

The Q-theory is far from certain (see William Farmer's "The Gospel of Jesus"), so, outside of critical commentaries written from that perspective and essays, has no place in a Bible, and doesn't help much, and raises more questions than it answers (especially in the standard Markan priority form, thus the ever-more complex patches applied, such as the "four-document" hypothesis, and adding even more non-existent crap [like Q in the first place] such as "Secret Mark" in to unknown, and untraceable, "redaction histories").

The JEDP theory on the other hand helps to explain many of the problems and much of the discordance in the Pentateuch, and, unlike the Q-theory, is relatively accepted: even if it's not proven, the traditional theory (Mosaic authorship) is, at least as far as science ever "proves" anything (science is probabilistic).

The ICSBNT does mention the historical-critical method and results, but always sides with a conservative traditionalism, with greater or lesser degrees of intellectual viability - mostly greater, as I agree with most of it.

Chrysostom said...

(Second part of split comment)

I've also always wondered where the "Life Application Study" and "Spirit Filled Life" sort of Bibles were for Catholics too (at least we don't have all the cheap gimmicks like the "Green-Letter Bible" and the "Animal Rights Bible" and the "Earth is God Pantheistic Bible" and the "Jesus was a Revolutionary Bible" and the "Gay Pride Bible").

I would certainly buy a Catholic version of something like the "Life Application Study" Bible, which sets aside critical issues, deals with the literal, typological, anagogical, and tropological senses of the text, in a "this is Scripture" way, with Chritstological readings from beginning to end, in a way that helps to bring out the meaning of the text that actually exists, instead of hypothesizing about ones that don't.

Some efforts at those types of annotations fall completely flat, and end up as paraphrases or summations, like most of the notes in the "Orthodox Study Bible". I mention the "Life Application Study" Bible because it's the best of its type I've ever seen. The ESV Study Bible is excellent as well - especially in layout - but includes more critical information, many more objectionable notes from a Catholic perspective, etc.: a combination of the "ESV Study Bible" (in layout and maps, etc. and content of notes) the "Life Application Study" Bible (in content of notes), and the "NIV Archaeological Study Bible" (in content of notes) in the RSV-2CE or NABRE (edited in Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:28) from a Catholic perspective would be awesome.

The Navarre is as close as one can get - and, unlike many of the Protestant study Bibles (all of them), the notes have provenance and authority. But it's massive, expensive, and in some ways poorly laid-out and typeset. The ICSB would move much higher on my list if the OT was there as well; I do like the RSV-2CE translation, but the NABRE OT has been growing on me (I still don't like Isaiah 7:14 - surprise).

Chrysostom said...

I have a new solution to the Synoptic problem!

The four Evangelists wrote independently with little to no influence on each other. However, the Holy Spirit indited the books, so they share similar wording: the words of God, because they all ultimately share the same author - God - and were minimally influenced by the human notions of the Evangelists themselves, as they accurately portray history, and two people accurately remembering the same sermon are going to use the same words.

I can already see patches to the theory:

Paul's Theorem:

John used the 364-day Essene solar calender, the others used the Temple lunar calendar. Thus both are relating the truth of history in dating Holy Week, but using different measurements of time.

Peter's Patch:

The Holy Spirit gave eidetic memory to the Evangelists, so they could recall the words of Jesus at a given event or time with perfect precision and detail. The different authors were present at different times in Jesus' ministry, and thus remembered different events, and the Holy Spirit did not cause them to remember events they had not witnessed.

Jude's Objection to Chrysostom's Theory:

Why are the two eyewitness accounts so different, where the non-eyewitness accounts are similar?

Chrysostom's Rebuttal of Jude's Objection:

Luke said in the beginning of his gospel that he compiled from many sources, including eyewitnesses, but was not an eyewitness. This could include Matthew.

James's Objection to Peter's Patch:

Since only John and Matthew were eyewitnesses, and their gospels differ from each other far more than the gospels authored by non-eyewitnesses, how is the relationship between Luke and Mark explained in relation to Matthew?

(Notice, we're back where we started, to the synoptic problem; this is a very, very, very much oversimplified version of a corollary to the process of Q-theory development, but, without overlooking major flaws, it's ended up at much the same place: back where it started, but with half a dozen layers of crustified theory layered on top of it. It seems that the only explanation of the Synoptic problem is "The Holy Spirit did it", as in sixteen hundred years and as many theories and sub-theories and modified theories, we're no closer to knowing what actually went down! That's why I favor the two-gospel hypothesis: it's backed up by Jewish law, relies on internal evidence, is consonant with early church tradition and Eusebius and early theories on authorship, and doesn't require the addition of spurious external, non-existent sources such as "Q", of which no copy, fragment, or mention exists in any contemporary literature, even though copies and fragments of almost every contemporary work, even Christian, survived: of course, the standard rebuttal is "Diocletian burned it"... so on.)

See, textual criticism is fun!

Tim B. said...

There is an interesting book that just came out called "The Rest of the Bible" by Theron Mathis. The author illustrates about each book of the Apocrypha / Deuterocanon and where it is used in Orthodox church service and writings.

The official position is that Orthodox believe the Apocrypha holds equal value and authority to the books in the Jewish / Protestant canon. In fact, Orthodox do not distinguish between the two. In reality I have encountered few Orthodox in my parish who are even aware of what is in the bible other than what is read during the gospel and epistle readings each Sunday.

I believe part of this issue in the English speaking world has to do with a lack of having an "official" translation available. Many English speaking Orthodox if they do want a bible will just go to the local bookstore and pick up a Protestant bible. They won't see any of the Deuterocanonical books in those bibles so they will not be familiar with them.

Fortunately the RSV is approved for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America so it is what my parish uses for Gospel and Epistle readings. This is the reason for my interest in the NOAB RSV. It does contain the full Orthodox canon of the bible and is word for word identical to what I hear read every Sunday. I have been giving copies to my parishioner friends as presents.

I hope someday that there will be an "official" Orthodox English translation of the bible, but I would be happy if the RSV 1977 edition was more widely available. But I think more English speaking Orthodox will have to be more interested in the Bible before this will happen.

I have enjoyed learning a lot from my Catholic friends on this blog. Thanks a lot.

Theophrastus said...

Vince: I think you can compare the various editions in the Oxford Annotated Bible series in at least three ways:

(1) underlying translation: do you prefer the RSV or the NRSV? Personally, I prefer the NRSV, although I find the RSV incredibly useful. I have a lot to say about this point, but many people have opinions on it that you can find here and all over the Web. However, despite preferring the NRSV, I think the 1977 (RSV) NOAB is better than the 2010 (NRSV) NOAB.

(2) format: The 1977 NOAB marked a high-water mark in Study Bible design. It is reasonably compact, elegant, easy to read -- really, the best laid out complete Study Bible I have seen. Later editions have "more extras," but they come at a price -- a more cluttered and bulkier volume. The 2010 NOAB has maybe two or three times the amount of extra material (largely in response to the other leading "textbook" study Bible -- the HarperCollins Study Bible), but is printed on super-thin paper that bleeds through and uses some dubious design decisions (including non-justified text and a sans-serif font for the notes that I find very difficult to read).

(3) content: The editorial team radically changed from the 1991 NOAB to the 2001 NOAB. The 1962, 1965, 1973, 1977, and 1991 books in the series all had Metzger as a co-editor. The 2001, 2007, and 2010 books in the series had Coogan as a chief editor. The earlier books in the series had brief, non-intrusive, moderately conservative annotations, while the later books (especially the 2010 edition) have lengthy, moderately liberal annotations. Which you prefer depends on what you are looking for, but I think the 1977 (RSV) and 1991 (first NRSV) volumes are the most helpful for a non-experienced Bible reader. (If you are looking for a reference volume, the later editions may be more useful.) However, if you are looking for extended commentary, you may want to consider a separate commentary volume (such as the New Jerusalem Bible Commentary) or individual volumes with commentary (such as the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scriptures series.)

Another consideration: Alternatively, you may wish to consider the HarperCollins Study Bible. This volume is not perfectly designed, but I think it compares favorably to the 2010 NOAB in design and content.

Conclusion: In terms of sheer elegance and readability, the 1977 NOAB sets the standard. I Another attractive alternative is the out-of-print 1991 NOAB (with the NRSV translation.) To me, these are both nearly-perfect reading volumes, while the 2010 NOAB and the HarperCollins are more useful as reference volumes.

My ranking:

1st place (tie): 1977 (RSV) NOAB
1st place (tie): 1991 (NRSV) NOAB (out of print)

2nd place: (NRSV) HarperCollins Study Bible

3rd place: 2010 (NRSV) NOAB

But this is just my opinion. Since the volumes are likely available in your local public library, you can form your own opinion!

Theophrastus said...

Leland: After reading your thoughts, I don't think the NOAB would be for you. I think the best alternative for you would be to either wait for the Ignatius Study Bible to be complete (it might be a long wait) or to use your favorite translation together with Orchard's 1953 Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. If you can find a good used copy of Orchard's commentary, I think you will be very happy. (I found a used copy in great condition at a reasonable price.) One last comment: I don't like the Haydock either. I find the notes to be a bit random, but my main complaint is that the print quality of the notes makes them unreadable. I know the notes are also available online, but I don't want to read a whole Bible on my computer.

Sean1i0: I haven't looked at Sungenis's commentaries, so I cannot give an opinion. However, Sungenis is a controversial figure (look at the wikipedia page on him) and he seems to get in a lot of fights. I do not think of Sungenis as being a serious Bible scholar.

Tim: You are right about Oxford's NABRE study Bibles, but as you know, Oxford really let us down in the latest edition of their Catholic Study Bible by not harmonizing the editorial content with the new NABRE text. I've had some communication with OUP, and they are definitely aware of this blog, but it seems they do not want to publicly acknowledge or commit to fixing the errors. I think they are more focused on textbook sales than actual content, and are coasting a bit on past glories.

Timothy said...


Well, that is a shame really. With such a massive oversight they owe it to the consumer to make the problem known and to fix it. I like the CSB as a whole, too bad they cut corners.

Chrysostom said...

\\but is printed on super-thin paper that bleeds through and uses some dubious design decisions (including non-justified text and a sans-serif font for the notes that I find very difficult to read). \\

I have the NRSV NOAB 4th Edition (the one that looks like a Euclidean geometry textbook), and I can testify to that.

The text is not right-justified, which is annoying (the right hand of the text column is ragged); I actually like the commentary font, but it's taken an entirely new, and much more experimental, tone than in the 1977 edition; there's much included in the commentary that doesn't properly fit in a historical-critical study Bible, which unnecessarily bloats the book, and about 300 pages of even more experimental essays (not nearly as good as the essays in the 1977), 200 of which are unnecessary, and, I imagine, unwanted.

I think they went with the decision to add all the other stuff to the 2010 to make it a "One-stop shop" for a collegiate "Bible as literature" class, as well as trying to make it a theological study Bible and a historical-critical Bible as well (I never thought of the HarperCollins competition, as I've never had an HCSB [HarperC, not HolmanC]). And you know what they say: "Jack of all trades, master of none" - I don't think the additional "Oft regarded more highly than a master of one" applies here.

Also, beyond the paper being thin, whether the binding is sewn or not, it is HORRIBLY LACKING IN DURABILITY - I had mine for not more than a month of use (and I am extremely gentle with my books: shelf to desk and back again; most books I've had for years look brand new), and already, sheets started to fall out on a "riffle" to find a specific book (the first one to go was the title page of Ezekiel): all I can imagine is that the binding doesn't grab enough of the gutter of the sheet to be durable.

In any case requiring heavier use, it would fall apart instantly. The old NOAB RSV is a little thicker, even though it's 400 pages shorter, and is solid as a tank.

Chrysostom said...

There's another problem I've found with the NABRE: the NABRE New Testament notes (that come with the translation, separate from publisher; anyways, it's the Fireside pleather edition with a Rosary on the back: very nice cover material) are the same as those found in the NAB, and don't always harmonize with the NABRE OT.

For example, in one place it references Daniel, and it says something to the effect of "NAB translation: 'Ancient one'" when in fact the NABRE OT now reads "Ancient of Days". I've found this in about half a dozen areas in the NT on a semi-thorough reading of the footnotes on a standard read-through of the NT (I think one mentions "holocaust", which has been excised from the NABRE OT in favour of "burnt offering", but don't quote me on that).

So, it seems that the editors dropped the ball in some places by not updating some NABRE-included 1991 NT references to the NAB OT with the changes in the NABRE OT translation.

Francesco said...


They decided to leave the NT completely untouched. I wonder if its because of some sort of editorial (bureaucratic?) reason: maybe there's a rule that they can't edit anything without a complete review of the entire New Testament.

Another instance is at Mt 24:15 where the note says:

... That event is referred to in Dn 12:11 LXX as the "desolating abomination" (NAB "horrible abomination")

But if you got to Dn 12:11 in the NABRE they use "desolating abomination"

The poor reader might wonder whether he bought an "NAB" or an "LXX" after reading that note!

Theophrastus said...

They decided to leave the NT completely untouched. I wonder if its because of some sort of editorial (bureaucratic?) reason: maybe there's a rule that they can't edit anything without a complete review of the entire New Testament.

Ignatius, the publisher of the so-called RSV Second Catholic Edition, claimed that the original RSV-CE imprimatur applied to the RSV-2CE as well: "Proposed changes were sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (which was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) and we were told that changes were of a sufficiently editorial nature to support retention of the previously granted Imprimatur."

It is a little hard to reconcile this assertion with the fact that the Catholic Biblical Association apparently could not update the NAB NT to be in harmony with the NABRE OT. If Ignatius' reasoning were correct, then why is the CBA unable to make these minor updates to the NAB NT while retaining permission to publish?

sean1i0 said...

Theophrastus, it has been a few days, but I want to thank you for your input and ask you one other question. You said that you prefer the NRSV, but that you find the RSV incredibly helpful. You said that there were many things to be found on these points, and I am assuming that you meant scholarly opinions. Sadly, I have not been able to find any other information on it, except for some points on this website. Could you elaborate on the advantages and disadvantages of each one? Thanks!


Theophrastus said...

Hi Sean: I think you will find many articles on this blog (and elsewhere on the Web) comparing the RSV and NRSV. It generates a fair amount of heated (and not always enlightened) debate.

Both the RSV and NRSV are formal translations (that is, they tend to translate literally), but the RSV is slightly more formal than the NRSV. (However, in several places in the Hebrew Bible, both adopt an eclectic approach to the text, revising it with materials from the Dead Sea Scrolls or other ancient manuscripts -- noting the changes in the footnotes.)

The NRSV is written in less stilted language than the RSV, and also features moderately inclusive language (that is, in places where the Greek or Hebrew uses a form that refers to both men and women, it often adopts gender neutral language in English.) Unfortunately, in some places this is done by pluralizing English. A famous example is Psalm 1:

RSV: Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

NRSV: Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.

Notice how "the man" of the RSV became "those" in the NRSV?

Some advantages of the NRSV:

* many editions (including Catholic Bible editions) available;
* many study tools are tied to the NRSV;
* in editions with the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha, the full Greek Esther is translated (rather than just the "additions to Greek")
* standard translation for Biblical studies

One final point: note that the NRSV included Catholic (and a Jewish and an Eastern Orthodox) translator from the beginning. The RSV did not have any Catholics on the translation team, although (the RSV translation began before Vatican II's authorization of joint Protestant-Catholic translations.) The RSV-CE, however, was edited by two Catholic experts, Orchard and Fuller, and most of their changes were incorporated into the second edition of the RSV

Overall, I tend to recommend the NRSV as an initial Bible for readers; the more natural language while still being relatively literal doesn't throw up unnecessary obstacles for readers. For someone who is comfortable with the RSV language or who is an experienced Bible reader, the RSV is even closer to the original.

Theophrastus said...

On the subject of the NOAB 4th edition, I recently received the NOAB 4th edition Apocrypha standalone volume. This is only about 400 pages long, so it is printed on much thicker paper. It is impressive how much this improves the readability of the text. I found that I could forgive other design failures when the paper was opaque.

sean1i0 said...

Thanks for the comments and information, Theophrastus. I am already pretty used to reading the RSV, so I think I'm just going to continue using that as my primary bible for now with the NRSV as my secondary translation. I really do wish that the NRSV hadn't used inclusive language so exclusively. I think that would have improved it so much (in my mind). But then again I'm not a biblical scholar (yet!).

Jim said...

Based upon your review, I went in search of this "new" version of the New Oxford. I found that Amazon had their listing under "review". Today (10/21) it appears as though their review is complete...and the price has increased almost ten dollars. In addition, the original dimensions remain. I'd like to get a copy similar to that which has been reviewed here, and would like to read any comments in this regard - other than 'blindly" ordering from Amazon, with the hope of receiving this edition. Also, the OUP website does list dimensions similar to those in this review, and this shows the Amazon dimensions to be incorrect.

Jonny said...

Jim, I did not notice the price on this Bible was rising on Amazon. The original copy I bought in May was 56.69, then the two I bought earlier this month were 62.99, and now it is listing for 65.69!

My motivation for buying 2 more copies, as stated in the blog, was to give to family members as Christmas gifts. I have non-Catholic Christians in my family that I get together with over the holidays, and the RSV is a ray of hope that we can all share Sacred Scripture together. They of course would not appreciate a Catholic Bible such as a NABRE or RSV-2CE, and the NRSV is too informal and non-traditional for these conservative Christians.

I think the RSV stands in the middle between modern, scholarly translations (both formal equivelant and dymamic) and the traditional ones, both Catholic and Protestant: no matter if your main english Bible translation has been the Douay-Rheims, KJV, NIV, NAB, NRSV, or one of many others in Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant Bible translation history. The RSV 1977 has, in my opinion, the most common ground between them all.

Besides all of this, this particular copy from Oxford has many wonderful study helps that are sadly lacking in many editions of Bible besides the notes: including historical timelines and introductions, tables of measurement, and many detailed color maps with a grid-marked index.

I also think it is cool that this edition is sealed in time against further changes because the official revision took its own seperate identity as the "NRSV."

Chrysostom said...

\\The NRSV is written in less stilted language than the RSV, and also features moderately inclusive language\\

"Moderately" inclusive? You can't get any more inclusive than the NRSV without starting to refer to God as a "she" or an "it"!

The NRSV is ultimately inclusive, to the point of distorting some passages and sounding bad, in my opinion.

The new NIV and the TNIV are highly inclusive.

The NET Bible, NJB, and NABRE are moderately inclusive.

The ESV is low-moderately inclusive (even though it's touted otherwise).

The RSV, RSV-(2)CE, DRC, NASB and KJV are very limited in inclusive language.

Anything more than the NJB starts to bother me: I prefer ESV-or-less inclusive language, but I don't mind moderately inclusive language that's well executed (I think the NJB is a shining example of this). The "singular 'they'" is improper English and grates on the ear.

Contrary to the publicity, the ESV has about twice as many instances of inclusive language than the RSV, according to my count, which has about three times as much as the DRC. I've not compared the RSV-2CE to the RSV, because I don't have a full RSV-2CE or RSV-CE (only the NT), but it's touted specifically as having less inclusive language - but, then again, so was the ESV.

Thomas said...

Chrysostem you mentioned an apologetics thread or forum in one of your post above that listed recommended books by you, where do I find this thread and the book re commendations?

Scott said...


I am hoping someone might be able to answer a question regarding the "New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (RSV)" (1973). It has to do with whether the bible is genuine leather or bonded leather.

In the 1980s, I purchased a copy of this bible (LCCN: 76-42682). About two years ago, I published the same title, but this edition had "genuine leather' inscribed on the back. As is stated in the first post in this thread, both editions are sewn and yet the sizes of the two bibles are slightly different. And the pages are indeed a slightly different color -- the one purchased in the 1980s has what I might describe as 'off-white' pages, while the one I purchased a couple of years ago has pages which are a brighter white. Also, the edition I purchased in the 1980s does not bend in the middle of the spine when opened (as described in the first post above), but the one I purchased a couple of years ago (the one which reads genuine leather) does do this. I find the edition I purchased in the 1980s to open much flatter and that the binding is much less stiff when opened, and yet the stiff leather is the one that reads genuine leather.

One of the interesting things I also noticed was that although the maps in both bibles are nearly identical with regard to content and ordering, they are numbered slightly differently (e.g., Map 1 in one bible is Map 2 in the other bible, and Map 2 in one bible is Map 3 in the other bible, etc.). My question is whether the bible that I purchased in the 1980s is genuine leather or bonded leather. The box it came in read 'genuine leather,' but the bible does not explicitly state this anywhere on the item. Both bibles were purchased for about $90-$100.

Any help would be greatly appreciated! :)

Scott said...

Sorry, the line ought to have read:

"I *purchased* the same title," note *published*.

Scott said...

To the Moderator,

Hello. Could you please replace the word 'published' with purchased for me in my initial post, and then delete my second post (the one where I mentioned my error)? Many thanks.


Andrew Tillcock said...

Sorry to resurrect an old thread but am very interested in this bible and can't find anything in leather that comes close to a quality Catholic bible. So am I to inderstand that this is a sewn binding and quality paper? I have found this in wordery for just under £50.00 so should I jimp on it ? Any input and comments would be greatly appreciated.

Timothy said...

Yes and yes. Still the nicest RSV that a Catholic can use.

Andrew Tillcock said...

Thanks Timothy I think I'm going to buy one tomorrow while it's still at a low price.