First, my disclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar; just an average guy (who is probably a little bit OCD about his Bibles). And, this is my first attempt at reviewing anything since I was a journalism major at the University of Alaska 16 years ago. Also, as I’ve written it, I think I’ve strayed a bit from my original goal of providing a classic review. So, please bear with me.
Next, a perspective on my philosophy of Bible use: I generally have a translation that I use exclusively, depending on what I am looking to get out of my Bible reading at any particular time. If I’m looking for apologetics, I read the RSV-2nd Catholic Edition; for devotional reading, I use the Douay; for inspirational-Knox, my study Bible is the original Jerusalem Bible, and my portable is a small Confraternity with psalms from the New Latin Psalter (I consider it my second choice for pretty much any of the uses above, except it doesn’t have the depth of commentary of the JB for study, but hey, it fits in my briefcase nicely…). The one “hole” in my Bible shelf is the one that is used for religious education in our parishes; a New American Bible-Revised Edition. I know my kids will eventually get one of their own, and I’ll want to be able to help them as they go through classes (and, if I’m needed as a sub for the program).
I’ve got the NABRE on a couple different apps on my iPhone, but wanted to go with a paper copy. Getting feedback from various places like the Catholic Answers forums and Tim’s blog, I had two decisions to make: whether to get a regular print or a study version, and then, which one. After some soul-searching, I decided to go with a study Bible, as I hoped the extra commentary would offset some of the concerning footnotes. And, others have described the footnotes as faith-challenging, which isn’t always a bad thing – some things like faith need to be tried by fire once in awhile. I was able to check out a couple different editions through my library, but the one I wasn’t able to test drive was the Little Rock Study Bible. Well, I was able to get a copy from Tim, and he asked me if I would write a review (subject to my disclaimers above), and I told him I’d be happy to.
So, first, from my experience with the older NAB translations, as well as what I’ve read on my apps, I’m not the biggest fan of the NAB(RE). I’m one of those who is suspicious of the notes – I understand where they’re coming from and that they don’t cross the boundaries of orthodoxy, but I definitely understand (and agree) with their detractors that they’re not good for the average user. I was seeking a NABRE under some protest from myself – I wanted to get it not because I genuinely wanted to get one, but because I feel I had to have one.
So, the Little Rock has been here a couple weeks, and I’ve discovered something very odd; I actually WANT to read it. It’s not for the translation itself, and certainly not the footnotes, but the additional study materials included in the Little Rock far made up any deficiency in the text. I love having the little extras right on the page with the text they refer to, and the format is wonderful (best layout of any Bible I have, period-I like it better than the Harper NABRE I tried, and that was also superior compared to the other boring NAB layouts I’ve seen). Having the cross references in side columns and the footnotes on the bottom draws the eye naturally to what you’re looking for; rather than having to hunt a little bit. I dare say it’s like the Jerusalem Bible, but with a fresh and modern layout. It doesn’t have quite the depth of commentary that the JB does, but the extra inserts are relevant and offer nice insights into the characters, places, and cultures. I also do like the prayer starters scattered throughout the text; when I get to one while reading, I do take a minute or two of contemplation on them. The notes that compare Catholic and Protestant views on justification and the end times were good at getting the points of comparison and promote the Catholic view, although I would have rather had a bit more depth.
I know Tim and others have reviewed the Little Rock Study Bible on this blog, and generally I agree with what they’ve previously said. I know a while back Tim had an article on what was more important; translation or edition. And, when I read it, I wasn’t convinced that edition was more important than translation. Well, after spending a few weeks with the Little Rock, I now understand what he was trying to get at, and I’ve come to agree.