Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Favorite Bible 3.0

Over the years, in 2009 and 2012 to be precise, I have posted an article which discusses my favorite edition of the Bible.  When I speak (or write) of my favorite "edition" of the Bible, I am speaking primarily of its physical make-up, not so much the translation.  More often as I evaluate many of the Bibles on the market that a Catholic could utilize, I focus on its binding, cover material, page-layout, size, as well as the extras that come along with the translation itself.  Over the years, there has been no doubt in my mind that the best Bible to fit this criteria is the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible with Apocrypha.  This edition comes in a French Morocco leather cover, with sewn binding, center-column cross-references, a helpful glossary of terms, and one of my favorite sets of Bible maps.  While not a Catholic edition, it has all the books of the Catholic Old Testament and the translation itself was done with Catholic participation.  In addition, it is also the Bible translation used in the Canadian lectionary.

So, since it has been a couple years since my last "Favorite Bible" post, has there been anything published that could compete?  The answer, which many of my loyal readers know, is yes and the edition I am referring to is the Baronius Press Knox Bible. This leather hardcover edition is a real beauty.  As I mentioned in my review from 2012:

What immediately stands out is the craftsmanship involved in producing this volume.  (I have experienced this type of quality production before with their Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Maryvolume.) The quality of the binding, the paper, ribbon markers, and endpapers make this Bible standout from all of the other ones I own.  This Bible is sturdy, yet very comfortable to read both by placing it flat on a table or by holding it in your hand or lap.  This is the case no matter where in the text you are reading, from Genesis to Revelation (the Apocalypse).  While this is not a portable, compact Bible, it can easily be brought to study and prayer groups, even Holy Mass.  It is simply a standard sized Bible.  I wonder if Baronius Press will eventually make different editions of the Knox Bible, like in a compact form or flexible leather, similar to what they have done with their Douay-Rheims editions.

For me, the highlight of this Bible is its single-column page layout.  It is very easy on the eyes, and the quality cream colored Bible paper minimizes any issues with ghosted print image from the reverse of the page.  That being said, I am not sure if I will ever write in this Bible.  It is just too pretty!  While having the verse numbers on the side can be a bit tricky at first, it becomes quite easy to use after only a few minutes.  The many notes, both textual and commentary, from Msgr. Knox are clearly visible at the bottom of each page.  I should mention that while there are not a ton of cross-references in this Bible, the notes in the New Testament do indicate where there are direct quotes from the Old Testament, as well as referencing similar passages found in the among the four Gospels.  In addition, there are cross-references in the notes in the Old Testament as well, but not as many as are found in the New Testament.  

I was so impressed with this Bible that I even gave it a bit of an upgrade by sending it off to Leonard's Book Restoration to be rebound in goatskin.  It was a tough decision, since I really liked the leather hardcover.  I prefer, however, to have a premium leather cover on my Bibles, so it ended up being the right decision. While it truly is a great Bible edition, with or without the upgrade, the question is whether or not it surpass the two-time champ in my opinion?

The answer is no.  There are two main reasons for this which, in the end, tip the scales for the NRSV from Cambridge.  First, I simply use the NRSV in more situations.  While I really like the Knox translation, and use it often for personal reading, I just can't use it when teaching, either to high school students or adults.  The translations are just too different.  The NRSV is a modern translation which is close enough to the RSV and not too distant in style to the NABRE.  Any issues relating to inclusive language or alternate translations are easily figured out in the NRSV's textual notes, which are an integral part of the translation itself.  Secondly, the Cambridge NRSV comes with some truly helpful extras.  Those extras, which I love to have in a reading (or study) Bible, are found in this edition.  I complain a lot on this blog about the lack of cross-references with the NRSV Bibles, well this is one of the few editions that have it.  I also really like the center-column positioning of the cross-references, which I know is not everyone's cup of tea.

This leads me, again, to remark that as Catholics it would be great to have some better options, no matter the translation.  This reminds me of one of my earliest posts (rants) entitled: Catholic Bibles Stink.  While some things have changed since then, there is still a great need to have some premium Catholic Bibles available.  Maybe the problem is that, as Catholics, we are
more willing to buy a leather Missal for Mass, but but happy to settle on a paperback Bible.  I am not sure.

I have read many-an-article or forum post which decries the various translations for Catholics, often arguing that Protestants don't take Catholics seriously in issues related to the Bible because of it.  Well, I wonder if this supposed problem is due to the overall quality of most of our Bibles.  I think we have a number of fine translations to choose from, including the NABRE, RSV, NRSV, and Knox translations.  I hope we will see a time when these translations get the treatment from publishers that they deserve.    

If you are of the same mind, I recommend you contact some of the better Bible publishers out there.  Many of them have Facebook sites, as well as email contacts.  Let them know that Catholics would like some premium Bible options.  


David Garcia said...

Hey Tim,
I too have the Cambridge NRSV except the edition I purchased like 10 years ago has art-gilded page edges (red under gold) and just raises the visual quality of the Bible even higher! Like you said, the layout, the paper, the FULL cross-references (MAN do I hate Bibles without them! LOL!), makes this a top contender.

However, having said that, I am still not the biggest fan of the NRSV translation overall. Yes it is a 'solid' translation, but is it the 'best'? While 'best' is certainly subjective, there is certain language that as Christians, comes to be part of our lives ("Hail Mary, FULL OF GRACE", "Behold", "the VIRGIN shall conceive", etc..).

What am I driving at? Just this...

It is still my dream to see two current 'non-catholic' translations transformed into TRUE Catholic editions with quality binding.

1. ESV with Apocrypha. I would LOVE if the ESV could be given the RSV-CE 'touch-up'(Luke 1:28, etc..) and have the ESV deuterocanonicals put in their proper locations. It would be bound either like the Cambridge NRSV or the Cambridge Clarion Reference but a wide margin edition. This would still make it a hand-size Bible (the Clarion is on the smaller size but phenomenally readable) but with nice margins for notes. The Clarion also is a SINGLE-COLUMN format with references in the side columns. It's a perfect Bible really!

2. The NKJV in the same exact formats as #1.

3. Turn either of these fantasies into a companion Study Bible with TRUE Catholic notes mined from 2,000 years of Catholic tradition. Not the current NABRE notes, etc... Feed our souls, not our doubts!!

I still believe the ESV and the NKJV are the best available translations out there. While no translation is perfect, they are truly excellent translations.

I do LOVE the Baronius Press editions and would like to see them broaden their translation ranges. Like the RSV-CE 2nd edition. GREAT translation, with all the familiar Catholic wordings, but the current Ignatius edition is just horrible in every way - lousy leather, lousy binding, lousy font. :)

It's time for a Bible Edition revolution in the Catholic World!! Give us more choices!!

rolf said...

Timothy, I agree with you on the Cambridge Reference Edition NRSV. For the price (I got mine on sale for $80), it is one of the nicer Bibles out there. If Cambridge could publish this edition in the NABRE and/or RSV-2CE, I think a lot of discerning Catholics could be satisfied out there. Now I know that this will most likely never happen, but I can still dream!

Jonny said...

I am sorry to tell you, Tim, the New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV has the Cambridge NRSV beat by a mile.

The size and leather are almost identical. The Oxford Bible is about 1/4" thicker, and the Cambridge Bible is 1/4" longer, and each has semi-stiff glossy black leather (keep in mind I do have the most recent edition of each.)

However, the RSV has, (in addition to a comparable set of maps/gazeteer):

1. Bigger font
2. Generous annotations throughout
3. Cross-references built into the notes, making them more practical
4. Accent marks to guide in pronouncing proper names
5. Book introductions, index to the content of the notes, and other useful content for understanding the Bible.

Another thing for me is that I find the RSV the most enjoyable of the modern translations to read.

Timothy said...

By a mile? ;)

Jonny said...

Tim, have you seen the NOAB RSV in person since Oxford redone it a while back? I know you saw the pictures since I did the guest post on your blog! ;)

Yes, the new edition is a major improvement, it looks and feels almost identical to the Cambridge french morocco.

Jason Engel said...

I agree the text block of this particular Cambridge NRSV is excellent, the cover was bad enough that I gave mine away - *gave* even though the person was willing to pay me.

My only regret about doing so is that not long after parting with it, I came into a small bit of money that would have paid for a Leonard's rebind in their best Sokoto goatskin plus a few extras. Fortunately, I have recently acquired the same text block in a cabra bonded leather (which Mark Bertrand actually claimed was a lot better than their french morocco cover), so that will likely end up at Leonard's in a few months.

Sean R said...

While I appreciate your desire to have a perfectly formatted edition, I think the translation still trumps the format. I'm just not a fan of the NRSV. Out of the contemporary English translations, I like the NAB the best, due mostly to the "Amen I say to you" phrases, and its translation of John, which is by far the best of any contemporary English translation. Some complain the NAB is "tone deaf". I have no idea what that means. If that means its not poetic or lyrical, I disagree. I think its more poetic and lyrical than the NRSV. The NAB's real failing is in the often left-wing, sometimes bizarre footnotes and commentary, which will hopefully be totally overhauled in the next edition they are working on now (as well as correcting the very few blunders they made in the new OT translation). As far as contemporary English translations go, I would rank the NAB first, RSV-2CE second, JB/NJB third, CCB fourth, and NRSV fifth.

Steve said...

Another good post, and comments. I agree with most.

Question for anyone in the know regarding Oxford. I love their Bibles. I own the older version of the NOAB RSV and use it often. With that said, I REALLY like the latest NABRE study Bible edition form them. Yes, I even like the thumb indexing. So here is the question. Why oh why is the cover bonded leather and not the same leather they use for the newer RSV or even the NRSV study bibles? This simply boggles my mind.

In my view, this would then be my near perfect Bible; from the translation, to the "physical" book.

Timothy said...


I agree: http://www.catholicbiblesblog.com/2014/03/review-catholic-study-bible-nabre.html

Dwight Spivey said...

The Personal Study edition is one you and traded comments about, Tim. It's a great Bible:

owen swain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy said...


owen swain said...

Also, speaking of translations, I can't help but add one more to your list and am surprise you left it out as I am fairly such its been in your personal catalogue; the NJB.

I never paid much attention to it but I have both a hard cover "Regular Edition" - that's the one with single column, sidebar verse numbering (both features being the same as the KNOX), mega cross references and copious notes. It is fast becoming my go-to bible (though I will always read the RSVCE1ed). I've even grown to appreciate the use of "Yahweh" and I find what "inclusive" language there is, is more balanced than the NRSV. Oh, and it even has British spelling, standard ;-) Something this Canuck says yeah and amen too. Appreciate The New Jerusalem Bible so much that I got a beauty little leather bound (red and with a slip-case) to bring with to Mass, Adoration etc. Well, come on, I did spill coffee all over my previous portable Sword; that RSVCE-zippered.

P.S. I like your idea of getting a soft leather cover for the KNOX. May do that myself . . . someday.

owen swain said...

Quick note to say the reason why I deleted my comment above was that on reflection is seemed a little self serving and even kind of braggadocios though it was not intended as such.