Bibles, Books, Reviews

Bible Review—NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

Amazon | CBD

I would like to thank the kind folks at Zondervan for this review copy!

Several years ago, I reviewed Zondervan’s NIV Zondervan Study Bible. It was/is a good bible for those who like to have additional helps handy as they read through the text. As I noted, that bible was large—2,880 pages—as most study bibles tend to be. So, when I saw a few months ago that Zondervan was releasing another iteration of this bible, I was curious. This iteration—the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible—is simply a rebranded version of the previous one. It wasn’t the branding that caught my attention, it was the advertised size difference between these two. The NIVBTS was marketed as being slimmer, which is true—it was trimmed down to 2,562 pages. However, this is relative to the overall size and 300 or so pages make little difference in the size of this bible. It’s still too big to lug to church services or even bible study, unless you’re sitting at a table where you can plop it down and trigger a minor earthquake, or maybe just crack the table.

My misgivings about the size aside, this remains a very useful and informative study bible (see my previous review for details). I don’t know if the content has changed significantly, though I would suspect that the notes and articles have likely been at least revised. The copyright for the notes and articles, however, is dated to 2015, so perhaps the content is unchanged.  

The copy I received is bound in bonded leather, so it’s certainly more flexible than a hardcover. This also permits the behemoth to lay open, even if you’re reading the first or last pages (it lays mostly flat in these cases and will surely improve with use).

There are a couple of features that I didn’t mention in the review of the NIVZSB that are applicable here and they both concern the type. Zondervan went the extra mile and commissioned a custom font for these bibles (I’m not sure if it has been/will be used for other works or just bibles). Created by the foundry 2K Denmark, Zondervan now wields their “Comfort Print” font to ease the strain of reading small type. And I must say, the difference is noticeable. The font is a bit heavier and the various components of the letters have been designed to facilitate better legibility. You can see more about this here.

Another type-related feature is the color. While headings in the biblical text are bold and blue in color, the same scheme follows in the articles, except the color of the headings is green. No, perhaps this is not a selling point, but it does contribute to the publisher’s goal of making the text easier to read. Plus, it looks nice.

What I said about the NIVZSB applies here as well— this is a superbly designed and imminently helpful study bible. If you’re looking for a study bible, look no further—the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible has everything you need to read the bible with a more informed perspective.

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Bible, Bibles, Books, Greek, New Testament, Reviews

Bible Review—Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Tyndale House Greek New Testament
Published by Crossway
Crossway | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Crossway for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

In the modern developed world, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to biblical texts. I’ll always remember when I first read of ancient scribes and their work of copying manuscripts—it made me tired and short of breath just imagining their work environments and the tediousness of their work! Move forward through history and reflect upon the advancements in print production and it’s rather amazing how far it’s come. Now, modern technology has made texts of antiquity available to just about anyone. In light of this abundance of Greek texts, one might wonder why in the world another Greek NT is necessary. Perhaps some might say that the need isn’t really there, that it’s a marketing ploy because, you know, there’s great fame and wealth to be had as a producer of Greek texts!  However, the motivation behind the production of Greek NTs varies in small ways from one publisher to the next, but I think the impetus behind much of what is produced is the desire for a text that most accurately reflects the original. The editors even say as much: “This edition aims to present in an easily readable format the best approximation to the words written by the New Testament authors, within the constraints of the documentary evidence that survives” (505). Presumably this is the general aim of any publishers who put out a GNT, but behind that purpose lays various methodologies, assumptions, text-critical biases, and a host of other factors that influence the production of a GNT.

So, enter the fruit of a ten-year labor at the hands of Dirk Jongkind, Peter Williams, Peter Head, and Patrick James, who indicate that this GNT will provide several unique features heretofore absent from other editions. Perhaps the most notable of these is the layout of the text itself. Its documentary approach means that the editors have followed what is generally found in the Greek MSS from the fifth century and earlier rather than the whole multitude of witnesses, which affects how they have laid out the text (512). This is most evident in the paragraphs, which follows the ancient practice of ekthesis, which means the first line of a paragraph is left aligned and the remainder of the paragraph is indented. It certainly takes a little acclimation when reading, but it’s actually a nice feature.

Spelling will also catch the eye for more astute readers. The editors note that some of these spelling changes “are not found evenly distributed throughout the books of the New Testament, there is enough evidence to suggest that they were conventional spellings” (509). They provide a few examples:

γείνομαι ‘become’ in Mark; Luke; John 3:23; 6:19; and Romans–Colossians
γεινώσκω ‘know’ in Mark; Luke; John 10:14–14:17; and 1 Corinthians–Philippians
*κλειν* ‘incline’:  εκκλειν* in Romans 3:12; 16:17; κλείν everywhere, except Revelation; κλεινίδιον in Luke 5:19, 24; κλείνω in Matthew, Luke, and John, but not Hebrews
μεισέω ‘hate’ in Mark, Luke, and Paul, but not Hebrews
*κειν* ‘move’ everywhere, except Revelation
*χειλ* ‘thousand’ in Mark and Luke (509)

There are several other editorial changes that foster readability. We all know, use, and perhaps even love what has become unofficially the standard for text-critical work—the Nestle-Aland GNT, now in its 28th iteration. However, in terms of readability, its text is besieged on all sides with various kinds of data. Granted, these data are quite important and every serious NT student should have the NA28 at the ready, but for reading, its pages are far too congested, unless you’re a hardened text critic who can’t function without a robust apparatus! So, in line with other GNTs (UBS5 Reader’s Edition, SBLGNT, etc), the THGNT streamlines its pages and minimizes the extra information. The result is a extraordinarily clean page that is beautifully typeset and doesn’t leave you with the eye strain that other editions might. As the editors note, this edition’s “chief significance” is its focus on the text rather than a heavy text-critical apparatus (507).

Additionally, the editors have opted to leave the word Χριστος in lowercase (χριστος) even when it functions as a proper noun (511) and have removed many iota subscripts, which the editors justify by arguing that they do “little to aid readers” (512).

In addition to the visual and orthographical features noted above, another interesting deviation from the norm is the ordering of the books. My initial page-turning led me to notice that some of the books were not where I expected them. That’s because the THGNT presents books a different order: Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Corpus, and Revelation. The reason for this stems from the premise underlying the whole work—it’s the order of the books found in many early MSS (512).

Aesthetically, I think the THGNT stands out from the rest, at least those that are offered with standard cover options. This version is black hardcover, its cover and spine adorned with gold type—it truly looks fantastic! It also comes housed in a hard slipcover that itself is black and is identified with the same gold type. The binding is Smyth-sewn, which is sure to permit years of reading.

In short, I commend Tyndale House for this superb text. I love everything about it and plan to enjoy it for years to come.

 

 

Bibles, Books, Greek, Hebrew

Hebrew-Greek Bible Typo

Not terribly long ago, I wrote a review for Hendrickson’s Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible, which you can read here if you’re interested. One feature I appreciate in Greek NTs is the inclusion of section/pericope headings and the CHGB includes them in the NT portion. I was reading through Mark’s Gospel today and noticed a typo in chapter 1 (p. 99). The section “Jesus Faces Temptation” for Mark 1:12–13 is rightly denoted and includes references to the synoptic parallels in Matt 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–13; however, in the next section, which is Mark 1:14–20 and is rightly labeled “Jesus Calls His First Disciples,” lists the same parallels as those concerning Jesus’ temptation. This is clearly a dittography of sorts.

I don’t point this out to bag on Hendrickson—far from it. I can only the imagine the work that went into typesetting, proofing, and generally overseeing this volume. When humans are in charge, mistakes are inevitable, especially when it involves a book with three languages and more than 1,800 pages. I don’t know if there are other examples of this, though I haven’t noticed others to this point. If it’s just an isolated incident, there’s no detraction from the book’s value.

If you’re one of those savages who writes in their books, I suppose you could make a note. *shudder

Bible, Bibles, Biblical Studies, Books, Greek, Hebrew, Jewish Literature, New Testament, Old Testament, Reviews

Bible Review—The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible

The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible
by Hendrickson Publishers
Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

As many of my fellow language lovers will attest, whenever a new text comes out, we get giddy with excitement (most of the time anyway!). When Hendrickson announced they’d be releasing their complete Hebrew-Greek bible, I was quite excited. I know such a production is hardly novel, but it gives us another tool in the belt for studying the text of the bible.

First, the Hebrew text. This volume is a fully revised edition of the Leningrad codex, though the editor notes there are instances in which he deviates from it (xiv–xv). The editor has included a rather detailed foreword that addresses various matters concerning methodology and textual elements, but that you’ll have to read on your own (xi–xxvi). However, whatever quibbles one might have with this textual base, this remains a fine volume that can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking to read the Hebrew Bible.

So, what makes this volume unique? It’s not a reader’s bible, so there are no running glossaries in the footer nor is there a lexicon at the end. There are several appendixes that cover matters such as textual variants (Appendix A), Petuhot and Setumot in the Torah and Esther (Appendix B), song shapes (Appendix C), a rather technical excursus on the deviation in gemination in the Tiberian vocalization (Appendix D), and a very practical collection of Scripture readings that accompany various Jewish cultural practices, which is perhaps the most unique aspect of this volume. Additionally, this volume is pretty much a bare-bones approach to the text, meaning that there is no text-critical apparatus for readers. While this may be a letdown for some (get your BHS!), for those who want to simply read the text, this is a gem. In addition to the lack of text-critical clutter, the Hebrew text is wonderfully typeset and printed on paper that is adequate for what is certain to be regular usage. The paper is not the oft-used tissue paper many bible publishers employ. It feels sturdier and its tone is soft and yellowish, which I appreciate more and more the older I get.

The NT side of the volume follows suit in that the text is not based on that corpus’s text-critical powerhouse, in this case the Nestle-Aland; rather, the Westcott-Hort Greek text was chosen. I’ll spare everyone any rambling discussion on the merits of one text over another—plenty of others are better at it than I—and will simply say that readers will likely not notice much of a difference in the text anyway. Unlike the Hebrew text, the W-H Greek text does provide more in the way of textual variants, perhaps enough to scratch any text-critical itch. If it’s not sufficient, I’m sure most readers will have a copy of an NA27/28 handy. Other pretty standard features are present, such as pericopes labeled in English and parallel texts in the Gospels noted beneath the pericope title. This edition also includes OT quotes in bold type with the reference beneath the apparatus. It adds a bit to the page, but doesn’t amount to clutter. Also, because the NT text is obviously a fraction of the Hebrew Bible’s length, there is noticeably more space in the margins. So, if you’re a total savage and like writing in your books, you have ample room for it. Also, unlike the Hebrew text, there are no appendixes of any sort at the end.

In sum, textually and aesthetically speaking, this is a great volume. Though it’s bulky enough to keep a door from closing, its usefulness outweighs (see what I did there?) whatever negatives derive from its mass. Mine is bound with the flexisoft cover and while it’s nowhere nearly as fake-soft-leather-feeling as my UBS5, it’s not too bad. Also, you simply can’t beat the price. This flexisoft cover, which is apparently more desirable and luxurious than the hardcover, retails for $59.99. The BHL costs more than that by itself, and add the W-H GNT to your cart and you’re spending more than necessary (unless you’re like me and like to have these separate and together). The point is this volume is a premium work for an affordable price, so go get one, bring it to church or the synagogue, and impress your friends. Or, maybe you’ll win a Who-Has-The-Biggest-Bible contest.

 

Bibles, Books, Reviews

Bible Review—CSB Reader’s Bible

CSB Reader’s Bible
Holman Bible Publishers, 2017
B&H | Amazon | CBD

I’ll admit it—sometimes I have a hard time reading the bible. The issue, in a nutshell, is that my brain suffers a constant barrage of inquiries that leap from the text, which sometimes makes it difficult to finish an entire section. Now, that’s not to say I don’t or can’t read the bible beyond a few sentences at a time, only that it takes a little longer than it might otherwise. Another component that hinders my reading, which I’ve mentioned in other reviews, is the layout/print design of a book. Nothing will deter me from a book faster than bad design—inside and out (cover art is important). Though I’ve never worked in the publishing industry per se, and speak strictly as a consumer of books, I was an editor for one my school’s main publications (in my previous position). I didn’t really have any input on the design side of production, but I worked with those who did, so I can appreciate the amount of time and energy that goes into producing a book that is visually appealing.

So, I said all of that to note that a book’s design is important to me. Bible publishers, I would assume, have a difficult task in preparing bibles for print. With the amount of text alone, preparing a bible proof must be a tedious endeavor, especially with so many publishers churning out study bibles the size of car batteries! While these are certainly helpful works (NIV Zondervan Study Bible and Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible), there are times when I just want a text that is unencumbered by cross references, marginal notes, photos, articles, etc. Thankfully, a number of bible publishers produced a number of excellent volumes designed around this very concept—the reader’s bible. As the title indicates, this review is for the CSB Reader’s Bible, published by Holman Bible Publishers, and let me say, this is a splendid work! When it comes to reading a text, the fewer distractions on the page the better, and this is the driving principle behind these reader’s bibles.

To begin, I want to mention the exterior, which is an important feature of a good reader’s bible (or book in general), particularly because the presumption is a reader’s bible will be used regularly, thus it needs a support structure that will withstand constant use. The version I received is gray cloth over boards, which is should be suitable for years of use before beginning to weaken noticeably. It also comes with a slipcover made from the same material, so any wear that comes from lying on a surface will be lessened. So, the outside is subtle and minimalist in its design—no complaints here. The binding is Symth-sewn, which adds to its durability, and as you might expect, the first and last pages needed little coaxing to stay flat when opened thanks to the boards and binding.

The inside, however, is the true appeal of this volume. This bible is as bare bones as it gets—no indexes, no concordance—just text. There are a few color maps at the very back and the requisite front matter (copyright, title page, contents), but otherwise there is only the text. As for the text, it’s printed on white paper, presumably to provide a suitable background for maximum contrast with the black font. Speaking of the font, it’s a traditional serif font—Bible Serif (produced by 2k/Denmark)—and is excellent for reading. While I do like sans serif fonts, I generally prefer traditional serifs for reading, and this one looks great. The 9.75-point type is also a suitable size. Holman opted for a single-column layout, which I think is the obvious way to go. It allows for larger type, which makes for easier reading. The text is formatted in traditional paragraph style with poetic and other non-prose sections set apart in a block-quote setup. Each new section is marked with a drop cap in a nice shade of blue (as are the book names in the footer and chapter titles) and the absence of versification—a defining feature of a reader’s bible—are a recipe for success. Though the absence of verses requires an adjustment for some, it’s one of the features I like best.

Though the only other reader’s bibles I own are the UBS reader and the Zondervan reader and can’t really compare these with English readers, I can say that the CSB Reader’s Bible is superb in every aspect. While perhaps not as glorious as the Bibliotheca reader that came out last year, it easily stands as a great work all its own.

 

Bibles, Books, Reviews

Bible Review—NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Review---NIV-CBSB

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
Zondervan | CBD | Amazon

I would like to thank the kind folks at Zondervan for this review copy!

Yes, another study bible has been published. One could easily (and perhaps in some cases should) bemoan the many editions of the bible that appear to be nothing more than a marketing grab. However, when it comes to study bibles, plentiful though they are, each one boasts its own strengths and unique features, thereby making each useful in its own way. Enter the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (hereafter CBSB).

Personally, I own several study bibles and I have used them with great benefit, so I certainly don’t mind adding an additional volume to the mix. What is appealing about this study bible is its focus on biblical backgrounds—one of the most interesting and important areas to study when it concerns understanding the world of the biblical writers. Plus, most of my own doctoral research involves Greek and Roman culture, so I was anxious to see the various elements of these cultures that were discussed.

First, as with other bibles I’ve reviewed, I’ll begin with the aesthetics and physical properties. This bible, like other study bibles, is certainly big—2,358 pages—but is slightly less so than Zondervan’s recent NIV study bible. This edition is the hardcover, so there isn’t much to say about that except hopefully it will hold together over time as I intend to refer to it regularly. Visually, the layout and overall design of the bible is quite nice. Unlike the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (read my review here), the pages are slightly tinted with a sepia-like hue, a design choice I rather enjoy as I find it’s often a little easier on my eyes than the starker black-type-on-white-paper format that is more typical.

As I’ve come to expect with most products from Zondervan, the CBSB includes numerous full-color photos throughout. Though the paper used is obviously not the heavier stock capable of displaying the detail of hi-res images, the photos appear very sharp and crisp on the page—a nice addition that adds to the overall usefulness and visual appeal of this volume. At the risk of sounding somewhat juvenile, pictures can have a great impact when studying the scriptures, so I appreciate the attention to this detail. I flipped through my HCSB study bible and found there were virtually no photos included in that volume, so this is a plus for the CBSB. In addition to the numerous photos, the CBSB contains a copious amount of various information-laden inserts—full-color maps, graphs, timelines, essays (320+), introductory articles, glossaries, cross references, and footnotes, all of which serve the obvious purpose of illuminating the backgrounds relevant to the particular biblical book you might be reading.

For this review, I was asked to pore over and comment on a particular book of the NT, so I chose 2 Corinthians. The introductory article tackles the most frequently discussed issue concerning 2 Corinthians—its literary integrity (or lack thereof, depending on your view). The issues of authorship and date are only provided as data in a side bar while the article/essay is essentially an argument for the literary integrity of 2 Corinthians. Just to point out the aim of this bible, if that hasn’t been clear, the first page of text (1:1–12a) is undergirded with the same amount of page space dedicated to footnotes, most of which concerns information about letter writing and speeches in the ancient world. Most of the notes key in on a particular phrase from the text and provide a brief glimpse into the culture to help explain that particular concept, thought, etc. Since one could go on for quite a while talking about specific instances, since I was asked to focus on 2 Corinthians, I thought I’d look at a couple of passages in which cultural backgrounds could really illuminate the text and help the reader understand it, so I chose 2 Cor 5:1–10 and 12:2–4.

2 Cor 5:1–10 is a notoriously difficult passage to deal with because of several issues, one of which concerns the imagery Paul uses, e.g., the “earthly tent”, the “building from God”, being clothed with our “heavenly dwelling”, etc. Most see Paul here harkening back to the imagery of the wilderness wanderings, but the author of this section (of the CBSB, not 2 Corinthians!) makes mention of what Diaspora Jews and Greeks thought about the body, not necessarily if Paul is alluding to the OT imagery of the tabernacle. In the notes on vv. 2–4, the writer comments on what Jews, Greeks, and Romans thought about the unclothed body and how that factors in to the point Paul was trying to make. There are also notes about kingdom restoration (v. 5), different views of the resurrection (v. 8), and judgment (v. 10). In general, the notes here are helpful, so long as the reader remembers these are simply notes that will (hopefully!) spur them on to research particular issues more deeply outside of this bible.

The second passage, 2 Cor 12:2–4, concerns the account of the man caught up to the third heaven. Most of the notes for this section concern then-contemporary views of boasting, since it’s mentioned several times throughout this chapter (this issue also receives an article insert on the previous page). But here, unlike the previous passage, the editors have included an insert on the opposing page that gives a bit more background on the experience of the third heaven. Basically the article interprets the passage as Paul describing his own experience in the third person, a practice they state was employed by apocalyptic writers (does this assume, then, the writer of this insert sees Paul as an apocalyptic writer?) and offers a few thoughts on Jewish and Greek views of the heavens and how one experienced them according to ancient texts. So, much like the previous passage, the notes here are somewhat brief (as they must be), but remain helpful.

In sum, I think many will find this bible immensely helpful, so long as they don’t use it as a final authority on particular matters. The worlds of the biblical writers were as intricate and complicated as our own it seems and we can’t distill entire cultures and their practices down to a few footnotes, regardless of how many there are. Also, reading through the list of editors involved in this bible, many are from more conservative points of view, so this will obviously skew some things a certain way (I mention this not as a criticism, but merely an observation). You can read Pete Enns’ recent post about the CBSB where he points out some of these tendencies. However, let me reiterate that this is a wonderfully helpful study bible and will be of great benefit to all who use it. From the excellent overall design to its most important features—the information behind the accounts in the text—this bible is a grand achievement and will serve well those who wish to enhance their knowledge of the culture the biblical writers reflect.

For more information on this bible and some helpful info-graphics, head over to contextchangeseverything.com.

Αυτω η δοξα

 

 

Bibles

Bible Review—Tyndale Select Reference Edition

Review---Tyndale-Select-Reference-EditionTyndale | Amazon | CBD

I received this bible from the generous folks at Tyndale Publishers and let me say this is a lovely bible! This bible belongs to the new line of Select Reference Editions (hereafter TSRE) and it is simply exquisite. This isn’t a study bible, so its primary function is obviously to be read. To that end, Tyndale has incorporated all the requisite elements one might expect of a premium bible to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. My copy is bound in glorious black goatskin leather and unlike my NIV Pitt Minion, this goatskin is supple straight out of the box—it required little to no use to detect and appreciate the soft feel of good leather. To further contrast with the Pitt Minion, this bible smelled like good leather from the outset. I’m not sure why the Pitt Minion took a little longer to become more leathery smell-wise, but it did.

As for other features, the TSRE is Smyth sewn, which in my opinion is necessary to ensure it maintains its structural integrity through what would likely be many years of use. While the bidning initially makes the bible a little stiff, by following the included instructions (or your own method) for stretching the spine, the TSRE readily lays open without closing, whether you’re reading Genesis 1 or Revelation 22. The TSRE also includes two ribbon markers, eight full-color maps, and a 118-page dictionary concordance to facilitate the location of/definitions of particular words and/or concepts. Also contributing to this bible’s exterior beauty are the reddish gold art-gilded pages—always a nice touch!

The single-column layout is also a positive. While I don’t mind double columned bibles, the single column simply allows more room for larger fonts, which in turn, contribute to the overall readability. The font is a suitable 8.75 (Lexicon) and the paper is of good quality—thick enough to prevent too much ghosting and white enough to adequately underlay the black ink. The footnotes and marginal references are fairly numerous (40,000 +), but the pages remain uncluttered and provide plenty of information to allow the reader inroads to other texts and similar concepts.

In sum, this is simply a splendid bible. The craftsmanship behind it ensures that with proper care and use, this bible will last for many years, perhaps even generations. I treasure my premium bibles, most of which were produced by Cambridge, but this Tyndale edition can stand right alongside my Cambridge bibles in terms of quality. Some may even say that the Tyndale Select line doesn’t just rival Cambridge, but surpasses it. Perhaps time will tell!

Αυτω η δοξα