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A brief comment on Tremper Longman III, Mark Strauss, and Daniel Taylor’s “Expanded Bible”

December 1, 2011

I’ve seen some Web mentions of the recent Thomas Nelson publication, The Expanded Bible (edited by Tremper Longman III, Mark Straus, and Daniel Taylor, released recently with the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) that suggests that it is similar to the Amplified Bible.  (Example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.)  While it is true that both Bibles add annotations in the middle of the text (a technique I have seen used in many publications) the similarity ends there.

The annotations in The Expanded Bible are one of several sort, indicated using a slightly intricate systems of abbreviations:  expansion of terms (this is the part that is similar to the Amplified Bible and is the weakest part of this book), alternate translation terms, literal translations, traditional (e.g., King James) readings, comments (this is the part that is closest to a traditional annotated Bible), cross-references, and textual variants.  You can see a sample of the page format here and here

Thus, The Expanded Bible is very similar to a conventional study Bible, but the annotations are in the midst of the text.  I only read a few section of The Expanded Bible – but I found this presentation somewhat tedious (although not meretricious the way the Amplified Bible is.)  If someone wants commentary mixed with the text, I would suggest referring to the Access Bible instead, which inserts commentary between pericopae, rather than in the middle of sentences.  (You can purchase it here, and see an example of the page format here.)

The Expanded Bible is based on the New Century Version, which is not a translation that I admire.  The notes in the The Expanded Bible are rather brief, and thus it has far less commentary than a study Bible such as The HarperCollins Study Bible or the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (and the annotations tend to be much more basic.)  Perhaps The Expanded Bible is intended for those with poor reading comprehension, but I think the system of annotations is likely to be confusing to many of those readers.  The Bible is single column with ample room for making notes, but unfortunately, the margin is already covered with a blue background making personal notes harder to read, and the text is in boldface, making it difficult to read in a long single column format.

Although I purchased the book in hardcover, it is claimed to be part of Thomas Nelson’s once great (but now in decline) “Signature Series.”  There is a claim that the book is “guaranteed for life,” but I doubt the guarantee, because Thomas Nelson is being sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (which can simply decide not to honor Nelson’s guarantees), and because the physical quality of Thomas Nelson books continues to decline, suggesting that in the future, no equivalent replacement will be available.  Rather the guarantee mainly appears to be an invitation to sign up for a mailing list.  (Note:  in one place, Nelson claims that the guarantee includes wear and tear; in another place it explicitly excludes it.) Further, this book clearly does not have the promised features of the “Signature Series”:  it is hardcover (not “bound in the softest, most supple and durable calfskin”, it is printed on glossy and regular Bible paper with no gilding (not “on the best available French-milled paper with gold page edging”), it contains only a single ribbon marker (not “two satin ribbon markers”), and it appears to be mass produced (not “hand-tooled and stitched”).  It is a pity that Thomas Nelson no longer treats this brand designation meaningfully.

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