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My Bibles (A Topical Introduction)

May 5, 2012

I thought I’d introduce myself a little further, by telling you about my bibles.

I expect my very first bible is somewhere in this house, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking. It was an illustrated children’s bible, a somewhat oversized hardback with a blue cover, that must have contained only a selection of bible stories.

In junior high, I got the Catholic edition of this bible, called The Way — mine looks just like this one except the soft cover is bright blue, not dark green, and it says “Catholic” on the cover. I loved this Bible. It was very readable (unlike my mother’s Douay-Rheims that lived up on the top shelf of her bookcase), and its brief introductions to each book talked about biblical themes in terms that were relevant to young people.

But best of all, it had a chart: roughly in the middle of the bible, there was this chart that suggested bible passages. “If you feel…” or “If you’re wondering about..” this or that emotion or question, down the rows, “then try reading…” this or that bible passage, across the columns. What a terrific way to start to read the Bible! So much better than the linear approach of starting from the beginning and read till the end, or the bibliomantic approach of opening the book at random and putting your finger down on a passage to see what God might want to say to you today. And especially, what a great way to encourage young people to consider what’s going on in their lives in the light of the scriptural witness: it’s something you could do (and I did) in the privacy of your own room, without the embarrassment of actually asking somebody, a parent or a priest or a teacher. The chart wasn’t just about difficult teenager-troubles, either; it included entries for if you feel happy, or thankful, too, and pointed you to rejoicing and praise texts. I don’t know why all devotional bibles don’t come with charts like that!

When I was confirmed, in high school, we were each given a paperback copy of the Good News for Modern Man New Testament that was signed with a short personal note by everyone on our confirmation prep team; and then we all signed each other’s, as well. I don’t much care for this translation, but the connection to my confirmation makes this special to me.

In college, I went on several retreats to the Abbey of the Genesee, in Rochester, NY. This was my first encounter with the Liturgy of the Hours (morning prayer, or lauds; evening prayer, or vespers; night prayer, or compline; and others). Retreatants and other visitors were welcome to participate with the monks in the chapel there, using the Abbey Psalter, which you could also buy at the gift shop there. At some point, I did that, and have used it enough over the years that it’s gotten a bit worn and dog-eared.

When I graduated from college, my namesake cousin sent me a Bible as a graduation present. This one is the NAB, paperback-sized, bound in black leather, with small print on thin pages.

I think I was in my late 30s when I first bought a bible for myself. I remember standing in Barnes & Noble looking over the shelves of bibles, trying to choose. I wanted a Catholic bible, of course; and I wanted a study bible, with footnotes to explain things. I finally chose the New Jerusalem Bible. This is far and away my favorite bible for personal use: its language is beautiful, a functional translation with a poetic sensibility; its poetry is typeset as poetry; it has both scholarly footnotes at the bottom of the page, and cross-references to other biblical texts down the side margins.

When I started grad school, I was a bit dismayed to find out that this was not considered an acceptable translation for serious exegetical work: we were told to use a formal translation, either the NRSV, the NIV, or the NAB. So I picked up the NAB Catholic Study Bible from the seminary bookstore. I figured this one would need to stand up to some hard use, so I chose the hardcover. As I paid for my purchase, a professor in line behind me commended my choice, saying it was the best study bible he’d ever seen and he used his all the time. Encouraging!

I also discovered the website that semester, which I love for its variety of translations (although not the NAB) including the Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint, and its built-in concordance.

For my course on the Hebrew Bible (not actually in Hebrew, though), we used the Jewish Study Bible , the JPS translation of the Tanakh. I really like this Bible. Its footnotes and essays are very informative, and of course, informed by a purely Jewish faith perspective, as is the translation itself. This is probably the Bible I reach for most often after the NJB, when I want to understand how a text from the Shared Scriptures might have been understood by Jesus’ hearers.

During this class, I encountered the work of Robert Alter, who made me laugh out loud at bits of his really excellent Art of Biblical Narrative. So when I found he had put out a translation of the Book of Psalms, I snapped that up too.

For my course on the Gospels and Jesus, we were encouraged to bring any translation to class, even free or paraphrased translations – my professor wanted to have as many different translations of the text available to us as possible. Well, that was all the excuse I needed to finally pick up a copy of the Inclusive New Testament. We also used a parallel synopsis of the gospels, which is a very different and interesting way to approach the text.

When I got a Kindle a couple years ago, I downloaded a version of the KJV onto it, because it was the only free e-version I could find for the Kindle and I wanted to have some version of the Bible on it. I know people rave about the beauty of the King James, but I don’t hear it at all: it thuds on my ear and is hard to understand. When I’m subjected to a reading from the KJV in some worship service or other, I always have to go home and check the NJB or NAB to find out what it really said.

And most recently, I acquired a copy of the Common English Bible, that I won in a giveaway by Brant Clements over at Both Saint And Cynic. (Thanks, Brant!) It arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’m quite favorably impressed. It’s not too heavy, sized to be easily portable, but still laid out to be very nicely readable. It’s not a study bible, so it’s missing the footnotes and cross-references I’ve become used to — and it’s a Protestant bible, so it’s missing a few books as well 😉 — but it may still become the bible I carry around to classes and discussions when I just want to have a basic bible to refer to.

So there we go: I’ve got four Catholic Bibles, one Protestant Bible, one Jewish Bible, two New Testaments, one Gospel synopsis, and two Psalters. Is that a lot? It seems like a lot. It’s certainly way more than I ever expected to have!

So how many Bibles (or other sacred scriptures) do you have? Which are your favorites, and why? Are there stories attached to any of them?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2012 6:19 pm

    Victoria, thanks for this interesting introduction. I have more Bibles than you, in several languages but mostly in English. I guess being a former Bible translator is my excuse for that. But then most of them sit on the shelf unused, and I make most use of my TNIV.

    Thanks also for daring to say the following, even in this forum frequented by Theophrastus:

    I know people rave about the beauty of the King James, but I don’t hear it at all: it thuds on my ear and is hard to understand.

    Truly that alleged emperor of English literature has no clothes!

  2. May 5, 2012 8:28 pm

    Thanks, Peter! What other languages are your non-English bibles in, and what draws you to the TNIV?

    And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t appreciate the KJV. 🙂

  3. May 5, 2012 11:49 pm

    I haven’t listened to it yet, but someone just sent me this link to a lecture by Geoffrey Hill on the KJV and its antecedent translations. Sounds interesting!

  4. May 6, 2012 5:17 am

    I have full Bibles at least in Greek (NT & LXX), Hebrew (Tanakh + NT translation), Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani, and NT in French. My English versions include KJV, English RV, RSV, NIV 1984, GNB, NRSV, NKJV, NLT, TNIV, The Message. But most of these I look at only rarely. I quite often look up other versions such as NIV 2011 and ESV at Bible Gateway.

    I have been reading NIV then TNIV for more than 30 years. So I find it easiest to read, perhaps largely from familiarity. I know it’s not always the most accurate, but I can usually tell where the issues are, and if necessary look up the original or an alternative translation. I don’t think I would recommend it for serious study, but the new NIV is good for general readers with a good education. For less educated adult readers I would probably recommend NLT.

  5. May 6, 2012 8:01 pm

    I think I have solved the issue with being able to post, so I hope you will see this. I didn’t own my own bible until I was in college. I was one of 8 kids, and we had a family Bible (the Douay-Rheims same as your family.) When I went off to college, I was sent off with an NAB – a mass market paperback (albeit 3 inches thick) which I still have. It was my main bible until I got married to Mike Nelson, when we were given a large family Bible. It also was an NAB, a catholic bible. I cannot remember who gave it to me, one of my siblings. I also read the Good News for Modern Man in high school, but never owned one. For my confirmation, which happened when I was 10, I got a missal rather than a bible (I still have the 1966 missal.) Somewhere in here I picked up a leather bound NAB as well, but I cannot remember when or how.

    I got more bibles when I was in Rochester in the early 80’s. One was the Jerusalem Bible (the original not the NJB, which I will have to pick up.) and the other was the Scofield Reference Bible, a radically fundamentalist study bible which has all that fun rapture theology. The latter was suggested by a mutual friend of ours, and was very useful for me as an English major, because it is the translation that most matches biblical allusions and quotes in literature. I also was very taken by the Abbey Psalter, but it would be years later before I would get this. I also got a hebrew jewish bible, that I still have, but have not ever read.

    Soon after I moved to Virginia, my brother was working for Zondervan Family Bookstores. He is a born again evangelical, but an exceedingly open one. Because of him, I have hope for communication across those lines. He gave me the bible he loved, and still loves, the most, which was the NIV. For a long time that was a primary bible for me.

    When I converted to the UCC I needed another bible. I liked to prepare when I was a liturgist, and the bible at Little River was the NRSV. I got two copies of the NRSV, one for me, and one for my husband (who still prefers the NIV.) We were both liturgists. Mine was the Harper Collins Study Bible, and I loved it. The notes and articles in it were scholarly. While I’d studied bible at U of R and in Rochester in general, this opened a new window of reading the bible for myself in a new way for me.

    When I entered seminary, my first Bible class required the Harper Collins, and I now have a very dogeared version of it. I thought I was set, but I very quickly discovered that each professor had their own favorite version of the NRSV. Since I took my bible classes from four different professors, I have four study NRSV Bibles – for Dr. Rice the Harper Collins, for Dr. Newheart the People’s Bible (which focuses on minority views of the bible – like the American Indian view of Joshua, and African American, Feminist and Asian views of the Bible. This Bible also comes as a companion, with just the articles in it, which you might find interesting.) Dr. Felder liked the Oxford Annotated, and Dr. Junior wanted the New Interpreters’ Study Bible. I also bought a copy of The Message at a denominational meeting, since the UCC has been using this with youth, much as our leaders in high school used the Good News for Modern Man. I ended up lending, then giving my copy to our youth pastor, as she did not have one.

    The Christmas after my first semester of seminary, my husband gave me a wonderful tiny NRSV that fits in my purse. Believe me, having this seemed important at Howard; I often needed a bible at the drop of a hat! It was nice to always have one with me – I now take it to hospitals and such when visiting people. He also gave me the Jewish Study Bible – which was recommended by you, Vicki, and which I love when focusing on what we have called the Old Testament (I love the phrase “shared scriptures,” and am going to pass that one by my OTHB (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible) teacher. He also gave me a copy of the Abbey Psalter that Christmas.

    At the end of my third semester of school, my inlaws gave Mark and I a very generous monetary gift. Mark wanted a big screen TV and asked me if there was something I wanted. I knew exactly what I wanted – I wanted the Logos Bible Software. It’s an integrated software with multiple versions of the Bible, including the original languages and other resources integrated with it. The resources include graphics, commentaries, tons of things. I think I have about 800 books included in the version I got, and occasionally I get others. This software (the basic version) was the “text” for my Greek class, but then I already had it.

    Later on I bought the Inclusive New Testament and Psalms, a couple additional version of Psalms (Psalms:now, and another inclusive Psalms) and last summer I did my CPE with a young man who had studies with some of the translators of the CEB, and bought a copy as soon as it came out. In the last year a couple of fellow ministers have given me books they no longer use, which meant that I got a Common English Version (different from CEB) and I also got an ancient RSV. Plus my husband came into the marriage with a parallel bible (King James, RSV, Good News for Modern Man and one other in parallel) and I needed a copy of Gospel Parallels for one of my scripture classes.

    My favorites are the New Interpreters study NRSV bible (just can’t be beat for the notes and articles), the Jerusalem Bible (for the beauty of the poetry) and Logos. My churches have RSVs as their pulpit bibles, which I don’t like (stilted without the beauty of the KJV – but remember I like Shakespeare, too.) But I use all of these, frequently!.

    Whoops, long response. . . . But I have 4 or 5 Catholic bibles, two Jewish bibles (one in Hebrew) Lots and lots and lots of protestant bibles (though most my NRSVs contain the apocrypha – Protestant seminaries do teach it.) and really cool bible software. And three or four psaltes and a new testament. . . Lots and lots.

    Sometimes, at Bible study, I hand each person a different Bible and have them read to each other. );-)

  6. May 6, 2012 9:43 pm

    @Peter, thanks for your reply. That’s a good point that familiarity makes a big difference in how easy something is to read. That’s a theme I’ve heard from many KJV fans, actually: that it’s the translation they grew up with and have prayed with.

    @Julie, thanks for all your bible stories! Wow, I’m glad my professors did not require specific versions. That People’s Bible companion looks good – I’ve added it to my wish list. I’ve heard of the Scofield bible but have never actually seen one. It must be fun to hand out the different bibles (but not so much fun to carry them all to the bible study!)

  7. May 7, 2012 6:47 am

    The Bible Study is held in my office, though I am frequently known to schlepp big bags of books all over the place. 😉

  8. May 7, 2012 11:34 am

    I’ll ignore Peter’s baiting for a while (I do love many aspects of the Tyndale-Geneva-King James Bible translation tradition, but that’s a topic for another post).

    I’ve worked pretty hard to try to read the Bible in original languages, but I still buy a fair number of translations. Why? Because a translation is a fascinating form of commentary on the text. In traditional Rabbinic Bibles, for example, classic Aramaic translations (such as Onkelos) are always included. This is in part because medieval commentators (e.g., Rashi) referred to Onkelos, but it is also a fascinating look at how the Bible was read in the late Second Temple period and its immediate aftermath. (Kurk might make similar claims for the Septuagint, with appropriate adjustments for the dates.)

    My favorite Bibles are diglots or have large swathes of commentary. I think that readers with only a little bit of Hebrew can often learn a lot from a diglot.

  9. May 7, 2012 3:45 pm

    It’s nice to see you here at BLT, Victoria, and what a charming way to introduce yourself. I just counted 47 hard copy English versions of the Bible near at hand. Most of my Bibles are the 66 book Protestant canon, but the 47 include several New Testaments, a pair of Tanakhs (both the old JPS translation and the Jewish Study Bible that you referenced–love it!), and several editions that include the Deuterocanonical books. The most recent addition to my collection is a The Catholic Bible, Personal Study Edition (NAB). Study Bibles include Harper-Collins, the New Oxford Annotated, and Augsburg-Fortress’s Lutheran Study Bible. I have a Scofield, a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible and even (though I blush to admit it) a copy of the Apologetics Study Bible. There are two copies of Gospel Parallels here, and the Greek/RSV Synopsis of the Four Gospels. I’ve got at least 8 Greek New Testaments and a copy of the Septuagint. Oh…and there’s my copy of the New English Translation of the Septuagint.

    I guess you could say I have a lot of Bibles.

    You’re welcome for the CEB. It’s been fun giving them away through my blog. As a participant in the CEB blog tours, I was given a bonded leather thinline CEB that includes the Apocrypha. I’m sorry that the paperback copies that I can give away are only the Protestant canon!

    My first Bible was a small format, white leatherette KJV. It is still in its original box, though it is now yellow with age. It was a gift from my godparents whom I never really knew. Shortly after I was Baptized, godfather got religion, left my godmother and joined a commune in Texas.

    Thanks for a great post! I look forward to reading more from you here.


  10. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    May 7, 2012 8:48 pm


    Welcome to the BLT!! I am so happy to read your post, especially as I have taken such a long break myself.

    We share many Bibles, as I have “The Way” and “Good News” also NAB. But I include the KJV in translations which I like – especially as I am interested in the period preceding the KJ translation. For example, I have a 17th century Psalms translated into Latin by Pagninus, who translated the entire Bible into Latin in the 16th century. Along with Erasmus’ Latin translation, Pagninus’ translation was very influential but virtually unknown in America today and not included in the Logos Bible software, unless they have added it recently. I also value my Vamva NT, a Greek version from the 19th century.

    Many of my favourite Bibles reside in libraries – the Pagninus Hebrew Bible in the Thomas Fisher Library in Toronto, the Erasmus editions in the Erasmus Centre in Toronto, and the Lindesfarne Gospels and Codex Sinaiticus in London. I also cherish my recently translated Cree Bible, even though I can’t read it!

    Once again, welcome and thank you for joining us!

  11. May 7, 2012 9:04 pm

    Well, I see I’m an amateur in this crowd when it comes to bible collections! 😉

    @Theophrastus, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a diglot, but I do love interlinears: I can read the Greek script, but I need a transliterated Hebrew interlinear, which is hard to find. I like these for detailed exegetical analysis because even if I don’t know the meanings of the words, I can spot some literary devices that use sound effects (rhyme, alliteration, etc) or common morphemes.

    @Brant, thanks for the kind words. What motivated you to pick up the NAB Catholic bible, if I may ask? and I’ve never heard of the Apologetics Study Bible…?

    @Suzanne, thanks for the welcome! What particularly interests you about the pre-KJ period? You have long-distance relationships with some of your favorite Bibles, I see. 😉

  12. May 7, 2012 9:27 pm

    Motivation? Every time I see a translation I don’t own, I want it. I spotted the NAB at an estate sale and picked it up cheap. For some reason the Catholic Bibles aren’t readily available online. I’m keeping an eye out for both a Jerusalem Bible and a New Jerusalem Bible.

    The Apologetics Study Bible is the Holman Christian Standard Bible with a fairly appalling set of notes defendingba Fundamentalistic view of Scripture. I bought it for the HCSB text and to keep up with a pervasive trend in American Christian thinking.

  13. May 8, 2012 12:58 pm

    Victoria: There are transliterated interlinear Hebrew volumes out there (although, I think it is not that hard to learn Hebrew pronunciation):

    For example, I can recommend this transliterated interlinear version of the Psalms (which is a good place to begin in looking at Hebrew patterns).


    If you want to learn to pronounce Hebrew, I can recommend the excellent, excellent self-teaching materials from EKS.

    I know many people who have taught themselves using Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew (book and CD set). That will only teach you pronunciation and the alphabet, but it is a great start. You may also benefit from the Sounds of Hebrew flashcards and

    If you want the basics of Hebrew grammar, then an excellent self-teaching set is EKS’s series on beginning prayerbook Hebrew (which is largely Biblical Hebrew). I would recommend the textbook, Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way, the companion CD set, and the flashcards (also available for the iPhone).

    With this background, you’ll be able to read Hebrew aloud, understand the basic grammatical issues, and, if you wish, study meaningfully using any college level Biblical Hebrew textbook.

    I think that it is usually hard to learn a language on one’s own, but the EKS materials really do make it possible (by including lots of drill, answers, and audio).

  14. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    May 8, 2012 8:28 pm


    Why the long distance relationships? Some things are hard to find in reproduction, I guess. Certain things are only available in their original format, and don’t exist in mass imitation, either print or electronic.

    I used to live in Toronto, and am still there frequently, so dropping by the library is not such a difficult thing. I have photographed Genesis in the Pagnini Bible, at least. I also like to hold the original Erasmus editions and look at the notes, reading them in my rather rudimentary knowledge of Latin. This, at least, is available now online. But when you hold the different editions and see what they are like, you realize that the Greek text is side by side with the Latin, and that the notes are also easily accessible. These notes must be taken into account as well.

    I like to know what the books were like that the first English translators had access to. I like to know that a translator into English, Tyndale and whoever else collaborated, had Pagninus Hebrew Latin Bible, the Vulgate, Erasmus Latin translation of the NT and his expansive notes, Luther’s translation and Zwingli.

    We know so much about the history of translation after Tyndale, but I like to know the influences on those who developed terminology throughout that era.

    Just the same, I am definitely an amateur, limited in my ability to read Latin and Hebrew, but more comfortable in Greek.

  15. Katherine permalink
    May 9, 2012 2:40 am

    Victoria, welcome! It’s nice to meet you through your bibles. I sauntered on over to your blog and I must say I quite enjoy your writing.

    Hmm, let’s see. I remember having a tiny little pink KJV bible that I might have received as a gift at church for some reason or another when I was four or five. I found it difficult to read and understand, so I didn’t really ever use it.

    When I was 7 I got an NIV adventure bible, and that was the bible I used up through high school. It had sprinkled through it various sidebars, explaining facets of “life in Bible times”, highlighting verses that were good to memorize, noting important people, things like that. It’s like a study bible for children, and I really enjoyed all those tidbits and, looking back, I think they were very useful in helping me navigate scripture when I was young.

    At some point in high school I got for myself an NIV study bible. I only used it for a couple of years and I don’t remember much about it. One of my sunday school teachers gave me a small paperback amplified bible, a translation she found quite useful. I found it rather incomprehensible, though it did awaken in me a desire to pay more attention to the connotational force of words being used in their particular contexts. My sister had a copy of the Message that I would read from time to time.

    My first year of college I got an ESV, which was a new translation at the time and was one a number of my professors used. That was my default translation for a couple of years. I know it has its merits, but it has become so associated with all the partisan acrimony related to the TNIV and gender issues in translation and in general that I actually gave it to my sister. It became strangely painful to read the translation itself. I really don’t know what this says about me, but whatever it says is probably true. My sister got me a small ESV with one of those beautifully crafted leather covers when I went to Jordan for a summer so I had a small bible to take with me. It was a thoughtful gift and I read from it every day while there. I eventually gave this one away, too, to a friend who needed a bible (my sister approved of my re-gifting).

    While I was in Jordan I learned a bit of Arabic, from a Christian teacher, and at some point we practiced reading from the gospel of John. We had these large readers with what I am sure were considered HUGE PRINT. I wouldn’t consider myself fluent at all, but I did get an Arabic bible that I have on my shelf along with my other bibles.

    My first year of college is also the year I got a New Testament in Greek (USB 4th ed.) since I was taking Greek classes at the time. I took classes for three years and this particular NT is quite worn and beat up. I eventually also got a Nestle-Aland 27th edition, so I have 2 different Greek NTs in my possession. No Septuagint yet though I’d love to get one.

    I noticed that my Old Testament professor was using a translation for class that I wasn’t familiar with at all, and discovered he was using the new JPS translation of the Tanakh. (He also taught the OT using the Torah-Prophets-Writings division, which I found immensely illuminating) I got myself a small paperback of that translation, a square brick of a book.

    Later in my college days was when the TNIV came out, to great controversy as I alluded to earlier. I got a free copy that was being given away on campus (did I mention I went to an evangelical Christian college?) and I still have it. The note announcing this was put on a wall where students often put items of discussion that passers-by would write responses/remarks/retorts on, and this note was no exception. Someone had written (in humor, I assume) “The “T” stands for Satan!”, which I still find hilarious. About four years ago I got “The Books of the Bible” in the TNIV as a birthday present. It’s a bible that removes all the chapter and verse markings and presents the text single column to facilitate reading it in larger chunks. I find it quite effective in that regard and it’s the bible I read when I just want to read stories or whole books, or just want to read without any kind of anxieties or expectations. It’s a bit strange that I should get anxious and worried while reading the Bible, but I do, and it’s a bit strange that a simple thing like formatting can go so far to alleviate that, but it does.

    I also just got Pamela Greenberg’s translation of the Psalms and am going through those leisurely. They are delightful. I should also mention that though it’s not a translation that I own a copy of, ever since I started being Episcopal the version of scripture that I hear every week and is printed in the bulletins is the NRSV.

    Eek. It seems I’ve written quite a lot. Oh well.

  16. May 9, 2012 11:41 pm

    @Theophrastus, thanks for all the suggestions! I actually do have the first two books in a kids’ series for learning Hebrew (recommended by a friend of mine because her kids used them) that I’ll get back to someday. I’m a very, very text-oriented person, and I learn best by writing; so the different script is a significant barrier for me. (I learned the lower-case Greek script over many years of gradually encountering the different letters in math and physics equations! I’m still shaky on most of the upper-case letters – they aren’t used as often.)

    @Suzanne, thanks for your replies. Your interest in the material that influenced the Tyndale translation reminds me a bit of how interesting I found the opening of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s history of the Reformation, because he “set the scene” by describing what it was like to be Catholic before that big upheaval.

    @Katherine, thank you for the welcome, the kind words, and the interesting stories about your bibles! That NIV adventure bible for kids sounds great. I’m totally with you on the Law/Prophets/Writings division of the Shared Scriptures btw – it makes so much sense to me.

  17. May 15, 2012 5:55 pm

    An all-too late welcome to BLT, Victoria! What a wonderful self-introduction here! I love how you go back to your first Bible and your bibles when you were young too.

    Honestly I cannot remember a time when I didn’t “have” a Bible – since growing up in Viet Nam with missionary parents, I had the family bibles, the bibles in the churches, and so forth, including the Kinh Thánh Tin Lành (or Prostestant Bible in Vietnamese). When we visited the USA when I was learning to read, for Christmas, my parents gave me “The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version containing the Old and New Testaments.” It is a red letter edition, and they had my name embossed in gold letters on the black leather cover; inside is a gilded dedication page with an illustration by LeoLeon. Between the Old and New Testaments is a gilded Family Register, and there numerous illustrated pages, reprinted works of art depicting various scenes throughout the whole work.The words of Jesus are in red type. There is a substantial Preface, explaining some of the translation history and philosophy. There is at the end A Summary of the Books of the Bible and then a the RSV Concordance as part of the Explanatory Notes, and finally seven maps in color. Before I started reading Greek (and studying Hebrew), I spent hours with this Bible. I just found it in a box of books here in my office at the university, in a temporary office this summer. We’re a bit in transition, so I’ve been away from the blog, and will have to be again the next several days.

    My father passed on recently, so I’ve inherited all of his many Bibles, not that my mother doesn’t want them but she has her own and heard from him that he wanted them to be mine. My favorite bibles are ones that make me want to look at the original languages, often in parallel with English translation, in diglots, as Theophrastus mentioned. (Just a quick update on my comment here, as I see how he writes “Kurk might make similar claims for the Septuagint, with appropriate adjustments for the dates.” Yes, exactly, translation can be quite a commentary; and the Septuagint in particular is just fascinating because we have to speculate, with good reason, about the moves made by some of the original translators of this “Bible” in a translation that’s extant, that we can still find and read today, at least bits of texts of it. Specifically, in the LXX, its legends, its context within the Egyptian kingdom within the Alexandrian Greek empire, there’s much going on politically and rhetorically that usually readers today don’t so much see.) In general, I really do think there is what Mikhail Epstein calls the stereoscopic effect or “interlation” or what Pearl S. Buck calls being “mentally bifocal,” when reading the bible in the original languages alongside another, the translations. I’m excited to read Dad’s Lamsa Bible, translated into English from the Aramaic Peshitta, and I hope to find the Aramaic he translated from to try to see what can be seen of it. (I mostly enjoy translations that are artful, produced by an individual rather than by a committee with an agenda, and have lots of those sorts of bibles. Individual translations that show appreciation for the wordplay in the original languages are the best, in my view.)

    At any rate, thank you for joining BLT, and thanks again for that lovely post.

  18. Russ permalink
    July 5, 2012 8:25 pm

    Hello Victoria:

    So do you still use the New Jerusalem Bible?

  19. July 5, 2012 10:10 pm

    Hello Russ,

    I do indeed — the New Jerusalem is my go-to bible when I just want to, you know, read the bible. It’s the one I pick up when I’m looking for the cross-references from a particular passage to elsewhere in the bible, because having the cross-refs in the margins makes them so easy to see. And although it is not my primary source for exegesis papers, I invariably consult it as well, because the more functional approach to translation and the poetic sensibility often brings out a nuance in the text or emphasizes an aspect that isn’t brought out in the more formal translations.

  20. Russ permalink
    July 6, 2012 8:53 am

    Over the past 15 years or so I’ve purchased quite a few translations and commentaries. I’m not a scholar, I doin’t know the original languages, but I like the bible, for a whole host of reasons. Today, when I sit and study it, I usually have 2 on hand: the NABRE and the NRSV. Of the latter translation I have the Harper Collins Study Bible and the New Interpreter’s NRSV. And it’s really only within the past 8 months or so that I’ve really applied myself to the NRSV, mostly because I’m not a great fan of inclusive language. However, with all that said, I still go to the NJB when I just want to read the bible. I first purchased in the mid 1990s and fell in love with it, for the reasons you have stated. In some places I wish it was more literal, but all in all, I love it, and was very happy to see what you wrote about it back in early May.


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