Recommended NT Resources, Part 1: Translations, Text, and the Bible in General

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My bookshelf- Quad, UBS Greek NT, Reader’s Edition of the Hebrew Bible, Jewish Annotated NT, Jewish Study Bible, NIV Study Bible

( Cross-posted at Times&Seasons, where there are more comments.) We’re 80% of the way through our Old Testament, and the time has come to start looking forward. As I did for the Old, so I will do for the New. This time, I’ll break it up into a few posts, probably a few weeks apart. (Part 2 is now posted.)

As before, the absolute best and easiest thing you can do to increase the quality and frequency of your Bible study is to replace/supplement your KJV with a different translation. You can do it with a free app or website, or go old school and buy hardcover. I do both. Below are some recommendations on Bibles. 

Main Translations

  • New Revised Standard Version or NRSV
  • English Standard Version or ESV
    • A newer revision of the NRSV’s predecessor the RSV. I have very strong feelings about the ESV Study Bible: avoid it.
  • New English Translation or NET Bible
    • While you can buy one in print, it’s great advantage is the thousands and thousands of comments explaining the translation. It would be long if complete in print, but their study website is quite useful.
  • There are many many other translations out there which I probably wouldn’t recommend, but I’m going to single out the NIV. Don’t read it. (I used to. See pic.)
    • Why? Well, it’s pretty flawed, and especially when we come to Paul, Evangelical bias is clear.
    • See  Kevin Barney’s blogpost.
    • Also N.T. Wright’s view, from his book Justification.

      I must register one strong protest against one particular translation. When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses. This contrasted so strongly with the then popular New English Bible, and promised such an advance over the then rather dated Revised Standard Version, that I recommended it to students and members of the congregation I was then serving. Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said…. I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about. This is a large claim, and I have made it good, line by line, in relation to Romans in my big commentary, which prints the NIV and the NRSV and then comments on the Greek in relation to both of them. Yes, the NRSV sometimes lets you down, too, but nowhere near as frequently or as badly as the NIV.

  • Jewish Annotated New Testament
    • This is the NRSV with commentary from a Jewish perspective, the same Jewish scholars who produced the Jewish Study Bible I refer to so often in my posts. It’s insightful but can be challenging, and some of it I disagree with.
  • Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints, by Kevin Barney, John Gee, and others.
    • Available in hardcover, or free pdf. It’s the KJV with footnotes, like an LDS Study Bible, basically. This was originally to be published in hardcover by Covenant years ago, but they underwent a change in direction and backed out. Now it’s free.

Single-author Translations

These tend to be a little quirkier since they are produced by individuals, but no less interesting.

  • N.T. Wright, Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation which is extracted from his very accessible New Testament for Everyone commentary (sample of translation and commentary).
    • I’m a fan of Wright. You’ll see more mention of him. His translation is very modern, (British!) colloquial, and catchy, and his commentary practical, non-technical, and short.
  • David Stern, Complete Jewish Bible and accompanying Jewish New Testament Commentary (sample of translation and commentary)
    • Stern is a Messianic Jew residing in Israel. Among other things, his translation changes names and terms back to their Hebrew versions, so that John becomes Yochanan, Jesus Christ becomes Yeshua the Messiah. His commentary differs notably from the JANT above in several ways: single author vs. committee; believer in Jesus vs. uh, non-messianic Jews; less specialized vs. more specialized (that is, Stern has deep study, teaching, and a MA +graduate work, but his PhD is in Econ. The JANT authors are all PhDs in Religion, NT, Judaism, etc.)
  • J.B. Phillips- A colloquial translation that captures some of the feeling, particularly in Paul’s letters, which were meant to be read out loud.  NT only.

Text Criticism

If you want to understand the Greek textual/manuscript basis for differences in translations, these are your two resource.

Things on the KJV, How We Got the (English) Bible, LDS and the Bible

Part 2 to follow in a few weeks.

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