The Most Interesting Bible in the World

When I saw the above image on Episcopal Church Memes on Facebook, my first reaction was, “Why is that supposed to be funny?” The NRSV with Apocrypha is the standard in academic study Bibles – the New Oxford Annotated Bible, the Access Bible, the Harper Collins Study Bible, and many others. And so I use the NRSV with Apocrypha all the time. (As I mentioned earlier today, the NRSV is now accessible on BibleGateway.)The other version I use most often is the NIV. And from time to time, I like to take a look at the New Jerusalem Bible, just because it has some really cool features – like not hiding the divine name Yahweh behind “LORD” and making some of the alphabetical acrostic psalms alphabetically acrostic in the English translation. There are probably newer translations that I ought to have on my shelf and look at regularly, too.You may not read the Bible every day. But when you do, which translation of the Bible do you tend to use, and why?

  • TrevorN

    The Revised English Bible. I wish it was available electronically.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thatjeffcarter Jeff Carter

    I like the New Jerusalem Bible because it sounds great when read aloud.

  • Paul D.

    I hunted down a 1966 hardbound copy of the original Jerusalem Bible, and it’s brilliant. Like the NJB, it uses Yahweh instead of “LORD” (really, do we need to use euphemisms in our Bible translations still?), and the natural literary style is great — a far more pleasant read than the NRSV or NASB. It includes copious translators’ notes and used textual evidence from other sources (like the LXX), so it has some interesting readings other Bibles don’t. It also has great introductions to each book and includes basic scholarly information that most Bibles are afraid to include, like the documentary hypothesis or the fact that Jonah is not a historical tale. And as all Bibles should, it includes the Deuterocanon.

    4.5 stars out of 5, would read again.

  • Brant

    I laughed, almost out loud, at the image. I own almost 40 different English versions of the Bible. The NRSV is my go-to Bible and the one my church body uses.

    Currently I’m finishing a read-through of the CEB.

  • Pseudonym

    I think the Jerusalem/New Jerusalem’s layout is far superior to the standard Protestant layout. Two columns just doesn’t give enough space to lay out poetry properly.

    I like that the NRSV includes all of the apocryphal books, not just the deuterocanonical ones. However, a professor of New Testament once (reluctantly) told me that she could “hear” the Greek in the RSV translation more than she could in the NRSV. Has anyone else noticed that?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I haven’t used the RSV enough to have noticed, but the next time I do, if and when that happens, I’ll be keeping my ears perked to see if I notice this!

  • sbh

    NRSV with the Apocrypha is my fallback in the Harper Collins Study Bible (I actually have it right by me as I write). I really like the old Jerusalem Bible (I don’t have the new) because it reads well and I really prefer Yahweh to LORD or Eternal or the like. I like Moffat for the prophets and some of the poetic books, but that’s probably just because I first read them in his translation. For the elegance of the language Tyndale can’t be beat in the New Testament, though I usually end up using the Scholars’ Version for the gospels, and the RSV for Paul, since I kind of know my way around Meeks’ critical edition. I never much cared for the NIV, but it’s my brother’s favorite; he likes it for its clarity.

    • Pseudonym

      Yeah, the one thing I like about the NIV is that you can just sit down and read it. That does have the unfortunate side-effect of discouraging hard engagement with the text.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Indeed, the NIV’s advantage and flaw are two sides of the same coin. In one of the class activities I do related to Genesis 1-3, it becomes clear how the NIV has taken pains to avoid having a would-be literalist stumble over the dome, and renders verb tenses so as to make it more likely that a reader will understand Genesis 2 as a continuation of Genesis 1 rather than a different account with a different order.

  • Ian

    NOAB4, usually. My litmus test for study bibles is to turn to the Intro to the pastorals, if it fails to tell you that Paul very probably didn’t write them, you know you can’t trust it at any level. That leaves a very very small field. In fact, it probably means you’re using the NOAB.

    • sbh

      I use that as a litmus test myself. Deutero-Isaiah is another good one.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Yes, looking to see whether they indicate such authorship issues is important.

        The translation used in the NOAB is the NRSV, is it not?

        • arcseconds

          Yes, from the 2nd edition on. (!st edition is RSV).

          Hey, I’m just about to order a study bible. It seems that the Harper-Collins and the New Oxford Annotated ones are the ones most recommended.

          Does anyone have any good reasons for preferring one over the other?

          I’m leaning toward the NOAB on the basis of my brief investigation a couple of months ago, but I don’t remember why.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I like both, but have never compared them in detail. The Access Bible is another comparable academic study Bible to also take a look at.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    For practical work I use the NRSV (with Apocrypha), mainly because it’s available electronically and I do most of my day to day work on my iPhone. When I’m using dead trees, though, I also prefer the NJB. When I was in college my Hebrew Bible lecturer would often give a preferred translation of a verse and point out how the NIV and NRSV get it wrong. Every time the NJB would have his preferred translation. The funny thing was that he’d never heard of it until I came along. And I’d received it as a present who thought it was something else entirely!

    If I’m looking for a paraphrase though, I enjoy JB Phillips and William Barclay. They both seem to be able to make the English language work in a way that goes beyond lexical correspondence and syntax.

  • http://www.rethinkingao.com Mike Beidler

    For study, I used the ESV and NRSV (with Apocrypha, of course!), alongside the NET (New English Translation). For devotional reading, the NLT.

  • Eric

    I was surprised to see the New Jerusalem Bible mentioned here — it has long been my favorite, partly because it doesn’t talk down to the reader like some of the mass-market translations do. Because I’m at my computer so much, I probably spend more time, however, with the NET Bible and its informative translation notes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ahswan Alden Swan

    When I decided to upgrade from my old standard (Revised Standard, that it) study Bible, I checked out both the NRSV and the English Standard Version, and went with the ESV. When you buy the ESV Study Bible, you also get full access to everything online, which is great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.cartwright3 Steve Cartwright

    I tend to use the nNRSV, but also the Jewish Study Bible for studying the Torah. I also prefer to do my own translation of the NT when possible.

  • DrKellyann

    I mostly use my BHS or JPS Tanakh. For the New Testament, I have the NJB on my Accordance. While I love the NRSV for worship because of its cadences and its gender inclusiveness, for study I prefer to know where the original is NOT gender inclusive. I appreciate the NJB for that.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NDIFRCCEOB77ZP3QT2ZEAXBCFE John

    When I want an academic perspective with good footnotes I turn to a combo of New American, New Jerusalem, and various NRSV study bibles (all with Apocrypha, of course). But when I want to just sit and read, I always keep returning to my “first love”, the New English Bible (the old print one).

    • D Lowrey

      Thought I was the only one who remembered the New English Bible. The red edition got me through religion classes…then I lost it. Ended up finding a copy of the blue edition used from the Kansas City Goodwill for less than $5 which arrived on Xmas Eve of last year.

      As for my choice…I have the free ESV app on my Android phone I use in church and out and about. For devotional use…have discovered online version of The Message that I’ve started using for my reading plans for next year. In terms of a study bible…have the ESV Study Bible…as well the NRSV with the Apocrypha.

  • Braindrain

    Wow, I feel so out of date, I still read my old King James version for my self, and several for academic purposes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heronbythesea Kelli Bunner

    I also prefer NRSV, but I also like the New English Standard Version and the NET Bible. I also like to look at the Message once in a while. I still have no idea why that picture is supposed to be funny!

  • Max

    Just begun a few months back to read and to study the Common English Bible, a new addition which I find infinitely more readable. Not really a study Bible, but one to enjoy even more…

  • Vmarie822

    The Lamsa Bible is my favorite, translated by a man who spoke Aramaic, from the Peshitta. To think English in any form does a Semitic story justice is a shame, if not a travesty.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t find this way of putting things at all helpful. If an English form does not do justice to a Semitic story, then how can this English translation avoid that? What about the Greek texts from which the Peshitta was translated? There is certainly something to be gained from reading the Syriac New Testament, or seeking to retrovert NT sayings of Jesus into Galilean Aramaic. But I am concerned that you may think that you have bypassed translation issues by reading what is a translation of a translation.

  • mjpo74

    It’s funny because of who’s saying it, and that he’s being technical about it, not because of the version cited. (I love those ads). I try to cycle through versions so I don’t get stuck in one translation, but I read the Good News version more. I loved the Anne Vollatton images my childhood one had. I read NASB for a long while years ago to try to be as ‘accurate’ as possible (back in evangelical days) but I found I thought single-mindedly in a tunnel vision kind of way when I constantly used one version (or maybe that was just being an evangelical).

  • http://twitter.com/sccarlson Stephen Carlson

    I’m liking the NJB love here. A generally overlooked, but always interesting translation.

  • Tom

    I only find the comment about “hiding the divine name Yahweh” ironic and sad. Get over it people, it was the unpronounceable name. the Tetragrammaton, the consonants, have no vowels so it’s impossible to pronounce them. The vowels habitually assigned to them are those from a completely different word, Adonai, which means ‘Lord’. So the rendering in translations that read ‘Lord’ is entirely correct.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m afraid you’ve either been misinformed or misunderstood about this. It is not true that the divine name was unpronounceable per se. It is that the custom arose later to avoid saying the divine name because it was felt to be so holy that it was best to avoid speaking it except when doing so reverently – and eventually this evolved into avoidance of saying the name at all, with even Adonai then being avoided except when being spoken reverently in prayer.

      When vowels were added to the Hebrew text, those added to the divine name were the vowels of the word adonai, “my Lord,” to keep the reader from uttering the name and remind him instead to say “adonai.”

      The discussion here has taken place in awareness of that, and is expressing appreciation for the NJB, which allows one to get a better sense of how the texts in the Hebrew Bible sounded in the time they were first written, before the aforementioned prohibitions had developed.

      • arcseconds

        I’m not wrong in thinking that the pronunciation of the name of God is either not known or known only by a few, right?

        I recall reading a ‘Cartoon History of the World Part I’, which seemed to have decided to be an antidote to traditional Christian ideas of the history of the world. When it got to biblical times, it decided that there was nothing stopping it rendering the name of God as ‘Yahoo-Wahoo’, and it stuck with that for the rest of the book. Apologies if this offends anyone, but I still find this mildly hilarious, and hope that some of you do too (and back in those days, I was much, much more sensitive about blasphemy than I am now, I so I presume the book had a light touch. And that this joke is Objectively Funny.).

        This would be my second-favourite name for God, after the obscure piece of antipodean slang ‘Huey’, as in ‘send ‘er down, Huey!’ (an exclamation to be used in the event of a downpour).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Well, there is so,e uncertainty, but we have translitations of the divine name into Greek, and so we have a pretty close approximation in Yahweh.

          You will probably find it amusing that some manuscripts used the most similar-looking Greek letters, with the result that the divine na,e looks like it should be pronounced “PIPI.”

          “Yahoo” does have some plausibility about it too, though, given that that is the theophoric element in many Israelite names.


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