What to look for in a Bible

Last month I talked about Paraphrases and translations.  This month we continue to talk about Bibles and what to look for in a Bible.  Just as there are different types of translations there are also different types of Bibles.  A study Bible usually contains numerous helps.  Some helps are introductions of books annotations/commentary for explanations, historical backgrounds, concordance of biblical words, maps, time lines, references textual connections, etc.  The downside to a study bible is that they are large.  Chronological Bibles present the text in the order that it happened.  Parallel Bibles will have several translations side by side.  Devotional Bibles will include daily or weekly devotions along-side the text.  Reference bibles will have notes that link texts based on references.  Of course, this is just a few, and the most basic is the text Bible that only contains the scriptures.

Sometimes it is very interesting to see who the publishers of a particular translation are and who own that publishing house.  One newer translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible.  It is published by Lifeway and is owned by the Southern Baptist.  Knowing the publisher and who owns the copyright will tell you a lot about a particular Bible.

The United Methodist primarily use the NRSV (some other groups who use this version are:  Episcopal, Catholics, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Presbyterians, etc.).  The owner of the copyright is the National Council of Churches.  The NRSV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1952), which was a revision of the American Standard Version (1901) which in turn is a revision of the King James Version (1611).

Why a translation is made, also gives to us key insights about that translation.  In regards to the NRSV, the stated rationale for a new version was that there have been many biblical manuscripts discovered since the publishing of previous translations.  For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls were not discovered until 1946 and 1956.  In addition there have been many archaeological finds from the ancient Near East that have given a great deal of new understandings of Greek and Hebrew grammar.

One final note….many people consider the Bible to be inerrant.  This means that it is totally free from error of any kind.  My personal problem with inerrancy is that it does not take into account translational problems or errors from translators or publishers.  The Koran is considered the Koran only in its original language.  Muslims protect the sacredness of their holy writing by formally stating that any translation is not officially a Koran.  Obviously we Christians do not do this.  Our approach ensures that the Bible is accessible to more people, but the downside is that there are always translation issues.  So, no translation is a perfect rendition of the original text.  Though I am not an adherent to inerrancy, I do hold to Biblical infallibility which is the belief that the Bible is useful and true in regards to matters of faith and Christian practice.  I believe that the Bible is completely trustworthy in all matters of salvation, and the life of faith.  This approach allows for translation issues and even publication problems, but also acknowledges that translation or not, it is still God’s Word to and for us.


                   Blessing, Michael