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The New Believer's Bible


Theo-Maniac
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I've got the NRSV that my old church gave me, but I'm interested in getting a Bible geared towards "New Christians" that explains Christian concepts etc, that I can read as a study/devotion Bible, which is why I was looking at the "New Believer's Bible" or New Testament, but its a bit Conservative for my tastes (advocates actively going out and proslytizing, etc). So, I guess what I'm wondering is: is there a Progressive/Liberal equivalent of "the New Believer's Bible"?

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Theo-Maniac - I don't know about the "new believers" aspect, but I do know the study Bibles considered more progressive/liberal. All available in NRSV.

 

Cambridge Annotated Study Bible

HarperCollins Study Bible

New Oxford Annotated Bible

 

I have the HarperCollins and I like it. But I would say that it's more oriented towards the modern day scholarship aspect than a new believe aspect. It doesn't explain christian terms. It does explain who wrote what when and meanings of original words,etc.

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I actually really dislike "study Bibles." There is a real psychological force to seeing biblical commentary right there on the page, that subtly blurs the distinction between the original text and the (typically ideologically-directed) interpretation. A lot of people don't realize how influential the Ryrie Study Bible was to the rise of Protestant Fundamentalism in America in the early '20's. So personally, I'd steer away from those types of "study Bibles" and get yourself a book to take in on the side.

 

As for versions, I think the New Jerusalem and NRSV are, scholarly and literarily speaking, the best you can find. NIV is pretty good too.

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Hmm, seeing the NIV recommended on a Progressive board seems surprising, as, correct me if I'm wrong, but its one of the more conservative translations, and actually intentionally manipulates the text in some places (using the word homosexual, when there's no equivalent in the original language for example). As far as stand-alone commentary goes (if I decide to go that route), what are some well respected "liberal" commentaries?

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I really like the NOAB. It offers definitions and etymology of Hebrew and Greek words.

 

I've heard really good things about the New Interpreters Bible. Cynthia has one, so maybe she could offer an opinion.

 

Both use the NRSV, as WindDancer mentioned.

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Hmm, seeing the NIV recommended on a Progressive board seems surprising, as, correct me if I'm wrong, but its one of the more conservative translations, and actually intentionally manipulates the text in some places (using the word homosexual, when there's no equivalent in the original language for example).

Well, it's certainly more in-line with the historical understanding of the text. I've seen newer translations of passages (liberal and "hip/edgy" evangelical alike) that make me shudder. I'd rather start with a reputable scholarly translation and deal with these kinds of individual issues as they come up.

 

As far as stand-alone commentary goes (if I decide to go that route), what are some well respected "liberal" commentaries?

You're only a few years early for mine. ;) Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again For the First Time and The Heart of Christianity are good introductions.

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The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, Third Edition, Click Here

 

Here is one of the reviews. I don't think the author will mind if I post it here.

 

"Oxford has greatly improved its New Annotated Study Bible. The notes are far more extensive than in previous editions. In addition to including the complete text of the NRSV in an easy-to-read typeface, this new edition contains notes pointing out information and meanings which are not obvious from just reading the text and, in places, indicating meanings from the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts which are not evident in the NRSV translation.

The notes are entirely scholarly and do not attempt to teach any religious doctrine.

 

In places, the NOAB Third Edition is less thorough in its notes than the competing HarperCollins Study Bible, but the notes are better written and far less tedious to read."

 

And here's the New Interpreters Bible, Click

 

And here is another review:

 

"I can't overpraise this study Bible. Like its key rivals in the academic market, The Harper Collins Study Bible (HCSB) and The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), it uses the New Revised Standard Version as its text base (a good, responsible, and fairly literal translation of the full biblical canon--the 66 Old and New Testament books all Christian traditions use, plus 16 deuterocanonical/apocryphal books used in the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox traditions). Also like its competitors, it has excellent scholarly introductions to each book, extensive explanatory notes, background articles, and maps.

 

So why, if you already own a good NRSV reference Bible, do you also need to get this one? Because the book introductions are incredibly fresh and up-to-date. Because the study notes are insightful and well-phrased. And because, unlike the HCSB and the NOAB, the New Interpreters' Study Bible has two additional kinds of notes. From time to time, the NISB inserts a "Special Note" among the footnotes that makes an interesting observation on the text to help the reader appreciate the larger issues at play within the Bible as a whole. For instance, at 1 Samuel 2.9 there is a special note that calls attention to two distinct points of view in the Bible about justice/theodicy. These special notes are more information than the reader needs to understand the particular passage at hand (and as such can be easily skipped over because they are slightly indented and set off from the surrounding, more text-specific notes), but they are like little windows opening onto a much wider world...and should not be overlooked. In addition, there are almost 100 brief Excurses on thought-provoking topics like "Sibling Rivalry in Genesis," "Interpretations of Rahab," "Suicide," "Anti-Semitic Interpretations of Isaiah," "The Influence of the Maccabean Martyrs," and "Responsibility for the Death of Jesus." And the editors had the foresight to provide an alphabetical listing of these excurses, knowing that readers were going to want to come back to them from time to time.

 

The essays included in the NISB mostly focus, as one would expect, on interpretive matters: "The Reliability of Scripture," "The Authority of the Bible," "The Inspiration of Scripture," "Guidelines for Reading and Interpretation," "Varieties of Readings and Interpretations of the Biblical Text," and "Culture and Religion Among the Ancient Israelities." The glossary is mostly a list of literary and theological terms (anthropomorphism, chiasm, theophany), but does include a few typical "Bible terms" that the reader may not find satisfying definitions for in a standard collegiate dictionary(such as, sackcloth, Gentile, Sheol).

 

If you're a reference book addict like me, the NISB promises countless hours of pleasurable reading and exploring."

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Theo-Maniac - "stand-alone commentary"

 

HarperCollins and Oxford commentaries are available separately, if you want to go that route, but that can get a little "spendy" unless you can get them from the library. I bought the HarperCollins study bible for $8.00 at a bargain books store.

 

Oxford especially has a whole series of the books, which you can probably find digging around at Amazon. A few links to get started:

 

Oxford Commentary

 

HarperCollins Commentary

 

I'm also interested in the emergent or postmodern angle (aka McLaren, etc) and I do have a book wish list on Bible study that I can post if you are interested. Since I haven't read them yet, I can't really recommend, though.

 

I'm a big fan of Marcus Borg's books and really can't offer anything more/better/similar to that. I'd be thrilled to find more, but haven't been able to.

 

About study Bibles being "bad." Well, some are more what I call devotional with a specific bent to them. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as you are aware that the study Bible is coming from a specific denominational segment of Christianity. It is not a bad thing to be aware of the various viewpoints. The study Bibles like Oxford, HarperCollins and the others mentioned specifically for liberal/progressive are more historical-critical than devotional. More on the technical side and can actually seem dry if what you want is a devotional Bible.

 

I have the NIV Life Application Bible--Gasp!--with it's conservative Evangelical devotional comments, and I happen to like it. I just know where it's coming from is all. Actually, I have a bunch of different Bibles. I'm sort of a collector.

 

One more thing: I have Raymond Brown's Intro to NT and highly recommend that. He is middle of the road Jesus Scholar, so more conservative than Borg and Brown is from the Catholic tradition. But I love the way he writes--very thorough and presents the various views on different issues. Again, it's more of a scholarly technical historical-critical view, though.

 

New Interpreters Study Bible noted. Thanks Aletheia.

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I've got the NRSV that my old church gave me, but I'm interested in getting a Bible geared towards "New Christians" that explains Christian concepts etc, that I can read as a study/devotion Bible, which is why I was looking at the "New Believer's Bible" or New Testament, but its a bit Conservative for my tastes (advocates actively going out and proslytizing, etc). So, I guess what I'm wondering is: is there a Progressive/Liberal equivalent of "the New Believer's Bible"?

 

Hiya, Theo-Maniac. For whatever it is worth, if you are looking for a good introductory commentary from a progressive Christian viewpoint, you probably couldn't do much better than to read "The Heart of Christianity" by Marcus Borg. Although it is definately not a study bible, I think Borg does an excellent job of distilling the central truths of what it means to be a Christian (for old ones or new ones alike). One advantage of this approach is that it will give you a good understanding of what Jesus taught and what He means to Christians BEFORE you get into a "study bible" that tries to compartmentalize all the different doctrines and teachings of the bible. Study bibles can be helpful but they can also get very confusing because most follow an exegetical format and it makes it difficult to find the "big picture." Borg's book could maybe help you to see the big picture before getting bogged down in a verse-by-verse commentary.

 

Hope this helps you. I wish I had found this sort of "free-thinking, actually-making-sense Christianity" when I was a new believer.

 

trek

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Well I loved Borg's book "Heart of Christianity" (best progressive book I have ever read I think, though that isn't saying much I guess-- not exactly as well read as some folks here). But a better book for the Bible would be "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time".

As that book is all the Bible, and nothing else.

 

--des

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I do like the NIB. It is especially interesting to read alongside the NIV study guide. I agree with BroRog about the blurring though... I notice that often and try to read chapters twice - the first time just the canon - the second with the notes.

 

Personally, I have several translations. When I am thinking through a passage I like to read several translations in order to get an idea of the variety of possible interpretations. This helps me to see the gray in every version.

 

I know it makes many theologians shudder, but I like the Message - a very contemporary bible. The wording tends to be very different from other versions, so it shakes you out of rote reading. :D

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I know it makes many theologians shudder, but I like the Message - a very contemporary bible.  The wording tends to be very different from other versions, so it shakes you out of rote reading.  :D

Yeah, I guess just read it alongside a scholarly translation. :) The jarring effect is worthwhile, but the context helps you not imbue the "jarring" with too much authority. I like Crossan's take on a lot of the Gospel passages myself for the same reason (and applying my own disclaimer).

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