The Good Book

About Bibles

Here's my seminary story about Bibles.

When I arrived at Andover Newton in 1994, I heard I would need only one Bible for my seminary education: The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version). I purchased a hardcover copy. I had no Bible classes that first year, which may sound odd, but as a commuter I took what I could schedule back-to-back, so I used it for reference and personal reading rather than as a textbook.

After a break in my education, I returned in early 2000, and that's when I began taking all my Bible classes. And in that first semester, a professor insisted we needed a different Bible, the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Second Edition.

I sighed. But I bought it. In hardcover.

New Oxford Annotated Study Bible
Then in the fall of 2001, I took a seminar on Mark with a wonderful professor, Abe Smith. For this class he required the purchase of a New Oxford Annotated Study Bible. I thought, great! I have one! But guess what came out later in 2000? Yes, the Third Edition. And my professor wrote some of the notes for it. Not that he wrote the notes for the gospel of Mark, mind you, but he wrote the notes for 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and never mind, just buy the Bible.

I sighed. But I bought it. Only this time, I bought the paperback.

Finally, in a post-seminary attempt to fit into my lectionary group, I succumbed to peer pressure and bought yet another copy of the Harper Collins, in the somewhat-lighter-to-haul paperback version. That's the copy on my desk these days, while the hardcover lives at home and the NOABs have been given away, one to a friend, and one to a family member.

At home you would find a couple of King James Versions, the RSV I received as a 3rd grader at the Olde Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, and various CEVs and NRSVs given to my kids by Large Church and Small Church, as well as a Message Remix.

Which version are you reading?

16 thoughts on “About Bibles”

  1. here’s my true confession i am horrible at losing bibles. i leave them at church, in my car, rattling around the house… i tend to stick to the NRSV – student study bible… since we use that in confirmation class but my harper collins is right here on the desk…
    although rumor has it that a “lutheran NRSV bible” is out or soon to be out… to which i say jeepers since when did we have a monopoly on the Word????

  2. Wow! you are so devoted! I use Harper Collins at work (b’cause like U some of my profs wrote commentary)
    And I use the New interpreters at home for same reason and…I it left out in the rain one night and now it looks Reeeally used. But when the going gets tough, in the OT especially, i turn to The Message…there, I said it.

  3. Oh, I turn to The Message, too, more for the Psalms, though. And honestly, I look those up online.
    I do have about half a set of the New Interpreters Commentary in the office, and that’s probably where I most often brush up against the NIV, since it’s in there, too.

  4. I have both the first two you mentioned (the Oxford in paperback, and must be the second or even first ed. since I bought it used from one of my student workers in the 90s) and I recall a minister friend saying one was better for NT and one for OT, but I can’t remember which (this was per United Sem. of the TC). Then I got the New Interpreter’s Study Bible too. I use that mostly. Also have KJV, NRSV, RSV (my husband’s confirmation Bible I believe), Good News Bible (2 copies which actually belong to 2 of my kids), and the New English Bible; Phillips which I think is just NT; Reynolds Price’s 3 Gospels and the Jesus Seminar’s 5 Gospels; 2 Bibles in Danish which I can’t read; Tanakh and NT in paperback from the Quality PB Book Club; BUT I don’t have an NIV, a Message or (horrors) a Living Bible; nor a Jerusalem or Douay. But you can see I have a ready answer to street-corner evangelists who want to give me a Bible or part of one. Funnily enough I just came back from the library with Clyde Edgerton’s new book THE BIBLE SALESMAN!!

  5. I have quite a collection of Bibles but don’t read/study any of them often enough 🙂
    I have a tattered old King James from my teen years…
    I have my grandma’s Living Bible and my brother’s ACE (accelerated Christian Education) Bible which is really a King James version. And for genealogical reasons; not reading because it is so fragile (and I don’t know German), I have my great grandmother’s Bible she brought from Germany.
    Then there’s the Today’s English Version, The Amplified Bible, NIV, The NIV Study Bible. All of those are from booksales and used book stores. My most recent acquisition is The Message, which I haven’t looked at yet.
    The one I use the most is the St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, although I find comfort in the familiar language of the King James and am beginning to appreciate the NIV.
    I’m not even sure what version is used for readings on Sundays. (Fortunately I am not the pastor or I guess it would be required knowledge) It may be the NRSV. Which I don’t think I have…hmmm. Must put that on my wishlist.

  6. Oh my goodness! I just packed all my Bibles and I have 21 of them. I’m mostly reading The Inclusive Bible right now, but I loves me some Message too and I’m not ashamed! For the Psalms, I use the Order of St. Helena version. Inclusive, yet poetic. I love my Serendipity Bible for Bible study ideas and my Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible for the same thing. I have an ancient Dake’s Annotated KJV from my evangelical days and the Children’s Living Bible that my parents gave me when my little brother was born.

  7. I also use the Harper Collins NRSV, per many recommendations when I started seminary in 1999. But as my OT & Hebrew prof Mark Throntveit says, no one translation gets everything right, and I’m not afraid to dip into many, many others, including The Message, NIV, New American Standard, New King James and even the Phillips from time to time. I reminded a colleague who did an intensive word study for this week’s texts that yes, cases and tenses can be important, but we also need to remember that the gospels are Greek translations of oral tradition about a Jewish carpenter who spoke in Aramaic – too much grammatical exegesis can spoil the soup, don’t you think?
    And yes, HC, there will be a Lutheran study bible out next year, part of the ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative. Like you, I’m somewhat intrigued and somewhat apprehensive.

  8. I took three semesters of Greek from Abe Smith!!! Love that man!! Since he editted the NIB nrsv that’s the one I use most. I also have several of the NIB commentaries.
    I found out taking Greek that the KJV was very helpful for l.i.t.e.r.a.l. translations, so I used the one I got in high school for that. I also have a New Jerusalem for a Catholic slant, and an NIV.
    Grace – I also love the Message for my own reading and edification. I felt as though it gained legitimacy when BBT recommended it at the FoH last year.

  9. I have the Oxford Annotated, with Apocrypha (which seems odd for a Protestant pastor, but there you have it). It’s at the office and I’m at home, but I think it’s probably the first or second edition. I have a little bitty NRSV that I carry around with me. And I have the NIV of my childhood, much loved and used, and the RSV I received in 3rd grade from the church, hardly ever cracked. A few KJVs float around the house, and I occasionally check the Message for a few things.

  10. I also used the Harper Collins in seminary – we jokingly called it the “Princeton Authorized Standard Version” or something like that. It’s falling apart now. The back cover came off long ago, and once it fell out into a rain puddle so some of the pages are wrinkly. But I still use, and it brings back memories in many ways, because I have lecture notes scribbled in the margins and I’ve marked the passages on which I wrote papers, & the dates and the courses.
    Now I mostly use the New Interpreter’s, although I also use The Message frequently, especially for the Epistles.
    Then there was the smaller NRSV that I took to Israel, and also made notes in that one. During CPE I left it in a patient’s room and I think it got packed up with the person’s belongings when they were discharged. I was heartbroken, but I tried to hold on to the fact that perhaps the person needed it more than I did.

  11. I have something like 30 bibles. It’s ridiculous. They are everywhere! (mostly NRSV, but a smattering of others, too.)

  12. OK. The last post plus comments and now this post and comments, have given me acronym-aphobia.
    But I think its pretty cool that you still have your third grade bible. I wonder if it looks better than my white second grade one.

  13. Maye b/c I’m Episcopalian I have fewer bibles that y’all seem to? I do have three study bibles–all NRSV–the Harper Collins, the New Oxford Annotated and the New Interpreters. And I have a Jewish Study Bible. And the two leather bound bibles with zippers –KJV–I got for my 10th birthday. And a Greek New Testatment, and a small NRSV that is my ordination bible. And a couple of paper backs. I think that’s it–which is more than I thought I had when I started writing this.
    When I want to compare different versions I use Bible Works.

  14. I use more than anything if I want to look something up. Ore Oremus if I want the NRSV.
    I have lots of Bibles too – including the KJV my dad got for confirmation that had the same scripture passage in the inscription that I chose for my ordination (Romans 12:2), which we didnt find out til he gave it to me that day. So that’s very special.
    I have both the Harper Collins and Big Red (as a guy from Oxford called his bible at a publishing convention I went to one time) and I use both for study. For NRSV, I also have a spiritual study bible from PEterson and some others.
    But I’m into theMessage more than others lately, I think.

  15. Songbird, the same thing happened to me in seminary. My OT teacher told us we had to get the Harper Collins study bible. A year later when I took New Testament, that professor said we had to get the Oxford study bible.
    I lost count on how many bibles I have. My funniest one is this tee-tiny bible that I used to use for chapliancy, so small it fit in my back pocket. The print is so small I can’t read it anymore. Aging is so much fun.
    My most loved bible is my paperback Harper Collins, it sits in my study at home. It has coffee stains and my written comments throughout the pages. Both covers are taped on. I show it to the confirmation kids to let them know that it is OK to write in your bible. My office at church has the New Interpreters Bible and the Oxford bible, as well as all the other versions, parellells, commentaries etc. I also have the Old Testament in Hebrew, I pull that out to freak out the confirmation kids. Makes their eyes cross.

  16. When I was first sticking my toe in the water to explore a faith life, a friend at the time told me I simply HAD to get the Life Application Bible. So, being a Bible novice, I did. Ack! Gave that sucker away a year or so later.
    We pretty much always use the NRSV in our Lectionary readings and so that is the one with which I am most familiar. I have The Message, but have not used it very much.

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