I love used bookstores, and we have a great one in Nashville, TN! It's called McKay Used Books, and I have found a lot of gems there, especially when it comes to Bibles. Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not really a "premium Bible person." I'm not really interested in spending over 50 or 60 bucks on a Bible most of the time. But awhile back, I did stumble on a NKJV at McKay's, for less than ten bucks, that I realized was a genuine leather Bible, which I later discovered had a typical retail price of about $80. It had just a little water damage on the last third of the Bible, so I could see why they were selling it at such a low price. So, for a long time, that was my only premium Bible.
Just recently, though, I've discovered a couple other ones that I felt I just had to add to my collection. The first was an HCSB, which tends to be one of my favorite translations. It was one of their "Minister's Bibles," and even though it had a little writing in it (on only a handful of pages), the feel of the leather was so beautiful, I thought the price of $17 was a steal. A few days later, I found a perfect ESV top grain leather Bible, still in the box. There were no markings on this one, and the ribbons were still tucked into the Bible. It was $27, which is a little high for a used Bible (in my opinion), but again, the leather felt great, and the print was nice and large, which pleased my aging eyes.
Finally, I'd read about the TBS Westminster Reference Bible, a King James Bible from the Trinitarian Bible Society, and I decided I would look for one on Amazon. I found one for a pretty reasonable price (about $60, with shipping), and so that one is on the way. That will probably just about do it for premium Bibles for me (for the time being). [Full disclosure: the pictures in this post are not taken by me. I found them on the Web.]
This picture of the TBS Westminster Reference Bible is from Randy Brown's excellent biblebuyingguide.com website. Click on the picture to visit the site.
Just for kicks, here's the current Top Ten Bible Translations List from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA): Bible Translations Bestsellers, March 2019
1 New International Version 2 King James Version 3 New Living Translation 4 English Standard Version 5 New King James Version 6 Christian Standard Bible 7 Reina Valera 8 New International Reader's Version 9 The Message 10 New American Standard Bible
I decided today that the theme here on Bible Bookshelf was not to my liking, so I made a few adjustments. The blog now has a "wood" feel to it, and there are new header pictures on each page. Meanwhile, I also updated the spreadsheet on the "My Collection" page (you can click on the link on this line, or the link at the top of each page).
Today I added a couple beautiful genuine leather Bibles to my collection: one is a Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the other is a King James Version (KJV).
The HCSB is a "Minister's Edition," so it's quite nice. There is only one marking that I can find in it, on the dedication page, where it looks like someone began to write his/her name, and then crossed it out. Other than that, it's in great condition, really soft supple leather with two marker ribbons. (UPDATE: on further examination, I did find that the previous owner had made notes on several pages in the Gospels of Luke and John, so it's not in quite as good shape as I initially thought. Still, marks in used Bibles have never bothered me, and it's still a nice Bible to use as a regular go-to.)
The KJV is published by First Word Publishers, and it's also a beautifully soft leather, with THREE marker ribbons!
These Bibles are about as premium as my collection ever gets, and they were much cheaper than most premium Bibles would be. Nevertheless, I think they are great additions to my library, and I intend to use them regularly (especially that HCSB).
A couple years ago I purchased a copy of The Wesley Study Bible (NRSV), a study Bible with annotations that give theological insights from a specifically Wesleyan perspective. The Wesley Study Bible is also available in a version that uses the Common English Bible (CEB). The CEB is pretty popular in United Methodist churches these days, as the United Methodist Publishing House was one of the denominational publishers involved in the creation of the CEB.
One of the more useful types of study notes in The Wesley Study Bible are little boxes called "Wesleyan Core Terms." Some core terms covered are: Holiness, Discipline, Faith, Doctrine, etc. There is a handy index in the back of the Bible, which gives page numbers for the core terms, both in alphabetical order and in biblical order.
The rest of the study notes are pretty typical of more liberal study Bibles, such as the HarperCollins or the Oxford Annotated. There are some "Life Application Topics," which are reminiscent of some of the notes in the popular Life Application Study Bible, which is available in a variety of versions. As I greatly prefer the NRSV to the CEB, I don't expect that I'll ever acquire a copy of the CEB version.
As I have served as a Director of Music in Methodist churches for almost two decades, and now self-identify as a United Methodist, I have found this study Bible to be a useful resource, one which I have not spent enough time with.
I have two copies of the Greek New Testament recently published by Tyndale House, Cambridge. (One is the hardcover edition in a slipcase, while the other is the faux leather one.) It's beautifully laid out, and has a lot of features to recommend it.
I've had a copy of Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses: A Translation With Commentary for several years now, and it's long been one of my favorite versions of the Torah. Recently it was announced that Alter has finished, at long last, his translation/commentary of the entire Hebrew Bible. This one is definitely going on my Amazon Wish List! Just a couple days ago, Rachel Martin interviewed Alter on NPR: you can read and/or listen to the interview HERE.
[This brief blog post was originally posted on my personal blog at CoryHowell.net.]
I know this will not mean a whole lot to many people, but the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) used to have a great site called Tagged Tanakh, where you could interact with the text of the JPS Tanakh, and share notes on passages with other users. This article from MyJewishLearning.com gives you a little glimpse of what the site looked like, and what kind of potential it had as a great way for people to share their ideas on the Hebrew Bible. As the article's author says, "Imagine Facebook where all your friends are religious experts."
Sadly, several years ago (around 2011, I think), I began to notice that there was very little activity on the site. I began to make inquiries, and sent the JPS Facebook Page a message, asking if Tagged Tanakh was still a thing. They informed me that they were discontinuing the site. However, the website remained on the Internet for several years; just as recently as a few days ago, one could look up passages in the Tanakh, and comment on things (even though there was almost no one else using the site). Today, though, I tried to login to Tagged Tanakh, and I got a 404 Error message. So, apparently, after all these years, someone finally decided to kill the project for good.
The good news is this: a few years ago, when I was making inquiries into the status of Tagged Tanakh, I got an email back from one of the people who had been involved in creating the site, and he informed me about a newer website called Sefaria.org, that was somewhat similar to the concept of Tagged Tanakh. When I first checked out Sefaria, the main down side of that site was that they only had the rights to use the old 1917 version of the JPS Holy Scriptures, but they recently were given the rights to the 1985 JPS Tanakh, and they have many other classic Jewish texts on their site as well.
So anyway, I'm kind of sad that Tagged Tanakh is no more, but it was fun while it lasted. And at least I've got Sefaria to keep me busy, if I want to study the Hebrew Bible.
UPDATE: The day after I wrote this post, I did manage to log into Tagged Tanakh, so apparently the site isn't completely dead. Still, I may be the only person checking in to the site these days...
U.S.—A new eBay listing confirmed Tuesday that the Apostle Paul’s leather-bound edition of the King James Bible—the only translation he was known to use—is at long last up for auction. The $10 million reserve was quickly exceeded as excited Christians from around the world began frantically driving up the price in hopes of owning a little piece of church history. “Here’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to read the very same archaic English that the Apostle Paul did in his daily personal studies,” the auction listing reads. “You can own the majestic text of the 1611 Authorized Version used by the church fathers to found the Christian church. Free economy shipping, no returns.” The owner of the historic heirloom also stated that the Bible is in used but good condition, with all of Scofield’s study notes still clearly visible at the bottom of the page.
Recently, on the Bible Versions Discussion/Dialogue group on Facebook, we've been having a pretty lively conversation about study Bibles, the ones we like and the ones we don't like. That got me thinking about some of my favorite study Bibles, the ones I use the most. Before I list my Top Five, as well as my reasons for liking them, i would like to share some of my thoughts on study Bibles in general. Even though I often use them as a tool, I realize that there are some inherent difficulties in relying too much on study Bibles. First, there is the matter of bias. I'm not going to pretend that the five Bibles I'm listing below don't have any sort of bias. Every study Bible has some sort of bias, as far as I can tell. The challenge comes in recognizing that bias. Second, although the commentary and notes in a study Bible can (and should) help shed light on the biblical text, the commentary is not inspired. Nothing bothers me more in a Bible study or Sunday School class than when someone says, "Well, the note in my Bible says..." and then the discussion stops, as if that settles the matter. Finally, I feel that the notes in a study Bible should never overshadow the biblical text itself. While I appreciate a study Bible that's loaded with information, that information should ideally point the reader back to the text. On with the list! Here are my top five study Bibles...
#5. The ESV Study BIble Even though the ESV is not my favorite translation, there's no denying the strengths of this study Bible. It's certainly one of the biggest study Bibles on the market, coming in at an impressive 2,751 pages (plus maps)! I've often read of the ESV Study Bible's "Reformed/Calvinist bias," and there are certainly some spots where that is evident, but overall, there is a LOT of information in this Bible that is extremely useful. I think, when the ESV Study Bible came out, it really raised the bar on how much publishers could stuff into one Bible. Also, the online edition of this Bible is very well done.
#4. The HCSB Study Bible A few things make this study Bible more attractive for me than the ESV SB: first, I like the HCSB as a translation better than the ESV; second, it's more lavishly illustrated, with a beautiful visual layout; and finally, the Word Studies in Hebrew and Greek are a great feature that the ESV SB lacks. The edition of the HCSB Study Bible in my collection is a nice (by my standards) leather-bound copy with two placeholder ribbons, and thumb indexing. There's supposedly a bit of a "Baptist bias" to the notes, but I don't think I've ever noticed too much that would bother me in that regard. This is a great study Bible that I use a lot. (The recent CSB Study Bible, which is an updated version of this Bible, isn't quite as good, in my opinion.)
#3. The HarperCollins Study Bible This was one of the first study Bibles I ever purchased, one that I found in a used bookstore almost two decades ago. It's been my most used study Bible ever since. Even though I've discovered other study Bibles that I think are better, there is no Bible in my collection that is more marked up and highlighted. I still use it on a regular basis. The copy I have used the most is the first edition that came out; I've since bought the Revised Edition, but I've never used that version nearly as much as my paperback first edition. This is a text-based study Bible, so it lacks the kind of visual apparatus that one finds in the Bibles I've already mentioned. It's certainly a lot more "liberal" in its bias than the ESV or the HCSB, which is to be expected, considering its use of the New Revised Standard Version as its text. The notes tend to be of a literary nature, which can be a useful perspective. And it contains the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, so that's handy. This will always be one of my favorite study Bibles.
#2. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible Not to be confused with the very popular NIV Study Bible, which is also published by Zondervan (and is a very decent study Bible in its own right), this study Bible came out just a few years ago. Edited by D.A. Carson, this one gives the ESV a run for its money, and for my money, is even better. Despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of the 2011 version of the NIV, this study Bible is excellent. Carson's approach seems to be to consider the entire Bible in context, as much as possible. My Large Print Edition (which isn't really that large, but much easier for me to read than the standard print version) is even longer than the ESV Study Bible mentioned above, coming in at over 2,800 pages. The illustrations are excellent, as are the notes and introductions to the different books. There are all kinds of excellent articles, and if there is an evangelical bias present, it doesn't seem to be as evident as some other study Bibles. Over the past couple years, this has become one of my absolute favorites.
#1. NIV Faithlife Study Bible This Bible only recently came out in print, but it has quickly become my absolute favorite study Bible! I've been familiar for a few years with Logos Bible Software's Faithlife Study Bible, which has previously only been available in electronic form, and usually linked to Logos's Lexham English Bible (about which I've written on this blog before). But Zondervan and Logos have now teamed to combine the excellent notes from the Faithlife Study Bible with the very popular NIV text, and the result is a spectacular study Bible. This Bible has the best visual layout I've ever seen, combined with notes of exceptionally high quality, from a variety of theological viewpoints. The marketing for this study Bible presents the concept of encouraging readers to stay curious about God's Word, and I think that's the great strength of this Bible. The notes and commentary encourage the reader to delve into the text to make his own decisions about what it says. I appreciate any study Bible that admits up front that it doesn't have a single answer about everything. I've only had this study Bible for a short while, but it has become my go-to Bible. If Logos ever decides to release a print version that features the LEB instead of the NIV, I would get one in a heartbeat! This Bible is highly recommended for anyone looking for a great study Bible. They have an online "sampler" that give a good glimpse of the inside of this version: it's what led me to purchase it in the first place. And the price is right: the hardcover edition was only about thirty bucks...a tremendous deal.
Well, first a disclaimer: I received a free copy of this Study Bible from the publisher, in exchange for publishing a review of the book. However, I was under no obligation to give an exclusively positive review. That being said...this one earned a positive review!
I have, in the past, reviewed several different Bibles that are oriented towards kids: some of them have been directed towards youth in general, others towards either boys or girls. I usually find them somewhat disappointing in their emphasis of pictures and cuteness over biblical content. The girls' Bibles have a lot of pink and purple, and "girly" art, while the boys' Bibles focus on blue as a theme color, while emphasizing the "action" of the Bible. This Kids' Visual Study Bible is very different. This is a Bible I would enthusiastically recommend for kids of a proficient reading age. Hands down, this is the best Study Bible for kids I've ever seen! Nothing else I've seen in kids' Bibles comes close, in my opinion.
The first thing I noticed is a big thing for me. So many Bibles oriented towards children make all of the cutesy sidebar content the visual focus: not this one! In the Kids' Visual Study Bible, there is plenty of visually appealing material, but the biblical text is central: the notes and pictures are presented in sidebars that are clearly secondary to the text. I'll take some pictures to demonstrate...
Notice how the text is right in the center of the open book? Sidebar material is presented nice and legibly, but the eye naturally gravitates toward the biblical text. Some of the sidebars are a little more involved such as this "Big Ideas in Proverbs" box:
Meanwhile, even in the more involved sidebar material, the content is concise and visually simple and direct. Too many children's Bibles have large articles for the kids to read, that tend to interrupt the text too much for my taste. In the Kids' Visual Study Bible, even larger information boxes tend to be really fact-oriented, thus drawing the reader back to the text. This "David, a Man of War" box is a good example:
The introductory material for each book of the Bible is helpful but concise, limited to one page for each introduction. Basically, each book introduction distills the content of that book down to a simple outline, along with information about who wrote the book, why they wrote it, who is was written for, etc. The Introduction to Mark will give you a good idea of what these pages look like:
This Bible is lavishly illustrated, with hundreds of beautifully done color illustrations, in addition to the host of sidebar info which I've already mentioned. The font is a little small for my aging eyes, but should be easily readable by the young eyes for whom it is intended. There's a placemarking ribbon in the middle of the book, and several nice looking full-color maps in the back.
As far as the translation goes, I think the 2011 New International Version is a pretty good choice: it's not dumbed down for young readers, but the dynamic equivalence of the version should work perfectly for late elementary school students, and all students in middle school and up. My daughter, who is going into fifth grade next year, will have absolutely no problem reading and understanding this Bible.
As I said above, I am usually a bit disappointed in recently published children's Bibles, so the Kids' Visual Study Bible was a welcome surprise! I would highly recommend this Bible to anyone who has children in middle school, as it's easily one of the best Bibles for that age I've ever seen. (The publisher's recommended age is 8-12, and I think that's right on.) This is a Bible that honors the text, while still providing plenty of supplemental interest to enhance the child's experience of that text. Hats off to Zondervan for a really fine product that restores my faith in Bible publishing for kids!