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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Bible Translations

Dictionary of the English Bible and Its Origins by Alec Gilmore (Fitzroy Dearborn) is designed to increase awareness of the origins of the Bible; to introduce readers to the variety of versions and manuscripts that lie behind the familiar English translations; to provide, in alphabetical order, entries on texts, versions, manuscripts, persons, places and terminology, covering the origins of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the English Bible, including the most recent translations; and generally to facilitate a more intelligent understanding of the Bible among lay people by removing some of the mystique and prejudices associated with it.

Entries are factual, not evaluative, and reflect contemporary biblical scholarship. Dictionary of the English Bible and Its Origins  will prove to be a handy reference tool for anyone with an interest in the Bible. [Review pending]

In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language,and a Culture
by Alister E. McGrath (Anchor) Renowned scholar Alister McGrath recounts the complicated history of the King James Bible and its impact with grace and simplicity.

The King James Bible has enriched the English language and Western culture more than any other single work. In the Beginning explores the forces–as political as they were theological–that led to the creation of an authorized translation of the Bible, the method of translation and printing, and its central role in the development of modern English. In the Beginning illuminates the history and significance of the King James in a way that is both informative and engaging.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, Third Edition, hardcover thumb indexed edited by Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom (Oxford University Press) Oxford has greatly improved its The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha. 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 plain from the NRSV translation. The notes are entirely scholarly and text driven and do not attempt to elucidate church doctrine VISIT THE WEB SITE frequently for updates and other information: www.oxfordbibles.com/annotated

In places, the The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha Third Edition is less extensive in its notes than the competing HarperCollins Study Bible, but the notes are written better and far less tiresome to read.

Key features include:

  • The complete text of the highly‑regarded New Revised Standard Version Bible, with the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical books: the best translation for reading and study.
  • Wholly revised, and greatly expanded book introductions and annotations: with more explanations, richer background, and deeper insights.
  • Annotations in a single column across the page bottom, paragraphed according to their boldface topical headings: easier to read and easier to locate commentary on specific passages.
  • In‑text background essays on the major divisions of the biblical text: the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Poetical Books, the Prophets, the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books, the Gospels, and the Letters: guidance to the rich variety of writings in the biblical text.
  • New essays on the history of the formation of the biblical canon for Jews arid various Christian churches: understanding how the biblical collection came to be.
  • More detailed explanations of the historical background of the text: helping the Bible stand out from its ancient Near Eastern context.
  • More in‑depth treatment of the varieties of biblical criticism: giving readers guidance to the developments in scholarly research and reading strategies.
  • A timeline of major events in the ancient Near East: a quick reference for understanding the concerns of the original writers and their audiences.
  • A brief history of biblical interpretation, from biblical times to the present: a fascinating exposition of how the Bible has been read and studied down through the centuries.
  • A full index to all of the study materials, keyed to the page numbers on which they occur: an easy locator for discussion topics.
  • 28 pages of authoritative, full color New Oxford Bible Maps, with place name index: the geographical background of the biblical books.
  • A 64‑page select concordance: aids the reader in locating words in the biblical text.

For nearly four decades The Oxford Annotated Bible has served generations of readers and students as a study Bible. That extraordinary longevity alone is eloquent testimony to its success. This new edition retains the format and features that have proven so attractive. At the same time, the field of biblical studies has not been static, and this edition is a thoroughgoing revision of the previous ones. In particular, the editors have recruited contributors from a wide diversity of backgrounds and of scholarly approaches to the biblical traditions. In order to present this diversity more fully, the space devoted to introductions to the biblical books, to the annotations, and to the study materials at the end of the book has been increased by over 30 percent.

We recognize that no single interpretation or approach is sufficient for informed reading of these ancient texts, and have aimed at inclusivity of interpretive strategies. On a great number of issues there is a consensus among scholars, and the contributors have been encouraged to present such consensus when it exists. Where it has broken down, and has not yet re‑formed, alternatives are mentioned. Moreover, in order to respect the canonical status of various parts of the Bible for different communities, and to avoid privileging any book or part of the Bible, we have kept both introductions and annotations roughly proportionate to the length of the books, while recognizing that some parts require more elaboration than others.

The editorial process was collaborative. Each contribution was read in its entirety by at least three of the editors, and revised with a view toward consistency of tone, coherence of approach, and completeness of coverage. We have also wanted to allow the contributors' own voices to be heard, and we have avoided imposing a superficial uniformity of style and approach. Throughout, we have kept the needs of the general audience firmly in mind during the editorial stages, and our aim has been a congruity of experience as a reader turns from book to book and from section to section of the finished volume.


The biblical text stands apart from any editorial contributions, in both placement and format. This will enable anyone who wishes to do so to read the text unprejudiced by editorial judgments.

The footnotes that are part of the New Revised Standard Version (indicated by an italic superscript letter after the word or phrase in question) are printed at the bottom of the right‑hand column of the biblical text on each page where they occur. In these notes, divergent textual readings and alternate translations arc printed in italics. The phrase "Other ancient authorities read" means that the reading (i.e., the wording) of the passage is different in various manuscripts and early versions, and the word "Or" signifies that the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin text permits an alternate rendering besides the one given in the text.

Discussion of larger units in the Bible is provided by essays introducing each of them: "The Pentateuch," "The Historical Books," "The Poetical and Wisdom Books," "The Prophetic Books," "The Apocrypha l/Deuterocanonical Books," "The Gospels," and "Letters/Epistles in the New Testament."

Each book is preceded by its own introduction, which sketches the book's structure, main themes, literary history, and historical context, as well as broad lines of interpretation. As mentioned above, these introductions are in most cases considerably longer than in previous editions; they therefore present a clear overview and guide to reading.

At the bottom of each page of the biblical text, in a different font from it and in a single column, are the annotations. The annotations are just that, notes rather than paraphrase or commentary, although these genres admittedly overlap. They are intended to enhance the reader's understanding of the text, providing essential information, background, and interpretation, rather than only summarizing what it says. The boldface headings delineate the larger units of the book, and provide a detailed consecutive outline of its contents. The word or phrase being glossed is given in italics. Quotation marks are used for words quoted from elsewhere in the Bible as well as for transliterations of ancient languages. Since we desire each book to stand on its own, as much as possible the annotations are self‑contained. We have thus tried to avoid both cross‑references to fuller discussions elsewhere, and the misconception that a book or larger part of the Bible is merely a perfunctory reworking of other material, or that a particular passage can only be understood fully in the light of later biblical traditions. At the same time, we recognize that the Bible is often a progressive text, and that later parts of the Bible often contain the oldest interpretations of earlier traditions. The best starting point for interpreting a particular passage is often another passage, and we have encouraged contributors to point out interconnections in the biblical material by means of cross‑references. (The cross‑references that end with "n." refer to the annotation as well as to the biblical text.)

A listing of abbreviations for the books of the Bible used in this edition is found on p. xxv. The chapter and verse divisions in a reference are separated by a period; thus, Gen 3.8 refers to the book of Genesis, chapter 3, verse 8. Inclusive references are used for both chapters and verses; thus, Ex 1‑15 refers to the first fifteen chapters of the book of Exodus; Rom 11.33‑36 to verses 33 through 36 of chapter 11 of the letter to the Romans; and so forth. When a book of the Bible is referred to within an annotation on that book, the name of the book is not repeated unless there is ambiguity.

In keeping with our general desire to take account of the diversity of the users of this study Bible, we have adopted two widely accepted conventions: We have referred to the first portion of the text as "the Hebrew Bible," since it is a collection preserved by the Jewish community and that is how Jews regard it; and we have cited all dates in the notes as BCE or CE ("Before the Common Era" and "Common Era") instead of BC or AD ("Before Christ" and "Anno Domini" ["in the year of the Lord"]), which imply a Christian view of the status of Jesus of Nazareth. Use of the title "Old Testament" for those books here designated as "the Hebrew Bible" is confined to instances expressing the historical view of various Christian interpreters. These conventions are followed in the study materials that we have produced; the translation has its own conventions that we are not at liberty to alter.

Because this Bible is published in editions with and without the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, it is necessary to number each major portion separately. The portions are distinguished by short titles in small capitals following the page numbers. The Hebrew Bible therefore begins with the introduction to the Pentateuch on the first page of the HEBREW BIBLE; the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books begin with the introduction to the Apocrypha on the first page of the APOCRYPHA; the New Testament begins with the introduction to the Gospels on the first page of the NEW TESTAMENT. The general essays at the back of the volume continue the pagination from the end of the New Testament, but designate their pages by ESSAYS. Abbreviations of these designations‑HB, AP, NT, and ES‑serve to identify the page numbers in the index.

Several dozen maps and plans are interspersed in the biblical text. These will assist readers to locate important places mentioned in the text or to clarify the prose descriptions of such structures as the Tabernacle and the Temple.

The study materials at the end of the volume are a series of interconnected essays that provide background information for understanding the Bible, the processes by which it was formed, the contexts in which it was produced, and the ways m which it has been interpreted through the ages. These essays are followed by tables of rulers, of weights and measures, of the calendar, and of parallel passages in the biblical traditions. A select chronology provides a quick reference for major events, rulers, and other persons contemporaneous with the biblical accounts.

At the end of the book is a comprehensive subject index to all of the study materials, including the annotations. Finally, there is a separate set of fourteen color maps, with a separate index to them, that constitute a brief historical atlas to the Bible.

Teachers and Texts in the Ancient World: Philosophers, Jews, and Christians by H. Gregory Snyder (Religion in the First Christian Centuries: Routledge) presents a comprehensive and accessible survey of religious and philosophical teaching and classroom practices in the ancient world.
"Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You'll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts."

While no one is likely to confuse the second mate of the Pequod with a scholar or intellectual, Stubb's remark about books is admirably direct and most relevant to the present study. Pierre Bourdieu says much the same thing in a more sophisticated idiom:

Re‑siting reading and the text read in a history of cultural production and transmission means giving oneself a chance of understanding the reader's relation to his or her object and also of understanding how the relation to the object is part and parcel of that object.

However it is stated, Bourdieu's (and Stubb's) insight is one of the fundamental convictions lying behind this book. Written texts presume users and contexts of use; they are embedded in a wide variety of human transactions. They should not and cannot be understood as isolated objects. Therefore, I have attempted to provide not another "history of the book," but rather a contribution towards a "history of the reader," or a "history of the reader‑text relation."

This study was initially motivated by a curiosity about the "suspicion of written texts" supposedly widespread in the ancient world. In certain fields, especially in biblical studies, this has become something of a scholarly commonplace. As a first step in getting at what people thought about written texts ‑ surely too complex to be summed up in a single phrase ‑ it seemed wise to discuss how texts actually functioned for their users. The present book is the fruit of that preliminary step. A comprehensive treatment of the reader's relation to written texts in the ancient world would also require that we pay close attention to explicit statements about the strengths and weaknesses of writing, e.g., that books escape from the control of their authors and the proper context for their interpretation, that a fixed text of any kind cannot stand in a dialogical relation with the reader, and so on. The promise of this comprehensive study will be the subject of future work.

By attempting to give an account of teachers and texts within a total of eight different school/group settings, I have embarked on a very broad enterprise. Specialists in one or more of the areas covered here will no doubt think of subjects that should be added or taken away from the individual chapters, or of relevant secondary literature that might have been explored. Nevertheless, for the project to be useful, it is not necessary to give a comprehensive treatment of all of the areas treated; the goal has been to illustrate the range of possible relationships between teachers, texts, and students. That being said, I believe that reasonable coverage has been provided in most areas.

The nature of the project also requires that I reconnoiter terrain that will be familiar to many readers. Classicists may find the story of Andronicus to be old news; similarly, students of Judaism and Christianity will probably not require an introduction to pesher commentary at Qumran. Still, in order to have all the requisite material in view, and to address readers with different areas of expertise, I have found it necessary to err on the side of including, rather than excluding, relevant subjects.


The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible by Paul D. Wegner (Baker Academic) This text offer a thorough introduction to the study of the primary documents upon which we base translations of the Biblical text.

This comprehensive volume fills the pressing need for a thorough, accessible, and up-to-date general introduction to the Bible. Paul Wegner's work will familiarize students with the many significant issues involved in the writing, collection, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Scriptures. Keeping in mind the needs of the introductory-level student and lay reader, Wegner admirably avoids or defines the sometimes difficult language and terminology that limit the usefulness of more technical studies.

The work is divided into sections that are logically and clearly arranged, tracing the development of both the Old and New Testaments. Throughout the book the author addresses fundamental questions relevant to all serious readers of the Bible. Part 1 considers the doctrines of revelation and inspiration, the general contents of the two Testaments, and the relationship between the old and new covenants. In Part 2, Wegner deals with the historical processes behind the gathering of the texts and considers the factors that influenced both the Jewish and Christian communities as they settled the question of canonicity. Part 3 considers the practical issues involved in the transmission of the biblical text and provides a basic introduction to textual criticism and the comparing of manuscripts with divergent readings. Part 4 surveys early translations of the Hebrew and Greek texts, such as early Syriac, Coptic, and Latin versions of the Bible. Part 5 presents a detailed study of English versions, including the many translations and paraphrases that have been produced in recent years. This final section will be particularly helpful to students trying to make sense of the sometimes heated debates over modern translations that have divided evangelical Christians and will help them make informed decisions about which Bible version is best for them.

Throughout the book students will find useful charts that summarize the material, compare divergent positions on disputed questions, or reinforce significant points. Numerous historical and archaeological photos and illustrations enrich the text. Each chapter concludes with a bibliography to guide the reader to more detailed studies of specific topics. Wegner's volume will be particularly useful for college and introductory-level seminary classes that introduce students to the history and transmission of the Scriptures, but it is also a work that interested lay readers will find accessible and educational.

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