Wednesday, December 07, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Good Bible

"What bible do you recommend I give as a gift for Christmas? My friend/family member wants a study bible." This is a frequent question I (and perhaps other) pastors field.

Lately, my response has gone like this:

If you want an excellent study bible, you don't need to buy one. The NET Bible is free and includes tons of hypertext study resources. It's really quite an amazing project and resource. Check it out.

However, if you want to get an actual, hefty study bible, and if you want the translation we currently use for the lectionary readings in worship, then I recommend the HarperCollins Study Bible. I personally love my sturdy Oxford Annotated NRSV, but the HarperCollins has more compendious notes. It's really good. There's one other study bible in NRSV that many of my colleagues recommend, called the New Interpreter's Study Bible. That's also a good choice.

If you are interested in study and devotional bibles in other translations, the most recommended resources from my colleagues include the NLT Life Application Study Bible, the Lutheran Study Bible, or the NIV Life Application Study Bible. Although I should be an advocate for the Lutheran Study Bible, I think the notes are far too sparse for anyone looking for a study bible. However, the margins are big and white, so there is a lot of space to write notes.

If you are serious about the languages, consider the NET Greek-English Bible, or buy a bible software package like Accordance (for the Mac) or Bibleworks (for that other kind of computer).

Olivetree also has a free app that lets you read the bible and study materials on your various devices.

And then, while you're at it, remember that there are more translations of the Bible into English than there are language groups that don't yet have a bible in their heart language. So a good gift for someone who wants a bible might also be a contribution to Lutheran Bible Translators or Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Finally, I'm currently reading and evaluating a new translation of the Bible, the Common English Bible. So far I quite like the translation, and would even say that, other than the NET translation, it's the first translation I've read that might usurp the NRSV in my pantheon of favorite translations.


  1. (HarperCollins Study Bible link goes to NET Bible.)

  2. Thanks, I think I fixed it.

  3. I'll have to start reading the CEB - I see it's on YouVersion, which comes in handy sometimes on my phone.

  4. (This one's in stock & cheaper new: - although the one you linked is much cheaper used.)

  5. Thanks. Now I feel like I have an in-house LC editor.

  6. Sorry, maybe all those prayers for the OCD by the Unvirtuous monks were for me. :) For added proof (as if any were needed), anyone wanting a used HarperCollins for under $5 after shipping can try

  7. Hi Clint.

    I agree fully with your recommendations of Harper Collins and the New Oxford Annotated Bible, both are excellent academic study Bibles.

    I also like the Augsburg Fortress Lutheran Study Bible, a good devotional Bible with some excellent scholarship behind it.

    I'm not so crazy about the NET, though. This translation came largely out of Dallas Theological Seminary and reflects that institutions theological biases. See what they did to poor Junia, both in the text and in the footnotes at Romans 16:7.

    Someone on my Christmas list is getting the Jewish Annotated New Testament from Oxford. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. The scholarship is sound and the perspective valuable.

    Like you, I'm reading the CEB. It's a good, readable translation. I recommend it with no greater reservation than I have about any other translation. I expect that there will be a Study Bible using this text by next Christmas.

  8. Brant, thanks for the heads up about the theological origins of NET, as well as the Jewish Annotated recommendation. Had not heard of it, and will take a look.

  9. Here's the best study Bible available today:

  10. Paul, I actually have this study bible on my Kindle, and although I find much of it helpful, it is simply too entrenched in a specific kind of confessionalism for me to endorse.