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The New Oxford Annotated Bible

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version

Sure, I might translate some places differently, but, on balance, I think the NRSV the best translation we have into English.

There are a number of study bibles using the NRSV translation. The New Oxford Annotated Bible has been a good one, but it has tended to be limited in the amount of information it has provided. That has been significantly improved in this fourth edition.

Extensively revised–half of the material is brand new–featuring a new design to enhance readability, and brand-new color maps, the Annotated Fourth Edition adds to the established reputation of this essential biblical studies resource. Many new and revised maps, charts, and diagrams further clarify information found in the Scripture text. In addition, section introductions have been expanded and the book introductions present their information in a standard format so that students can find what they need to know.

I found one thing that first took me aback: because there is now so much more information, the font of the text is smaller than in previous editions. Stopping making that comparison, after a while I have become used to it. Here is a quality, reliable study bible with excellent essays, historical background, development of the canon, timeline, index to study material, colour maps at the end, and in-text maps throughout.

Classic but not stodgy, up-to-date but not trendy, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: 4th Edition is ready to serve new generations of students, teachers, and general readers.

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17 thoughts on “The New Oxford Annotated Bible”

  1. While I agree in the context of scholarship, and even in the very formal liturgical context of my ecclesiastical pad, I find it is dreadful when working with people for whom English is not a first language (I was working with Australian Indigenous) and not that crash-hot for yoof, either. Long sentences, multisyllabic words, complex sub-clause sentence structures all tend to make it best for the desk, under the angle-poise lamp (with a pipe), not for sitting on a bench communicate Christ to the searching.

    Sad that I long since gave away the pipe. Sigh.

    1. Thanks, Michael. Can you suggest a good alternative? My concern was reading age, and I took several good versions to experts on reading age to get their opinion. The result surprised me a lot. I was expecting them to say that the reading age for NRSV was significantly higher than some of the other translations. In fact they pointed out that the concepts in the Bible are all so foreign to contemporary culture that they could see little difference between the reading ages of the versions. Blessings.

  2. That font was a deal killer for me. My eyesight has deteriorated over the past few years. I bought the 4th edition, but eventually I gave it away and went back to using the 3rd edition.

    Mind you the NRSV is not alone in this. The original North American 1978 NIV editions would be called ‘large print’ nowadays. In their day, they were just standard print.

    I think the NRSV is very clumsy at times. It was a pioneer in the field of inclusive language translations, and others have learned from its mistakes (especially the frequently tortured grammar). I find the NIV 2011 does a much better job, while also being much more accurate than its 1984 predecessor.

      1. All translations have their faults, I guess. I’m singularly unimpressed with the NRSV’s translation of this Sunday’s gospel: “If another member of the church sins against you”, which replaces a family metaphor with something that sounds institutional to my ears. What’s wrong with “If your brother or sister sins against you” (NIV 2011)?

        There are many other instances like this where the NRSV handles the inclusive language issue in a very clumsy and inaccurate way (I note Ezekiel’s ‘son of man’ being translated as ‘mortal’, and Daniel’s ‘one like a son of man’ (7:13) translated as ‘one like a human being’ – surely if it is important to keep the connection between ‘Adam’ and soil, it’s even more important to keep the connection between Daniel’s ‘son of man’ and Jesus’ description of himself as ‘the Son of Man’?). And then there’s the grammar. ‘If the member listens to you, you have regained that one’. Who talks like this? No one, I suspect, but Bible translators.

        I think the NRSV is sorely in need of a revision, taking in to account all the excellent inclusive language translations published since 1989. Yes, NIV 2011 has its faults (it’s almost impossible to say ‘an ever-present help in trouble’ without it sounding like ‘a never-present help in trouble’!), but on the whole I find it far more understandable than the NRSV.

        1. Sorry, Tim, I do not think that the NIV2011 does a better job of translating today’s gospel passage at all. I think the use of the plural where Jesus uses the singular makes for a very rough reading:

          …point out THEIR fault, just between the two of you. If THEY listen to you, you have won THEM over. 16 But if THEY will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If THEY still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if THEY refuse to listen even to the church, treat THEM…

          The NRSV avoids this. I would be very cautious of placing the word “church” on Jesus’ tongue, but this is one of the rare passages where the original does, and the NIV has in the footnote: “Matthew 18:15 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a fellow disciple, whether man or woman”. NIV’s “brother or sister” can be quickly misunderstood – NRSV’s in-text translation avoids that confusion, and keeps the clarity that Jesus is talking about an individual – not a group.

          The switch from “you” to “them” in NIV’s “truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything THEY ask for, it will be done for THEM by my Father in heaven”, though literally correctly translating the Greek, is again not the way we speak in English. What you say can apply to NIV2011: “Who talks like this? No one, I suspect, but Bible translators.”


          1. Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with singular They in New Zealand. I understand that it was even used by the Bard himself. As a 2nd language I’m familiar with singular They in English and use it myself.

          2. Thanks, Br David. Yes, I use “they” as a third person gender-inclusive pronoun, and that is known in NZ. We were comparing NRSV and NIV – I think if NRSV translates a singular with what is normally a plural it footnotes that it has done so. Blessings.

          3. I agree with Bro David, and i think that the NIV revisers felt that the singular they was so common that they did not need to footnote it. They claim to have done research into actual English usage of inclusive language before deciding how to render certain terms. They discovered that the singular they was very common and regularly understood, but that ‘humankind’ was not – hence their decision to go with ‘man’ as a collective, which they found is still far more common in the culture than ‘humankind’.

            I don’t understand your point about lack of clarity re. individual or group. The NIV 2011 starts with ‘If your brother or sister sins against you’ (obviously singular) – this signals that ‘go and tell them’ should be understood as a singular plural as well. And the NRSV does not always indicate when it is translating a singular as a plural: eg. Psalm 1 where ‘Blessed is the man’ is translated as ‘Happy are those…’

            But I suspect this all comes down to personal preference. And in my case, to the fact that NIV 2011 is available in a very handy sized large print version, whereas every NRSV large print Bible I’ve ever seen is very hard to carry around!

          4. This, tiresomely, Tim, could become a ping-ponging of verse-by-verse comparisons. NIV does not come with apocrypha/deuterocanonical. It changes its translation without any change to what it calls its translation, so that one person’s NIV may be quite different to another’s.

            You cannot seriously criticise NRSV’s Psalm 1 as if NIV does a better job when the original is clearly, explicitly referring to a male, not NIV’s inclusivising to “one”.

            It would be interesting to survey people on the street whether the sentences, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” refers to an individual or to more than one person. I would suspect only the linguistically agile would come up with, “an individual”. Similarly, certainly here, “man” is less understood as a collective than “humankind”.


          5. P.S. Bosco, when it comes to study notes, I certainly agree with you that the New Oxford (and also the New Interpreter’s, which I would put even higher than the New Oxford) is far preferable to anything available with NIV. Now if only the same scholars would produce a ‘New Oxford Annotated Bible: NIV’!!!

    1. A recent example from my teaching, Br David is in Genesis 2 a lot of the richness is lost by translating אָדָם‎ (‘adam) as “man”, losing its connection with אדמה (‘adamah), earth, a connection that is noted in the footnotes and comments. It is no better in Tim’s recommended NIV2011 “Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Blessings.

  3. Now I have a moment to pause …

    Historically I have had for many years a set against the NIV, so I have to declare a human perspective with all its innate biases there. It was always easy to read (though less so than the Good News which dominated evangelical circles until NIV exploded on the scene in the late 1970s), and scholarly so far as this inadequate linguist can tell, but I have often glanced at it and found it doctrinaire – I found for example James 2:24 somewhat destructively nuanced, its translations of παράδοσις somewhat tenuous, its translation of ἐπίσκοπον a little paranoid. So back in the early ’80s I flicked from my imposed (by parish priest) flirtation with NIV, flirted briefly in revenge with Jersualem, and returned to RSV and its successor. These days I have enough Greek to make my own decisions, and wisely married someone with enough Hebrew to do likewise.

    But my comment above is not about my own pseudo-scholarly pretentions. Its about communicating the Word (Jesus) within the words of scripture. So I look increasingly at the barriers to communication within a text – contextual, of course, because I were (God forbid) addressing a room full of learned scholars I would use a very different approach to a group of Decile One Kiwi teens or, for example, English as a Third Language Arnhem Land Indigenous youth (my previous ministry).

    And at that point I turn to CEV. It may not be scholarly, or even particularly poetic, but most youth I deal with are not reading Barth or Maupassant in their spare time. It does inclusive language pretty well, and while it’s probably more Rick Riordan than Bildungsbürgertum, so be it – so was Jesus, at least in Mark’s rendition.

    Actually admitting you like CEV in august Anglican liturgical and exegetical circles is like pooping in a public pool, but never mind ….

    1. Thanks, Michael. I also think that CEV does what it intends to do well. I also appreciate The Message. CEV was one of the versions I placed alongside the NRSV, seeking reading-age comparison. Perhaps reading age has changed since I asked experts the question, but when I did, they saw it as so conceptually different from our common culture that they could not make the distinctions that we might think could be made. Blessings.

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