Reviewed by Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., senior pastor, Providence United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC.
In reflecting on this new Study Bible, I should make it clear that I am not offering a critical analysis of the scripture itself---this arises in part from my conviction that the Bible always stands in judgment on us, and not vice versa, and in part from my perspective on scripture, one that has been shaped primarily by pastoral and ecclesial contexts. In addition, this is not the place to engage in a comparison of the NRSV to other translations (such as RSV or NIV). I will leave that important task to biblical scholars.
My purpose instead is to comment on the text that surrounds the scripture in this new Study Bible. In that regard, I am convinced that the New Interpreter's Study Bible will be an essential tool for those who are serious about teaching and preaching in the church. The Study Bible draws upon the work of over sixty scripture scholars, who represent a variety of traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish) and who corporately reflect a diversity not found in previous alternatives. The Study Bible's format has the scripture at the top of each page and detailed notes at the bottom. The notes are extensive (lengthier, for example, than the Oxford Annotated editions) and are gleaned from the respective commentaries in the New Interpreter's Bible series.
These notes are most helpful in making connections between the testaments (the relation of John 6 and Exodus 16, the bread of life and the manna in the wilderness is one example). In addition, there are frequent excurses and notes, on topics that are of concern to anyone working with these texts (e.g., the hardness of pharaoh's heart, holy war, the relation of Jews and Gentiles, the different endings of Mark's gospel, prayers for vengeance against enemies in the Psalms, etc). The notes also shed light on the meaning of particular biblical words and the possibilities for differing translations. Each biblical book is prefaced by a discussion of matters related to authorship, historical context, language, literary structure and theological emphasis, and an outline of the book itself. At the conclusion of the New Testament there are several extended articles that guide the reader in the appreciation and interpretation of scripture.
An excellent glossary and collection of maps is also included. The New Interpreter's Study Bible gathers together the riches of The New Interpreter's Bible commentaries and presents them in a format that is accessible to the serious student of scripture, whether clergy or laity. This will serve as an indispensable resource for teachers of Disciple Bible Study, for pastors engaged in lectionary study groups, for seminary students, and for Sunday School teachers who want to dig deeper. It allows the best of contemporary biblical scholarship to inform the teaching and preaching ministries of local congregations and to shape the intellectual lives of believers who want to know the scriptures. Its use in the church can only lead to a deeper and more biblical ministry of the Word.