2008-06-20

THE BIBLE I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED

For all the Scripture snobs and Greek geeks out there:

I know you know the feeling. You get a new Bible, and use it for a couple of months, and then you are aware of all its foibles and inconsistencies. So, you go and buy another study Bible. And the same thing happens. And the addictive cycle happens over and over and over.

It's even worse when you are competent with the original languages, because you do not feel like you have really "read" Scripture until you have translated at least part of your reading out of the original text. And to do that, you have to have a separate original language NT or OT (or both!). Or you have to have an interlinear (which, by the way, can be very useful, but it can also be incredibly easy to cheat and just read the English text below the Greek).

So, you wind up carrying 2-3 Bibles with you in your knapsack (which can harm your spine over time, and make you look like the obsessive-compulsive Bibliophile you really are to everyone who sees inside your pack). Or you do something even more OCD: You bind together several Bibles into one volume, thus creating the dreaded "FrankenBible". OK, so maybe YOU wouldn't do it, but I did. I actually bound together a Greek English NT with a NRSV OT and Apocrypha, and then created 125 page introduction with topical resources and Book introductions. It is huge! So huge, in fact, it is quite hard to pull in and out of my pack, or fit other books around. And it isn't even my favorite English translation. The English Standard Version is.

So, dissatisfied with all of the options thus far, I decided to do something FAR more obsessive-compulsive. I decided to edit together and print my own Study Bible. Here are the parameters:

1. Since my daytimer and journal are in a standard 8.5" x 11" binder, and I take that binder with me on most occasions, the Bible had to measure 8.5" x 11" to snug up alongside the daytimer in my pack (not hard to do since paper is that size anyway).

2. It had to be less than 1.5 inches thick. Bigger than that, and it would weigh too much for carrying around on a regular basis. In terms of pages, that means that it had to be less than 300 pieces of paper or so (at the paper weight of 20-22 lb paper). That means that the total pages for the Bible would have to be 600 or less (since 2 pages are printed, front-and-back, on each piece of paper).

3. It had to have Greek-English parallel text for the New Testament. Having side-by-side text gives you just enough help to remind you what a Greek word is when you are rusty, but not so much help that you can completely cheat while reading Greek (like an Interlinear Bible).

4. At least part of the OT must have Hebrew-English parallel text, especially the Psalms. I read at least a Psalm a day, so it would be a good thing to have the Hebrew side-by-side to read a couple of verses in Hebrew on a daily basis.

On the other hand, a full-on parallel Hebrew-English OT would make the entire Bible too long (about 700-750 pages total). So, what I did was make the entire Psalter parallel, and then a scattering of my other favorite passages parallel.

5. It had to use the ESV text as the principal English text (although I did modify some passages where the translation is squirrely dealing with gender issues).

6. It had to have "the rest of the Bible that the Protestants threw out". So, I included the Catholic Deuterocanonicals in the NRSV version, ordered according to the Roman Catholic canonical ordering.

I know this could turn into a huge discussion, but basically I believe the Deuterocanonicals are fully as canonical as the rest of the OT, and were used up to the Reformation uniformly. Anglican and Episcopal lectionaries have always included Deuterocanonical readings (especially from the book of Wisdom!). Practically, I do not think any of the Deuterocanonicals present difficulties greater than the ideological problems we already find in the Hebrew OT (cf. the Jihad of Joshua, the pessimism of Ecclesiastes, the polygamy of Song of Songs, and the political "spin" of the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles). And theologically, I think the Protestant willingness to revise the Canon of Scripture in the 1500's has led to a theological trajectory where Protestant revisionists of the 1800-2000's have been willing to revise EVERYTHING canonical about the Christian faith. Thus, as a small step at reversing the trajectory: I include the books in my canon.

7. It had to include my favorite maps and charts from the NIV Study Bible, the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 vol.), the New International Dictionary of the Bible, and the New Bible Atlas. All of the texts, charts, and maps were imported from Bibleworks ™, Zondervan Pradis ™, and Libronix ™ Bible software packages.

8. It had to have Bible book introductions that were short enough to jog the memory on dates, authorship, historical context, and major themes, WHILE at the same time taking seriously critical study of the Bible, WHILE at the same time taking seriously Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures, WHILE at the same time dealing with the Deuterocanonicals as well.

Thus, I used the Book introductions from the New American Bible. They fit all the criteria above AND they are available online: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/

9. It had to include a number of charts I have developed myself, including my summary chart of the Seven Ecumenical Councils as a guide to Biblical interpretation.

Thus, at the end of the NT I have included a "Canonical Outline of the Faith" which includes a summary of the issues and solutions offered by the 7 ecumenical councils, a swell as the Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Apostle's Creeds in three languages (Greek, Latin, English). Finally, I have included my own "mini-systematic" theological-Scriptural outline based on the Creed.

10. So, I edited it all together. First, I exported the Bible texts from Bibleworks software into an excel spreadsheet, where I combined the text with the outline of Scripture found in Bibleworks software. Then I mail-merged the text into a series of Word documents, so the Bible text was formatted the way I wanted them. Then I created a series of publisher files for the final formatting and parallel-texting. After that, I exported it all into adobe pdf's. Then I printed them at Kinko's, bound them into a book, and put a cover on it!

I have posted it online. Since I own everything in them through buying the software, or have used free sources, they are legal copies of what is legally mine: And I am NOT selling this Bible [I say all of that for copyright reasons]. I am assuming, however, that downloading these files and printing them would be a violation of copyright. So I ask you please to not do this.

But, I do offer them as "fodder for the imagination" for people who might want to construct a Bible like this (or for Bible companies who might want to produce a product like this with a FULL Hebrew-English OT!).

You can find the pdf files here (the OT is 17 mb, and the NT is 14 mb):

Old Testament:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/NSB-1_OT.pdf

New Testament:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/NSB-2_NT.pdf

And just "The Canonical Faith" outline:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/The_Canonical_Faith.pdf

It is finally the Bible I have always wanted. Have fun!
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.