Monday, November 10, 2008

More thoughts on the ESV Study Bible . . .

Well, I have had my ESV Study Bible for almost a month. Except for the words of Christ being in black (and yes, I know that most all scholarly study bibles do not put the words of Christ in red) . . . I find that I am becoming more and more pleased.

The ESV translation . . . if I can put this is a politically correct way . . . and can borrow the words of my friend, Floyd . . . is what I would have hope the NRSV could have been. It reads very well . . . actually, it flows so well that I enjoy reading it out loud. I have decided to make this the translation I use for personal reading and teaching through the end of 2009.

The ESVSB is set in a single column format . . . something I appreciate. I still have my old Harper's Study Bible (RSV) from my college years . . . it was a single column format . . . with headings and good notes. I have used the Life Application Bibles for some time because they also were single column formats. It is just easier on my eyes.

As for the ESVSB notes . . . so far so good. Somewhat more scholarly, with less application than the LAB. However, the notes have been a help in preparing for the weekly bible study I lead on Tuesdays at noon, and for studying for our Iron Men Bible Study on Thursday mornings.

So far . . . so good.

Ever forward . . . ><>


D. Reed said...

Based on what I have seen on the website, it appears that the ESV Study Bible is among the best, if not the best, study Bibles on the current market.

Unfortunately, that is not an enthusiastic endorsement as one might suspect. I have long been concerned (and annoyed, quite frankly) at the lack of quality explanatory notes and introductory materials in study Bibles that actually explain what the author meant and what the readers/hearers understood. And, unfortunately, the ESV Study Bible offers much of the same. For instance, Clinton Arnold (the ESV Study Bible contributor for Paul’s letter to the Colossians) states that the theme of the letter is (and I quote in full):

“Christ is Lord over all creation, including the invisible realm. He has secured redemption for his people, enabling them to participate with him in his death, resurrection and fullness.”

What he says above is true, in so far as it either speaks to aspects of or leads to the letter’s main theme. Yet, Arnold fails to mention the actual main reason Paul wrote the letter, which is his call to maturity for God’s new community in Christ. Of course, this call to maturity is based on and is made possible by what Arnold says is the theme, but this misses or obscures the main thrust of the entire letter. When he finally does mention Paul's call to maturity it is found at the bottom of a long list of 'themes' of Colossians. But this is not one theme among many; it is the very heart and purpose of the entire document!

The main argument of the letter (i.e., the ‘probatio’ for those familiar with Greco-Roman rhetoric) is found in 2:6-2:23. Here, Paul calls the Colossians to continue living and being strengthened in the faith (2:6-7), which is made possible by their identification with Christ’s death and resurrection when they were baptized (2:8-15). Because we are in Christ, therefore, Paul calls them to stop submitting to the rules of this world rather than Christ (2:16-23). This leads into the exhortation section of the letter (i.e., exhortatio) in which he provides principles for living the new life in Christ, first, in the Church (3:1-17), second, in the home (3:18-4:1), and third, in the world at large (4:2-6).

The above analysis of Colossians is based largely on a rhetorical analysis of the letter based on first century Greco-Roman letter writing rhetoric. Now, it seems to me that this could have been easily expressed and written for non-experts to understand, teach and apply. For instance, why not call the ‘probatio’ the ‘Main Argument’; and call the ‘propositio’ the ‘Central theme’ (which is found in Colossians 1.24-2.5), and call the ‘exhortatio’ the ‘Exhortations’, and so on.

This begs the following question: why is this sort of analysis essentially absent from every study Bible that has been published in the last 25 years regardless of translation? This is not difficult and well worth the effort I have discovered. I do and teach this sort of analysis and detail all the time in my own college and even Sunday school classes with great results.

Rick said...

D. Reed,

A good question, one which I do not have a good answer for. It seems that rhetorical analysis of the 60's and early 70's has given way to a desire to "read-between-the-lines." That is probably our human tendancy . . . but it really isn't good exegesis.

What I have learned in my 20 years as a pastor, is that all study bible editors/publishers have an "agenda." Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is flamingly apparant.

My all time favorite "study bible" (if it can even be called that) is the Thompson Chain reference, because it does not have interpretive notes.

My personal preference is for study notes that help with applying scripture to one's life. Perhaps that is the "Wesleyan" part of my theology. Or, that I don't like a bunch of books around my desk and computer when I am studying for a sermon or Bible study lesson. I am an application preacher/teacher.

The ESVSB is not the end-all-study bible. So far I have seen that it was worth the money I spent when I pre-ordered my copy months ago.

What I like even better is the ESV text itself. I am 51 years old, and perhaps I just like the language and hint of "respectful formality" of the ESV than I do the newer, more contemporary language translations . . . which I have nothing against. I guess this is all a matter of personal preference in the end.

I am committing to using the ESV as my primary translation through 2009. However, the ESVSB will not be the only resource/study bible I use for notes and interpretation. I like it so far . . . but I do not have the level of trust with it yet that I have with other resources.

fooyd said...

If one wants a study bible which agrees with everything he thinks, what does one need a study bible for? For me the purpose of a study bible is not to give me all the answers but to give me some valuable information and encourage me to look even deeper, to arrive at my own interpretations and applications, guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a tool,like many others, and like all study bibles, it seeks to provide the most information to the widest audience, not to be THE only authoritative source.

Perhaps Mr. Reed should approach this, if he approaches it at all, with a more open mind, seeking the treasures to be found there, rather than seeking something to validate his own opinions.

Rick said...

Everyone has their "comfort zones" when it comes to Bible interpretation. I tend to prefer certain resources (the comfort zone thing), but always check other resources . . . because I know that I constantly need to be challenged.

Reading an interpretation I may not agree with usually helps me understand what I believe a little better. The challenge comes when I read the same scripture, and get something different out of it everyday.