Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading the Bible in Chunks

So the new year is here again. You're going to read through the Bible again this year. But maybe this time you're looking for something a little different. There are a number of good Bible reading guides available online. See, for example, those discussed here:

However,  I'm going to suggest something different. This year, try reading the Bible in chunks. By this, I mean that you should try reading whole books at one sitting, rather than the 3-4 chapters per day that most Bible-in-a-Year plans suggest. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, many of the books of the Bible are stories. They are meant to be read as stories, and you understand them better if you read them that way. Others, such as Paul's letters, are not stories, but if you read one of them in one sitting, you get a good sense of the overall flow of Paul's argument, and the main points of his argument.

Admittedly, some books of the Bible are not meant to be read at one sitting. Books such as Psalms and Proverbs are meditative literature, meant to be read slowly, and pondered while being read. Others, such as Jeremiah and Genesis, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, are too long to be read in one sitting, unless you have a big chunk of time. Still, even those may be read in larger portions, rather than piecemeal as they are often read.

The following chart gives you an idea of how long it will take to read the books of the Bible. It is based on the number of words in the KJV (the Bible version for which the most statistics are easily available), and on the number of words the average person reads per minute (250). Thus, the time-to-read number is approximate, affected by the Bible version you use, and the speed at which you read. Just for information, reading the whole Bible at an average rate would take about 52.5 hours.

Genesis (38,262 words): 2 hrs, 33 min                Exodus (32,685): 2 hrs, 11 min
Leviticus (25,541): 1 hr, 42 min                           Numbers (32,896): 2 hrs, 12 min
Deuteronomy (28,352): 1 hr, 44 min                   Joshua (18,854): 1 hr, 15 min
Judges (18,966): 1 hr, 16 min                              Ruth (2,574): 10 min
1 Samuel (25,048): 1 hr, 40 min                          2 Samuel (20,600): 1 hr, 22 min
1 Kings (24,513): 1 hr, 38 min                            2 Kings (23,517): 1 hr, 34 min
1 Chronicles (20,365): 1 hr, 22 min                     2 Chronicles (26,069): 1 hr, 44 min
Ezra (7,440): 30 min                                           Nehemiah (10,480): 42 min
Esther (5,633): 23 min                                         Job (18,098): 1 hr, 12 min
Psalms (42,704): 2 hrs, 51 min                            Proverbs (15,038): 1 hour
Ecclesiastes (5,579): 22 min                                Song of Songs (2,658): 11 min
Isaiah (37,036): 2 hrs, 28 min                              Jeremiah (42,654): 2 hrs, 51 min
Lamentations (3,411): 14 min                              Ezekiel (39,401): 2 hrs, 38 min
Daniel (11,602): 46 min                                       Hosea (5,174): 21 min
Joel (2,033): 8 min                                               Amos (4,216): 17 min
Obadiah (669): 3 min                                          Jonah (1,320): 5 min
Micah (3,152): 13 min                                         Nahum (1,284): 5 min
Habakkuk (1,475): 6 min                                     Zephaniah (1,616): 6 min
Haggai (1,130): 5 min                                          Zechariah (6,443): 26 min
Malachi (1,781): 7 min                                         Matthew (23,343): 1 hr, 34 min
Mark (14,949): 1 hr                                             Luke (25,640): 1 hr, 43 min
John (18,658): 1 hr, 15 min                                  Acts (24,229): 1 hr, 37 min
Romans (9,422): 38 min                                       1 Corinthians (9,462): 38 min
2 Corinthians (6,046): 24 min                                Galatians (3,084): 12 min
Ephesians (3,022): 12 min                                     Philippians (2,183): 9 min
Colossians (1,979): 8 min                                      1 Thessalonians (1,837): 7 min
2 Thessalonians (1,022): 4 min                               1 Timothy (2,244): 9 min
2 Timothy (1,666): 7 min                                       Titus (896): 4 min
Philemon (430): 2 min                                            Hebrews (6,897): 28 min
James (2,304): 9 min                                             1 Peter (2,476): 10 min
2 Peter (1,553): 6 min                                            1 John (2,517): 10 min
2 John (298): 1 min                                                3 John (294): 1 min
Jude (608): 2 min                                                   Revelation (11,952): 48 min

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 PCA GA Insider Movement and Bible Translation

One of the most important things that this GA did was to approve the partial report of the Ad Interim Committee on Insider Movements, and to continue the work of the committee for another year. The partial report can be read here: and I strongly urge all PCA elders, at least, to read it. If you are unfamiliar with "insider movements" World magazine has a helpful article here: with a follow-up article here:

The matter at issue is not only Bible translation, but evangelism to Muslims. I'm sure that PCA churches want to see the gospel preached to Muslims, not only here in the US, but around the world. However, they want to see it done properly. It is questionable whether insider movements preach the gospel properly, hence the committee, hence the report.

Many Christians fail to recognize that Muslims believe a great deal about Jesus, and it is very easy to end up with a Muslim who is still a Muslim, with a thin veneer of Christianity.

Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 PCA GA (5) Intinction and Paedocommunion

Two other issues addressed at this year's GA are intinction and paedocommunion. The first is a liturgical oddity in which  the Lord's Supper is taken by dipping the bread in the wine (or grape juice), thus taking both elements together. It is apparently practiced in a number of churches in the denomination.Overture 30 from Savannah River Presbytery proposed amending BCO 58-5 with the addition of the words, "Intinction, because it conflates Jesus' two sacramental actions, is not an appropriate method for observing the Lord's Supper." The Overtures Committee proposed that this amendment be rejected. A minority report from the Overtures Committee proposed an amended form of Savannah River Presbytery's overture, replacing the addition given above with the statement, "As Christ has instituted the Lord's Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions." This proposal passed by a vote of 348-334. The next step for this change to be introduced into the BCO is for it to be approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries. Given the apparently widespread character of the practice, achieving passage in two-thirds of the presbyteries seems unlikely. I will be posting more on intinction in later posts.

Paedocommunion is the idea that very young children, perhaps even infants (the age varies with regard to the advocates of the position), ought to be given the Lord's Supper. This issue came to the GA from the RPR Committee, which brought reports (including minority reports concerning three presbyteries). Since the responses of the RPR did not appear to be consistent with one another, the whole thing was sent back to the RPR, to bring a new, self-consistent report next year. The issue is that some presbyteries allow men to hold this as an exception, but not allowing them to teach it. Other presbyteries have allowed it as an acception that men are allowed to teach, but they may not practice it, because it is contrary to the theology of the sacrament as that is expressed in the Westminster Standards. The question arising is whether a man ought to be allowed to teach that which is contrary to the standards he professes to be guided by.

These issues are not going away, and while they may not be as deleterious to the health of the church as the teaching of theistic evolution, they are nonetheless deleterious to the unity of the church. It would be good for all PCA members to make these things a matter of serious prayer in the year ahead.

Monday, July 02, 2012

2012 PCA GA (4) In Thesi Statements, Theistic Evolution, and Historical Adam

This year's GA received two overtures requesting the GA to make an in thesi statement opposing theistic evolution and affirming the distinct creation of Adam directly by God. One was Overture 10 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery, the other was Overture 29 From Savannah River Presbytery. Opposing these was Overture 26 from Potomac Presbytery that stated that our confessional documents are already clear on these issue, hence a statement affirming them from the GA was unnecessary. Overture 26 was passed, and the other two overtures were answered with reference to the approval of Overture 26.

That sounds simple, but some of the language may be unclear to most readers. First, regarding in thesi statements. What are they, and what do they accomplish? In Presbyterian government, a ruling body, such as the GA (but this would also include sessions and presbyteries) makes formal statements in two ways: first, by  the judgment of the court in a judicial case; second, by issuing a statement that deals with some issue in the abstract, but does not deal with a particular case. These latter statements are known as in thesi statements. For a full discussion of them, I would refer the reader to the article by C. N. Willborn in the first (2005) issue of The Confessional Presbyterian.

Judgments made in judicial cases are considered binding on lower courts, and serve as precedent for future cases. In thesi statements are generally considered non-binding, but serve to provide "pious advice" from the higher court to lower courts (again, a fuller understanding of the issues may be found in Willborn's article). All three of the overtures acknowledged that the PCA (and its predecessor denominations) had made in thesi statements on these and related topics in the past. Hence, it would certainly not have been out of accord with PCA practice to issue another in thesi statement.

I went into this debate fully resolved to vote against Overture 26, and hence in favor of Overtures 10 and 29. However, as the debate progressed, it became clear to me that while in thesi statements had been made in the past, particularly in the PCUS (the immediate parent denomination of the PCA), they had had little effect on the progress of the teaching in that denomination of theistic evolution and of the denial of Adam as a historic person directly created by God. In other words, it appeared to me that those who held opinions contrary to the confessional standards of the church simply ignored those standards and taught as they would. Meanwhile, those who held to the confessional standards seem to have been comforted by the fact that the denomination had repeatedly made in thesi statements on these issues, and assumed, at some level, that the problem was taken care of. Thus, men teaching contrary to the standards were not charged and the loosening of doctrinal commitments continued in that denomination. The fact that in 2012 overtures came up asking for an in thesi statement against theistic evolution, and affirming the direct creation by God of the historic person Adam indicated to me that previous statement have in fact had little effect in slowing the spread of this kind of teaching in the PCA. Hence, the only recourse is judicial, in which the judgment of the church courts then become binding on the lower courts, and serve as precedent in similar cases. As a result, I voted with the majority, to affirm Overture 26 and to deny Overtures 10 and 29.

For a different view on this issue, I would highly recommend the podcast conversation with Richard D. Phillips at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 PCA GA (3)

Now we move to the hard stuff. But first a little background as to how GA functions. Monday and Tuesday are given over to the work of the Committees of Commissioners. These review the reports of the Permanent Committees of the General Assembly (such things as Mission to North America and Mission to the World) and make recommendations that the Assembly will vote on. These Committees of Commissioners also includes the Committee on Overtures, about which more later. 

Tuesday evening the Assembly officially begins, with the opening worship and the election of the new moderator. Wednesday morning begins the information reports of the permanent committees (with all due respect to these committees, most of the commissioners [attendees] consider these to be nothing more than glorified infomercials) telling about what the committee has done during the past year. Thursday is the day on which the bulk of Assembly business is transacted. This, year, though the report of the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records was docketed for Wednesday afternoon at 1:30, it was postponed until Thursday morning at 9:30, so that commissioners would have time to review the report.

Review of Presbytery Records (RPR)

The primary issue this year coming out of RPR had to do with paedocommunion. For those who don't know, paedocommunion is the view that any baptized member of the church ought also to be given the Lord's Supper. There are variations among those who hold to this view, with some eschewing infant communion, but arguing that children as young as two or three could make a credible profession of faith, and hence should be allowed to the Lord's Table. This view is an exception to the doctrinal standards of the PCA. Three presbyteries had approved candidates for ordination who held to paedocommunion. One had been cited last year for the action, and had responded to the RPR. The majority of the members of RPR determined that the response from this presbytery was satisfactory, in that while the ordinand would be allowed to teach his view, he would not practice it. A minority considered that response unsatisfactory, and brought a minority report to the GA. After some debate, the GA decided to kick the issue back to RPR, to bring back a new report next year.

Frankly, I'm not sure what the commissioners to GA thought they were accomplishing by the action. RPR next year will be made up largely of the same members (it takes a special breed of elder to serve on RPR, and the same men tend to get reelected after the end of their three-year term), who will still be holding the same views. There will be a majority report and a minority report, and it will come back to GA next year. All in all, an unsatisfactory action on the part of GA. Perhaps some were thinking that the issue will somehow go away in the next year. If so, they were dreaming.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 PCA GA (2)

The Standing Judicial Commission

In addition to the Committee on Overtures, and the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records, the other body that does a great deal of work for GA is the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). The difference between a committee and a commission is that the former "is appointed to examine, consider, and report" while a commission "is authorized to deliberate upon and concluded the business referred to it" (Book of Church Order [BCO] 15-1). As one might assume, the SJC deals with any judicial case that makes its way to the denominational level. The work of the SJC is summarized in BCO Chapter 15 and the Rules of Assembly Operations (RAO) Article 17. Except in certain specified circumstances, the SJC decisions are the decisions of the GA, end hence are not reviewed of voted upon by the GA. Thus, while the members of the SJC do a great deal of work, they generally receive no attention for it. For example, this year there were 28 cases before the SJC. Two of those were dismissed. Five were ruled out of order for various reasons. Seven were still in the process of adjudication by the time GA met, and four cases were waiting to be assigned to a panel for adjudication. The remaining  ten, with their decisions, were reported to the GA this year (Pp 2003-2051 of the Commissioner Handbook) and will be in the published minutes of GA. If you know anyone on SJC, thank them for their hard labor for the church.


This is one of the regular frustrations of GA. The GA meets annually and "shall consist of all teaching elders [TEs] in good standing with their Presbyteries...and ruling elders [REs] as elected by their session" (BCO 14-2). The number of ruling elders eligible is a minimum of two per church, with additional ruling elders depending on the number of members in a church (specified in BCO 14-2). Given that there are 1,466 churches in the PCA, and 4,256 TEs, the theoretical attendance at GA this year was a minimum of 7,188. Actual attendance, however, was 797 TEs and 278 REs. That means that fewer than one in five TEs attended GA, and no more than one in five churches were represented by REs. A lot of this has to do with expense. Registration this year was $400.00 per elder (less in some special cases). When you add to that the cost of travel, the expense of hotels, and meals for most of a week, the cost becomes prohibitive for many churches, as it can easily reach $2,000.00 per commissioner. The total number of commissioners this year, 1075, is the lowest since at least 2005. In short, the GA is hardly a representative assembly. But a further difficulty is that many commissioners do not attend the GA that they attend. On many of the counted votes at GA this year, the total number of votes cast (yea + nay) was less than 800, and in some cases less than 700. In other words, 200-300 commissioners simply were either not in attendance at that particular session, or abstained. Since abstentions are ordinarily not counted, it is hard to tell which is the case. But undoubtedly many commissioners do not, for whatever reasons, attend the business sessions.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thoughts on The 2012 PCA General Assembly

It is the case that hardly anyone leaves General Assembly (GA) entirely satisfied. There are always things that commissioners wish had gone differently. However, in this first reflection on the Assembly, I'd like to focus on the positive.

Two committees do most of the heavy lifting for GA: the Committee on Overtures, and the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records (RPR). The RPR actually meets a month or so before GA, spending a full three days consolidating the reviews that individual members of the committee have already produced. Most members of the committee spend hours reviewing the minutes of three or so presbyteries before the meeting of RPR. Depending on the presbytery, this review process can be lengthy. The reviews produced by the individual reviewers are then further reviewed by subcommittees made up of two members of RPR. The reviews produced are then reviewed by the committee as a whole, and the entire thing consolidated into a report for the GA. In this process, the officers of the committee bear the brunt of the work, especially the recording clerks. The chairman of the committee then presents the report to the GA, and field questions or comments from the floor. For the three years I have been on the committee, Per Almquist of Northern New England Presbytery has been the chairman, and he has done a marvelous job. So if you know Per, give him the thanks of the Assembly.

The Committee on Overtures (CO) meets just prior to the Assembly and reviews all the overture to the GA that have come from the presbyteries since the preceding GA. This year, there were 44 overtures. While some of these overtures are rubber-stamp considerations (for example, overtures requesting the re-drawing of presbytery boundaries) most of them are substantive, and require a great deal of time. The Committee is often pushed hard to finish their work before the Assembly begins. As with RPR, the chairman of the Committee on Overtures then presents the report to GA, dealing with questions from the floor. This year's chairman, Frederick "Jay" Neikirk of Ascension Presbytery did a great job. Again, those of you who know Jay, extend to him the thanks of the Assembly.

The situation for both committees was complicated this year by the fact that more than one minority report accompanied the committee report. For those who don't know the arcana of GA Committees, each committee presents a recommendation to the Assembly on each of the matters with which it deals. Thus the CO presents a recommendation on each of the overtures it dealt with, while the RPR presents a recommendation regarding each of the presbyteries of the denomination (this year there were close to eighty presbytery recommendations). Generally, the recommendations are virtually unanimous. However, when there is a strong minority opposed to the recommendation of the committee, that minority will usually present a minority report. It will then be the responsibility of the GA to choose between the committee recommendation and the minority report.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Translation Notes 3: Psalm 100:3

I apologize at the beginning that this is a somewhat technical post, but many of them will be, due to the nature of the case.

So. Why is it that some translations of Psalm 100:3 have “and we are his,” while others have “and not we ourselves”? In short, because of the Ketiv-Qere (see Translation Notes 2). The consonantal Hebrew text (the Ketiv) in Psalm 100:3 has the word lw’ (note the apostrophe, as it stands for a Hebrew consonant), which means “not.” But the Masoretic scribes have it marked to indicate that it should be read (the Qere) as lw (note: no apostrophe), which means “to him” or “his.” Some translations have followed the advice of the Masoretic scribes, and translated according to the Qere (ESV, HCSB, NLT, NIV84, NIV11), while others (NKJV, NASB, NASBUpdate) have followed the Ketiv. The question is why there is not unity, with all following the Qere.

The answer is that the rest of the textual evidence is mixed. The manuscript that underlies the text of the academic Hebrew Bible (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) has the Ketiv and Qere as noted above. However, many other Hebrew manuscripts have the Qere written into the text. That is, those manuscripts have no Ketiv-Qere marking. The Septuagint (LXX) has “and not we ourselves” which indicates either that the translator followed the Ketiv, or in the text he translated from there was no Qere marking. In addition, the Vulgate follows the Ketiv. Perhaps it too was translated from a text not having the Qere marking, or perhaps it was influenced by the LXX. The Targum of the Psalms has “we are his,” as does Jerome in a translation of the Psalms that he did separately from his translation of the Vulgate.

As a result, the evidence is mixed, and translation committees have simply come to different conclusions as to which reading should be preferred. However, the reader should note that neither translation is problematic from a theological point of view. We certainly belong to God, and we certainly did not make ourselves.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Translational Notes 2

Additional sources for textual information
In addition to the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac version, there are two more major sources for tracing differences in translations. These are the targums and the Dead Sea scrolls materials. The targums are Aramaic translations/paraphrases of the Old Testament text. The primary Targum of the Pentateuch is Targum Onkelos (or Onqelos), while that on the prophets is Targum Jonathan. There has never been any primary or official Targum for the third section of the Hebrew Bible, the Writings. The quality of the targums varies, sometimes being very close to the Hebrew text, sometimes adding material.

The Dead Sea scrolls (DSS) material has become increasingly significant as the various scrolls and fragments have been published, especially over the last twenty years. Almost all the books of the Old Testament are represented among the scrolls, though some of the remains are only fragmentary. In general, the DSS have served to confirm the high quality and faithfulness of the copying of the Hebrew texts over the centuries as they eventually developed into today’s printed Hebrew Bibles. However, they remain a source for study relative to particular passages.

Additional Bible versions not treated
In addition to the versions mentioned in the first post, there are two commonly-used versions that I will not deal with. First, these versions are not ordinarily used by evangelicals. Second, the translation philosophies are heavily influenced by a commitment to theological liberalism. The first is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The NRSV appeared in 1989, and is the standard academic translation of the Bible in the USA. Most editions of the Bible required in college and university Bible classes use the NRSV text. Perhaps the most widely used editions are the Oxford Annotated Bible and the HarperCollins Study Bible. Until recently, the NRSV was widely used in the mainline churches, such as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church and others. In fact, it is probably still widely used in those denominations. However, in 2011, the Common English Bible (CEB) appeared under the auspices of the PC (USA), Episcopal Church Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. As with the NRSV, it is committed to a gender-neutral approach to translating, as well as having the theologically liberal slant of its supporting denominations. The primary difference between the two is that the CEB is a simple-language translation, while the NRSV is more formal in style and in word choice.

One additional note
In the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, there is a system of text-critical notes made by the scribes. These are cases where the consonantal text says one thing, but the received understanding of the text says something else. Rather than change the characters in the text, the scribes would simply mark the text, and give the correct form in the margin. It would be something like is an English text said “than” but was supposed to say “then” and rather than changing the text, editors simply marked the word and gave the correct reading in the margin. This system is called Ketiv-Qere, and I will say more about it next time in explaining Psalm 100:3.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Translation Notes 1

There are probably six (or eight, depending on how you count them) Bible translations in common use in evangelical churches in the United States. They are: the New King James Version (NKJV); the New American Standard Bible (NASB); the New International Version (NIV); the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB); the New Living Translation (NLT); and the English Standard Version (ESV). Both the NASB and the NIV are available in updated versions. The original NASB dates to 1977, while the updated version appeared in 1995. The NIV original dates to 1984, while the update appeared in 2011.

If a pastor uses the NIV, and congregants have one or more of the other versions mentioned here, there will sometimes be a difference between what the congregant hears from the pastor as he reads what the congregant sees on the page in front of him. Most of the time, the differences will be minimal, and the listener can easily see the source of the differences between the two versions. Sometimes, however, the differences are jarring, and cannot be easily reconciled by the listener. So, for example, if the pastor reads Psalm 100 from the NIV, when he gets to verse 3, he will read, “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” That will be fine with the readers of the NLT or the ESV, but not for those reading the NKJV or the NASB. The reader of one of these two latter versions will have something like this in front of him: “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (NASB) The primary difference between the two renderings is in that phrase “and we are his,” or “and not we ourselves.” The reader is left wondering which one is right, or if it is possible to get one from the other. Unless the pastor addresses the difference, the solution (even with the marginal note that the versions will have) is not easy to see.

It is my intent to address these kinds of differences in a number of succeeding posts. However, some general remarks will help at the beginning of this exercise. Some of the differences are caused by the differing philosophies of translation that were adopted by the committees that produced the translations. In broad terms, the two philosophies used today are the formal equivalence and the functional equivalence approaches. The former approach produces such translations as the NKJV, the NASB, and the ESV. The latter approach produces the NIV and the NLT, and, to a lesser extent, the HCSB. I have dealt to some extent with these approaches in earlier posts, but for good introductions to the two approaches, I recommend The Word of God in English by Leland Ryken and How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss. The former book espouses the formal equivalent approach, while the latter book argues for the functional equivalence approach.

Some of the differences are caused by the text the translators are relying on. All of the translation committees begin with the  Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) of the Bible (in the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament. However, in some places the Hebrew of the MT is difficult, and translators will look to ancient versions for suggestions as to how a particular passage should be translated. The most significant of these versions are the Septuagint (LXX, the old Greek translation of the Old Testament), the Syriac (Syr, a translation done in a late dialect of Aramaic), and the Vulgate (Vg, the Latin translation first done by Jerome in the later fourth-early fifth century).

More general principles will follow in the next post.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

On Reading the Bible in 2012: Continued

Two things to deal with in this follow-up post. First, while I don’t recommend this for most people, I do make one recommendation for pastors in regard to their Bible reading. That is, that a pastor ought to read through the Bible in the versions used by the folks in his church. He needs at least to be familiar with the different versions, so that he can anticipate questions that might arise. For some (increasingly rare) churches, that might mean that the pastor needs to be familiar only with the KJV. In some churches, two or three versions might suffice (KJV, NKJV, NASB). But my guess is that in most evangelical/Reformed churches today, their will be five or six versions being used by the various members of the congregation. Some few, mostly older members, will still use the KJV. Others, conservative but younger, will use the NKJV or the NASB. Increasingly some will be using the ESV. Others will be using the NIV, and some will be using the New Living Translation (NLT). This last will more likely be the case among the younger members of the congregation. The pastor also needs to keep up with the appearance of new translations. He should also be aware of such things as new or updated editions of older versions. For example, the NIV that is now in the bookstores is the NIV 2011. It is something of a hybrid between the “old” NIV (also known as the NIV 1984) and the TNIV (Today’s New International Version, 2001, with an update in 2005). The TNIV is a gender-neutral version, and that has had a significant impact on the NIV 2011.

In the last post, I mentioned a couple of commentary series that I thought readers would find helpful as they read through the Bible. Obviously, both of these series are multiple volumes, and would require a significant outlay of funds. One reader asked if there were some one-volume commentaries that I could recommend. These recommendations come with a warning. First, one-volume commentaries often suffer from the same disease as study Bibles: they don’t answer the question the reader is asking. In addition, even a one-volume commentary is pretty sizeable. Those that I am listing here run from about 1,500 to 2,500 pages. In other words, if you are reading the Bible through in a year, it is unlikely that you will be reading the full text of a one-volume commentary along with your Bible reading, unless you have a significant amount of time to commit to the project. Remember, one-volume commentaries are books with a larger-than-average page size, and smaller-than-average print. Reading through that in a year would require 5-7 pages per day. That is something most people really don’t have the time to commit to. All of that being said, I would recommend the following one-volume commentaries for general use. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything said by the various commentators.

Matthew Henry’s One-Volume Commentary. This is the one edited by Leslie Church. Do not make the mistake of buying the whole unabridged Matthew Henry in one volume. Dr. Church did a very commendable job of reducing Henry to a size manageable for most people. Henry focuses on devotion and application, so don’t expect extensive discussions of technical matters.

New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. This will provide more up-to-date technical commentary than Henry. Not particularly devotional, but not entirely lacking practical insight.

Believer’s Bible Commentary. This one I have not personally used, but it strikes me as more reliable than some of its competition. Somewhere between Henry and NBC in devotional level.