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.