Book review: The NRSV Daily Bible

Harper Bibles

★★★★★

Wow. How did they know? Harper Bibles just sent me this new daily study Bible for review, and I don’t mind saying … it’s fabulous! I’ll break my review down into two sections, first describing the New Revised Standard Version, and then describing the study Bible format.

The NRSV may be my favorite translation, because it’s how I want to read the Bible. By that I mean, it’s ideally suited to scholarly study. It’s prepared by an interfaith committee of thirty translators, representing Judaism and various branches of Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. This is an ongoing committee, dedicated to staying current. And, yes, that’s quite necessary. Discoveries of older manuscripts of the Bible and further investigation of linguistic features in the original Hebrew and Greek text have kept scholars busy providing precise translations of the Bible, especially since the Dead Sea scrolls surfaced, and the NRSV committee stays on top of the research. From the initial publication of the American Standard Version near the turn of the 20th century, they’ve provided revisions and editions through the years, culminating in this, the New Revised edition, in 1989.

The NRSV is what’s often called a “literal translation” (meaning, paraphrasing has been kept to a minimum). This sometimes means sacrificing meaning for linguistic accuracy; formality over functionality. You may miss out on some of the idioms of the original language, because precision in translation is counted as more important.  It’s also more gender neutral than most translations.

The bottom line is that if you want to learn from the Bible, this is a great translation. I didn’t use it in either of my published books, because a serious study Bible often doesn’t “flow” as nicely for casual reading, and it wasn’t the best mix for books that are half fiction. I also stick to NIV or KJV for most of my blog posts, simply because readers are more familiar with those versions. But I’d rather read from the NRSV.

Now, about the study Bible. It’s a one-year format taking you through every chapter in the Christian Bible, sequentially rather than chronologically…in other words, from Genesis to Revelation. Each day, you’re presented with:

  • A short reading (usually, three to five chapters) divided into topical sections.
  • Followed by a “meditation” consisting of a verse or two that sums up the spirit of the passage.
  • Then a “contemplation” section, comprised of an expository or inspirational writing from personalities you may already know (such as Augustine and Mother Teresa) and some questions to ponder.
  • Concluded by a short suggested prayer.

You’ll probably want fifteen minutes per day, to do the readings justice. I immediately turned to Zechariah, then Revelation, then Daniel, then John’s Gospel … seeking out the more confusing passages to test the “contemplation” sections. In most cases, they are not scholarly or controversial, but more conservatively instructional and inspirational. These are excerpts from classics, and as such, they provide varying but appropriate perspectives. This is a work meant to satisfy spiritually, without sacrificing instruction or precision in translation.

It’s also priced right! So make this book your New Year’s resolution for 2013!

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