New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha – Theological Neutral Notes

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On Monday, I began this series by taking a broad overview of the features found in this bible. I followed it up by a look at the introductions to the sections and the individual books. Today, I want to look at some of the notes.

It is not the traditional study bible, such as the NLT Study Bible, but it is one geared to a more academic, non-theological, audience in which the scholarly study of Scripture is deemed important. As with any bible which carries with it additions to the Text, my first check is into the biases of the authors. To gauge that, I generally turn to what I consider two of the most doctrinal verses for Christians in the Old Testament, Genesis 1.26 and Isaiah 7.14. Now does the NOAB stack up? In my opinion, it does so very well.

Genesis 1.26:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

The note in the NOAB reads,

The plural us, our (3.22;11.7) probably refers to the divine beings who compose God’s heavenly court (1 Kings 22.19; Job 1.6).

And while the rest of the note doesn’t quite pertain to the doctrinal notion, it is interesting nevertheless,

Image, likeness is often interpreted to be a spiritual likeness between God and humanity. Another view is that this text builds on ancient concepts of the king physically resembling the god and thus bearing a bodily stamp of his authority to rule. here this idea is democratized, as all of humanity appears godlike…..

Powerful stuff, right? Right.

The notion that God is speaking to His heavenly court is not anti-Christian by any means, but instead calls us to be academically honest. While theological students will use this verse to point to the later developed Trinity, it would be academically dishonest to do so. Here’s the kicker, and I don’t have this on hand at the moment, but the NLT Study bible pretty much says the same thing at this verse, as well as the next one. The fact is, that far too often, we cannot separate academic understanding and theological understanding, believing that the theological use of the Text somehow removes the original context from Scripture and allows us to somehow know it. That is reading into the Text. On the other hand, to theological develop these texts shouldn’t be discouraged either because then we run into the problems of removing Scripture from our Tradition(s).

Isaiah 7.14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Again, the academic stances of the NOAB comes through to match the lack of theological translation biasness which the NRSV employed. In part, the note reads,

The young woman is not identified; she may be either the wife of Isaiah (cf 8.3) or of King Ahaz. Although 7.14 is cited in Mt 1.23 as a proof text for the virgin birth of Jesus, based on the LXX translation of “parthenos”{ (virgin), the Heb word “almah” simply means young woman, not virgin.

Ironically, the note at Matthew 1.23 reads,

The first of Matthew’s fulfillment citations (Isa 7.14), showing how Jesus’ life conforms to prophecies of the Hebrew Bible.

Will all the notes be so unbiased? Not sure, but from what I have read, they seem to be. Does that mean that they are somehow right? No, but it does mean that the editors of the NOAB have tried to remove theological understandings from their notes giving academic students of the bible a theologically-neutral understanding of the text.

Post By Joel Watts (9,932 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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7 thoughts on New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha – Theological Neutral Notes

      • It seems like there is/was a larger note that got edited out. Sometimes the thoughts don’t seem like they are finished or just too brief. Maybe I am used to the notes in the ESV SB which are a lot longer in comparison.

        I mostly got the NOAB for the articles, and as a NRSV companion for the NETS. The notes have been okay, and I reference them before I teach a lesson, but I wouldn’t buy the NOAB for the notes alone.

  1. I do not fi d ig academically dishonest to point to ‘us’ as a reference to the Trinity. Given that the words of a man are seperate unto themselves in some older hebrew texts and given that creation was spoken into existance then you have the Creator, the life of the Creator (breath) and the force of the creation all shown before. It is a very protohebrew idea. I would see it much more likely that the kingly habit of refferring to oneself in the plural derived from this rather than the inverse. Remember which happened first.

    • But, we do know that the OT speaks rather to a heavenly court to the later developed idea of a Trinity (and even that is still understood differently by different groups). Note Job and Psalms where God speaks to the sons of God and other gods. Or Revelation.

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