New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha – Features Overview

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Nearly every class so far in seminary has required this particular bible. In addition, the Oxford Annotated Bible has had a tradition of use in seminaries and other higher institutions of theological learning in which a more academic approach (i.e., less doctrinal, unbiased) is needed in the study of Scripture. This is my first use of the Annotated Bible series, although it is the fourth edition, but I have found it more than helpful whether in seminary class or in the pew. While the text is the NRSV, and not the NLT which is my preference, the translation is still sufficiently close to the rigidness expected by literalists without being overly wooden as the NASB often is. Further, the NRSV is the ecumenical standard, which also explains why this edition included the (so-called, and in my opinion, falsely called) Apocrypha (hereafter the Deuterocanon). (For those readers who desire not to have one with the Deuterocanon, you can purchase one of those as well). For this series, I wanted to highlight features of the edition which I believe are useful for the reader (or maybe, more appropriately, user), whether academic or lay. Indeed, while the additional features carry are generally entrenched in the much feared higher biblical criticism, even a conservative user should be able to find something of use among them, even if it is merely something to preach against.

It is edited by Michael D. Coogan, a well-known biblical scholar who has behind him a long list of varied voices serving as contributors. With such contributors as Amy-Jill Levine, David A. de Silva, and Richard A. Horsley, there is a variety of opinion and viewpoint for each book. What is enjoyable is that the various viewpoints are not sedated through editing, leaving the reader interacting with voices different from their own, and indeed, different from one book to the next. Is this important? In an academic setting, one must be willing to hear different voices on the same issues, and not just those with whom the student is familiar with. By including not just moderates to liberals, but conservatives, Christians and Jews and the such, the NOAB provides a foothold into the world of academic biblical studies in a time when more often, a singular voice is superimposed upon the student.

As I noted, this particular version includes the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon but not just the Western lists. We also see included the books of 1st through 4th Esdras, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3rd and 4th Maccabees. Unlike the New English Translation of the Septuagint which is itself dependent upon the NRSV’s translation, it does not include the Psalms of Solomon. Note, no canonical list actually includes the Psalms of Solomon, but given that it is included in some ancient manuscripts and is a personal favorite of mine, a future edition of the NOAB might do well to include it, at the very least, in the appendix. To this end, regarding the canons, the editor includes an essay detailing the canons, their inception, lists, and uses from Judaism to the West as well as the East. It is not a simply essay, either, but includes various arguments over canonization, history, and intrusion into canonical interpretation. This essay is one among many which deals with the various criticisms, such as textual, as well as methods of interpretation.  Further, as usual, there is the glossary, index and concordance need to navigate the text as well as the NOAB.

Joel L. Watts
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, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. 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).

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