05 December 2008

The Books of the Bible

www.booksofthebible.infoThis should have been done a long time ago. I really don’t know why it took so long, but I’m glad that it did finally happen. International Bible Society published a Bible divided by paragraph without column, chapter, or verse divisions. I read it this year, and I remember asking myself as early as March if I would ever go back to versed Bibles for my personal reading.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a real convenience to having a standard versification system that everybody uses. Many different types of corporate Bible study situations are streamlined by the system we have. From preaching to one-on-one discipleship to scholarly reference work, the system helps keep everyone on the same page in all of the different translations and editions and printings of the Bible we now enjoy.

But the system that we have is frequently arbitrary and misleading. For instance, I think every chapter division in Malachi splits a set of verses that the consensus of interpreters see together, and no two major sections in Malachi are separated by a chapter division. In every case, what should be seen as a unit is divided, and what should be seen as separate is united.

That’s why I really enjoyed reading through The Books of the Bible. I frequently found myself making connections I had never seen or had forgotten even though I rarely read Bibles without paragraph divisions. Reading The Books of the Bible wasn’t revolutionary; I didn’t change my statement of faith. But it was refreshing and helpful.

On the negative side, on occasion I found myself disagreeing with the introductory material at the beginning of the books. Three examples: (1) The editors appear to split the authorship of Zechariah (p. 890), a position with which I am not at all comfortable. (2) And the introduction to Revelation neglects one of the most striking features of the book--intertextuality (pp. 1789-1790). (3) Also, the book introductions include outlines of the books that were not always convincing (I remember scratching my head at Jeremiah's particularly, pp. 697-698). However, book outlines frequently differ from commentary to commentary as well, so it’s not too surprising I'd demur on a point or two.

So with those reservations, I recommend this presentation of the Scriptures for at least one reading because this format is more conducive to following the argument of a text than the traditional format is.

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