Review: Bibliotheca New Testament

I recently received an invitation from #speakeasy to review the Bibliotheca New Testament, and I gladly accepted because I was already familiar with the project. When the project first launched on Kickstarter several years ago, I ordered a full set as gift for a family member. But, of course, I spent some time with the books before wrapping them. When I was done, I regretted not ordering a second set for myself.

The books are of the highest physical quality: handmade and a pleasure to hold. The binding lays flat without any worry of damage, the paper is crisp, and the printing is clear. As an older low-vision reader, I find the font and its size appropriate and comfortable to follow.

I teach in the Bible field at a Christian seminary, so I own quite a few Bibles (my wife says, “too many,” but that is just not possible). I have study Bibles, Bibles in Hebrew, Bibles in Greek, Bibles in more English translations than I can recall, and Bibles in half a dozen other modern languages. I have Bibles for different purposes or use in different locations: at my desk, in the classroom, in the pulpit, while travelling, etc. The Bibliotheca New Testament is a welcome addition to my collection as a “reading Bible.”

I would be nervous about travelling with it, even though the book is so well made; but the layout is nearly perfect. More and more I prefer and seek out single-column Bibles to accommodate my vision needs. That alone make the Bibliotheca New Testament a great Bible for quiet, distraction free immersion into the biblical text. I will admit, as a teacher and aspiring scholar, the paragraph layout without chapter and verse numbers is a challenge at first. I am constantly wondering about cross-references, textual issues, etc. And this is precisely why I need a version like this at times. Those features, while important for certain tasks, can indeed hinder me from experiencing the Bible story as such.

Over the years, I have tried a few “reader’s editions.” The earliest printings of The Message dropped the distracting features but left me wanting more—or even cringing at times—as that version is really a paraphrase rather than a translation. Since then, I have been reluctant to purchase any of the other “readers editions” and instead opted for “text-only” Bibles that retain chapter and verse notation, making them adequate for teaching or preaching.

The Bibliotheca New Testament uses The American Literary Version, described on the Bibliotheca website as

“a fresh update—reviewed and approved by scholars—of The American Standard Version of 1901.

While archaic language has been modernized (thou to you, doth to does, etc.), the exceptional accuracy and literary quality of the base translation have been carefully preserved.”

It is important to note that this is not a new translation. Instead, the editors have meticulously reviewed and edited an existing translation in the lineage of the Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version. While designating any translation as “literal” is problematic, there is certain “literary” quality to it. The KJV translators, out of reverence for the original languages, strive to render ever word into English and retain the rhythms of those texts. This results in the poetic language of the KJV so beloved for generations. The editors of the ALV succeed in updating that language while retaining the beauty of its cadence. My only critique is that the revision did not produce a more inclusive version (e.g., the use of the archaic “brethren” when it is clear from context that the author is addressing a group of both men and women).

Notwithstanding, the editors of The Bibliotheca New Testament have achieved something wonderful. I will treasure my copy and soon hope to acquire the full set. I recommend The Bibliotheca New Testament to anyone looking for a fresh experience of that sacred text.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.



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