Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Books of The Bible

International Bible Society released The Books of The Bible in 2007. It is the Bible in a modified format. It has been released in Today's New International Version (TNIV).

I think this is a good idea, though I am uncertain it is as revolutionary as it suggests.

My thoughts on the features.

1. They have removed the chapter and verse divisions.

This is probably the main feature. The goal of this is to encourage people to read the Bible in books (ie. The Books of the Bible), or longer passages rather than a few verses. I already do this and do not find the verse numbers affect my ability to do such. Though this can be an issue for some people. I had a Bible that has many of the words indexed to translation numbers within the text, which didn't bother me; but a friend found it very difficult to read.

My thoughts are that the verses should stay and the chapter numbers should be reduced in size (and bolded) and removed to the left of the text; Psalms excepted. ESV places the verse numbers in a different font to illustrate they are not part of the text, but they also bold them which highlights their presence.

2. They use paragraphs

They comment that verse and chapter divisions are not part of the text and were added later, which is true, but of what significance. It is also commented that the text is formatted to reflect the author's intentions. Presumably that means paragraphs for prose and stanzas for poetry. The use of paragraphs is the best advance in biblical format and significantly improves readability while removing reliance of verse format. But this is hardly new! And traditionally verse formatted versions such as the NASB and the NKJV are now formatted in paragraphs. I am not certain what is meant by author's intentions other than this. There were no paragraph breaks in the (Greek) autographs, or punctuation, or even spaces between words. Hebrew had white space but I would be surprised if they follow this format (the Transparent English Bible does).

3. They remove the translators section headings and relegate footnotes to endnotes.

Reasonable on the section headings. I use them for reference and finding passages, though electronic searches are better for that. I would leave section headings in a study Bible, but shift them to the right of the text.

Endnotes are to prevent flow interruption. Whatever your preference I suppose. Footnotes are similar to verses, though perhaps more likely to affect flow, I am liable to check the footnotes. But I would probably anyway and footnotes are less disruptive than endnotes. I really don't like endnotes (save webpages where footnotes are endnotes).

5. They alter the book order.

No big issue. The books are separate and the order of several is somewhat arbitrary. I believe the Protestant and Catholic order of the Old Testament follow the Septuagint. Books of The Bible has its own order for both Testaments with the Old similar to the Hebrew order.

I don't like the New Testament order though. The gospel of John is located with his letters. Mark with Peter's letters, presumably because Peter was a source for Mark. The only good modification in book order is Paul's letters seem to be chronological, or as best as can be ascertained; I believe there is uncertainty on the dating of Galatians for example.

5. They join some books together.

It is true that Samuel was split into 1 and 2 Samuel, presumably for ease of use in scroll form. I think joining some books is a positive, though minor change. I am not certain of the legitimacy of joining Samuel and Kings into a single book. I wouldn't join Chronicles to Ezra-Nehemiah. And though I understand the joining of Ezra-Nehemiah, I think the internal evidence is these were written as separate books.

But Luke-Acts? Sure, have them follow each other but Acts clearly documents these were written separately.

My understanding is that the gospel order reflects the sequence they were written in (traditional belief). This may be correct, although the current consensus is that Mark antedates Matthew. I would shift John to the beginning of the New Testament; the parallel to Genesis is appropriate; and then Luke would be followed by Acts. Then the letters in chronological order (with or without Pauline subgrouping), then Revelation.

6. They display the text in a single column.

Reasonable. Not the first Bible to do so. It depends on the size of the page I think. Narrow columns are quicker to read; and newspapers use columns so the format is familiar. I would use a single column in a study Bible, as I note the ESV Study Bible has also done, because of other formatting considerations.

7. They include book and book grouping introductions.

This is completely reasonable and I think introductions can be quite helpful if well written. This is because the Bible was written in a variety of genres and within a different culture. I do note the irony though: of removing verses and translation footnotes because they affect the text; then adding in significant interpretative advice.

My comments seem mildly negative. Probably because I have explained where I depart but only mentioned where I agree. The concept is reasonable and I would consider buying one if I didn't already have Bibles in the double digits. I don't own a TNIV so it may still be a consideration. Note also that I have not actually read it. Perhaps doing so will make evident that verse and chapter numbers affect reading more than I am aware. And if it gets people reading more of their Bible….

I have included the book order below as the link is a 3MB pdf. At only 2 pages long, this size is a little excessive.

First Testament
Covenant History
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
Samuel-Kings

The Prophets
Jonah

Amos
Hosea
Micah
Isaiah

Zephaniah
Nahum
Habakkuk

Jeremiah
Obadiah
Ezekiel

Haggai
Zechariah
Joel
Malachi

The Writings
Psalms
Lamentations
Song of Songs

Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Job

Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah
Esther

Daniel

New Testament
Luke-Acts
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Romans
Colossians
Ephesians
Philemon
Philippians
1 Timothy
Titus
2 Timothy

Matthew
Hebrews
James

Mark
1 Peter
2 Peter
Jude

John
1 John
2 John
3 John

Revelation

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