Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Review: Chronological Study Bible (NKJV)

I was sent this bible for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. The agreement was that I would read the whole thing. Well, this book is a monster. The NKJV text is not a problem, I spent a few years carrying around a NKJV (pocket size) as my general reading bible. So I'm already ahead of the game that way. It is the notes, tonnes of notes, that I am supposed to have read all of. I've probably not read them all, but I've tried a few tactics with this bible.

First I tried to read them from first to last. The notes are good but it is like trying to read an encyclopedia straight through - after a while you are overloaded with often interesting bits of data. Then I tried just working through sections of text, augmenting it with the notes. A bit better but eventually I realized that if this bible is going to have any value to me it will be as a reference book and not as a devotional bible.

The reason for this is that there is something Canonical about the order of text that is lost when you try to put it in some sort of chronological order. Mashing the gospels together, for instance, is not a new idea. I have and regularly use a Synoptic Parallels, it is a great tool for Bible study. But when you start mashing you take text out of the gospeler's intended context. And based on what? At least the harmonized gospels is based on pericopes. Mashing John in there is interesting, but at what cost? The re-ordering of the text is the part that makes me most nervous of this bible. So now it is a reference only text.

As a reference it is ok. But I'm left with the conundrum of when I would actually use it. Sure I might want to see where they placed certain events in a historical timeline. But I'm always a bit skeptical of the picking and choosing that this implies. And I think that the notes are helpful in terms of situating the text a bit. But, and here is the big reason I don't pull it down very often, it is really hard to find texts in this version. (I think in about a years worth of sermon prep I've pulled it out only once to see what it did with the text! The rest of the time I kept it where it would get thumbed through.)

With a traditional bible you gain a familiarity with where things are. At least I have. It is entirely reasonable to navigate it by feel. And the concordance that has become almost standard to contemporary bibles is useful for remembering where those great passages are. But with the Chronological Study Bible you have to add a step - after you locate the verse you then have to look in the index to figure out where they have hidden that particular section of scripture. If you are doing a word study, this is almost impossible. So even if the notes are good, it takes so long to get there that the value of the notes is diminished.

Where I can see this being useful is if you were doing a bible study where you wanted to look at a particular moment in time and read the texts that possibly surround/describe that moment. But in quite a few years of pastoral work, I've not had that sort of study come up.

So my verdict is that the Chronological Study Bible is a neat idea, but in the end it is not very practical.

No comments: