I plan to review both Study Bibles in some detail in the not-too-distant future, but a short and not too sweet version is already on the tip of my tongue.
I have found examples of running commentary that are top-notch, such as that of David Reimer on Ezekiel (ESVSB) and that of Scot McKnight on Matthew (NLTSB). I have read essays that had me singing for their precision, clarity, and vigor, such as that by Peter Gentry on the Septuagint (ESVSB) and I don’t know who’s Introduction to the Time After the Apostles (NLTSB).
But neither Study Bible comes anywhere close to displaying the richness and profundity of evangelical scholarship today. On almost every topic imaginable - text criticism; genre identification; more than one kind of history; science-and-faith and culture-and-faith questions; ANE and Greco-Roman background; the history of interpretation; the history of Bible translation; hermeneutics; Bible and literature, Bible and film; Bible and music; theological unity and diversity – both Study Bibles are on the timid, defensive side or simply ignore the possibilities altogether.
Neither Study Bible does the least bit of justice to the diversity of views current among evangelicals today on questions of text, composition, author, and date of the individual books.
With respect to the Old Testament, too often neither Study Bible does a credible job of distinguishing between historical exegesis on the one hand and typological and christological exegesis on the other. The theological and exegetical riches of the past, not just those of the Fathers, but those of Luther and Calvin and Keil and Delitzsch, are almost without exception steadfastly ignored.
There is no reason why an evangelical Study Bible every bit as confessionally loyal and intellectually satisfying as the Jewish Study Bible (liberal Jewish), the Catholic Study Bible (liberal Catholic), and the Harper Collins Study Bible (liberal ecumenical) could not be written. But the dream team to put it together would have to represent a far broader cross-section of viewpoint than is to be found on the teams of the two Study Bibles referred to here.
It would also have to have an agenda of a different sort, more in tune with the range of subject matter that occupies evangelical scholars across the entire range of fields connected to the study of the Bible today. It would have to have a series of special notes and excursuses on topics of particular interest in the history of interpretation and on the contemporary scene, as does the New Interpreter’s Study Bible. It would have to include essays on a range of topics of the same caliber as those found in the Jewish Study Bible. It would have to describe contrasting viewpoints with greater sympathy and work through issues, not simply draw a line in the sand, as too often happens in ESVSB and NLTSB, and say this position falls within the guidelines, and this one does not.
I’m not talking about things that evangelicals have not yet written. It’s all written already somewhere! It just needs to be repackaged and refined for the purposes of a Study Bible fit for the personal library of every intellectually serious English-speaking evangelical Bible reader in the world.
More on these matters in a future post.