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This letter is in response to : Biblical Studies and Study Bibles

In response to Carol Newsom and Barbara Brown Taylor, may I offer the following reflections? If I read Dr. Newsom's comments correctly, one qualm about study Bibles is that the perspectives contained in many of those currently produced do not disturb the personal or cultural perspectives of the reader; instead, they confirm them. In my twenty-plus years of personal study and parish teaching, I have found that consistent, extensive, and repeated reading of the text, in conjunction with materials such as Disciple Bible Studies (United Methodist, with contributions by diverse members of the biblical studies profession) has been helpful for me and my parishioners in questioning and growth. I have also recommended the New Oxford and HarperCollins study Bibles. At the same time, I have become aware that people who have some professional experience and interaction with a variety of people will be more apt to question the "traditional" or "standard" interpretation of the text and allow themselves to be questioned by the text regardless of the "study" Bible that they used. I have come to appreciate these people greatly.

Further, I note that there are many, many more shelves at bookstores of the "niche market" study Bibles, and that these types of resources are much more attractively presented. I remember Robert Funk, many years ago at a seminar, speaking about a moderately-negative public response to critical study of the Bible, "I thought we had won that battle!" People need to be reminded about the value of biblical studies alongside of the devotional appropriation of that same text. It promotes at the same time as it edifies. William Barclay was a master of that approach. How is it promoted by the biblical studies profession today?

Finally, with regard to remarks by both Dr. Newsom and Dr.Taylor, I think the SBL and HarperCollins may have dropped the ball here. The new edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible should have included something beyond the study Bible itself. Could this be a CD/DVD with the text of the study Bible and other study materials and graphics furthering the materials in the study Bible? Could it be a HarperCollins/SBL website with such materials that would be revised and expanded annually? Such is on the web now in numerous places, but it would be helpful to have something with the study Bible itself, and it could address the desire for a multivoiced commentary of the text in a way that would transcent the temporal and spatial limits of the printed page. Please consider not staying with print only.

W. Matthew Whayland

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Citation: W. Matthew Whayland, " On Study Bibles," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Aug 2006]. Online:


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