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New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition: Q&A

NOAB4The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (Amazon link // OUP link) tends to be the standard Bible in many academic circles. Two and a half years ago, the 3rd edition was reviewed here at This Lamp. Very soon (OUP page says February, 2010) Oxford University Press will release the much anticipated 4th edition. One of This Lamp's readers, Mark Maney, recently shared with me some questions about the NOAB4 answered by Donald Kraus, executive editor of Bibles for OUP. I've received permission to give This Lamp readers access to this dialogue which you will find below.

Will there be more notes at the bottom of the page?  Compared to other study Bibles the NOAB seems sparse.

Of course, one person’s “sparse” is another’s “concise.”  If you actually compared the amount of information available in, say, the NOAB with that in the [other academic study Bibles], I think you’d find that the Annotated had at least as much, perhaps more.  We have made a deliberate decision to provide a variety of means of presentation for information that a student or general reader needs: not only book introductions and annotations (a format, I might note, that Oxford University Press pioneered), but also section introductions, giving an overview to various biblical divisions and genres; general essays, providing background that is applicable to the text as a whole, or large parts of it; and ancillaries, like maps and a glossary, that can provide quick references for specific matters.  The choice to put virtually all the explanatory matter in annotations means either that you must repeat information every time it is relevant (since you can’t expect, for example, the reader to remember an explanation from one of the historical narratives when he or she is reading one of the prophetic books) or you must omit an explanation entirely, since there is no other place to put it.  We think our method of presentation is the best option available, but other publishers have chosen differently.  That gives readers a range of choices, which we think is all to the good.  We have, however, increased the annotations in many of the biblical books – see my answer to your next question.

Will the large print of the third edition be retained?

The biblical text is, I believe, in the same type size.  The annotations are in a different, easier-to-read face that is more condensed, though I don’t think it is smaller.  We have changed the design of the standard page for two reasons: the new type choices will more strongly differentiate the annotations from the biblical text, and they permit a slightly higher word count per page.  This has allowed us to increase the study materials by about 10% without increasing the page count of the book.

Will there be a bigger concordance?

No.  The concordance remains the same length.  We and the other publishers of the NRSV have agreed among ourselves that the current concordance will be the standard one for use in the back of the Bible.

Will there be more cross references in the notes?

We have included extensive cross references throughout.  I don’t have a direct comparison with the third edition, so I can’t tell if there are more, but there are many cross references.  Intertextuality is fully represented.

Will the excellent paper of the third edition be retained?

The paper for the fourth edition is of a similar or slightly better quality than that generally used in the third edition.  We are caught, like all Bible publishers, between trying for a thin sheet and an opaque page.  You can’t have both when you are publishing a 2400-page book that can still be held comfortably by the reader.  I think the paper in the new edition compares favorably to what we had before.  To some extent this is a matter of taste – some people prefer a white sheet, some an off-white one.  Ours is slightly off-white, which reduces glare.  The opacity is good, though there is inevitably some show-through.

Look for the 4th edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible in February, 2010. Feel free to leave any further questions in the comments. I'll invite Don Kraus to answer them as he has opportunity.

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Reader Comments (18)


I rather liked the 2nd edition more than the 3rd. But I can't help myself when it comes to bibles. :)

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClay Knick

This annotated Bible is widely used as a college textbook, and thus is subject to the "college textbook" effect: it is revised frequently to kill the used-resale market.

It is somewhat absurd. One can learn calculus just as well from a textbook from the 1960s (or even the 1930s) as one can from a contemporary textbook. In fact, at least one 1930s textbook and one 1960s textbook are much better written (and in the case of the 1930s textbook -- cheaper -- reprinted by Dover Publications) than contemporary textbooks.

Similarly, the field of academic biblical studies simply does not move that quickly. We all use reference sources that are quite old (e.g., Gesenius' grammar; BDB) -- and of course, the Bible itself is of ancient origin, many key theological texts of medieval or early Renaissance origin.

We feel compelled to update our computers to run the latest versions of software and operating systems -- but I see no reason to extend this tendency to the replace our reference and textbooks with new editions unless they contain truly significant improvements.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Does this mean you won't consider writing us another review, Larry?

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Does this mean that the NRSV still has life as a viable English translation? Help me out here.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterT.C. R

I would like to ask Oxford Publishing if they are going to make a widely available larger (at least not small) print edition of the REB?

I like the way that reads but can't find an edition to really purchase.


December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertomgdrums

@TC, I think that the NRSV is alive and well and has even made a comeback of sorts. The NRSV along with the RSV and KJV are still the standard translations in many academic circles. When the second edition of Wayne Meeks' The Writings of St. Paul was released with the TNIV as its base, there was some hope that the TNIV could join the ranks of the three above, but its lack of a deuterocanon (and its inattention by its handlers) kept this from becoming a reality.

@tomgdrums, no one reveres the REB more than me, but I think it's dead in the water. No one is giving it any attention. It's not really even known of much in the US and no longer receives much attention in the UK. I wish this were not the case. I'm just glad I got my nice leather Cambridge edition while they were available.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Let's see what it looks like. If it is just a set of minor tweaks (as I suspect it might be, given the description on OUP's web site) it might not be worthy of review.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

I agree with Larry to a certain extent. The NIV just came out with a Study Bible Update and the NRSV just had a recent "3rd Edition - Augmented". Was anything really done significantly to these products to warrant a wholesale repurchasing of them?

I kind of like the NRSV. It was my college Bible as well.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertoryninja

Hey Rick,

Did you know that the REB is available for Esword now? The people who sell the NET have made it available as a purchase module for Esword. (that is how I know how much I like the way it reads! :)

December 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertomgdrums

Tom, yes, I'd heard that. It's good news as it may get more exposure. Now I think it's only available for esword and Accordance. Maybe there's hope!

December 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

I wonder if it will be published in a "genuine leather" cover like previous editions?

December 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

Hey Rick,

I actually found a copy of the REB! The only editions I found were the Lectern edition (WAY out of my price range), The Oxford Study Bible and then this one:

It is available at Amazon. It is NOT large print but it is a good size print. Probably about the size of a normal hard cover book. It is a nice edition for reading. (Large print would be awesome but this will suite me just fine). It does have the Apocrypha but the Apocrypha which I have never read, but I just like the way the REB reads so much that I am very excited to have found a nice and readable edition. :)

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertomgdrums

"It does have the Apocrypha but the Apocrypha which I have never read,"

I think it is ironic that in leaving a post about a wonderful literary translation of the Bible that I would write the above clunker of a sentence fragment!! :)

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertomgdrums

I'm all for study Bibles, but I kind of wish the NRSV would disappear because I have a problem with modern translations that use inclusive language. I own the expanded-deuterocanon RSV study Bible, which has been quite useful over the years, and the relatively new ESV study Bible, which I rather like. As for the NRSV, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at that translation's popularity in academic circles, when you see how infected with liberalism America's universities are. Is there a recommended KJV study Bible?

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert


The Scofield reference bible (1917 edition) is about as conservative a bible as you can get. Not an iota of modern scholarship or critical analysis in it. It does contain a fair bit about the rapture though.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Having used New Oxford Annotated Bible 2nd edition in seminary, I value having commentary in same by professors whose voices still resonate for me -- Anderson (Pentateuch), Holladay (Isaiah/Jeremiah), Perkins (various NT).

HarperCollins' appearance, however, with its substantially more detailed annotations, preceded increased third edition NOAB, which came before "Fully Revised and Updated" (2nd) HarperCollins, and then to NOAB "augmented third edition." Promising fully half new annotations, perhaps 4th NOAB will settle this version for a while. I appreciate editorial commitment NOAB (3rd) took in having three editors confer on each book's annotations.

Hopefully NOAB 4th will have at least one hard-cover binding along lines of 2nd NOAB and HarperCollins dust-jacket option -- that is, not just the "shiny cardboard" hardcover which wears poorly. (I do prefer NOAB biblical font size to HarperCollins 2nd, and hold similar hope for 4th NOAB.)

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWBJ

Is there any word whether this edition will be available without the Apocrypha?

I have bought and used editions 2 &3. So, it looks like 4 might be a good possibility as well. :-)

Given that I have the other two with Apocrypha and I no longer attend a church that would make use of it, I thought without Apocrypha might slim it down a bit for carrying purposes.

March 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Terry

I know this is a long dead thread, but I wanted to ask your opinion on this.

My old 2nd edition NOAB went with me to Cuba when I was stationed there for several months. It went with me when we got to visit the Holy Land. Lots of underlinesing, questions or comments are written in the margins, and a chunk of pages fell out which I re-glued back into place.

Now...has scholarship increased much since the 2nd edition came out, and in your opinion, is it worth my while and money to buy this new 4th edition?


Stuart Smith

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Smith

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