The [expanded] Bible

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The Expanded Bible: New Testament

“Study the Bible While You Read” is the tagline emblazoned on the front cover, spine, and back of this bible. It is promoted as a study tool that can make in-depth bible study easier and reveal the full richness and dimensions of meaning within the original text. It aims to accomplish this by incorporating study notes in-line with the biblical text, especially when the original language can be translated in multiple ways. It sounds like a great idea.

My current preferred method of bible study is slightly physically cumbersome. I love referencing the Hebrew and Greek meanings of words, but I have no formal training in either language. So, bible study for me usually involves lugging out my well-worn and very large, heavy copy of Strong’s Concordance with the best of Vine’s Dictionary. I wondered, “Could this bible incorporate the best elements of that study experience within one volume?”

Unfortunately, my experience with this bible has shown it to be an insufficient resource for in-depth study, while at the same time being too visually and textually awkward for meditative or devotional reading.

Other reviewers of this book have detailed the various ways that the text tends to result in a choppy, disjointed reading experience. (see other reviews here) so I won’t linger on that point.

For me, the issues with this bible start with the translation from which this bible draws its base text. The base text is a modified version of the New Century Version, which is described by Thomas Nelson Publishers as “maintaining the integrity of the biblical text without complex theological vocabulary” (source). Personally, I find the NCV to be lacking in much of the richness and depth that I find in other translations. (I most frequently use the NKJV and NASB.) Nevertheless, I understand the appeal of contemporary functional-equivalent translations. These translations are seen by many as making the bible accessible for individuals with limited English reading skills, or those who have no familiarity with biblical, theological, or doctrinal language. However, the stated goal of The [expanded] Bible is to give the reader “the full richness and variety of God’s message” and “all the dimensions of meaning in the original languages.” The attempt to achieve those aims on the basis of an interpretation that specifically aims to avoid complex theological language seems contradictory. Why not simply use a more robust translation in the first place?

While the in-line notes do provide some additional nuance to the selected text, they are no comparison to the breadth of information available in an actual concordance and Bible dictionary. Specifically, The [expanded] Bible provides notes for only selected words, phrases, or passages. In Acts 11:5, the notes clarify that the phrase “Peter saw something” could alternately read “Peter saw an object”, but they give no further definition to the phrase “I had a vision while in a trance”.

I can see potential value in this bible for those who are devoted to the New Century Version of the Bible and want a reference that will give more depth to that translation, but for other readers there are many other more fulfilling resources.

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