The Bibles of my life

A day or two ago, the Anarchist Reverend responded to a question:
You’ve lived some radical changes between your fundamentalist upbringing and now. Out of pure curiosity, what have the Bibles of your life been, and (how) have they related to those bigger changes?
You can read his response over there. For the sake of disclosure, and because it's something I've thought and derped about but never blogged about, I'm sharing my life in Bibles here.

As a sheltered mainline kid, I grew up NRSV-only. There were others at home - a tiny red-letter KJV and an original 1973 Living Bible, both my mother's - but what I learned of the Bible was learned at church from the NRSV. This was the Bible of the preaching; this was the Bible of the pulpit. (More accessibly, this was also the bright-red Bible under the seat in front of me.) When I was in fifth grade, this was the Bible that was presented to me in burgundy bonded leather and metallic mustard gilt edging, with my name calligraphed on the inside. I still have it.

It stuck with me; I'm still primarily NRSV today. I've started to pick up on it a bit (memorizing from 1 John makes it really clear where it was edited to be inclusive), but its style of Biblish is canny to me. (I react so strongly and poorly to the ESV because it's uncanny - it follows the RSV text-type I'm familiar with closely enough to make the differences much starker.) My Bible as it might be would be NRSV. It's still my reference translation, in no small part because of my second and third Bibles:
  • My second Bible was a Wesley Study Bible, as a belated birthday gift from my sister. At the time I'd become a huge Wesleyan fanboy (I still sorta am), in no small part because of Will Willimon's United Methodist Beliefs (a book that made it to my top 10 list.) I don't read it quite as much as I used to, but for a few months I carried it with me everywhere.
  • My third NRSV was a RenovarĂ© Spiritual Formation Bible, a giant 2800-page monstrosity with all the Apocrypha that ($5 at a second-hand bookstore) cost less than the tabs to make it readable. (On which note, somebody needs to sell a set of tabs that covers all the Apocrypha.)
Timothy Beal would call them "value-added Bibles," and he'd be right. (I've read some of The Rise and Fall of the Bible, by the way; a great read, and I'll talk about it soon.) But I'm not gonna knock it terribly much, because those two editions were hugely important for me.
  • I realized years ago that I didn't know anything about the Bible, but the obvious idea of a study Bible left me terribly gun-shy, because most study Bibles triggered my cynicism in the worst way. (It didn't help that they were mostly NIV or NLT, or some other version that registered as "fundie" to me; I was ferociously tribal about my Christianity until less than a year ago.) The Wesley Study Bible was a huge relief to me because it was A. the only study Bible I'd seen that was NRSV, so I wouldn't have to second-guess the translators, and B. "explicitly ideological," as I put it, so I wouldn't have to second-guess the commentators because the Methodism was the point.
  • I didn't know how to read the Bible as anything. Least of all as a Presbyterian. The Wesley Study Bible was fascinating because it was written within and for a tradition, rather than for an isolated individual like myself. Seeing how a theological tradition relates itself to Scripture was eye-opening, to say the least.
Of late I've actually been reading a single-column paragraphed NKJV. (There are precious few good formats for the NKJV, but this is one of them.) There isn't any real *need* for it - nobody else I know has one - but it's interesting, to me. It's just as Biblish as the NRSV, but a slightly different flavor of Biblish; and I think it's euphonic - I've seen KJV fans slam it, but to my un-Authorized ears it captures the cadence of what the KJV is supposed to sound like. (And empirically, the KJV-readers I know rarely quote Scripture in Jacobean English; they gloss it, and the glosses sound startlingly like the NKJV.)

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