In speaking of the Bible, Edgar Goodspeed once noted, “It has been truly said that any translation of the masterpiece must be a failure.” That insight did not, however, keep Goodspeed from trying, nor does it stop any number of our own day from attempting new and updated translations.
Such activity demonstrates the continuing interest in and vitality of the scriptures. Nearly two millennia since the completion of the canon, there continues to be enormous energy and scholarship devoted to the translation and study of God’s Word.
As preachers, we can be thankful that we live in an era unprecedented for the availability of quality translations of scripture, along with useful commentaries and other references which shed light on the Word. If faithful biblical preaching is not taking place in every pulpit in the land, it is not for lack of resources!
As we do each year in this issue, Preaching now surveys the landscape of biblical resource material added to the preacher’s bookshelf during the past year.
By far the most controversial new publication is The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version (Oxford University Press), which has been dubbed the “politically correct version” of the Bible by many critics — and not without justification. (For a lighter look at this version, see “Back Page Pulpit” on page 80 of this issue)
The introduction to the volume spells out the efforts of the editorial committee (half men, half women) to make the language of scripture more “gender inclusive” through such means as eliminating masculine pronouns relating to God or Christ. Among other changes, language is softened so that “slaves” are now “enslaved people,” “lepers” are now “people with leprosy,” and so on.
If you are the kind of person who thinks Paul intended to say “Grace to you and peace from God our Father-Mother” (2 Cor. 1:2), or that Romans is more accurately rendered “Will not God, who did not withhold God’s own Child, but gave up that Child for all of us” (Rom. 8:32), then this is the “translation” for you. On the other hand, if the accurate translation of the text is important to you, you would be advised to look elsewhere.
On a more orthodox note, a new volume called God’s Word was published this year (World Publishers) based on original translation work done by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society. The translators used the same method employed by a variety of mission organizations (like Wycliffe Bible Translators) in translating the Bible into various languages and dialects around the world. Using both biblical scholars and linguists, the translation team used this linguistically-based translation paradigm which seeks to express the meaning of one language in another language, using the closest natural equivalence.
Another method used to clarify meaning is in the graphic presentation of the text on the page. The biblical text is presented in a single-column format — typical of any other book we would read — and uses frequent topical headings. As with the NIV, the text is arranged in paragraphs, and poetic material is arranged in verse format. The translators have used brackets to explain the meaning of foreign terms or names where needed, and half-brackets to identify words which are implied by the text, but which do not literally appear in the text.
Members of the translation team are all conservative evangelicals. (I would encourage the publisher to include a total or at least representative list of the scholarly translators in future editions.) God’s Word aims at both accurate translation and a contemporary English readability. While gender-neutral language has been used where reference is to all people, gender-specific language has been retained where reference is to a single individual. For example, using the same passage from Romans 8:32 that was quoted above, God’s Word translates it: “God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over [to death] for all of us.”
Here’s another example of a significant passage, as translated in God’s Word: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him. He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity” (John 1:1-4).
God’s Word is a quality translation which uses contemporary English language to communicate biblical concepts. Preachers will find it a helpful addition to their study library as well as a worthy tool for devotional reading.
Zondervan Publishers and Christianity Today, Inc., combined to produce the Quest Study Bible (Zondervan), which uses the New International Version (NIV) text. The major highlight of this volume is an extensive set of questions and answers and “Scripture Links” which fill the outside margins of each page.
For example, the page with Matthew 4:16-5:12 contains a series of questions (with a paragraph of explanatory text following each): “Was there any risk Jesus might yield to Satan’s temptation? (4:3-11),” “Was the devil; right to claim that the world belonged to him? (4:8-9),” “In what sense was the kingdom of heaven near? (4:17),” “Were Simon and Andrew acting on impulse? (4:20),” “Why do Matthew and Luke disagree about where the sermon was preached? (5:1),” and “Why did Jesus teach reversed values? (5:3-12).” Answers are written from a conservative evangelical perspective and some are certainly open to other interpretations, but they provide a good starting point in exploring questions raised by the text.
The Quest Study Bible contains a helpful subject index and a brief concordance and dictionary, along with a host of helpful charts, time-lines and maps scattered throughout the text. Preachers will particularly find this volume helpful in preparing Bible study material, since many of the suggested questions can be used in preaching and teaching situations.
A couple of other major Bible publishing events took place within the past year: the release of the New Geneva Study Bible (Thomas Nelson) and the Contemporary English Version (American Bible Society). The NGSB uses the text of the New King James Version, and features study notes and essays by a variety of Reformed scholars, including J.I. Packer, James Boice, Roger Nicole, and Bruce Waltke; R.C. Sproul served as general editor. The major flaw of the NGSB is use of the NKJV text rather than the NIV, as originally planned (and apparently scuttled by a transition in publishers).
The Contemporary English Version is an original translation project that aims to faithfully communicate the meaning of the biblical text in a readable, lyrical style that is appropriate for both private and public reading. The translation project lasted a decade and involved more than 100 persons.
Although it’s not likely to become a study Bible of choice, some preachers may be interested in The Inspirational Study Bible (Word), edited by Max Lucado. Lucado is an outstanding preacher and writer, and his “Life Lessons” scattered throughout the text will suggest insights for practical application of the biblical text. The volume uses the New Century Version translation, a version developed by Word Books and previously released in other forms.
In last year’s survey, we discussed the release of the Experiencing God Study Bible (Broadman & Holman), designed to accompany the Experiencing God book and seminars that are making such an impact in the lives of thousands of Christians. This year the publisher has released a Spanish-language version of the Bible, which will be welcome news to many Hispanic pastors and church leaders who would like to recommend a quality study Bible to their church members.
Bible Reference Resources
The average pastor does not have the shelf space to accommodate half of the quality commentaries and other resources published each year — not to mention the book budget such a project would entail! Nevertheless, it is important for preachers to keep up with the available resources as much as possible, and to selectively purchase some of the outstanding new volumes that appear each year.
One of my favorite new series — and one destined to be a favorite of many preachers — is the NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan). One of the distinctive needs of preaching today is solid, contemporary application of the text. This unique series is designed to help with that challenge, while not sacrificing quality treatment of the biblical text.
Two volumes in this series have appeared in the past year: I Corinthians by Craig Blomberg, and Galatians by Scot McKnight. Each section deals with the text in three areas: Original Meaning (background, textual issues, word meanings, etc.), Bridging Contexts (principles or concepts which emerge from the text), and Contemporary Significance (applications of the text’s principles or teachings). It is hard to imagine a preacher preparing to preach from either of these books without consulting these commentaries. Preachers will eagerly anticipate future releases in the series.
Another outstanding commentary series that continues to build a following among preachers is the New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman). The NAC provides exegetical and theological comments based on the NIV text; contributors are conservative evangelicals, most Southern Baptist. Four volumes were released this year, including 1, 2 Kings by Paul R. House (Associate Professor of Old Testament, Taylor University); Amos, Obadiah, Jonah by Billy K. Smith (provost at New Orleans Baptist Seminary) and Frank S. Page (pastor of Warren Baptist Church, Augusta, GA); Romans by Robert H. Mounce (president emeritus of Whitworth College); and 1, 2 Thessalonians by D. Michael Martin (associate professor of New Testament, Golden Gate Baptist Seminary). NAC volumes are characterized by solid exegetical treatments, accompanied by helpful insights for preaching.
Other commentary series also saw the release of new volumes, including the commentary on First and Second Peter, James and Jude by Pheme Perkins (professor of New Testament at Boston College) in the Interpretation series (Westminster/John Knox); Paul’s Letter to the Philippians by Gordon D. Fee (professor of New Testament at Regent College), part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans); and 2 Timothy by John MacArthur (pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA), part of the MacArthur New Testament Commentary series (Moody Press). The Fee volume, in particular, is a substantial volume that combines readable expository insights with an imposing array of theological and critical reflection.
A new series is the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, with Moises Silva serving as general editor. If the first volume of Darrell L. Bock’s two-volume commentary on Luke is any indication, the Baker series will be an imposing contribution to the field. The first volume covers Luke 1:1-9:50, and its 988 pages include a substantial collection of exegesis, exposition and essays concerning the third gospel. Bock is professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary.
If you’d like to sample Bock’s work on Luke in a more concise form, try his Luke as part of the IVP New Testament Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press). Half the size of the Baker tome, it’s less filling but still tastes great!
The past year has also produced several individual volumes on biblical books. Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Moody Press) is written by Robert L. Thomas, professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. Thomas is a Dallas Seminary Th.D., and his commentary is written from a premillenial perspective. Yet another Dallas Seminary contribution is Reflecting With Solomon (Baker Books), a collection of 33 essays on the book of Ecclesiastes, edited by professor Roy B. Zuck. The list of contributors is diverse, and the book would appear to be a “must” for any preacher approaching this challenging part of scripture.
The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, a two-volume set, is actually an abridgement of the multi-volume Expositor’s Bible Commentary, which was published between 1976 and 1992. It includes many of the exegetical insights of the larger set while omitting more technical discussion. For preachers on a severe budget — who must get by with minimal resources — this may be a worthwhile invest-ment. The new release is edited by Kenneth L. Barker (executive director of the NIV Translation Center of the International Bible Society) and John R. Kohlenberger III (professor at Multnomah School of the Bible).
In addition to commentaries, other types of biblical study resources are helpful to preachers. One that will be a valuable addition to any preacher’s library is Foundations for Biblical Interpretation (Broadman & Holman), edited by David S. Dockery (dean of theology at Southern Baptist Seminary), Kenneth A. Matthews (professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School), and Robert B. Sloan (recently-named president of Baylor University). The 614-page volume contains a series of outstanding articles dealing with a variety of issues in Old and New Testament interpretation, along with several fine general articles on topics such as “Revelation” and “Inspiration and Authority of Scripture.” In addition to likely use classrooms, this volume will be an excellent “refresher course” in biblical interpretation for preaching ministers.
Finally, one of the most unique Bible resources designed for preachers is The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, produced and distributed by Leadership Ministries Worldwide of Chattanooga, TN. At present, TPOSB includes the entire New Testament (13 volumes), plus Genesis 1-11, a master index, and the Minister’s Personal Handbook. Each volume is in loose-leaf form, and includes the King James text, an exegetical/homiletical outline alongside the passage, and expositional notes. Pastors with a limited library in particular will find this a helpful tool as they develop sermons.
I have particular appreciation for the work of Leadership Ministries in translating and distributing these resources in Russian, Korean and Spanish. I taught pastors in Moscow this May, and they are in desperate need of biblical study resources in Russian. A church or organization could make a real impact in supporting such efforts.
We English-speaking preachers enjoy a wealth of resources; let’s pray that the coming decade will see an increasing number of such homiletical resources translated and made available to our international colleagues.
And in the meantime, I’m already looking forward to 1996 and a new crop of great commentaries. Start the presses!

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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