Build Your Own Ultimate Study Bible Here!

First of all, before getting into it, I’d just like to say that this is for Catholics and Protestants alike, although for some aspects (i.e., articles that you’d like in the Bible) I’d be paying more attention to Catholic needs as I am Catholic . . . but all design features (i.e. font type, size, etc.) is welcome to everyone because I assume all Bible readers have some sort of preference for that stuff. Now, without further adieu, let me explain:

So, I’ve been looking for study Bibles to purchase (so far I have ordered the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and am waiting to get it) and I’ve been reading reviews and noticing that many people have certain “nit-picky” preferences and I thought it would be interesting to start a kind of survey to see what average Bible studiers would like to see in some future study Bible (cough cough). Now, as a warning, I am going to ask you to get into pretty great detail and to answer some questions you might not have thought of before, and I ask you to try to answer every question to the best of your ability. I hope you guys will have as much fun with this as I believe I will! Here are the questions (which may need to continue into another post):

Dimensions and Margins - What dimensions would you like the best? What are the most comfortable? Also, many people like to write their own notes in the margins and I’ve read many complaints that margins these days aren’t big enough, how large would you like margins to be?

Translation/Interlinear Possibility - Which English translation would you like your Study Bible to be based off of? Also, I’ve read many people liked that the Old Testament Navarre Bible series put the corresponding Nova Vulgata text with the English text, would you like this? If so, which language(s) would you like to appear? This could change for Old and New Testaments (i.e., Hebrew for OT and Greek for NT)

Intros - Would you like the intros and background information for every book and section of the Bible (i.e., OT and NT, then Pentateuch, Prophets, Gospels, Pauline Letters, etc.), or all at the end or beginning? Also, in the text, would you like informational headings to break up the text (e.g., “The Genealogy of Jesus” before Mt 1:1-17, then “The Birth of Jesus” before Mt 1:18-25)?

Column Preferences - What number of columns would you like for the text and commentary: one, two, or three (yes, I’ve seen some people request three columns).

Font Preferences - What font size and type would you like for the text and commentary, and yes, text and commentary font sizes/types can be different (commentary size and font will be the same for cross-references). Would you like a red letter Bible, too? That would be Christ’s words in red but you could request Yahweh’s words in red as well, if you like.

Citation Preferences - When a verse is cited in cross-references or the commentary, what form would you like? (e.g., Mt vs. Mt. vs. Matt., also Mt 16:18 vs. Mt 16, 18).

Header/Footer Details - What would you like in the header and footer? Where would you like page numbers? Would you like page numbers to restart from one when you get to the NT?

Cross-References - Where on the page would you like them to go and would you like them at all?

Concordance/Dictionary - Would you like a concise Biblical concordance and/or dictionary in the back of the volume or create a separate volume for these that could be bundled in a special Bible Study Package Deal Thing?

Topical/Apologetics Essays - Would you like multiple essays on various topics and doctrines? The articles would be similar to the articles found in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. Would you like these essays interspersed throughout the text at appropriate places or in the back or in a separate volume entirely, then included in a package as with the concordance and dictionary. Are there any specific topics/doctrines you’d like there to be essays on (e.g., Catholic hermeneutics, the Real Presence, etc.)

Graphic Preferences - Are there any specific tables, charts or lists you’d like to be in the volume(s), i.e. chart of parables, list of popes, etc. Also, would you like maps and illustrations of biblical places/buildings? If so, would you like color or grayscale and would you like them at the end of the volume or interspersed throughout the volume in the places they apply.

Book Details - Would you like hardcover, paperback, or some kind of leather? Or possibly the ability to choose which you’d like (meaning there would be editions of each kind). Is there some kind of known binding/stitching/paper you would like this book to use?

Contributors - Are there any specific people you would like to see contribute some information?

Unique Ideas - Please suggest a unique idea that you think would make this Study Bible stand out from the rest.

Good Ones - Last, but not least, please give us the name of the Study Bible that you think is the best out there and that satisfies your wants and needs.

One Last Thing - Don’t be afraid to suggest elements that haven’t been addressed here!

Thank you for participating! I’ll give my preferences first to show you how it could look!

Dimensions and Margins - I think a comfortable size would be 9.5" by 6.5". I’m not to crazy about writing in margins of books but I don’t like when margins are very small, I think a good size for margins is .5".

Translation/Interlinear Possibility - For a translation, I would probably like the very popular RSV-CE because it is fairly literal, and in English I am comfortable with. For the Navarre-like interlinear, I wouldn’t mind just having the Greek text the RSV was translated from and for the OT, the Septuagint if that’s not what was used (I’m not exactly sure!)

Intros - I’d prefer if the intros to the books and sections of the Bible come, in the book, just before the actual text of the book or section. For example, at the very beginning of the Bible, have the intro to the Pentateuch as a whole, then the specific intro to Genesis, then the Genesis text, then the Exodus intro, then the Exodus text, so on and so forth.

Column Preferences - I like the two-column idea for the text and commentary.

Font Preferences - For the font type, I would like Georgia (size 10) for the text font and Candara (size 8) for the commentary. But for the articles Georgia, size 11. And I think I would like to have Christ’s words in red.

Citation Preferences - I prefer the short, two-three letter abbreviations with no punctuation, then also a colon separating book and verse rather than a comma: Dt 4:6.

Header/Footer Details - For the header, on the left page, on the left of the header, I would like the abbreviated book name with the chapter and verse of the first words at the top of the page, on the right, I would like the full name of the book. For the beginning of Matthew: Mt 1:1…Matthew (minus the periods). Then, on the right page, the left of the header should have the name of the Study Bible and on the right should be the abbreviated book name with the book and chapter and verse of the last word on the page. For the second page of Matthew: “Zach’s Study Bible”…Mt 2:2 (minus the periods, again). The footer should simply contain the page number at the center and the page numbers should not start over at the beginning of the NT.

Cross-References - I like the Ignatius Study Bible format where they are between the text and commentary.

Concordance/Dictionary - I would prefer if these appeared in a separate volume so that they could be more exhaustive, but I would like them. :smiley:

Topical/Apologetics Essays - These would be greatly beneficial, but to give them the amount of attention they deserve, I would prefer them in a separate volume. Topics for topical essays I would want were about Catholic hermeneutics, how to use this particular study Bible, How to read the Bible with the Church and more stuff like that. For Apologetics, obviously the big hitters, but I’d like to see a more comprehensive defense of the Catholic priesthood.

Graphic Preferences - I’d definitely like to see a list of popes with years they reigned, table of parables, table of weights and measures with their modern equivalents. And I’d love to see color maps and illustrations appear in appropriate places throughout the text. Things like modern renderings of Solomon’s Temple, a color map tracking the path of the Exodus, etc.

Book Details - I’m typically a paperback kind of guy, but I always get books in hard back that I know I’m going to use very frequently, but I think they should make versions of all three anyway. I don’t know anything about binding or Bible paper . . . so I can’t help. :slight_smile:

Contributors - Well, this may be a simple pipe dream, but to have the Holy Father contribute would be awesome! I’d also like to see Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, and Patrick Madrid contribute.

Unique Idea - My unique idea would be to offer a book of blank lined paper with the volume for people to take notes, this solves the margin dilemma as well!

Good Ones - So far I’ve only been exposed to the Ignatius Study Bible . . . so that one, even thought I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the Navarre Bible.

Other - I think a nice, handy index of graphics, topics, etc. would be great. Also a bibliography of books used in the volume. Oh, and also a doctrinal index! I also think it would be great to have great Church documents about the Bible like Dei Verbum, Providentissimus Deus, and Divino Afflante Spiritu.

My version, with its many volumes, wouldn’t be something you would necessarily want to carry around with you but I think it would make for a great Home Study Bible “Set”.

Is no one up to the challenge??

Maybe I’ll just send it in private messages as a personal survey . . .

I will say that I think that having text and commentary in parallel columns (rather than text on the top and commentary on the bottom) substantially enhances the readability of annotated texts in general. Our eyes are trained to move horizontally much faster and more easily than they are to move vertically.

Okay, I’ll have a bite at this.

Dimensions and Margins - I admit I like big and thick books. :wink: I don’t like very big margins, but think something like 1 to 1.5 cm is okay for me.

Translation/Interlinear Possibility - As some might guess, I’m more of a fan of translating the text as literally as possible in the light of the historical context, even to the point of eschewing traditional renderings at a few areas (such as ‘inn’ for katalyma in Luke 2:7 or ‘mercy-seat’ for the Hebrew kapporet or the Greek hilasterion). This extends to the tenses: if the text is in a certain tense, I want them preserved as they are - instead of rendering it all in the past tense, as a number of translations are wont to do. or short, I personally have in mind something like Young’s Literal Translation or even Green’s: only it would be a Catholic version, of course. :wink:

And I’d have, for the OT, the Hebrew (original along with a transliteration), the Greek (Septuagint) and the Latin Vulgate in parallel columns on one page, with the translation on the other side - if there are differences within the original texts, I’d also have them translated in parallel columns. (I’d personally like to add the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Aramaic Targumim as well, but that’d make it too bulky than it already is, no?) Same for the NT: with Greek and Latin on one page (and perhaps the Syriac as well), with English on the other page.

Intros - Have the intros for every book, as well as for every section. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of informational headings nor of the whole concept of chapter-and-verse divisions themselves (since the sacred writers never wrote them with such!), but I’d keep them, just for an informational aid.

Column Preferences - I’d stick with two. If we’re going for something the size of Codex Sinaiticus though I’d say that four or five columns ain’t so bad. :stuck_out_tongue:

Font Preferences - I have no specific font in mind; whatever font is okay, as long as it’s legible. And yes, a red-letter Bible is rather tempting, but since there are some places in the text where who spoke which is unclear (because the original texts do not include quotation marks), I’m divided over it.

Citation Preferences - I’m more of a ‘spell-it-out-in-full’ guy, but if given a choice with abbreviations, perhaps something like ‘Matt.’ or ‘Deut.’ would be fine.

Header/Footer Details - Like Zach, I would like the book name with the chapter and verse of the first words at top left, and the name of the book at right. I’m thinking of including the ‘original’ names for the books, along with their common names. For example: Bereshit (Genesis) or Yehezkel (Ezekiel) or Tehilim (Psalms). For the NT, I’d have the page numbers restart, but with the original page number in parentheses. For example, something like 21 (900).

Cross-References - They’re another useful tool; I think I’d like them just before the footnotes.

Concordance/Dictionary - Probably in another volume. My dream Study Bible’s too heavy enough as it is. :stuck_out_tongue:

Topical/Apologetics Essays - To answer the question, “Would you like multiple essays on various topics and doctrines?” Yes! I’d really prefer it if they cover many, or even all, of the common topics one can usually see paraded around in anti-Catholic red herrings, and ones which many Catholics also have a hard time grasping, and even the obscure ones. I know it’d be really bulky if they came bounded together with the main text, but I’m thinking of having the ‘in-a-nutshell’ version included as an appendix, with the more in-depth version in the other volume.


Graphic Preferences - Are there any specific tables, charts or lists you’d like to be in the volume(s), i.e. chart of parables, list of popes, etc.

I’d like to see:

1.) A list of popes, from St. Peter to Benedict XVI
2.) Lists that every Catholic should know, such as the Seven Sacraments, Ten Commandments*, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.
3.) Lists and charts that you are not really required to know but which might be a big help if you did, for example: a list of the kings of Israel and Judah, a list of pharaohs/kings/emperors, a chronology of the Church, a chart showing the evolution of the alphabet, etc. :smiley:
4.) Prayers that every Catholic should know. Then again, if you’re Catholic, you should know about them already. :smiley:
5.) A table of weights and measurements
6.) A list of the readings used at Mass

Something of the sort.

  • Meanwhile, I’m thinking of having the Augustinian reckoning (used by Catholics and Lutherans) in a parallel column with the Philonic (the one used by Protestants, as well as Eastern Christians) and the Talmudic (used by Jews today).

And yep, I really like pictures and maps in my Bible, in (almost) living color. I’m thinking of something a la the ESV Study Bible, which have very good illustrations IMHO. I’d also also include pictures of some archeological items of interest, as well as depictions of Biblical events themselves. Being a fan of historical realism in pictures, I’m picturing something like the works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema or Balage Balogh. Still, we’d also include traditional artworks in other places: by traditional I don’t mean merely the Renaissance, but the period before that: medieval European, Byzantine, etc. For short, 2000 years of Christian iconography. :slight_smile:

Book Details - I’m also typically a paperback type of person, but this I’d like to come in hardcover (never liked leather, really).

Contributors - If possible, we should have many of the top people in the areas of history, archaeology, and theology (especially apologetics). But yeah, it’d be great if the Holy Father were to contribute even one article! :slight_smile:

Unique Ideas - Not really unique, but I’d give the footnotes. I’m thinking of having something like a hybrid of the footnotes of the New English Translation and the Haydock Commentary: very in-depth, while being very spiritually fulfilling. Also, I don’t like forcing ideas to readers like the Documentary Hypothesis or Markan Priority or Q, so I want to see the footnotes (and prefaces) spell out all the solutions for things like the Synoptic Problem that exist today, letting the reader decide which - in his opinion - has more weight.

Good Ones - Really hard to answer this one for now, so I’ll pass.

One Last Thing - influenced by my own thread, I’m a-thinkin’ that sidebars which tackle briefly the ‘minor stuff’ which may help to bring the Word to life more (such as the clothing, food, languages, and customs of the peoples in the Bible, or something like that) ain’t a bad idea too. And we could also have some commentaries from the Fathers of the Church (though I guess that’s already a given).

All in all, that’s my dream Bible. Very bulky and unwieldy. Probably pricey as well. :o

Let’s have a bit of fun, shall we? Here’s the cover I’d like:

Here is what I would like to see in a Catholic Study Bible:

1)** A Good Formal Equivalence Translation**: I am quite comfortable with the NRSV, and the RSV-2CE. I wonder if I will be adding the NAB-RE to this list sometime next year. That would certainly make things interesting.

  1. **Cross-References: **Yes sir, those always important cross-references are a must for any good study Bible. While some study Bibles, mostly using the NRSV, consign them to the commentary portion of the study Bible, I prefer them to be separate. I think the NJB (with all the notes and cross-references) does the best job at this. Of course this is aided by the fact that the NJB comes in a single-column format, which is woefully represented in most study Bibles applicable to Catholic readers. I should also mention that the Oxford NAB study Bibles also have a separate location for cross-references, as well as the Ignatius RSV-2CE study Bible.

  2. Decent Margins: While having a smaller study Bible is nice, one thing that suffers is the size of the margins, which are a must if you want to write in your Bible. The original Oxford Catholic Study Bible had some decent sized margins, but subsequent editions reduced their size considerably. The NJB also gives a bit of room too!

  3. Comprehensive Maps: I love Bible maps, yes I said it. When I look at study Bibles, one of the first things I look at are the maps. Many of the newly released study Bibles contain not only end maps, but also incorporate additional ones in the text itself. I think the *HarperCollins Study Bible *does a fine job, as well as the new NOAB 4th Edition. Let me just say that I have looked at the ESV Study Bible, which I think does a really great job with maps, charts, and diagrams.

  4. **Concordance: **It’s nice to have, but not a deal breaker for me. Most study Bibles contain one, so this is not much of an issue really. The one exception is the New Interpreters Study Bible.

  5. Multiple Cover Editions: If I am going to get an everyday study Bible, I would prefer it to be in a genuine leather cover or perhaps the new imitation/Italian DuoTone style. The Oxford study Bibles, whether NRSV or NAB, typically come in paperback, hardcover, and leather. Funny enough, the most recent HarperCollins Study Bible only comes in hardcover and softcover, but no leather option, even though the earlier edition did.

  6. **Lectionary: **As a Catholic, I think every Catholic Bible, even a study Bible, should contain at least the Sunday lectionary readings. The complete, Sunday and weekday, would be even better. The *Catholic Study Bible *NAB does this, but few others include the lectionary readings.

  7. Historical Notes/Theological In-Text Boxes: I prefer that the commentary at the bottom of the page be focused on historical data. For the most part, I think the Oxford NRSV study Bibles do a good job with this. In additional, however, I would like to see important Catholic theological information, with references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, displayed at appropriate locations in the Biblical text. For example, one could see an in-text box placed at 2 Maccabees 12 discussing prayers for the dead and purgatory, with references to the entries on this topic in the CCC.

I’ve always dreamed of having the resources, money, scholars on hand, and the backing of the Catholic Church, to produce something like this.

As for all the fonts and details, it is too hard for me to say without ever having to constructing it.

As for the translation I would want a fresh modern translation of the Greek Septuagint for the Old Testament, with variant readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Latin Vulgate. For the New Testament I would want a fresh modern translation of the Vulgate with variant readings from the Greek and Syraic. I would want the translation to be literal but easy on the ears.

As for commentary I would want lots of patristic comments. But I would want the commentary from the Fathers to be literal interpretations and no allegory unless it is very truly helpful.

patrick457: Thank you so much for your detailed response! I just love reading these responses! There is one thing I wanted to ask from the beginning (and I feel stupid for forgetting it!) but I think you addressed it briefly: what “kind” of footnotes would you like? By that I mean would you want them to be mostly historical, theological, or archeological, or a mixture of all of them?

Your chart, table, and list suggestions were really interesting and beneficial! Also, would you prefer stuff like the Document Hypothesis, Q, and the Synoptic Problem be addressed in the prefaces to books or in an appendix of some sort? Also, are there any specifically “Catholic” scholars in the field of archeology and anthropology and such? Could you name a few?

What do you think about my idea of including documents such as Dei Verbum in the Bible? I really like that feature about my St. Joseph medium sized NAB . . .

mccorm45: Thank you very much for your response! I would just like to know what you think about the Theological and Apologetic papers I mentioned? Are there any contributors you would like?

COPLAND 3: I found your ideas about translation very interesting! I’m just curious why you would rather have the New Testament translated from the Vulgate rather than Greek? Also, which Vulgate? The New Vulgate or the Clementine Vulgate?

Also, what do you think of the Theological and Apologetic papers I mentioned? Who would you like to see contribute?

Thanks again to everyone who responded! I’d really appreciate if all of you viewers out there share your opinions! I find this stuff really interesting!


COPLAND 3: I found your ideas about translation very interesting! I’m just curious why you would rather have the New Testament translated from the Vulgate rather than Greek? Also, which Vulgate? The New Vulgate or the Clementine Vulgate?

Also, what do you think of the Theological and Apologetic papers I mentioned? Who would you like to see contribute?

I would go with the Clementine Vulgate. The reason why I am not so hurry to pick the Greek is because you get into the area of what Greek text to go with, and there are many based upon different manuscript traditions, and you get into having to decide what is the most authoritative Greek readings, but with the Clementine Vulgate it has a very strong stamp of approval.

I like the idea of the theological and apologetic papers! I would want to have someone who can make great use of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, but be able to speak to a modern day reader.

Thanks for the clarification! Do you think it might be more beneficial to just do another English translation of the Clementine Vulgate rather than going with Greek for the OT and Latin for the NT? I feel a little silly asking this, but aren’t there various renderings of the Septuagint? Or is there basically one with various renderings of very minor things?

No, in many cases, we have Septuagint texts that vary tremendously:

*] Alexandrinus vs.Vaticanus (especially in the books of Joshua and Judges)
*] Old Greek vs. Kaige (especially in Samuel 1&2 and Kings 1&2)
*] Old Greek vs.Alpha (especially in Esther)
*] Sinaticus vs. Alexandrinus (especially in Tobit)
*] Majority Text vs. Barberini (especially in Habakkuk)
*] Old Greek vs. Theodotion (especially in Daniel including Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon)
*] We also have additions in some texts, such as Theodotion (from fragments of Origen’s Hexapla) in Job and the Greek II text in Sirach
Oxford recently published a scholarly translation of the Septuagint (including most of these variations), the New English Translation of the Septuagint, which I can highly recommend. I do not think it can easily be bested by a new translation.

If you want to read a Greek scholarly Septuagint, you need to wait a few more decades because the Göttingen Septuaginta is still being published! There is Rahlfs’ older edition from 1935, but this is lacking in many ways, not the least of which it mainly relies only on the Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus editions.

So, if someone talks about ***the ***Septuagint (as if there were only one master text), he is either speaking in shorthand or is uninformed about the textual situation.

(Of course, we have many different variants of the Vulgate as well, especially when we try to reconstruct Jerome’s Vulgate – but the variants are much less extreme than with the Septuagint.)

Thanks for the clarification! Do you think it might be more beneficial to just do another English translation of the Clementine Vulgate rather than going with Greek for the OT and Latin for the NT? I feel a little silly asking this, but aren’t there various renderings of the Septuagint? Or is there basically one with various renderings of very minor things?

Not in my opinion because even though there are many variant readings among the LXX manuscripts, I choose it for the OT because it is in harmony with the New Testament most of the time since most of the NT quotations of the OT are from the Septuagint. I would obviously want to put into practice textual critism when doing the LXX. But since I am only dreaming here I would also want the Church to approve an official LXX version and then work from there.

Hmmm…with all these great suggestions, I’m afraid we’ll be looking at a Bible that looks something like this:

Just kidding! You guys are doing a great job. :slight_smile:


Looks a little like the original Jerusalem Bible (1966) :eek:

Funny…that’s exactly what I’m thinking of. :smiley:
Well, I guess the only solution we have left is to make it similar in size to Codex Gigas, which incidentally, contains the Bible, Josephus, St. Isidore’s Etymologies, Cosmas of Prague’s Chronicle of Bohemia, various tractates - such as those by Constantine the African or Hunayn ibn Ishaq, a calendar with necrologium, a list of brothers in Benedictine monastery of Podlažice, magic formulae, other local records, two abecedaria - that of Glagolitic and Cyrilic, as well as that well-known picture of the devil - paired with a picture of a city (the New Jerusalem?), all in one volume. :wink:

Personally, I would --in the interest of having a smaller, more wieldy study Bible with decent size print and large margins-- be open to having a two volume work. The second volume (or appendix) could be for all those lengthy articles and reference works that you wouldn’t ordinarily refer to while in an informal Bible study situation.

Text, commentary, introductions, maps, a concordance, a glossary, small side-bars, biblical and Catechism cross references and cross references to the appendix would be the most organizationally logical and practical things to have in the Study Bible itself. Otherwise, a volume jam-packed with great information would be essentially unusable.

I think the greatest thing that “could be” one day is to have a complete translation of the glossa ordinaria. I have the only fully translated book of it and that is on the Song of songs.

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