Luke 2:14 has well known variant readings (is “good will” nominative or genitive?), and despite scholarship preferring one over the other, the choice between these readings is not clear. How do variant readings and translations affect our understanding of the inspiration of the Bible? What if ambiguities weren’t something God intended to work around but something he intended to work within.
Because virtually all Bible translations strategically use the word-for-word and thought-for-thought methods where necessary based upon a threshold of difficulty unique to that translation, we shouldn’t fall into the error of thinking that there are “word-for-word” translations over here and “thought-for-thought” translations over there, and one category is automatically better than the other. It just doesn’t work that way.
Even someone as awesome as William Tyndale can make a mistake. And even as revered a translation as the King James Version can unthinkingly perpetuate it.
Good Bible interpretation is radically text-centered and moves from text to application. This involves avoiding confirmation bias, letting the Bible determine subject matter, and not insisting that every text be reducible to an ethical “action point.”
An important assumption of close reading, whether or not the text at hand is Scripture, is that every detail matters. Every detail can and should be subjected to scrutiny. One way we can subject details to scrutiny is by asking, “How else could it be said?” By asking this question we attempt to replicate the thinking that constructed the text.
The NLT Illustrated Study Bible, is an update of the NLT Study Bible line of products, which have ranked among the most comprehensive study Bibles on the market. Using the popular and easy-to-read New Living Translation for its text and a tabloid-like style of graphic design, this study Bible is extremely accessible and visually stimulating. Its commentary covers a wide range of theological, hermeneutical, and historical subjects in a thorough and generally responsible way. At the same time, however, it demonstrates a decidedly conservative point-of-view, meaning it avoids challenging fundamentalist Bible interpretation strategies, even where those strategies are most vulnerable and least helpful.
Judges by Trent Butler is an outstanding addition both to the Word Biblical Commentary series and to scholarly literature on the book of Judges, being both very readable and rigorously scholarly. Butler’s approach is conservative and up-to-date, arguing for an early composition date and treating Judges as a literary unit. The volume contains an extensive and helpful bibliography and appendix of tables. The occasional division of the text into units of three or more chapters makes parts of this volume cumbersome, but Judges remains exceedingly useful and scholarly.
Despite some questionable type-setting decisions that limit the usefulness of this Bible for an aging Christian population, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is one of the best and most comprehensive study Bibles currently on the market. Its focus on biblical theology pays off in a big way. I highly recommend it.
Here’s a handy-dandy infograph about the basic categories of Bible study reference tools. Also, check out our BSE workshops, especially “Your Bible Study Tool Belt”.
If you do these things, reading either chapter-by-chapter or verse-by-verse, you will be on your way to a far more effective and enriching reading of the book of Proverbs than, I suspect, most people usually experience.