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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Aids to Better Understanding

What many students want in addition to the translation is information that will help to bridge the gap between original historical settings and the reader's modern setting, between ancient and contemporary cultures. An array of annotations, introductions and articles serve this purpose by providing an orientation to current scholarly opinion about biblical literature and methods of study.

INTRODUCTIONS AND ANNOTATIONS. The reader will find that Introductions and annotations have been supplied for each biblical book. These are meant to furnish the modest but essential information which enables a student to begin reading the Bible with understanding. In contrast to the highly individual and distinctive judgments in technical books and commentaries which scholars address to each other, what the reader can expect here are common opinions, views generally shared by scholars. If one consults the list of contributors, it will also be seen that this kind of scholarly consensus represents a broad spectrum of confessional positions. The annotations and Introductions, written by contributors who come from Jewish, Roman Catholic and various Protestant traditions, exhibit a methodology which cuts across lines of religious affiliation.

An Introduction appears at the very beginning of each book and provides information about the history and character of the book. Such information is important for understanding the document, so consulting the Introduction when reading a book is always an advantage. For example, the Introduction will ordinarily indicate a book's historical context. Thus, the reader who turns to the Introduction to Deuteronomy (p. 181) learns that Deuteronomy is to be seen in relation to the events of the seventh and eighth centuries B.C.E. Similarly, the Introduction to the Gospel according to John (p. 1365) includes the information that it probably was written near the end of the first century C.E. in Asia Minor. Also, an Introduction will discuss special literary features of a book. Thus, Proverbs (one learns from the Introduction, p. 652) is made up of several collections of “wisdom” instruction; the Revelation of John is an apocalyptic document (Introduction, p. 1556). Clues of this nature enlighten the reading of a book in advance.

The annotations furnish information about matters in the text of the book and are located at the foot of the page on which the verse or passage is printed. Typically, annotations provide clarification of historical and geographical references, identification of characters, definitions of words with special meanings, and other basic information. A good example of how annotations illuminate a passage may be seen at Isa. 7.1–9 , where notes supply such information as: description of the historical setting of the account, identification of Ahaz, explanation of house of David, elucidation of the name Shear-jashub. The notes are not a set of detailed comments, nor do they intend to supply a comprehensive interpretation of the passage. What is supplied is basic knowledge for informed reading.

The annotations also incorporate references to other biblical passages which are pertinent because they are being quoted, or offer a parallel account or otherwise shed light on the text. Where there is a literary relation between books (i.e., one uses the other as a source) these references receive special treatment. Because they were used as sources, for example, the books of Samuel and Kings are referenced frequently and pointedly in the annotations on Chronicles. The fact that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) have a literary relationship has led to a special way of citing parallel units: the parallels are cross-referenced in parentheses which immediately follow paragraph headings in the annotations. Thus, the annotation heading for Mark 9.2–8 : The transfiguration is followed by reference in parenthesis to the parallels Matt. 17.1–8 and Lk. 9.28–36 .

OTHER STUDY AIDS. In addition to the Introductions and annotations which accompany the text, another two dozen “aids to study” in the form of articles, charts and maps undergird informed reading in other ways. These additional aids address subjects that are broader than the issues of specific passages and furnish orientations to areas that are relevant to the Bible as a whole or to a sizable portion of it. The positions advanced in these articles are, by and large, consensus judgments. A student who uses these materials will gain an impression of the common understandings of issues in biblical studies developed by contemporary scholars.

The idea of turning to these aids may come as a result of the reader's experience with the biblical text that presses for their use. Thus the “Maps and Notes” may be consulted initially when it becomes apparent that an understanding of geographical setting will enhance a story's significance. Or, in the course of reading Hosea, the student may decide to turn to the article on “The Phenomenon of Prophecy.” The articles are, in fact, sufficiently relevant to the process of reading that many of them may be encountered out of just such a practical motivation.

However, while a student's attention may be drawn to a particular study aid by an encountered “problem” or “issue,” a better approach would be to read the assembled articles as a small book which furnishes a survey laying the foundation for good understanding. Although the realization that one is reading chapters of the Bible printed as poetry might suggest turning to the article on “Literary Forms of the Bible,” the study of the entire Bible would be better served by having learned in advance to expect a variety of types of books (such as poetry, letters, or narrative) and diverse small units (such as parables, proverbs, or prayers). Again, the dramatic story of Moses, the burning bush, and the revelation of the God who is called “I am” (Exod. 3.1–15 ) might suggest looking at the article on “Deity in the Biblical Communities and among their Neighbors”; still, that article is important far beyond the specific Exodus account and should be allowed to inform general reading in the Bible. Other articles provide general overviews which supply relevant background information; “Historical Contexts of the Biblical Communities” and “The Social World of the New Testament” are only two of the more obvious examples. The reader should explore the articles and other aids with a view to finding how they facilitate the enjoyment of Bible study.

For millennia, the Bible's story has fascinated its readers and its message has inspired both courage and faith. The Oxford Study Bible is offered in the hope of encouraging the reader's discovery of the book and of enhancing the meaning of its story and message.

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