NRSVue Holy Bible with Apocrypha Review (Personal Size)
Zondervan Has a Good Competitor to Crossway’s Ubiquitous ESV Offerings
If I told you how many physical Bibles we have at our house, it might be embarrassing. Over the years, I have collected several styles, print block versions, translations, and publisher editions. I also like to sample the cover materials from goatskin to modern imitation leathers. A physical Bible has connections to my senses that my very helpful electronic forms lack. My absolute favorite Bible in our home is my 4th Edition New Oxford Study Bible (NRSV) bound in high-quality leather with a text block beautifully printed in the Netherlands. As a lifelong fan of books, I may tend to get a bit geeky within this review, but I hope to explain why the new NRSVue from Zondervan is so very good from its materials to its typeface and printing.
In the printed Bible space, one publisher in the last decade has produced at scale editions that are pleasing to hold, interesting in construction, and sold at a great value. Unfortunately. that publisher only prints the ESV (English Standard Version) which is a revision of the RSV (Revised Standard Version). While the ESV shares much in heritage with the RSV and the newer NRSV, it has a specific ideological purpose that makes many of its translation choices outside the mainstream. The primary purpose of the ESV is to promote a complimentarian (patriarchal) version of Christianity. For more information on how the ESV makes choices outside of scholarly consensus to purposely use male pronouns and reinforce male superiority, see Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood.
This is the environment of modern Bible publishing where Crossway has dominated in evangelical spaces. Because of volume, Crossway has innovated and make beautifully printed editions of the ESV, but they are still the ESV. That is why I am so excited about the newest Bibles from Zondervan featuring the NRSV and NRSVue. Zondervan is using some lessons learned from Crossway’s success and producing beautifully bound editions of the NRSV and NRSVue. The personal size Bible that I was sent for review is beautiful, feels nice in the hand, feels durable, and has a pleasing text block. The imitation leather that Zondervan calls Leathersoft™️.
The specifications on this Bible include several higher end features which explain its $54.99 MSRP. The street price at Amazon and other retailers is closer to $34.99, which makes it a nice value. This edition is the personal size and includes the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books of the Old Testament. Even with the included deuterocanonical books, this edition is still under 1.5 inches thick. They accomplish this size by using high quality 36 GSM paper and a typeface developed for the Zondervan NRSVue by 2K/Denmark. The typeface is printed at 8.5pts, but is still very easy to read. The 36 GSM paper shows little to no ghosting and is comparable to other high quality printed editions. Book titles, chapter headings, and section headings are printed in a burgundy color, which contrasts nicely with the black text. It makes for a visually appealing presentation. The Bible is bound in a lay flat Smyth-sewn binding, which should make this a durable Bible. My review copy is bound with the Dark Brown, textured Leathersoft™️ cover. It has a subtle stitching element and nice endpapers. The gilded gold edges have a pleasant look and add an elegant touch to the Bible. Two satin ribbons round out the features. While I like more ribbons, that is an easy add if I desire.
I was scheduled to preach during the review period of this edition, so I decided to carry it as my only Bible from the pulpit. I found the text easy to read, even at a preaching distance, and the Bible felt comfortable in my hands as I read and held it. This was the first time in many years that I left my iPad out and I may do that some more. My wife mentioned it was one of my most “traditional” sermons, so maybe the old school approach brought out an old school sermon. Physically, this is a comfortable Bible to hold, read, and carry. I am impressed with the work Zondervan has put into this edition and am excited to see how they build on this success.
Another feature of this review is of the translation within the edition. In contrast to the ESV mentioned above, the NRSVue (New Revised Standard Version updated edition) intentionally uses gender neutral language where appropriate. It builds upon the 1989 revision of the RSV in the NRSV, but includes some stylistic and improved reading work. The translators mention that when legal language is used, such as in Leviticus, the NRSVue retains the masculine pronouns to help highlight the historical understanding of those texts. Like the original intent of the ESV, the NRSVue hopes to have a more regular revision cadence as scholarship and manuscript evidence grows. The NRSVue, like the NRSV is a scholarly and ecumenical translation. They revised the Apocryphal books with the same attention to detail as the canonical books, which makes it an excellent translation. The NRSVue was released in 2021 and includes about 12,000 substantive edits and about 20,000 edits total. The NRSVue is a quality translation that should be a part of any serious Bible student’s collection.
The Zondervan NRSVue Holy Bible with Apocrypha (Personal Size) is an excellent edition of the NRSVue. If you find it at the street price under $40, it is also an excellent value. The Leathersoft™️ and Smythe-sewn binding should be a durable choice and the presentation pages and quality make it an excellent gift as well. I highly recommend this printing of the NRSVue.
I was provided this Bible free for review. No one has reviewed or asked for specific ratings in this review. The opinions within this review are totally mine.