Reddit reviews The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version
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There are numerous resources that I could suggest, but these are a good start.
Yeah, I used the Harper Collins Study Bible when I was in school (I did a double major in English and Religious Studies in a Canadian University) but I believe the Oxford Annotated Bible is also popular when studying the bible academically.
Edit: I also used Ehrman’s The New Testament as a companion when studying the Bible in school.
> This section, along with the preceding one describing the “stream” rising up to water the ground (2.6), may draw on the ancient tradition that a temple is built on a primal mountain of creation from which the waters of the earth flow. The rivers mentioned here combine world rivers like the Tigris and Euphrates (both in Mesopotamia) with the local Gihon that flowed from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Ps 46.4; Isa 7.6; Zech 14.8), although Cush is generally either Ethiopia or in Arabia. Pishon is unknown; Havilah is probably in Arabia.
> Where are the ancient centers of civilization according to the Bible? The answer to this is hinted at in the
description of the four rivers emerging from the Garden of Eden. It is natural that the ancients should
believe the rivers of Eden to be those flowing through the lands most abundant in water, the foremost
being the Tigris and the Euphrates in Mesopotamia. The Pishon and the Gihon have not been identified
and may have merely been symbolic. But since Havilah is one of the regions of Cush (Gen. 10:7), it would seem that the two major branches of the Nile (the Blue and the White) may have been intended.
Get the New Oxford Annotated. It has a lot of current scholarly essays, notes, graphs, maps, etc. It's in readable English (none of that King James nonsense), so you'll actually understand what's being said. You only need to read the KJV if you specifically want to argue with old people and fundamentalists. If you want to understand the Bible for yourself, get something in your language. ;) this was the one I got for myself at the advice of r/AcademicBiblical. It's been good.
Edit: for your mobile device, try the YouVersion Holy Bible app and read the NET version. It also has a lot of notes, but they are a lot more theologically motivated sometimes than the more scholarly notes from the Oxford Annotated.
>Edit: any recommendations for the most "unbiased" versions?
You might consider the New Oxford Annotated Bible. Here’s a bit from the blurb:
>For over 50 years students, professors, clergy, and general readers have relied on The New Oxford Annotated Bible as an unparalleled authority in Study Bibles. This fifth edition of the Annotated remains the best way to study and understand the Bible at home or in the classroom. This thoroughly revised and substantially updated edition contains the best scholarship informed by recent discoveries and anchored in the solid Study Bible tradition.
You might also consider The Study Qur’an. A bit from its blurb:
>Drawn from a wide range of traditional Islamic commentaries, including Sunni and Shia sources, and from legal, theological, and mystical texts, The Study Quran conveys the enduring spiritual power of the Quran and offers a thorough scholarly understanding of this holy text.
This is the link to buy the NOAB on Amazon:
New Oxford Annotated Bible
It’s offered in a variety of formats, but I think the hardcover (which is akin to a textbook binding) is the best value.
The paperback binding makes the physical book too flimsy in my opinion. I have a similar Bible, the HarperCollins Study Bible (edited by scholars of the Society of Biblical Literature), in paperback and its “floppiness” drives me batty.
NOAB is in its fifth edition, but it is not substantially different from the fourth edition, so you can buy a used copy of the latter for under $20 USD. The third edition is also a good buy—it still incorporates the NRSV as the base text and can be had for $11 USD used. There were substantial changes between the third and fourth editions, including formatting and layout. (Some folks actually like the font used for the biblical text in the third edition over the one used in subsequent editions.)
As for reading strategies, you might like the brisk pacing of Mark (usually considered the first Gospel to be written and used as a literary source for Matthew and Luke, both of which include other material such as the birth narratives not covered by Mark). The Gospel of John, thought to be composed much later, is structured quite differently for various theological and rhetorical purposes.
The NOAB study notes will prove helpful as you read the biblical text, as well as the book introductions and a number of essays that are found in the appendices. Keep in mind that the individual biblical scholars who were engaged to write the notes are working against space limitations (lest a 2400-page book become a 4800-page book), so some of their annotations will be brief as a result. If you have more questions concerning the text there are other specialized resources available (e.g., individual commentaries) in which scholars have more space to address various questions one may pose of the text.
I always enjoy the Jewish Annotated New Testament or the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible. Both use the NRSV with top-notch commentary and essays. The NOASB is often used in academic biblical courses in universities, for example.