by Pastor Riley Fraas
Ever since I received my shiny new addition in the form of the 2012-debuted Westminster Reference Bible put out by our friends at the Trinitarian Bible Society in London, England, I have been intending to write a review of this valuable resource. The time is come. 2013 is upon us, which among other things gives me a coveted free moment to write something for my blog!
I had long been in anticipation of the Westminster Reference Bible from the Trinitarian Bible Society. I have not been dissappointed in the least! The reason for my eager anticipation was mainly that this edition of the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture has the most extensive cross-references of any edition of Scripture I have yet seen. In my estimation, the biggest help to interpreting a passage is to see the links which bind it to other books, passages, and verses of Scripture from the Old and New Testament, known as cross-references. In this way the imbibing of potentially incorrect views is avoided, since there is no comment on the text from a fallible interpreter, as in most study Bibles, and the “analogy of faith” is followed. The only foolproof way of interpreting any part of Scripture is by comparing it with Scripture. The parts are interpreted in light of the whole, the whole in light of the parts, and the more difficult passages are explained by those which speak more clearly. Although “study bibles” which include fallible commentary are quite useful, and I consult a number of them often, I think that it is best to first go to the Scriptures without commentary, and go through the process of comparing Scripture with Scripture before seeing what others have to say. This means that the main Bible one reads should include cross-references but not commentary. This is where such an extensively cross-referenced Bible comes in handy. I say this as much with the common reader in mind as for myself. This edition of the Bible has center and marginal columns containing Scripture references galore (200,000+), mostly taken from the notes of the sound 18th century Scottish minister, John Brown of Haddington. I have found it to be a great help in finding other passages which shed light on a given verse or passage. With this edition, it is less frequently that I search the cross-references looking for another part of Scripture that relates to the part I am reading, which I just cannot put my finger on, only to come up empty-handed. Usually it gives me exactly the connected passages that I am looking for.
This edition is offered in the Authorized (King James) version, as one would expect from the Trinitarian Bible Society.
Though no English translation of the Holy Scriptures is perfect, and the Authorized Version has lost some of its popularity in recent decades, it is still the most accurate English version of Holy Scripture that is widely available, in my opinion. The antiquated language will take some getting used to for those accustomed to more modern versions, (and there are benefits to getting used to the older English.) The Authorized Version is to be preferred based on its superior textual basis, that is, the Masoretic Hebrew Text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus (Received Text) of the New Testament, those texts which have been handed down in history, and preserved in the Church of Jesus Christ for all generations.
This preacher cannot agree with the hypothesis of Metzger and other New Testament academicians that the text of the New Testament was corrupted for most of history, only to be “restored” by German scholars in the 19th century. And even when it comes to the Old Testament, I have often been disturbed by the frequency with which popular modern versions will follow readings other than the Hebrew Masoretic Text, such as the Greek Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch, or change the Hebrew vowel marks through a highly speculative process called revocalization, changing key prophetic passages. The Authorized version has other things to commend it, such as the fact that it is still the most widely accepted English version, the standard by which others are judged. (You will normally not find a Christian who will question a quotation from the “King James” version.) And its style and cadence are masterfully suited to memorization and reading aloud, like in public worship or family settings. The Westminster Reference Bible includes definitions of more obscure English vocabulary in the margins, which helps to mitigate the problem of the “old” English, as well as alternate translations on occasion. These features put a lot of helpful information within eye reach when one is digging into God’s word.
The last thing I wish to mention is the high quality of this volume. Published in a reasonably large size and font for regular study, its binding is in a smooth calfskin leather that can only be described as plush and buttery to the touch. It is a thing of beauty to view, touch, and smell.
The solid binding and craftsmanship that one has come to expect from the Trinitarian Bible Society, whose volumes are published by the Queen’s printer, Cambridge University Press in London, England is found in this book. It is made to last. This Bible includes a number of maps, four marker ribbons, extra note pages, a concordance, and two-year plan to read through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once. It is provided in a cardboard case.
I recommend this Bible as the main study Bible for English-reading Christians. As of the time I am writing, it is available in the calfskin for 80$ and in hardback for 24$ from the Trinitarian Bible Society.