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90 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Kindle Bible so far, but not yet perfect., December 18, 2011
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This review is from: The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Hardcover)
This review addresses the text, but it will make a point of describing how well the volume succeeds as a Kindle book. It gets five stars, in spite of blemishes, because the scholarship is first-rate and the perks one gets from the Kindle platform add enough value that you really get your money's worth. In a way, the only sign that the point of view is "Jewish" is that there is no bias to any Christian theology, such as Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, or Pentecostal.

The intention for publishing The Jewish Annotated New Testament, according to its editors, Amy-Jill Levine and Mark Zvi Brettler is to recognize the growing understanding between Jewish and Christian traditions, and to help further that understanding. It may be worth noting that both editors are at the top of their fields. Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish New Testament scholar, is literally a household name among the faculty and students at my seminary. Mark Zvi Brettler is an Old Testament specialist.
The Translation is the NRSV, the most popular Protestant "Scholarly" translation. Therefore, the best yardstick for evaluating it would be the Harper/Collins Annotated (NRSV) Bible. There is only one other major contemporary study Bible on Kindle, and the problems it has are a lesson that the Bible is a difficult book for a generic e-reader to handle. However, I have found reasons to prefer this over dedicated biblical software such as Bibleworks.

The "active" Table of Contents is good by Kindle standards, easy to reach, and gives you access to each book, essay, and appendix. This is much better than the ESV, but it stops too soon, in that once you come to the beginning of the book, it is tedious to scroll down to reach, for example Romans 8:8. With the ESV, you could enter a book and verse number, and go to that verse. I tried a few tricks in the search line, but none worked.

The maps are especially good, in that there is one customized to each Gospel, giving the location of only the names which appeared in that Gospel. But you will not find the brilliantly colored maps which are a fixture at the back of paper Oxford University Press Bibles. But, several of the potentially very useful charts, such as a "Timeline" and a "Table of Rulers" was in the text as a picture, and the text in the picture was so small, I simply could not read them. No amount of jiggery-pokery with font size would enlarge them. This is unfortunate, since some of these tables are the most useful to have in a study Bible. Oddly, other tables were done in "native" Kindle text, and these were fine.

The glossary was very nice, and for those items I checked, were as accurate as a one sentence definition can be. The search function is the primary reason I buy Kindle editions. Here, it works as well as in most books, but a second weakness is that if you query, for example, "son of man" and go to one of the results, if that phrase is in a longer book, you have no clue about which book you found. All you see is a mass of numbered verses which, if you are not familiar with the Bible, can leave you cold. The footnotes, on the other hand, were nicely done. If a verse had a footnote, its verse number was in a highlighted color. Clicking on them brought up the notes, but only the notes on that page.

The sidebar essays are nicely done, especially for the fact that they are all listed in the active "Table of Contents". So, if I want to read about "diatribe", I click on that and it takes me to Romans Chapter 2, which is exactly where I expected to go. This little essay describes "diatribe" better than anything else I have read on the subject, by being brief as well as accurate. The sidebar on "the virgin birth" was similarly concise, yet deep enough to get all the main issues included.
The introductions to the books, especially the Gospels, are marvelous distillations of scholarship we are familiar with in a seminary. One may think this is where these essays would look different from those written by a Christian. In fact, they are virtually identical to what I would expect from a Christian scholar. The only error I found was in a characterization of Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", but then, that isn't in the Bible.

The list of sources at the beginning of the book, and the bibliography at the end were, like everything else, concise and helpful. They have the concomitant benefit of being searchable, if you happen to want a list of all of Cicero's major works. So, if you happen to want to compare what the gospels and Cicero said about tax collectors, you could look up Cicero, find him in the notes, then go the text to which the note points. Then, the problem of where are you (see above) kicks in.

It is just a bit annoying that Kindle does not yet support Hebrew, Greek, or Arabic alphabets. The transliterations are ok, especially if you don't know Hebrew, but if you do know Greek, it is nice to see the Greek to be sure the transliteration is reasonable.

In spite of its weaknesses, there are several good reasons for getting this edition on the Kindle. My main ones deal with things you cannot do with dedicated Bible software such as Bibleworks. With this, I can highlight and add notes to my heart's content, feeling no regret that I am marking up a "Bible". I can comment on NT lectionary passages on which I write, and find those comments three years from now, when the same passage comes around again. It's almost a shame that you can't have two copies, so you can mark them up in two different ways. This way, you can find all those passages which you consider especially important to something you wrote, or just generally unusual or inspiring, the way I came across the passage in Hebrews 1:6 - 7, which is remarkable suggestive of ayah's in the Qur'an:

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire."

This is better as a Bible Commentary than it is as a good electronic Bible text, but it is good enough, and the "perks" which come with the Kindle should sell you on the idea. And, I like the idea of keeping the Old and New in separate volumes for the Kindle, since the combined Bible is too unwieldy for the Kindle paradigm yet.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 24, 2012 8:46:06 AM PST
Your commentary was a great help to me. The hyperlink to additional footnotes was unknown to me until I read your review. Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2013 5:32:00 PM PDT
If you upload it to your computer, you can use the Track Changes function in Word to make different sets of comments on it on each copy. Then again, if you upload it can't you then download it again and have two copies on your Kindle to comment on?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2013 6:07:33 PM PDT
B. Marold says:
Dear Tiggy,
The Bible is such a specially formatted book that most generic browsers like Kindle or perhaps, the Adobe .pdf browser or Word are workarounds at best. If you are serious about keeping track of your comments on biblical passages, what you need is a specialized Bible analysis and exegesis tool such as Bibleworks. It is pricy, but if its important to you to have dozens of translations, including the original Hebrew and Greek, this is the way to go.
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