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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

The Study Materials

The Access Bible is designed to provide study helps that enable the reader to engage the biblical text directly and not simply read about the Bible. That is, the study helps are designed to lead readers into their own careful and reflective reading of the biblical text. The study materials range from full length essays on topics of general interest to the Bible reader to short, dictionary-like entries on particular words or topics. All of the helps are intended to assist the reader in discovering the richness and diversity of the biblical texts.

The Introductory Essays

Three introductory essays provide an overview of the Bible as a whole and discuss the nature of Bible study today. “What Is Bible Study?” explains the various ways in which the Bible may be studied. “A Reader's Guide to the Books of the Bible” explains the different books within the Bible and the types of literature they represent. “The Nature and Formation of the Biblical Canon” describes how these many different books came to be gathered together as the Bible and why Jewish, as well as Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian communities, each hold to a slightly different definition of “canon.”

The Book Introductions

In this study Bible, each biblical book is preceded by a brief introduction. The first part enables the modern reader to imagine how the book's content may have been understood by its ancient readers. Information about historical setting, type of literature (e.g., letter, poetry, story), social issues or theological themes all assist in bridging the gap between the ancient world and today's world.

Each introduction also contains a section labeled “Reading Guide,” that is primarily directed toward the reading concerns of the modern reader, rather than the questions and needs that probably guided the book's original readers. The included outline helps the reader see a picture of the general sweep of the book before attending to its details.

The Sectional Comments

This Study Bible includes section by section comments on the biblical text. In most cases, the comments follow a segment of Scripture and explain unusual words, ancient religious and social customs, literary features, or the historical setting of that text. They orient the modern reader to the places, people, and events of the biblical world. They also identify key themes or ideas that may be relevant to the reader's own situation.

Within these comments, words in italics are those quoted directly from the NRSV text; words in boldface describe divisions or individual passages; numbers in boldface are chapter and verse numbers which the comments address.

To refer to a translators' footnote, the words “see note on …” are used. “See comment” refers to the running comment on the biblical text, and “see map, chart, or sidebar” refers to the respective study help at the location given.

Other Features within the Text

In addition to section by section comments on the biblical text, this edition contains other helps—maps, charts, and sidebar essays. Each of these helps expands on information mentioned in the comments. The sidebar essays often point beyond the particular biblical text under consideration to broader biblical themes.

Helps at the Back of the Study Bible

At the end of the Bible are three sets of materials that supplement the helps located at each individual book of the Bible. First is a glossary. This lists and defines specialized terms that are used in the running comments; these terms have been marked with a star symbol (*) to indicate that their definitions can be found in the glossary. The glossary also contains a discussion of other terms not explicitly mentioned in the running comments, but that are helpful for interpreting the biblical text and understanding the biblical world. In addition, many of the glossary entries refer to passages in the Bible that illustrate the entry. The glossary therefore moves in two directions: from the study materials to an explanation in the glossary, or from an explanation in the glossary to an illustration in the biblical text.

Second, the helps contain a brief concordance to the NRSV text. A concordance is a tool for Bible study that enables the reader to compare the use of a word in one biblical verse to its usage elsewhere—either in the same biblical book or another one. By using a concordance, the reader begins to achieve a sense of what individual words meant to the biblical writers and their original readers.

Finally, a full-color set of Oxford Bible Maps is included, along with an index to all of the place names found on the maps. These maps are an important tool for locating the places mentioned in the biblical text and becoming familiar with the geography of the ancient world. The maps also provide a glimpse of the history of the ancient Mediterranean world, since the different maps cover a period of 1,000 years.

Calendar Designation

This Study Bible employs the designations BCE (“before the common era”) and CE (“common era”) to refer to the time periods often marked by the designations BC (“before Christ”) and AD (“in the year of the Lord,” anno domini in Latin). The designations BCE and CE reflect the way that years are counted in the Western calendar without using terms that derive from the Christian faith tradition, since not all people who follow the Western calendar are members of a Christian community.

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