The Editors' Preface
For nearly four decades The Oxford Annotated Bible has served generations of readers and students as a study Bible. That extraordinary longevity alone is eloquent testimony to its success. This new edition retains the format and features that have proven so attractive. At the same time, the field of biblical studies has not been static, and this edition is a thoroughgoing revision of the previous ones. In particular, the editors have recruited contributors from a wide diversity of backgrounds and of scholarly approaches to the biblical traditions. In order to present this diversity more fully, the space devoted to introductions to the biblical books, to the annotations, and to the study materials at the end of the book has been increased by over 30 percent.
We recognize that no single interpretation or approach is sufficient for informed reading of these ancient texts, and have aimed at inclusivity of interpretive strategies. On a great number of issues there is a consensus among scholars, and the contributors have been encouraged to present such consensus when it exists. Where it has broken down, and has not yet re-formed, alternatives are mentioned. Moreover, in order to respect the canonical status of various parts of the Bible for different communities, and to avoid privileging any book or part of the Bible, we have kept both introductions and annotations roughly proportionate to the length of the books, while recognizing that some parts require more elaboration than others.
The editorial process was collaborative. Each contribution was read in its entirety by at least three of the editors, and revised with a view toward consistency of tone, coherence of approach, and completeness of coverage. We have also wanted to allow the contributors' own voices to be heard, and we have avoided imposing a superficial uniformity of style and approach. Throughout, we have kept the needs of the general audience firmly in mind during the editorial stages, and our aim has been a congruity of experience as a reader turns from book to book and from section to section of the finished volume.
The biblical text stands apart from any editorial contributions, in both placement and format. This will enable anyone who wishes to do so to read the text unprejudiced by editorial judgments.
The footnotes that are part of the New Revised Standard Version ( indicated by an italic superscript letter after the word or phrase in question) are printed at the bottom of the right-hand column of the biblical text on each page where they occur. In these notes, divergent textual readings and alternate translations are printed in italics. The phrase “Other ancient authorities read” means that the reading (i.e., the wording) of the passage is different in various manuscripts and early versions, and the word “Or” signifies that the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin text permits an alternate rendering besides the one given in the text. (See “Textual Criticism,” pp. 460 ES .)
Discussion of larger units in the Bible is provided by essays introducing each of them: “The Pentateuch,” “The Historical Books,” “The Poetical and Wisdom Books,” “The Prophetic Books,” “The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books,” “The Gospels,” and “Letters/Epistles in the New Testament.”
Each book is preceded by its own introduction, which sketches the book's structure, main themes, literary history, and historical context, as well as broad lines of interpretation. As mentioned above, these introductions are in most cases considerably longer than in previous editions; they therefore present a clear overview and guide to reading.
At the bottom of each page of the biblical text, in a different font from it and in a single column, are the annotations. The annotations are just that, notes rather than paraphrase or commentary, although these genres admittedly overlap. They are intended to enhance the reader's understanding of the text, providing essential information, background, and interpretation, rather than only summarizing what it says. The boldface headings delineate the larger units of the book, and provide a detailed consecutive outline of its contents. The word or phrase being glossed is given in italics. Quotation marks are used for words quoted from elsewhere in the Bible as well as for transliterations of ancient languages. Since we desire each book to stand on its own, as much as possible the annotations are self-contained. We have thus tried to avoid both cross-references to fuller discussions elsewhere, and the misconception that a book or larger part of the Bible is merely a perfunctory reworking of other material, or that a particular passage can only be understood fully in the light of later biblical traditions. At the same time, we recognize that the Bible is often a progressive text, and that later parts of the Bible often contain the oldest interpretations of earlier traditions. The best starting point for interpreting a particular passage is often another passage, and we have encouraged contributors to point out interconnections in the biblical material by means of cross-references. (The cross-references that end with “n.” refer to the annotation as well as to the biblical text.)
A listing of abbreviations for the books of the Bible used in this edition is found on p. xxv below. The chapter and verse divisions in a reference are separated by a period; thus, Gen 3.8 refers to the book of Genesis, chapter 3, verse 8. Inclusive references are used for both chapters and verses; thus, Ex 1-15 refers to the first fifteen chapters of the book of Exodus; Rom 11.33-36 to verses 33 through 36 of chapter 11 of the letter to the Romans; and so forth. When a book of the Bible is referred to within an annotation on that book, the name of the book is not repeated unless there is ambiguity.
In keeping with our general desire to take account of the diversity of the users of this study Bible, we have adopted two widely accepted conventions: We have referred to the first portion of the text as “the Hebrew Bible,” since it is a collection preserved by the Jewish community and that is how Jews regard it; and we have cited all dates in the notes as BCE or CE (“Before the Common Era” and “Common Era”) instead of BC or AD (“Before Christ” and “Anno Domini” [“in the year of the Lord”]), which imply a Christian view of the status of Jesus of Nazareth. Use of the title “Old Testament” for those books here designated as “the Hebrew Bible” is confined to instances expressing the historical view of various Christian interpreters. These conventions are followed in the study materials that we have produced; the translation has its own conventions which we are not at liberty to alter.
Because this Bible is published in editions with and without the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, it is necessary to number each major portion separately. The portions are distinguished by short titles in small capitals following the page numbers. The Hebrew Bible therefore begins with the introduction to the Pentateuch on the first page of the HEBREW BIBLE; the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books begin with the introduction to the Apocrypha on the first page of the APOCRYPHA; the New Testament begins with the introduction to the Gospels on the first page of the NEW TESTAMENT. The general essays at the back of the volume continue the pagination from the end of the New Testament, but designate their pages by ESSAYS. Abbreviations of these designations—HB, AP, NT, and ES—serve to identify the page numbers in the index.
Several dozen maps and plans are interspersed in the biblical text. These will assist readers to locate important places mentioned in the text or to clarify the prose descriptions of such structures as the Tabernacle and the Temple.
The study materials at the end of the volume are a series of interconnected essays that provide background information for understanding the Bible, the processes by which it was formed, the contexts in which it was produced, and the ways in which it has been interpreted through the ages. These essays are followed by tables of rulers, of weights and measures, of the calendar, and of parallel passages in the biblical traditions. A select chronology provides a quick reference for major events, rulers, and other persons contemporaneous with the biblical accounts.
At the end of the book is a comprehensive subject index to all of the study materials, including the annotations. Finally, there is a separate set of fourteen color maps, with a separate index to them, that constitute a brief historical atlas to the Bible.
It remains to express our gratitude, first and above all to the contributors, whose learning has made this a work of which we are immensely proud, and whose uncommon patience with the editorial process made our task light. Allen D. Callahan was of assistance early in the development of the edition. Donald Kraus, Executive Editor in the Bible department at Oxford University Press, U.S.A., has guided this edition from its inception with wisdom and tact. Deborah Darcy, Michele McEnroe, Penelope Anderson, and Jennifer Grady, the editorial staff at the Press, have been meticulous in dealing with the complexities of an editorial process that went through many stages. Katrina Gettman carefully and conscientiously prepared the edited materials for the compositor. Leslie Phillips created the page design and oversaw every detail of the entire typesetting process, as well as providing the maps within the text. Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading Service proofread the entire text with extraordinary care and speed. The Scriptorium prepared the very useful index. We thank them all.
MICHAEL D. COOGAN
MARC Z. BRETTLER
CAROL A. NEWSOM
For this revision of the Third Edition of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, we have reworked the introductions to the books of the Bible so that they are more uniform in contents and style, and have similarly adjusted the introductions to the larger sections. We have also added new illustrations and charts, and have updated the bibliography of Translations of Ancient Texts on pp. 539–40 ES . Finally, we have included a glossary of important terms.
As always, we are grateful to our colleagues whose contributions have largely been responsible for the continuing success of this annotated Bible, and also to the superb editorial and production staff at Oxford University Press, especially Donald Kraus, Executive Editor in the Bible Department, and his assistant, Elisabeth Nelson.
M.D.C., M.Z.B., C.A.N., P.P.