By Julie Engebretson
Baylor’s Department of Religion in the College of Arts & Sciences is playing a major role in creating a new study Bible that promises to impact Baylor students and alumni for generations to come.
The culmination of roughly five years of research, planning and collaboration, the first edition of the Baylor Annotated Study Bible (BASB) will be available for purchase in fall 2019. Published by Baylor University Press in partnership with Tyndale House Publishers, the BASB will contain the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Old and New Testaments along with original 500- to 700-word introductions and extensive notes accompanying each of the 66 biblical books.
“You have any number of study Bibles out there, but they are typically linked to a translation, such as the NIV Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible,” said Dr. Todd Still, dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and editor of the New Testament section of the BASB. “One of the things that makes this project so much fun is that although it is based upon the NRSV, it is anchored to an institution, Baylor University, with respect to the introductions to and notes on each biblical book. These are written by Baylor faculty, Baylor alumni and friends of the University, Truett Seminary and Baylor Press.”
Still said a study Bible affiliated with an American college or university is quite distinct. The BASB is a unique project in Christian higher education and indeed in U.S. higher education broadly.
“I wish I could take credit for this idea,” said Carey Newman, director of Baylor University Press. “But, it was my colleague, Peter Dougherty [former director of Princeton University Press], who first suggested to me one day about four years ago, ‘Baylor needs a study Bible. Oxford University has one. The Catholics have one. Why shouldn’t Baylor sponsor one?’”
After about a year’s worth of research on his own, Newman invited Still and Dr. William Bellinger, chair of religion and the W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chair in Bible, to lunch, asking if they would serve as editors for the New Testament and Old Testament, respectively.
“Carey [Newman] has an enthusiasm for things that is just infectious,” Still said. “And when he shared with us the vision of the BASB, Bill [Bellinger] and I said nearly in unison, ‘We’re in. How may we help?’”
Still brings to this project nearly 30 years of New Testament study and published scholarship, while Bellinger is an internationally renowned Old Testament scholar who also brings a lifetime of teaching and research to the project, with special expertise in the Psalms, Leviticus and the prophetic texts.
Since spring 2017, around 145 contributors from a number of Christian church traditions and all connected to Baylor, have been commissioned to provide entries. Contributors were carefully selected based on academic qualifications as well as area of Biblical expertise.
“This is the Baylor Annotated Study Bible, but it is not a Baptist-only study Bible,” Still said. “It is ecumenical in spirit. But it does come from a decidedly Christian perspective. It is intended to allow the biblical texts to speak and help in laying bare the meaning of these texts so that a reader from any or no Christian tradition may understand them more fully.”
“Not everyone who contributes is Baptist,” Bellinger said. “I just received some material today from a colleague who is Roman Catholic, herself. One of our contributors is an alum who now teaches at Abilene Christian University [affiliated with the Church of Christ]. These entries and annotations will be meaningful to anyone, regardless of their church tradition, whether reformed, Catholic, Baptist or from other denominations.”
Many contributors bring a formidable reputation in the world of biblical scholarship, including leading biblical scholars such as N. T. Wright, Richard Hays and Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann is widely considered to be the most influential Old Testament scholar in recent decades and will supply the introduction to Genesis.
“[Bruggemann] wrote a commentary on Genesis a number of years ago that’s quite famous, so I think that one is going to generate a lot of interest,” Bellinger said. “Dr. Dennis Tucker at Truett is a recognized Psalms scholar as well, and he wrote the notes for the Psalms. I think readers will find the notes in Psalms to be very inspirational and informative.”
Much like the Oxford Annotated Bible, annotations in the BASB will appear at the bottom of each page, beneath the biblical text, and are intended to “equip the reader to read,” Newman said.
“They are there to help readers read. They’re not there to discuss scholarship. They are notes that will help readers read the text for all its worth.”
By teaming up with Tyndale House Publishers to produce the BASB, Baylor University Press will not only benefit from more than 50 years of expertise in Bible publishing, but Tyndale’s support will allow purchasers –– including individuals, churches and other organizations –– to order specially bound and burnished versions of the BASB.
“Baylor University Press will be the publisher of record, but Tyndale will be handling a lot of the ‘back office’ for this project,” Newman said. “And what this alliance will do is allow the opportunity to produce leather-bound Bibles burnished with a specific name or logo as requested. We could do the Chi Omega [sorority] Bible, we could do the Baylor Line Camp Bible, and we could do the First Baptist Church Amarillo edition.”
“I can think of no better Christmas present,” Still added.
One of the main aims of the BASB is to provide Baylor students of Religion 1310, Baylor’s required Bible survey class, with a reliable course text. Plans for this for this are still in the works.
“From the basic design stage, we’re talking about a three-year process, which is astonishing,” Still said. “And, when Baylor University Press teamed up with Tyndale, it was a game-changer. In essence, they’re going to be able to take our product and package it. Tyndale is the gold standard in Bible publishing, and we want this study Bible to meet that gold standard. The Baylor Annotated Study Bible will have a long shelf life. By God’s good grace, this study Bible will live on for a very long time. One of the joys in working on this is thinking about the generations of Baylor students, alumni and friends that will use and benefit from the Bible in the coming years.”
To learn more about the BASB, including how to order or create a special edition of the BASB, visit the BUP website or call Baylor University Press at (254) 710-3522.