On Texts and Translations
Issues Concerning Editions and Translations: Students should consider obtaining a good study Bible with an alternate translation to supplement (not replace) their study of the New Testament. Editions such as The Harper Collins Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, and The New Oxford Annotated Bible are available in the General Religion section of the BYU Bookstore, as well as in other bookstores and online distributers. They include helpful introductions to each biblical book as well as good historical and linguistic notes.
The King James Version (KJV) has been and remains the official version of the LDS Church, and it is the one that will regularly be used in class and study. For some of our readings this semester, however, at times the language of the KJV is difficult. More recent translations are useful for two reasons: first, many difficulties in the KJV are a result of its archaic English diction and usage, not its translation per se. Second, newer versions often reflect textual discoveries since the KJV was produced (more on this below). One suggested reading strategy is to always read a chapter or smaller passage (often called a "pericope") in the KJV. Then, if it seems at all difficult or obscure, read the same passage in the New Revised Version (NRSV), the New International Version (NIV), or the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB). Finally, return to the passage in the KJV, checking the footnotes and helps in the LDS edition and annotating your text by explaining unclear words or phrases in the margin.
There are some differences between the KJV and more recent translations besides simply better wordings or plainer, more modern renderings. The KJV is largely a revision of earlier English translations of the Bible such as the Tyndale Bible and the Bishops' Bible. The Greek text that the King James translators consulted is called the Textus Receptus or "received text." As the current edition of that time, it was based largely on the Greek text collated and published by the great Humanist Erasmus. Newer translations usually take into account manuscripts discovered since the Textus Receptus, which have been collated into various working texts (e.g., the Westcott-Hort "critical text," Nestle-Aland, USB, etc.; see R. Brown INT, 48-53 for a brief discussion on the text of the New Testament and an overview of the four major textual families). The differences between the Textus Receptus and other collations of the Greek manuscripts play a major role in the argument over KJV priority. See the following for different positions on this argument:
The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is also extremely useful to understand passages doctrinally. Although small changes appear in the footnotes of the LDS edition of the Bible and longer passages are given in the appendix, Latter-day Saints will find an English edition of the New Testament that includes all of the JST alterations useful—e.g., Steven and Julie Hite’s, The New Testament with the Joseph Smith Translation.
Commentaries and Other References: The greatest benefits from scripture study come from reading, pondering, and praying about the scriptures themselves. Still, serious, university-level study of scripture can often be aided by looking at or consulting various commentaries. A few such works that some may find useful in their lifelong study of the New Testament include the following:
Anderson, Richard Lloyd. Understanding Paul. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1983.
Brown, Raymond Edward. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Draper, Richard D. Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1991.
Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
The Gospels. Edited by Kent. P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet. Studies in Scriptures vol. 5. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1986.
Hall, John F. New Testament Witnesses of Christ: Peter, John, James, and Paul. Salt Lake City: Covenant Communications, 2002.
Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to Your Study of the New Testament: the Four Gospels. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1982.
McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. 3 volumes. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970.
Sanders, E.P. Paul: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Welch, John W. , and John F. Hall. Charting the New Testament. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2002.
As useful as these, and many other, scholarly and inspirational works are, we reemphasize that scripture study begins and ends with reading the text itself.