Over the past few years, I have noted more than once that the NRSV is one of the least supported translations as far as bindings and formats, particularly premium bindings. That seems to be changing, which is good news for NRSV enthusiasts. The first big step was when Cambridge published a reference edition available in a cowhide binding (reviewed here) and a burgundy goatskin binding, with apocrypha (review of this one coming soon). Both of these Bibles were very well received. Retailing at $320 and $350, respectively, they were also simply too expensive for many people. After the Cambridge NRSV reference edition, Allan released a reference edition, with apocrypha (review of this one coming soon). The success of both of these editions seems to have convinced publishers that the NRSV has a big enough audience that it can support a broader array of options and bindings.
The latest arrival in this growing trend is Zondervan’s NRSV Single-Column Reference Bible, Premier Collection. This Bible is the subject of today’s review. And it is is hot off the press, having been released on September 22, 2020.
This Bible comes in a black goatskin edge-lined binding. The goatskin is my favorite leather cover I have seen on a Zondervan or Thomas Nelson Premier Collection Bible, though the NKJV Single-Column Reference Bible I reviewed here is a close second.
The cover feels thick and substantial. The grain strikes a pleasing balance between the smoothest and pebbliest covers I’ve seen. The bands on the spine give the Bible a more substantial and sophisticated feel. I really like the minimal use of text on the spine. There is lots of blank space, while conveying the necessary information.
There is one thing I did not like about the cover out of the box: When I opened the Bible there was a very strong chemical smell. I suspect one of the last things done to this Bible was treating the cover with some kind of polish. It seems to have been done somewhat unevenly. I am not overly concerned about this as I’m pretty confident the smell will go away in time. It does make an unfortunate first impression. If you buy a fine leather Bible, it should smell like leather out of the box, not chemicals.
As the title reveals, this Bible is a single-column layout with cross references. Zondervan describes this Bible as offering “the ideal combination of readability and elegance. The thick, opaque paper and line-matched single-column layout is now paired with Zondervan’s exclusive NRSV Comfort Print typeface to bring the words into clear focus.”
I like this layout. The references are on the far outside of each page. Textual notes are in the footer. The print quality on this Bible is consistent and very good. The ink seems darker than most Bibles I’ve seen, which helps with readability and show-through. While there is quite a bit of show-through, I have not found it to be distracting. It could be better, but for me it is acceptable.
One of my pet peeves about many NRSV editions is that they paginate the Old and New Testaments separately. I don’t know if this is distinctive of the NRSV, but I disliked it more than I expected in the Cambridge reference edition I reviewed two years ago. (It still bothers me, despite that Bible being one of my all-time favorites.) One of the first things I checked in this Bible was pagination. And Zondervan did not restart page numbering in the New Testament! Well done.
Why do I care about this? I think restarting pagination in the New Testament communicates separation and disconnectedness within the canon of Scripture. The Bible is one book, not two. I am sure there were good reasons for why the NRSV often does this, but it is not a choice I would make. I think Christians need to be taught the importance and significance of the Old Testament and its value for Christians today in every way possible.
I dislike the use of Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures in reference to the Old Testament for the same reason. For Christians, the Old and New Testaments together are Christian Scripture. Whereas NRSV editions often introduce the Old Testament with “The Hebrew Scriptures commonly called the Old Testament,” Zondervan simply has “The Old Testament” on the page before Genesis. This is another small detail I appreciate.
Zondervan made some surprising choices in the design of this Bible. And I love them! First, the Bible has purple-under-gold art-gilt page edges. This means that if you look at the end of the pages when the Bible is closed the pages look gold (mostly) and if you look at the page edges with the pages opened, the end of the pages look purple. Red-under gold has long been the standard. Zondervan used blue-under-silver in their early NIV Premier Collection and that risk worked well. This one does too. That design choice is nicely complemented with purple, silver, and yellow ribbons.
I am always grateful to see publishers investing resources in Bibles that are thoughtfully designed, made with materials that are designed to last after thousands of hours of use, and are a pleasure to handle and read.
Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s entry into premium Bibles has been especially welcomed. I think they have actually succeeded in creating a new category. These Bibles are not quite the same quality as a Schuyler, Allan, or Cambridge Bible. But they are close. And they are typically significantly more affordable. This Bible is available for $170.83 on Amazon.com as of this writing. That is more than $60 and $90 less than the two Cambridge Bibles I previously mentioned. There is a lot of room between the finest and most expensive Bibles and everything else. I am delighted that Zondervan has taken a step in bridging that gap by making exceptional Bibles available to more people.
For preachers in particular, if the NRSV is the version you preach from, I think this would make for a great preaching Bible. The size is very comparable to other preaching Bibles I have seen. And the 10.5 point font will be large enough for most people to comfortably read in the pulpit.
Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Schuyler generously provided a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links used in this post.