I remember meeting a student from Principia College while I attended Kent State University. We had a discussion on Bible study and she told me her favorite high school graduation present was the 12-volume Interpreter’s Bible (IB). She was given this gift from her grandmother. I was new to Christian Science then and thought it odd to be excited over a set of books. Wouldn’t a used car been better? It took me 15 years later to get my own set of the Interpreter’s Bible and now I understand her joy.
This original volumes were produced in 1950’s during a period of a strong American theological movement not seen since the early 1900’s. Many major works and translations were produced during this time. There is an updated version called The New Interpreter’s Bible (1994) which is very different than the 1954 edition with the addition of “literary criticism” and “cultural pluralism”. Not a bad idea but some of the writing goes off on some strange tangents that would only make Ward Churchill proud.
What makes the original Interpreter’s Bible so powerful as a study tool is the format. The Bible text is in two side-by-side columns for the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version for easy comparison. Underneath is an exegesis to help clarify the meaning of the text. Below that is an exposition which provides an interpretation and application of the Bible text to humanity. This is where things can get preachy but more often the exposition attempts to present the Bible text in its highest and most practical light.
Let’s take a look at a recent Golden Text from the Christian Science Bible Lesson Sermon:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
It’s a beautiful passage and epitomizes Paul’s consistent emphasis on the purpose of Christ’s crucifixion. What is a bit troubling are the words “sweetsmelling savour.” The KJV makes it sound like Christ’s sacrifice is liken to a pleasant smelling burnt sacrifice from the altar. The Interpreter’s Bible helps us see that the words “express the beauty of a sacrifice that withholds nothing but gives all, even life itself, to God as a tribute of absolute devotion” (IB). It goes back to the perfect, self-sacrificing love the Christ expressed.
Overall, the Interpreter’s Bible is one of the most useful for discovering the spiritual meaning of the Bible citations in the Lesson Sermon. Perhaps not in a direct way, but by reading the exegesis and expositions in the Interpreter’s Bible, your thought often will catch a glimpse of the Bible’s deeper meanings.
Used sets in very good condition are available via Amazon and eBay.