Sam Harrelson

Bible 2.0



Twelve (?!?!) years ago in 1996, I bought the first edition of the Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV of course) for a summer school session of Old Testament 101. Back then, I was a self-assured Chemistry / Computer Science freshman double major at Wofford College and decided to take summer school to get a couple of required classes “out of the way.”

One of those classes was Prof John Bullard’s Old Testament class. Prof Bullard is/was a legendary “old school” prof who had a very straightforward method of interpretation and teaching. To my ears, hearing him dissect and then re-assemble Genesis 1 was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever heard. Within the first five minutes of class, something had sneaked up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder… my life had changed. I switched my major to Religion that first day of summer school.

So, I have a great deal of love and reverence for that study Bible. I’ve lugged it around with me to classes at Wofford, Yale, South Carolina and now Gardner-Webb for over a decade and it is definitely showing its wear:

The entire thing is delicately held together by super glue and duct tape that has been applied and re-applied over the years.

The inside doesn’t look much better because I like to write marginalia (the original “user generated content”) as I take notes in my studies. Here’s Romans 7:

There are parts that I’ve studied heavily where you can barely read the text because of the marginalia. Thousands of years from now, my notes on Galatians will be a goldmine to some poor text critic studying early 21st century Biblical interpretation:

All that being said, I’m going to start this next period of my academic career with the newly published revised edition of the Harper Collins. This isn’t an easy decision since I have so much invested in the browning pages of the first edition, but I think it’ll be neat to have notes from my initial years of study and then have a source of notes for my more professional studies as I pursue the PhD.

One of my Prof’s from my time at Yale, Prof Harold Attridge, is the General Editor of the revised edition (Prof Wayne Meeks was the Editor for the first edition), so there’s a little connection for me there. Plus, Yale Professors John J Collins and Adela Y Collins (John was my advisor at Yale) submitted pieces for certain books. The notes and maps are revised along with some stylistic and formatting points.

I’ve been poking through the new textual notes which appear below the actual Biblical texts, and so far I’m impressed. With the old version, I was frequently frustrated with some of the things that were included (and not included) in these notes since it is incredibly easy to warp a beginner student’s mind with just one slip or one assumption. These notes, for the most part, seem more comprehensive.

Here’s Genesis 1:

So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got so many random notes, memories and ideas wrapped into the old Harper Collins, but I look forward to a new slate on which to project my marginalia love.

I’ll give updates as they come…



Posted: 08.27.2008

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