When it comes to study bibles, there are three basic options available: The study notes can be printed as footnotes or endnotes, or the commentary can be printed in a separate book altogether. There are many options to choose from!

Most editions of the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) feature footnotes at the bottom of each page. I suspect many young Catholics have never experienced a bible laid out differently. On the other hand, I’m aware of two editions that print all the notes at the end of each biblical book: Oxford’s Large Print NABRE (ISBN 9780195298109 — genuine leather) and the NABRE Compact edition (ISBN 9780195298031 — paperback). Because of the requirement that every Catholic bible contain resources for helping readers to understand the text, there are no editions of the NABRE printed without notes.

There are a number of other translations approved for Catholic use which are available in reader’s editions, however, with no explanatory notes. These include the RSV and NRSV. The JB and NJB are also available in reader’s editions with far fewer notes than the NJB study edition. These can be paired with a single-volume commentary like the New Jerome Biblical Commentary or the International Bible Commentary. Alternatively, multi-volume commentaries deliver even greater depth and detail. A couple well-known examples are the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series (New Testament only) and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (which currently has a complete set of New Testament commentaries and a partially completed set of Old Testament volumes).

What style of study notes or commentaries do you prefer? Do you use different bibles for different needs?

6 thoughts on “Footnotes, Endnotes, or Separate Commentary?”

  1. I definitely use different versions of the same translation for different reasons. The NAB is my preferred translation, and for my regular reading I love those Oxford editions that move the references and footnotes to the end of each book. For study, I have an old original Catholic Study Bible that I’ve marked up. Recently, after much fiddling on Microsoft Word, I had a pure reader’s version of the NAB New Testament without chapter or verse markings printed. I am looking forward to spending time with it and delving into the scriptures as the saints of the first 75% of Christian history did.

    In terms of commentaries, I own one of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series (Mark’s gospel), but I haven’t fallen in love with it yet. I can see it fits a need for a pastoral non-technical commentary, but I think it pales in comparison to the New Collegeville Commentary. That series can be hit or miss in terms of tone (even compared with other series featuring the work of different scholars), but when it hits it is incredible. Reading their commentary on Romans and Galatians really opened up Paul for me.

    The New Jerome Biblical Commentary is great–I learn something and am often challenged whenever I consult it. The question is finding stuff in it. Try as I might, I always forget that the order they chose for Paul’s letters is by consensus date of composition, not order in the canon.

    1. It’s good to hear your thoughts on the New Collegeville Commentary, Bob. I haven’t run across a copy of it yet.

      And yes! The order of the commentary in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary is confusing and frustrating. I really wish they had retained the traditional ordering of biblical books for ease of reference. I usually find myself flipping this way and that trying to find the right book. It’s unnecessarily counter-intuitive.

      I’ll also put in an honorable mention for the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Theophrastus recommended this a few years ago on the Catholic Bibles Blog, and it is truly excellent. It contains commentary on entire pericopes, rather than a verse-by-verse commentary like the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. It’s not a specifically Catholic commentary, but it takes a largely historical-critical approach, so theological interpretation is not its focus.

  2. I hate, hate, hate, hate it when they put the notes at the end of the book, or at the end of a chapter because then you can barely get through a single page without constantly flipping to the end of the book and then back again, over and over. Eventually, that becomes such an annoyance that I just stop looking at the notes altogether. One should never have to flip through the book multiple times every page.

  3. I’m with Biblical Catholic on this one. Endnotes are such a chore! >.<
    Of course, this is very subjective, but I'm one of those people who don't seem to trust their own ability to comprehend a verse (or just wants to see the commentary) and I'm almost always interested in what a note has to say.

    But, I really do think I need to just *read* the Bible one day.

  4. I’ll put my voice in the mix in favor of endnotes. I think both footnotes and endnotes have a place. When I’m reading a short passage (like the daily lectionary readings, for example), I like having footnotes for quick reference. But if I’m trying to read a longer passage of scripture, I find footnotes very distracting. I’m constantly glancing at the bottom of the page to read the notes, and it severely interrupts the flow of reading. In those cases, a bible with endnotes is very useful. The study material is still there if I truly need to refer to it, but it’s easier to keep reading and refer back to the notes later.

    In some ways, I think the New Oxford Annotated Bible’s layout is a good compromise. The commentary is on the same page as the Bible text, but there are no symbols in the text to interrupt the flow of reading. It’s easier to keep reading, then refer to the commentary at a good stopping point.

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