Bible Study Helps: The Newberry Bible

Mr. Thomas Newberry was one of the “chief men among the brethren.” (See the book of that name by Mr. Henry Pickering.) He was a highly esteemed teacher in Great Britain 150 years ago, and one of the most accurate and profitable expositors of the Bible among assemblies of Christians gathered to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

His was a long life, for he fell asleep on January 16, 1901, at the age of 90. He wrote several valuable books about the Tabernacle and the Temple, but he is best known for compiling the Englishman’s Bible, now known as the Newberry Bible. This is highly prized today by Bible students as one of the best aids ever published to help ordinary readers search out the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek languages in which our Bible was written.

Mr. Newberry chose the King James Version as the text for his Bible and added a series of signs that enable the reader to identify parts of speech and their case or tense. It is vital for a student to know the equivalent noun cases and verb tenses in his native tongue, the English language, and then to learn with Mr. Newberry’s help, the distinctions between similar cases and tenses in the original languages.

The value of the Newberry Bible is widely recognized though seldom realized by Bible students. Its value is not in the price paid for it by the purchaser. The true price lies in the effort required to become proficient in using it. Its value makes this effort worthwhile! There is a real learning curve before a user gains the true benefit from his Newberry.

Values of the Newberry Bible and Gaining Those Values

How can an owner overcome the original difficulties to using his Newberry Bible? There are several stages. Getting through these will not be quick or easy. It will require commitment! The following stages are not listed in order of difficulty nor value to the owner of a Newberry Bible but rather in a logical sequence. The ultimate value of owning a Newberry comes when all stages have been completed.

The first and easiest stage will be to use your Newberry like any other Bible with alternative words in the margin. It is valuable on that account alone. Unlike the Two Version KJV and RV Bible (out of print presently), the Newberry changes only the most significant alternative words.

The second stage requires learning to read and pronounce Greek words. This stage might appear daunting at first but it is really not that difficult. I can recommend a book, Greek for the Rest of Us, by William D. Mounce as a resource for learning the Greek alphabet and pronunciations. The Newberry reader will be well repaid for making this effort! He will soon acquire a vocabulary of significant words and their meanings.

Learning to read and pronounce Greek words enhances a student’s ability to use other books and commentaries that put Greek words in their texts. Mr. Newberry puts Greek words in the margins of his Bible. Interestingly, he did not often do that with Hebrew words in the OT (except in the Study Bible edition), but he transliterated Hebrew words so that a student can pronounce them. This writer wishes Mr. Newberry had done the same with the Greek in the NT for it would have simplified learning to read and pronounce Greek words!

The third stage will be to learn the significance of Greek prepositions. In a section between the two Testaments is a diagram showing the implications of Greek prepositions. These prepositions are printed in the margins of the Newberry Bible in Greek. Keeping a copy of this diagram handy for ready reference helps to learn the usages of Greek prepositions. Understanding prepositions is one of the greatest benefits of owning a Newberry Bible.

The fourth stage involves mastering the system of signs Mr. Newberry put into the text of his Bible. This will require diligent effort but it is well worth it. This writer still refers to sections at the beginning of each Testament where Mr. Newberry explains the significance of his signs. As noted previously, the student will need to know his English language structure and then note aspects of Bible language constructions that differ from English.

There is another valuable feature of the Newberry Bible. In the New Testament there are textual variations in manuscript copies of the Greek text. Mr. Newberry highlights these in footnotes where he cites textual choices of various textual authorities. These can help a student understand why translations differ. Fortunately such differences are rare in the overall scope of translations. Anyone interested in serious Bible study will find this edition of the Bible an invaluable help.