May 9, 2016

Slimline Bibles for youth, NLT


One of my favorite renderings of the Bible into English is the New Living Translation (NLT) because of its contemporary language, poetic flow, and ease of use in discussions when others have different translations.

Since I also recommend the NLT as an excellent choice for youth in mainline denominations, I requested the Girls Slimline Bible, NLT, from Tyndale House Publishers, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

I chose the girls’ edition rather than the Guys Slimline Bible, NLT, because of the bright cover covered by the word, “Love,” which also covers us and a multitude of sins. If, however, you want to give a copy to a boy, just remove the packaging on this edition or consider the one shown below.

Regardless, the back matter in these editions will help young people in a youth discussion group or Sunday School class. For example, the back pages include:

• Dictionary/Concordance
• Great Chapters of the Bible
• Great Verses of the Bible to Memorize
• 365-Day Reading Plan
• Colorful Maps

Another blessed help can be found inside the front cover, which has Ephesians 3:12 printed in large caps:

Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”

Amen!

Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer


Girls Slimline Bible, NLT



Guys Slimline Bible, NLT



May 3, 2016

The Complete Evangelical Parallel Bible


My mid-week Bible study group welcomes different translations of the Bible since we’ve found this gives us deeper insight into God’s Word. If you have translated one language into another, you most likely understand this as you know many words have multiple meanings and many phrases have various options in keeping with the overall context. Those of you who have had an “Aha!” moment when hearing familiar verses in a contemporary version of the Bible have most likely experienced what I’m saying, too, as each synonym comes with its own connotations.

To get a good balance, at least four translations in our study group has helped us to go deeper into a passage, but juggling four separate volumes can be a bit awkward! Fortunately, Bible publishers have seen a need for parallel Bibles to assist in-depth study of God’s Word.

All sorts of combinations have gone in and out of print for Catholic, liturgical, and Christian readers in general, but most recently Hendrickson Bibles kindly sent me a review copy of The Complete Evangelical Parallel Bible.

The four translations in the volume apparently represent the favorite choices of evangelical Christians: the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New International Version (NIV), and the New Living Translation (NLT), which Hendrickson placed in that particular order. However, I would have, too, since this arrangement begins with a word-for-word translation and ends with a thought-for-thought rendering of scripture with variations of both in between.

Although I have a strong preference for calfskin covers on reader editions and hardbacks on thick study Bibles, the publisher sent me a red/gray Flexisoft edition to review, and I must admit, I’m impressed. Imitation leather has come a long way, and this one feels nice, is sturdy, appears to have sewn-in pages, and lays flat when opened.

As you might expect, the type is necessarily smaller than a regular reader edition, which this is -- in quadruplet. Therefore, only the most necessary footnotes have been included along with front matter to tell about each translation and a page in the back to provide a “Table of Weights and Measures.” In addition, a one-ribbon marker has a synthetic or coated feel, which looks as if it will hold together well without fraying.

Most importantly, this edition offers two translations on each page with all four, side by side, and easy to follow as you read, meditate on, and discuss the depths and heights and wonders of God’s Word to you.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer, © 2016


The Complete Evangelical Parallel Bible, Flexisoft



The Complete Evangelical Parallel Bible, hardcover





April 15, 2016

Your Bible notes as heirloom


Some time ago, I posted a review of one of my most literal and beautifully produced leather Bibles in the “NASB wide-margin Bible in goatskin” – a Cambridge University Press edition now covered in a sturdy split-calf leather that’s shown on the review since Amazon no longer carries my particular goatskin edition.

Meanwhile, my copy has become my cache for thoughts that come as I read and insights that arise in my Bible study group at church. Studying for that discussion of God’s word, I also find interesting notes and comments that put a passage into its intended context while showing the Bible’s relevancy today. So, I pencil (never ink!) those notes into the wide margins.

Since I’ve been doing this for several years, most of the pages have some type of response to the scriptures read. Therefore, I began taking that Bible to my study group, instead of carrying one or more of my typically heavy study Bibles. Not only is this less cumbersome, but I can add new comments during our discussion and also have my own notes ready to share.

Recently, however, some changes occurred: 1.) I now have trouble seeing type smaller than 11 points, and this lovely edition has only around an 8-point font. 2.) The NASB (New American Standard Bible) has been updated. 3.) I'm praying my children will want to read my personal responses to God’s word. 4.) I have more than one child!

When I began an Internet search for a large print leather Bible with sewn pages and wide margins, I found that few existed. I also realized that most contemporary editions of the Bible will continue to be updated, often losing a precise word by substituting a fresh phrase that readers today will understand. But what about readers tomorrow?

As God-incidence would have it, the only 11-point font I found in a leather-covered Bible with wide margins is the King James Version (KJV) published by Hendrickson Bibles – a perfect choice for now and, hopefully, for ages to come!

Since I also plan to use this edition in my Bible study group, I welcome such “Special Features” as a concordance and color maps. In addition, the back matter includes:

Key Bible Promises
Harmony of the Gospels
Miracles of the Old Testament
Parables of the Old Testament
Miracles of the New Testament
Parables of the New Testament
Old Testament Prophecies of the Passion


Although I wish the cover were split cowhide, this genuine leather is supple and sturdy with sewn pages to last a lifetime and, Lord willing, long beyond.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, lifelong Bible lover, Bible reviewer, and blogger for The Word Center and Praise Poems, © 2016

KJV wide margin large print Bible, genuine leather cover, sewn pages




April 1, 2016

10 features Bible readers want


After reviewing new editions of the Bible for over four years and being an avid Bible reader long before that, I’ve learned that other readers look for the same features I like to see.

If I’ve omitted your favorite, please add it in the Comments section below. Or, if you’re a Bible publisher, please let us know what plans you have along these lines:

First, the physical features:

. Manageable Size .
The first thing most of us notice is whether a Bible is too big, too heavy, or too small to fit our needs. One of the most gorgeous study Bibles I’ve ever received was so massive, I found it too awkward to handle and read except at my desk. Nor could I comfortably carry it to my Bible discussion group, which was a loss to all of us since we missed the benefits of some very impressive footnotes and sidebars.

. Readable Font with Adequate Ink .
On several occasions, I’ve received review copies of “large print” Bibles that weren’t! Unless the font is a minimum of 10-point type with 9-point footnotes, the print will not be large enough for young readers to focus on or for older eyes to see without a blur. I hope type lauded as large print will become standardized at 11 or 12-point type with giant print at 14 points and super giant at 16 to 20. That said, none of the above will ease a reader’s eyes unless the publisher selects a well-inked font.

. Adequate Margins and White Space .
When a font of any size cuts into the surrounding margins, the text seems to scream at the reader’s eyes. That might be a necessary compromise for a study Bible, but people who interact with Holy Scripture usually need a wide-margin edition that provides space for jotting down those insights that come during reading.

. Quality Paper, Sewn into the Binding .
As do many Bible lovers, I like to underline God’s promises and words of encouragement, but some paper textures won’t readily accept a pencil or stop bleed-through from light markers. A creamy, thicker, easy-to-turn paper can be ideal for a reader edition, whereas thin paper might be necessary for a study edition. In either case, the quality of paper makes a big difference in Bibles meant to be kept and used often, which also means those pages must be sewn – not glued – into the cover.

I’m personally displeased with the cheap grade paper often used in children’s editions. I suppose the thinking is that they’ll soon outgrown a kid version and want a “grownup” edition, which might be true for some. However, a lifelong love for the Bible began for many of us in childhood, and I’m happy to say I still have the first Bible ever given to me. Keeping it was my choice, but if the publisher had used the cheap grade of paper I often seen now, I doubt my zipper-enclosed children’s edition would have lasted for decades!

. Durable Cover .
Regarding that zipper, which I don’t want in a Bible now, it still works amazingly well! Again, that’s because the publisher used quality materials and workmanship, which I’m finding more difficult to locate. However, contemporary translations in paperbacks with glued-in pages give us a chance to see if we want something more durable. If so, high quality leather covers that lay flat are a long-time preference for favorite editions, while top-quality man-made covers that lay flat can last well and also be pleasant to the touch. For encyclopedic editions, though, my gorgeous goatskin-covered study Bible can not stand up on my desk! Then, a sturdy hardcover binding with sewn-in pages makes the most sense.

. Two (preferably three!) Ribbon Markers .
Yes, we can always add bookmarks, but two or more ribbon markers encourage us to read from both testaments and actually check out those cross-references. For instance, I might want to read the Gospels straight through, as I would other books, but turn to Psalms for a morning meditation. Then, if I want to investigate the verses referred to in a passage, I need another ribbon to hold my place while I look up the next scripture. Therefore, three ribbon markers work great in study editions. Regardless of the number, though, each ribbon needs a hem-finished tip to prevent unraveling.

More importantly, students of the Bible, avid readers, and study groups need:

. Cross-References .
Make that readable cross-references! Most are not! Even in large-print Bibles, the references typically have a thin, tiny font that requires a magnifying glass. Since these often get placed between columns or in the outside margin of paragraphed text, this cuts into usable space for note-taking. One workable solution is to place a reference at the end of the Bible verse to which it connects, making it immediately accessible and also very readable as such cross-references sensibly use the same sized font.

. Book Intros .
For a reader edition, a brief introduction about the author, time, place, and purpose helps to get us grounded. For study editions, outlines and themes work well, but for either, a one-sentence thesis statement can help us to find which book is most likely to have what we’re looking for.

. User-friendly Layout .
Timelines, photographs, maps, and/or sidebars in an eye-appealing format make readers just want to keep reading, which should be a primary aim for any new edition. Those visual aids also help us to see the relevancy of scripture today. If space prevents those features, however, just having chapter subheadings will visually break up the text and help us to find the passages we’re looking for with greater ease.

All of the above features encourage Bible reading, but most importantly, we need:

. Unbiased Footnotes and Articles .
At first glance, this preference seems to have exceptions. For instance, when I received a review copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, I expected – and, indeed, wanted – footnotes to interpret the Bible from the perspective of that denomination. Ditto for the Didache Bible, whose footnotes include quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC.) Such editions provide an important service to members of a particular denomination by helping them to see where their church is coming from and why. In addition, this info can foster ecumenical understanding in Christians from other backgrounds.

Study notes that present various interpretations can be very helpful, too, when they’re fair-minded, avoid telling readers how to think, and do not speak against any denomination ever! The more Christians from diverse backgrounds read, study, and love the Bible, the more we come to respect one other and acknowledge the family we have as the beloved children of our one Creator God.

© 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler



March 12, 2016

The Passion Translation


Unlike some versions of the Bible, The Passion Translation (TPT) by Dr. Brian Simmons relied on Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts in “a groundbreaking attempt to reintroduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.”

As the Introduction also tells us, the TPT “doesn’t merely convey the original, literal meaning of words,” since this cannot be done adequately for lack of equivalent words between languages, but clearly and openly “expresses God’s passion for people and his world….”

Published by Broadstreet Press, who kindly sent me copies to review, the present offerings include individual books of the Bible, some of which contain pages for an 8-week study, and an 8-book boxed set entitled “Encounter the Heart of God,” which contains paperback editions of Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Matthew, Luke and Acts, John, letters from Paul, and Hebrews and James.

Since my Wednesday morning Bible study has just finished studying Psalms and is now focusing on Matthew, I read those two books with special interest and joy. In The Psalms, for example, we find Poetry on Fire, which can be seen through familiar poem-prayers such as the 23rd Psalm, entitled here as “The Good Shepherd.”

“The Lord is my Best Friend and my Shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
He offers a resting place for me in his luxious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure,
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name….”


Besides the fresh wording, Dr. Simmons provided a user-friendly introduction to each book, beginning with an overview, then a profile describing the likely author(s) and audience followed by “Major Themes” and “Outline.” For the latter, for instance, the translator showed how the five divisions of Psalms correspond to the Pentateuch:

Psalms 1-41 (Genesis) – Psalms of man and creation.
Psalms 42-72 (Exodus) – Psalms of suffering and redemption.
Psalms 73-89 (Leviticus) – Psalms of worship and God’s house.
Psalms 90-106 (Numbers) – Psalms of our pilgrimage on earth.
Psalms 107-150 (Deuteronomy) – Psalms of praise and the Word.


With similar headings introducing the other books that have been translated so far, the “Purpose” for the first gospel pointed out that “Matthew is a natural bridge between the Old Testament and the New because it has the most Jewish character. From the first verse to the last, Matthew establishes Jesus as a direct descendant of King David, preserving and fulfilling his royal line as the rightful heir as well as a descendant of Abraham, the father of Israel.” More importantly, “Matthew portrays Jesus as the new and greater Moses, who not only upholds the Jewish Torah but intensified it – not in a legalistic way, but in a spiritual way, because following his teachings is the way into his heavenly kingdom realm.”

Separate from the 8-book boxed set but available as an individual title, Mark: Miracles and Mercy has this introduction:

“This is a gospel of miracles! Eighteen miracles are recorded here with two unique to Mark’s gospel. There is a freshness and vitality about this gospel that is gripping to the reader,” so if you can read this short book in one sitting, “you’ll be on the edge of your seat!”

While Matthew wrote primarily for Jewish readers, “Early Christian tradition closely identifies Mark’s gospel with Rome,” giving it a more universal appeal.

Similarly, the introduction to Romans: Grace and Glory states, “Rome was the power center of the known world when Paul penned this letter. It was the most influential city on earth at that time. Although Paul had not yet been to Rome, he would one day be martyred there.”

In writing to the people of Rome, Paul’s letter reached many peoples and cultures in that major city as he addressed these “Major Themes”:

The Gospel
Salvation
The Love of God
Justification
The Righteousness of God
The Law
The Flesh vs. The Spirit
The Destiny of Israel


Regarding the latter, the introduction to Romans reminds us that “God will bring all of Israel to salvation once the full number of non-Jews have come into God’s family.”

The book of Romans ends with a word to all nations but begins in chapter One with one man, who wrote:

“My name is Paul, a loving and loyal servant of the Anointed One, Jesus.”

I mention that here because, in the footnote for that word “servant,” Dr. Simmons tells us: “The Greek word doulos signifies more than a servant; it is one who has chosen to serve a master out of love, bound with cords so strong that it could only be severed by death.”

Other concise but instructive notes can be found in the lower margins of each book, but the individual paperback edition of Romans also includes a couple dozen pages in the back as an 8-week Bible study with three main goals:

Encounter the Heart of God
Explore the Heart of God
Share the Heart of God


Lord willing, the questions and suggestions in the study, as well as the highly readable text in each book of The Passion Translation, will kindle our passion for reading God’s word.

I look forward to seeing the full translation of TPT bound in one volume, and yet I suspect the individual paperbacks will attract children, young people, and adults who have felt too intimidated by the immensity of the Bible to attempt reading, cover to cover. However, the individual books in these unique, heart-felt translations will hopefully bring individual readers into a heart-to-heart with God.

Review by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

The Passion Translation, boxed set, 8 paperbacks


The Psalms: Poetry on Fire, TPT Bible, paperback


Romans: Grace and Glory, TPT Bible with 8-week Bible study, paperback


February 29, 2016

Holy Bible for Kids, ESV


The Holy Bible for Kids, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, now comes in this two-column “large print” edition, which is not very large but, nevertheless, a nice font size for the young eyes of the intended readership.

Adapted from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the text in the English Standard Version (ESV) is easier to comprehend than the King James Version used in some church school classes, but similar enough to both of those classical editions that children can keep up with either.

Maps and a concordance in the back of the book will help young readers to stay grounded in the biblical setting and times, but what makes this edition especially child-appealing is the lively cover and the many back-to-back illustrations of colorful Bible scenes.

The first illustration, for instance, depicts the baby Moses being taken out of his basket floating in the river with a circular inset showing “The Birth of Moses” and reference to Exodus 1:1-2:10 where that particular story can be found. On the back of that artwork, readers will find the white-haired “Moses and the Burning Bush” with reference to Exodus 2:11-4:31.

Since these realistically rendered illustrations can be found throughout this edition of the Bible, children could flip to the artwork then look up the scriptures to find the whole story. Such searches will help them to become more familiar with the location of each book and, hopefully, encourage them to read the whole Bible.

Reviewed by poet-writer Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.


Holy Bible for Kids, ESV, large print, hardback





February 16, 2016

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible: KJV with Apocrypha


In a recent post on The Word Center blog, I challenged readers to read the Bible cover to cover during Lent. For those of you who haven’t done this before, I recommend you choose a reader’s edition (no study notes) in your favorite contemporary translation. If you don’t yet have one, just scroll through the previous reviews here, and you’ll surely find an edition you’re drawn to read.

This year, however, the beginning of Lent coincided with the arrival of The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible in the King James Version with Apocrypha. I ordered a copy as shown below because I was glad to see the restoration of the apocryphal books which were originally included in KJV but later removed during the Reformation when denominational squabbles caused publishers to omit books not in the Hebrew Bible. That decision created a time gap between the old and new testaments mainly because biblical writers no longer knew Hebrew! i.e., After the Babylonian exile, people spoke and wrote in Greek or Aramaic as they continued to do during the age of the New Testament.

While I’ve looked forward to reading the restored KJV, I don’t necessarily recommend this for reading straight through during Lent since the apocryphal aka deuterocanonical books add to the length, which can be discouraging for Christians used to reading the Bible in pieces, rather than as a whole.

Also, as you know, archaic words in the KJV can be difficult to understand, but this edition remedies that by placing contemporary synonyms or quick definitions in the inner margins. This has the added effect of creating a couple inches of white space between the pages, giving room for tightly written notes.

Almost every edition of KJV I’ve seen has each verse numbered and separately spaced, but this edition published by Cambridge uses regular paragraphs on each page as most books do. This eases reading and makes this edition of the KJV a do-able reading challenge for Lent – unless you would rather give yourself or someone else a copy for Easter.

The one I bought came covered in a thick, silken-to-the-touch calfskin leather that should hold up beautifully for many years of reading cover to cover and many years of reading at a repetitive, reflective, meditative pace. However, I’ve also included a link to a hardcover edition in case you prefer that.

Regardless of which cover you choose, cover to cover Bible reading can bog down somewhere around Leviticus. By then the initial enthusiasm has ebbed while commands and directives flow from page to page. As the Bible itself explains, Moses gave the people this lengthy rule book so the promised “land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations that were before you,” Leviticus 18:28.

God required specific acts of obedience, which Moses set forth clearly in any language or translation. Reading these rules in Leviticus, my thoughts took another turn as I thanked God for letting us know what we need to be holy and perfect – something we cannot possibly do! Leviticus makes this abundantly clear! But reading the book draws us into praising our Lord Jesus Christ for being the Perfect Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice.

Oh!

What a perfect book Leviticus is to read during Lent! It makes us aware of our total need for the One Who wholly kept the rules on our behalf.

Did I mention that the New Testament gives evidence that Jesus knew the apocryphal books? Take, for example, Ecclesiasticus 20:30, which reminds us of Jesus’ exhortation to let our light shine.

Wisdom that is hid, and treasure that is hoarded up,
what profit is in them both?
Better is he that hideth his folly
than a man that hideth his wisdom.


Speaking of wisdom, which Ecclesiasticus, like Proverbs, often does, the first verses of chapter 25 personify Wisdom:

In three things I (Wisdom) was beautified,
and stood up beautiful both before God and man:
the unity of brethren,
the love of neighbours,
a man and a wife that agree together
.”

And, speaking of three’s, “The Song of the Three Holy Children” in the KJV Apocrypha tells us what Daniel’s three friends did when they were thrown into the fiery furnace:

Then the three, as out of one mouth, praised, glorified, and blessed God in the furnace, saying:
‘Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers:
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
And blessed is thy glorious and holy name:
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the temple of thy holy glory:
and to be praised and glorified above all for ever’
,” verses 28-31.

These blessings continue into a call to “all ye works of the Lord” to bless the Lord, Who:

even out of the midst of the fire hath he delivered us.
O give thanks unto the Lord, because he is gracious:
for his mercy endureth for ever:
O all ye that worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
praise him, and give him thanks:
for his mercy endureth for ever
,” verses 66b-68.

Amen

© 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler


The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha, calfskin leather



The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha, hardcover