July 14, 2016

Africa Study Bible

Reportedly, over 80% of the peoples in the U.S. say they’re Christians, whereas in Africa, one in four has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Almost 500 million Christians live in Africa, yet few have Bibles with footnotes or study aids relevant to their lives and cultures.

What’s ironic is that many key events in the Bible took place on that beautifully diverse continent. Also, its past and present peoples, places, and cultures can help us to understand more about our biblical roots and our ancestry as God’s people.

Such thoughts urged me to request a copy of the Africa Study Bible (ASB) from Oasis International, who kindly sent me their attractively published Book of Genesis to review. Its well-chosen text from the New Living Translation (NLT) was completed a few years ago, of course, by the Tyndale House Foundation, but Oasis International has not yet finalized the ASB study notes being prepared by over 300 individuals from 50 nations.

The first book, however, clearly shows how the ASB aims to bring us “God’s Word through African Eyes.” For example, “Proverbs and Stories,” applications of the text, and sidebars of “African Touch Points” give us fresh insight into Genesis, such as the note regarding “The Fall” in chapter 3:

Most parents would punish their disobedient children. The Bangolan people in Cameroon say a parent should punish a rebellious child with a rebuking left hand and draw him or her closer with a loving right hand. That is exactly what God did to humans in and after the Fall.

Below the text for the Cain and Abel story in chapter 4, “Proverbs and Stories” urge us to “Build Up, Not Tear Down” with this word:

A Sierra Leonean proverb says, ‘If a person is tallker than you, do not chop off his legs so that you will be equal. Rather, grow up’.”

Next to the biblical text for Genesis 10, an “African Touch Point” discusses the infamous “Sons of Ham” with this important clarification:

Because Ham was the father of the African people, some Christians, Jews, and Muslims have misued this passage to justify enslaving Africans. But the passage only says that Canaan is cursed. Even though the rest of Ham’s sons settled in Africa, Canaan did not. Much later, God told Israel (descendants of Noah’s son Shem) to conquer the land of Canaan, and Canaan’s descendants became servants, just as Noah had said.”

That sidebar goes on to explain:

As Africans, we are not descendants of Canaan, but of Ham’s other sons – Cush (Egypt and Sudan), Mizraim (Egypt) and Put (Libya or Somalia).”

In an “Application” for Genesis 44-50, footnotes briefly discuss Joseph's enslavement because of the harsh treatment of his jealous brothers, and yet he remained faithful to God, eventually rising to power at a crucial moment in the life of his people. By the time he saw his brothers again, he had come to recognize God's hand on his life. As the footnotes say:

Many people have assumed positions of power over those who have wronged them greatly. Some people desire to take revenge and continue the cycle of violence. Others, like Joseph forgive and say, ‘It was God who sent me here, not you’.

Forgiveness brings peace. Let us be like Joseph with people who have rejected us and caused us harm. We must not continue the cycle of violence by seeking revenge. We must see our lives as controlled by God. Only then can we be at peace.”

Yes! And may all of God's people say, "Amen."

Bible review by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2016





June 28, 2016

5-Minute Nighttime Bible Stories


The 5-Minute Nighttime Bible Stories retold by Charlotte Thoroe and illustrated by Gil Guile makes a good choice for bedtime reading with young children. Published by Tommy Nelson, the appealing artwork catches the attention of little ones, while the large font encourages elementary school child to read along and learn new words. In addition, I appreciate the capitalization of pronouns referring to God.

In the Genesis opening, for example:

“God spoke and whatever He said, it happened.”

The next page invites children to count the animals shown on that page as does the story of Noah. The cheery illustrations and interactive questions help to hold a squirmy child’s attention. Sometimes, though, that same question might cause confusion. For example, posing it with the story of Jesus’ birth could give the impression of an exact animal head count around the manger.

Another type of interaction occurs with a prayer such as the one relating well to the last page of the Noah story:

“Dear God, thank You for all of the wonderful animals and for always keeping Your promises.”

A sidebar with the story of Moses and Pharoah asks what happened to Aaron’s staff, while the next page lists the plagues with a prayer thanking God for taking care of His people.

All Bible storybooks don’t include the Ten Commandments, so I was glad to see this one did in child-friendly language. However, I wish this and other Bible storybooks would omit David’s killing Goliath and talk instead about his tending sheep or writing many of the poems known as Psalms.

In the New Testament stories, the interactive question: “How many disciples did Jesus have?” probably refers to the twelve men He had just chosen as apostles who would be sent out in His name, whereas the disciples or followers of that time and now are countless.

My favorite story in the book will surely be the favorite of young readers, too, as they read “Jesus Loves Children.” At the end of that story, bold letters acclaim, “Jesus always had time for children.” Amen!

Finally, the back matter of this sturdy book, which I kindly received for my honest-as-always review, gives children easy-access to find and memorize:

The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)
The Ten Commandments (included earlier too)
Psalm 23 (with a word about David and the Psalms)
Books of the Bible (Old Testament and New)
Song About Jesus (“Jesus Loves Me”)

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

5-Minute Nighttime Bible Stories, padded hardback





I review for BookLook Bloggers


June 23, 2016

The Rhyme Bible Storybook


Zonderkidz often sends me review copies of Bibles and Bible storybooks for children, but I saw The Rhyme Bible Storybook by L.J. Sattgast in a Christian bookstore and thought my young grandson would love it. He does!

On each slick page of this sturdily bound book, cheerful artwork by Laurence Cleyet-Merle enhances the lively stories while a large, roundy font encourages young readers to read to themselves, follow along, or take turns reading with a caretaker.

Happily, readers of all ages will enjoy the bouncy rhymes and appreciate the scriptural accuracy of the stories, which include true-to-human-nature examples to fill in the details. For example, “Safe In The Boat,” adapts Genesis 6-9 with these opening lines:

“God was very,
Very sad,
For all the people
Were so bad.
They would chat,
And they would lie.
They would make
Their sisters cry.”


As the story of Noah continues, the author takes into account how people most likely responded.

“So Noah’s family
Built the boat.
They made it strong
So it would float.
But all the people
Laughed and said,
‘They are loony
In the head!
Where’s the water?
Where’s the sea?
They’re as crazy
As can be’!”


Anyone who’s had someone laugh at them and not understand what’s going on will appreciate the emphasis on what Noah and other people of God have had to endure.

With expressions of faith, rebellion, repentance, and answered prayer, these stories also help us to see more clearly how we, too, are part of the ongoing story of God’s love for us, which is best shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, the last story, “Good News!” presents the account of Jesus’ resurrection as recorded in Luke 24 and Acts 1-2 when, in the upper room:

“Jesus’ friends were hiding.
Their hearts were filled with fear.
But suddenly they saw him –
Jesus had appeared!
Jesus said, ‘Don’t be afraid,
Touch me and you’ll see
That I am not a ghost at all –
Believe that it is me’!”


Thankfully, these well-presented stories of faith do help readers to believe.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

The Rhyme Bible Storybook, hardback



June 2, 2016

Large print ESV from Crossway


Praise God! Crossway has just published the Holy Bible, Large Print, English Standard Version (ESV), and as I can readily see from the copy the publisher kindly sent me to review, I can readily see!

With a highly readable 11-point font, this new edition provides welcome relief from the prevailing 8-point type found in too many Bibles, including those for young children, who much prefer this size or larger, as I do. For general readers, 9 to 10-point type might be fine, but anything less than that or larger than 14 seems to be out of touch with what most people want or need.

Besides encouraging us to read without eye strain, this reader edition also includes color maps and a 10,000-entry concordance to aid Bible study – alone or in a group. The page layout with its double-column paragraph format also assists comprehension, whereas either flap on the dust jacket can become an immediately accessible “bookmark” in lieu of fraying ribbons.

In case you haven’t yet read the ESV, this translation has been lauded for being accurate but readable – and familiar too. For instance, The Translation Oversight Committee opted to retain the word, “Behold!” which often occurs in both testaments because, as the Preface informs us, this one-of-a-kind attention getter “helps us read more carefully.”

Also in the Preface, the “Special Notes in the ESV Bible” explain the infrequent footnotes added for clarification. For example, the first note in this edition says, “The Hebrew word used here for man includes both men and women (see 1:27) and refers to the entire human race.” Similarly, “The note on Romans 8:14 shows you that ‘sons’ also includes ‘daughters’.”

Footnoted or not, this edition – like the content of the Bible in any language – welcomes all who come to read and heed God’s word.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

Holy Bible, ESV, large print, hardback



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