October 22, 2014

New Jerusalem Bible, reader edition

The first time I read The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), I had a study edition with footnotes that were hard to see because of the small font but were so interesting, I got sidetracked from the Bible text! Recently, however, Image Books kindly sent me a review copy of their NJB reader edition, which rarely adds any footnotes, but has a nice, clear font and bonded leather cover.

The main additions in this edition are a brief but important-to-read “General Editor’s Foreword” by Henry Wansbrough in the front of the book and, in the back, black and white maps showing Palestine in Old and New Testament Times. Being somewhat geographically challenged, I wish a modern-day map had been included, too. Nevertheless, those of us who customarily lug around plump study editions will find this regular book-sized Bible highly refreshing.

Most importantly, the NJB translation itself is refreshing.

Instead of telling you about this, I’ll try to show you some examples of well-known passages in favored forms followed by the fresh, sometimes startling way NJB has of getting us to see, hear, and think about things we’re apt to glide by without realizing it.

Isaiah 60:1-3

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (King James Version, KJV)

"Arise, shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you. Look! though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, on you Yahweh is rising and over you his glory can be seen. The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"For this is how God loved the world:
he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in
him may not perish
but may have eternal life."
(New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 8:28

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (Revised Standard Version, RSV)

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 12:2

"Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (New International Version, NIV)

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (King James Version, KJV)

"Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 12:4-5

"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (King James Version, KJV)

"For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same functions: in the same way, all of us, though there are many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

I Corinthians 12:4-6

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." (KJV)

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work." (NIV)

"There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord. There are many different forms of activity, but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all." (NJB)

I Corinthians 13:4-7

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (KJV)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)

"Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes." (NJB)

Hebrews 11:1

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." (NABRE)

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (NRSV)

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV)

"Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen." (NJB)

[Note: The Bible verses chosen as examples can be found on Bible Gateway along with Holy Scriptures from many other translations and other languages too.]

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She’s the traditionally published author of 27 books in all genres, including the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden.

The New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition, bonded leather

October 16, 2014

ESV Single Column Heritage Bible

Adapted from the beloved RSV (Revised Standard Version) of the Bible, which remains a perennial favorite in countless Protestant and Catholic Churches, the English Standard Version (ESV) also aims to provide an “essentially literal” and accurate translation.

The quality of language and poetic flow make this such a highly readable and recognizable version that Crossway publishes the ESV in a variety of formats to appeal to a broad readership. As discussed in previous posts, for example, you can find ESV in the Today’s Light Devotional Bible, Global Study Bible, Spanish-English Parallel, ESV Children’s Bible, and Women’s Devotional Bible.

Or, if you want a study Bible with extensive footnotes, in-depth articles, and other study aids, your ESV choices range from The Lutheran Study Bible, published by Concordia, to a variety of evangelically oriented editions published by Crossway such as The MacArthur Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible, Global Study Bible, and the ESV Study Bible.

For well over two years now, I’ve received review copies of all but one of the above – the highly impressive ESV Study Bible, which my husband bought for me, covered in the finest grade of leather. So, why would anyone who has all of these editions and many more be interested in the ESV Single Column Heritage Bible?

There comes a time when Bible lovers just want to read the Bible!

Instead of lingering over footnotes or reading articles about the Bible or getting distracted by lots of very, very helpful information, sometimes I just want to read the Bible, cover to cover, as I would any good book.

The ESV Single Column Heritage Bible encourages you to read.

Besides providing a highly accessible translation, my review copy had a quality cover of cloth over board outside and a reader-friendly layout inside with single columns such as you find in novels and nonfiction books of all types. And, speaking of types, a 9-point font eases your reading too.

If you want to look up a biblical locale, you can do so with the clear maps at the back of the book, but otherwise, only the presentation pages and brief introductory front matter take up space. The rest is devoted to the actual Bible text, which, in this edition, is no more than the size of a typical library book you might read within a week or two. And, why not?

Reading the Bible straight through gives a sweeping view of God’s love and merciful interactions with us since the beginning of time. If you haven’t done this before, I highly encourage the practice and recommend this edition as one to practice on – and on and on.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible and traditionally published author of 27 books, including her book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden.

You can order the ESV Single Column Heritage Bible from Crossway or Amazon.

ESV Single Column Heritage Bible, cloth-covered hardback

October 3, 2014

The Modern English Version of KJV

To understand the contribution of the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Bible, we first need to look at the KJV, which, according to the preface of the MEV, provides the base manuscript for a new translation that also relies on earlier texts in Greek and Hebrew.

For over 400 years, people have loved the Authorized Version of the Bible, better known as the King James Version. The first edition came into being in the early 1600’s during the reign of King James I, who commissioned 47 scholars to provide an up-to-date English translation based on several versions in use at the time.

The King instructed representatives of the clergy in the Church of England and Puritan ministers to use ecclesiastical words such as “church,” rather than “congregation,” but in general James aimed to bring peace and harmony to these groups of Christians.

Drawing on the Bishop’s Bible, Coverdale Bible, Geneva Bible, and others, about 80% of the New Testament in the Authorized Version relied on the Tyndale Bible, which William Tyndale had translated from the Greek, now known as the Textus Receptus. According to the MEV preface, the "King James Version Old Testament is based on the Jacob en Hayyim edition of the Masoretic Text," (1525) but some scholars believe a slightly earlier version of the Hebrew text was used. Regardless, the Authorized Version soon became known for the graceful rhythms found in English poetry and its then-contemporary vernacular fit for the king -- and the King of Kings.

Being fairly new at the time, English spellings and word usages were even more liquid than they are today, so in the 18th century, Oxford updated the KJV, contributing once again to standards of grammar and punctuation we might take for granted. Changes still occur, though, as words and phrases go in and out of favor or find new usages, for instance, as teens call something “Cool!” or say, “That’s hot!” with no thought of the actual temperature setting!

Because of the fluidity of our language, Bible publishers in the last few decades have sought to bring biblical texts into contemporary English, resulting in an influx of translations not seen in previous eras. Some have gone back to the oldest manuscripts to be found in the original languages to freshen phrases with equivalent ways we might say the same thing today, while others have tried to recover the 3 to 4-beat rhythms of Hebrew poetry or translate passages as close to a word-for-word rendering of the originals as possible.

Despite the wealth of choices, which we’ve been discussing on this blog for over two and a half years, most Christians love the majestic language of the KJV. Therefore, many of us welcomed the New King James Version (NKJV), as I have, since it’s more accessible with clearer language that encourages us to read straight through before going back again!

That said, those of us who grew up with the KJV will notice phrasing in the NKJV that, on the one hand, makes a passage easier to understand, but on the other, alerts our ears to subtle differences throughout the text. Some readers won’t notice. And some won’t care one way or the other as these variances don’t alter spiritual truths but, instead, might change a detail or a familiar phrase we like to hear as memorized without anyone messing with it!

From what I’ve seen and understand, the Modern English Version (MEV) aims to remedy these concerns. To give you an example, here is a familiar phrase as translated in the KJV, NKJV, and MEV.

In the KJV, St. Luke 3:16 records a conversation between the people and John the Baptist like this:

“John answered, saying until them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

Since most of us don’t use the word “latchet,” here’s how NKJV translates that same verse:

“John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’.”

Now, if I had been asked, I probably would have kept the word “unloose” or, better, used “unloosen.” Otherwise, I like how the NKJV modernized the punctuation, capitalized references to Jesus, used the current vernacular of “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost,” and clarified the word “latchet.” Or did it?

If we look up troublesome words in a dictionary, which I just did, we’ll find that “latchet” in Middle English meant “shoestring.” So when we read “sandal strap,” we’re apt to picture the wide strips of leather or other materials that hold the sole of a shoe in place today as they did some types of sandals in Jesus' time. According to Webster or his heirs, however, a “latchet” is more like “a narrow leather strap, thong, or lace that fastens a shoe or sandal on the foot,” similar in appearance, say, to a leather shoelace.

As you will notice, each translation shows the ultimate worthiness of Jesus. So we’re not talking here about anything of theological significance or a faith breaker! We're talking about foot attire! So, for what it’s worth to you and me as readers, the MEV helps us to picture what was worn in Jesus’ time by saying:

“John answered them all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water. But One mightier than I is coming, the strings of whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’.”

Although those "strings" can be envisioned more readily than a "latchet," we no longer have a sandal here, but a pair of shoes. Wondering about this, I looked up an entry for sandals/ shoes in a Bible dictionary where I learned that, yes, by the Roman era, soldiers might wear something akin to boots while well-to-do people often wore shoes with leather that came up higher on the ankle or foot and, therefore, offered more protection than sandals. In any case, the lowest slave would untie the footwear his master wore, so John the Baptist was saying he wasn't even worthy enough to do that for Jesus.

Since I’m getting rather precise (or, maybe, picky!), I decided to compare these 3 translation above with the many found on Bible Gateway. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) says “thong,” the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) says “thongs,” the English Standard Version (ESV) and Common English Bible (CEB) say “strap,” and the New International Version (NIV) says “straps.”

In order to be clear, rather than precise, the New Living Translation (NLT) brings a thought-for-thought rendering by adding words, not in the original:

“John answered their questions by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’.”

And the Good News Translation (GNT) circumvents the problem, by saying, “I am not good enough even to untie his sandals.”

This may seem to be digressing from my purpose in requesting a review copy of the MEV, which Charisma kindly sent, as I've not followed my typical way of reviewing a new edition of the Bible. But in this unique instance with this unique translation, a comparison with its source is the best way I know to show you what to expect. Then you can review the MEV and consider what’s important to you.

Having now done that for myself, my recommendation is this: If you love the KJV and want a word-for-word translation to stay as close to it as possible and yet be easier to comprehend, you will most likely want a copy of the Modern English Version, which you'll highly recommend to others – as I surely do.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible (beginning with KJV and RSV then GNT) and is also a traditionally published author of 27 books, including the Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden.

Modern English Version, hardback

Lovers of the KJV might also prefer this edition.

KJV/ MEV Parallel Bible: King James Version / Modern English Version, hardback

September 5, 2014

Women’s Devotional Bible

The review copy of the Women’s Devotional Bible I received from Crossway came in a nice Trutone® cover as shown below, but it comes in hardback too (also shown.) I mention this early on in case you recall that I’m not particularly fond of imitation leather! This one, however, has a nice feel and attractive birch design.

The important part, of course, comes inside any cover, which, here, would be the full text of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, widely acclaimed for its accuracy and generally preferred by evangelical and conservative Christians and other readers who also tend to study the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and/or the New International Version (NIV.)

In addition to the ESV, this edition provides 365 devotionals relating to the adjacent text and 16 articles created for this edition, which will especially appeal to young women or women of all ages who are new to the Bible and/or new to Christ and the church.

Throughout the text, for example, readers will find brief, but info-packed sidebars with profiles of such outstanding Bible characters as Adam, Eve, Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Miriam, Ruth, and others in the Old Testament and Mary, Elizabeth, Martha, Lydia, and others in the New Testament with more than half of the Bible people featured being women.

This edition does not aim for the in-depth study you can have, by yourself or in a group, with the extensive information and impressive aids provided by the ESV Study Bible, also published by Crossway, so you will find few footnotes at the bottom of the pages. However, the back matter contains the new articles I mentioned earlier and recommend for the range of subjects - from getting the most out of your Bible study to praying with Psalms to considering “The Church and Women At Risk.”

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and lifelong Bible lover, is a traditionally published poet and author of 26 books in all genres, many of which can be found on Amazon.

Women’s Devotional Bible, Trutone® imitation leather

Women’s Devotional Bible, hardback

August 30, 2014

My all-time favorite Bible

I began reviewing Bibles on the Bible Reviewer blog because I had so many. As word got around that I'm a Bible nut, people began asking my advice on which translation and/or study edition to get. Before responding, I tried to find out what each person wanted and needed as individual preferences make a huge difference in whether we actually read God's Word, which is, after all, the point.

Most Christians already have a favorite Bible, but having none myself, I read almost every English version, including footnotes from a variety of excellent study editions. Many aspects of each word-for-word, thought-for-thought, contemporary, or scholarly translation appealed to me for various reasons, and I'm happy to report that I discovered something unique in each - something insightful, something that helped me to take notice and really hear.

Then, finally.... Finally! After years of searching, I found "my" Bible: this one – The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, edited by Michael D. Coogan and published by Oxford in March, 2010.

The accuracy, the poetically graceful yet clear language, the unbiased footnotes and study aids, the "extra" books I did not even know about as a child – all of these features came together in a soft leather cover I'm sorry to say I couldn't find on Amazon. Before posting this, however, I made sure the paperback edition I did find is the exact Bible that has now become "my" Bible, my all-time favorite Bible, and The Bible I most highly recommend for drawing me closer to The Most High.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books, including the poetry book Living in the Nature Poem and Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, paperback

August 26, 2014

Reviewing The Life

At first glance, my review copy of The Life, kindly sent to me by its publisher Tyndale House, appears to be just another magazine in a handy size for carrying. Inside, however, most of the slick pages have been filled with Holy Scriptures from the Gospels of the New Living Translation (NLT) to reveal the life we’re to live in Christ.

The table of contents summarizes “The Life: What’s Inside.”

Surprising Encounters with Jesus
Jesus’ Message Isn’t about Easy Religion
Death Is No Match for Jesus
What Does It Mean to “Remain” in Jesus?
Ordinary People Given God’s Power
The Choice

With colorful illustrations, wise words from “Youth For Christ,” and the highly readable NLT text, young people and new readers of the Bible receive a warm “Welcome to The Life,” where they “begin to get acquainted with God’s story through reading the story of the life of Jesus and his earliest followers straight from the Bible – or at least part of the Bible” and begin to see “there’s plenty more where this came from.”

Staying strongly focused on the person and power of Jesus, a brief magazine-type article challenges readers to remain in Christ then asks “What Does Remain Mean In John 15?” A sidebar beside the biblical answer adds illustrative examples such as:

• In order for a lamp to shine, the light bulb must remain in the fixture.

Remain within coverage areas to use cell phones.

• A fish that wants to breathe must remain underwater.

As we remain in Christ, we're alive in Him and can live NOW in the power of His Spirit, knowing, “Jesus is able to fight his own battles. He specializes in reversing the course of enemies so that they become dedicated followers.”

And as they believe, as I believe, as you believe and choose to remain in Christ and The Life, “Jesus will work miraculously within you to help you become more and more like him.”

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books, including the Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden and poetry book Living in the Nature Poem.

The Life, paperback

August 22, 2014

The Case For Christ Study Bible

Lee Strobel, the general editor of The Case For Christ Study Bible: Investigating The Evidence For Belief, is an award-winning Christian writer and Zondervan a well-respected publisher of Bibles, but I might not have gotten this edition if it were not for a great sale! Having grown up in The Body of Christ, which is comprised of many denominational parts that I have had the privilege of trying on from time to time, I felt no need for evidence to support my life-long belief in Christ or my conviction of biblical truths or my love for the church.

Almost immediately, however, I realized how much I appreciated the attitude expressed on the welcome page, which said this Bible “doesn’t instruct you regarding what you should or should not believe. Instead, its goal is to help you solidify your confidence in the Bible and its message by providing well-researched information that allows you to investigate the evidence for yourself and come to your own conclusions.” Yes!

Since that’s what I initially sought years ago when I began buying and devouring Bibles like someone starving, I must admit those words piqued my interest. But how would a new reader of God’s Word discover such claims to be true? Case by case, of course! And so, this unique study Bible includes relevant case histories in sidebars throughout the book as highlighted by these headings:

The Case For A Creator highlights God's intricate plans and the wonders of creation.

The Case For The Bible responds to questions about Bible people and stories.

The Case For Christ considers prophecies from the Hebrew Bible and also statements Jesus made about Himself.

The Case For Faith addresses troubling concerns such as why there’s so much suffering in the world.

The Verdict gives summations from distinguished biblical scholars and renowned Christians who have given much prayer and thought to such matters. And, oh, did I mention that Lee Strobel was once an atheist, whose research not only convinced him of Christ but turned him into an outstanding spokesperson for Christ and Christianity?

Looking for examples to show you, I saw “The Case For A Creator” addressing the question: “How do the sun and moon facilitate life?” With the sun the ideal distance from the earth, we learn that, if the sun “were much smaller, its luminosity would not allow high efficiency photosynthesis in plants; if it were much closer, the water would boil away from the planet’s surface. Similarly, our moon is just far enough away and just the right size to stabilize Earth’s tilt. Without the moon’s stabilizing presence, Earth would experience wild temperature swings, with devastating consequences for life.”

In another sidebar, we find examples of “The Case For The Bible” with such facts as “Over 5,700 of these old manuscripts have been found, compared with fewer than 700 copies of Homer’s Iliad and only 9 copies of the historian Josephus’s Jewish Wars.” Interesting!

Elsewhere, “The Case For Christ” asked, “What Is A Theophany?” then said that in this “visible manifestation, or appearance, of God… the forms in which God appears vary greatly, from the burning bush seen by Moses in Exodus 3:2 to the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21-22.” With examples given of additional physical manifestations, the text ultimately explained, “when Jesus lived on Earth, people saw and interacted with God through him.”

Toward the back of the book, before the concordance and a series of colorful maps, other features address “Creeds And Hymns Of The Early Church,” which the Apostle Paul quoted in Romans 1:3-4, 10:9-10, I Timothy 3:16, and other places in the New Testament. We find, too, a list of “Claims Jesus Made About Himself,” which features His avowals to fulfill the law, establish the Kingdom of God, and be the light of the world.

With this recommended edition of the original New International Version (NIV) 1984 to enlighten us, we, too, can bring light to others as we present a convincing case for our faith and show wondrous reasons for believing in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is the author of numerous books in all genres, including the poetry book Living in the Nature Poem, published by Hiraeth Press in 2012 with an e-book version released in 2014 and a book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden, published this year by Kelsay Books.

To find reviews of other editions on this blog, type the title of the Bible in the Search box. If you don't find a discussion of an edition you're interested in, contact Mary through her website.

The Case For Christ Study Bible, hardback