October 9, 2020

One Year Chronological Bible Expressions


The One Year Chronological Bible Expressions published by Tyndale House places scriptures in sequential order with the Gospels interwoven and the psalms, books of prophecy, and historical books grouped as they occurred. 

As the Introduction tells us:


“…after you read in 1 Samuel 19:1-17 about the time David escaped the soldiers who were sent to capture him…, you will immediately read in Psalm 59 how David pours out his heart to God in response to this situation… When you read one of the Gospel writer’s accounts of something Jesus said or did (for instance, Mark 14:12-16…) you will also be able to see what the other Gospel writers recorded for this event (for instance, Matthew 26:17-19 and Luke 22:7-13). When you read the letters of Paul, you will see how they fit into the framework of his missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts. You will be able to see how various passages fit together into a single, unfolding story.”

Since the text follows the New Living Translation (NLT), the contemporary language makes us feel as though we’re there.

In addition to reconnecting relevant parts of the Bible and providing clearer context for our God-story, this edition includes over 100 drawings to color and creatively express your responses to the scriptures. The wide margins include lines for penciling in thoughts and prayers, making this Bible personal and also an appealing gift for loved ones.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020, poet-writer, Bible Reviewer, and lifelong lover of God’s Word


Click here to order the One Year Chronological Bible Expressions!


September 21, 2020

KJV Sword Study Bible

After learning Whitaker House had published the KJV Sword Study Bible with the direct words of God in red, I just had to order a copy. Although many New Testaments can be found with Jesus’ words in red, I’d never seen a red-letter edition of the Old Testament.

That unique feature gave reason enough to buy the KJV Sword Study Bible, but this edition offers many more special helps. For example, the King James Version of the biblical text has an “easy read format,” aka KJVER, which means archaic words such as “oft” have been updated to “often,” verbs have lost their “th” or “st” endings, and second person pronouns “thee” and “thou” have been changed to “you.”

These minimal changes do indeed make the text easy to follow, especially since uncommonly used words have a contemporary synonym directly below the verse in which that word appears. For instance, in Genesis, “dominion” is underlined with the its equivalent “authority” in the space between verses.

Another unique feature occurs in marginal markings, covering about 100 topics divided into three categories. As the Introduction explains:

For example, the G heading is for those verses relating to God and the many attributes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since God has a plan, the verses that illustrate His plan or reflect Him implementing His plan, go under the P heading. Verses that speak of God using man are found under the M heading.”


At the bottom of each marginal reference line is a number. This number directs you to the next page on which the study of the subject continues.”

In addition to the Introduction, the front matter includes:

A Basic Outline of Old Testament History

The Names and Attributes of God

Definitions of Biblical Terms Rarely Used Today

Word Changes

In the latter, for instance, we see a four-page list of updated words such as “astonied – astonished” and “yesternight – last night.” Also, the changes of verbs from “speakest” to “speak” and “taketh” to “take” have been included.

The section “Between the Testaments,” which is appropriately named for its location, discusses various empires and influences. Then the page “Margin Study Reference & Guide” highlights that feature and encourages readers to “Follow the references – subject by subject – through the Bible. Make and mark your own special subject you want to know about.” Several pages then follow, enabling readers to readily find a topic of interest.

In the extensive back matter, the “Treasury of Biblical Information” begins with articles occasionally of a controversial nature, which I would have preferred to be excluded. However, they’re followed by helpful study aids, such as the “Names and Titles of Jesus Christ,” a “Detailed Chronology of the Acts,” “Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament and their New Testament Fulfillment in Christ,” a list of primary “Events of the Bible,” a thorough concordance, and clear black and white maps, including one I especially appreciate, “Major Nations of the Bible Then and Now.”

Since I bought a copy the KJV Sword Study Bible myself, I ordered my favorite perks: a genuine leather cover, 15-point font, and thumb indexing. If you click onto the above hotlinks, you will find that same KJVER edition, which I highly recommend.


Mary HarwellSayler, ©2020, poet-writer, Bible Reviewer, and lifelong lover of God’s Word.






September 12, 2020

Every Day Bible: 365 Readings Through the Whole Bible

Published by Crossway, who kindly sent me a copy to review, the
Every Day Bible: 365 Readings Through the Whole Bible weaves together scriptures from the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament with text from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.

This highly acclaimed word-for-word translation is, as the Preface tells us, “essentially literal” with a goal “to reproduce the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.” As a writer myself, I appreciate the aim to retain the tone or voice of biblical writers, which clearly differentiates the long, complex sentences of the Apostle Paul from the brief, practical statements of James or poetic voice of John.

I wish this nice edition showed which verses are on which page in case we want to find a particular passage. Also, I’m interested in how the producers of the book decided which portions of scripture would be placed on which page. Was this, for instance, random or were themes intended to be developed or was each date for a day’s reading influential? (Looking at the readings for December 25th, however, I’d have to say the latter is unlikely.)

Regardless of the emphasis I might have had, the publisher succeeded well in carrying out its own excellent purpose and “goal of helping you engage with God’s Word every day of the year. Each daily reading can be completed in approximately fifteen minutes, and includes a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.”

The handy book size, clear font, and slick cover encourage reading, and the large lettering used for each day of the year helps readers to find their place easily by a quick glance at a calendar. More important, the quality of the book should support years of use as this unusual paperback actually has a Smyth-sewn binding!

If you’ve been looking for a scripturally-sound devotional book and/or a reminder to read the Bible every day, I highly recommend combining both with the Every Day Bible: 365 Readings Through the Whole Bible from Crossway.

Mary HarwellSayler, ©2020, poet-writer, and Bible reviewer eagerly awaits review copies of the next new editions or translations of the Bible – especially in large print!




















September 4, 2020

Fascinating Bible Studies on Every Parable

Published by Bethany House, who kindly sent me a copy to review, the Fascinating Bible Studies on Every Parable by Dr. William H. Marty focuses primarily on the parables of Jesus, which He frequently used to teach. But why did He? As the author explains in the Introduction:

Jesus “used parables to draw his audience into the story. Once they identified with the characters, he would make a point, usually with an unexpected development.”

That literary technique can still work well in delivering sermons and other types of writing aimed toward revealing biblical truths. In this book, however, Dr. Marty brings insights to Bible parables we have read often enough to think we’ve gleaned all the biblical truths they contain. Not!

For example, in the very familiar parable “The Sower and the Soils,” the author highlights “A Surprising Harvest” with this comment:

Jesus’ stories always include a surprising twist, and that’s the good news in this parable. A quarter of the seed fell on good soil, and the harvest was incredible. The seed produced a crop of a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was planted. The harvest was far above what farmers could expect – in first century Israel, most farmers would have been satisfied with a yield of ten percent.

In this same first chapter, a chart address the parables, their meanings, and the “take-away” or Kingdom truth. As we consider the parable of The Sower, for example, the meaning relates to “The competing obstacles to the proclamation of the Word of God” while the Kingdom truth points out “The remarkable growth of the kingdom of God in spite of competing obstacles.”

The chapter “The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price” discusses two parables beginning with “The kingdom of heaven is like….” In one, “The man who found the hidden treasure was probably a field hand. It’s unlikely he was digging in another man’s field. He was most likely working for the land owner when he accidentally discovered a buried treasure. Throughout Israel’s history, the land had been overrun by invading armies. When there was a threat of invasion, people would often protect their treasure by burying it in the ground.”

The other parable talks about a merchant or jeweler who was “actively searching for the perfect pearl.” Both of these stories “make the same point about the matchless value of the kingdom. I think, however, we can also make a valid point about how the worker and the merchant found the kingdom: the worker found the buried treasure by chance; the merchant found the perfect pearl after a diligent search. Point: People discover the kingdom in different ways.

Following this and every other parable, the author includes a section entitled “Reflect” with questions for readers to consider in applying these biblical truths to their own lives. After the parables of the pearls, for instance, one of the questions for reflection is “What were the circumstances of your coming to faith in Christ? Was it intentional or unintentional?

This chapter concludes, as do the rest, with a memory verse – in this case Matthew 6:33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Some chapters, such as “The Vine and the Branches,” include “Optional” questions to ask ourselves and/or additional comments. For example:

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is the basis for the concept of ‘union with Christ’ that Paul and other writers explain as the fundamental union for all the benefits we have received as believers.”

The “Memory Verse” reminds us of Jesus’ timeless word to His followers:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.


Mary HarwellSayler, ©2020, poet-writer, Bible reviewer






August 17, 2020

Fresh Start Bible

Published by Gateway Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy to review, the Fresh Start Bible is certainly well-named. Instead of copious footnotes about cultural, political, or geographical scenes in the Bible, this edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) has sidebars of articles and suggestions for a new (or renewed) life in Christ.

For example, the feature of a “Fresh Start Journey” consists of 52 lessons on the Christian life, which can be studied by individual readers or guide weekly discussions in a church group. Topics focus on learning more about God (and yourself!), studying the Bible, receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit, living in the spirit, praying in a prayer language, finding a church, building healthy relationships,and more.

Number 37 “What Are Inner Vows?” especially interested me. Since that biblical concept is based on Matthew 5:33-37, I looked up those verses in NLT on Bible Gateway to help clarify:

33 You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

The “Fresh Start Journey” then explains:

An inner vow is a self-oriented commitment made in response to a person, experience, or desire in life. Whenever we focus a commitment inward, it becomes an inner vow. We often make inner vows in response to pain or frustration in an attempt to comfort ourselves regarding the future. Rather than freeing us from the problem, though, inner vows act as tethers that tie us to the past in an unhealthy way. Some common examples of inner vows include:

‘No one will ever hurt me again!’

‘I’ll never be vulnerable again to anyone.’

‘I’m never going to be like my parents’.”

Shockingly, such vows are apt to dominate our lives – regardless of what God’s Word says! It’s not that we mean for this to happen, but once forgotten by the conscious mind, inner vows continue to direct our choices, commitments, relationships, and even our feelings. Simply recognizing this enables us to turn these ill-advised promises over to God and ask Him to break their power. We’re also encouraged to forgive where needed and “Find out what the Bible says to do in that situation and obey God’s Word.

 Other fine features in this edition include lists of miracles and parables, colored maps ending with “Israel and The Middle East Today,” and “Intersections,” which look at major figures in the Bible and their relationships with God. I also greatly appreciated the “Worship Way,” which discusses the Whom, what, why, and how of acknowledging God’s worthship and expands our understanding of what worship can be. For example,

When you speak or act in God’s name, you worship. This includes:

– raising your hands to the heavens

– bowing your knees

– singing songs of praise

– comforting a hurting friends

– working diligently at your job

– teaching your children about God’s love

– buying groceries for a struggling single parent

– giving an encouraging word to a neighbor

– and so much more.”

Indeed, more and more opportunities for praise, thanksgiving, and awe surely come as we draw ever closer to the Lord.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020, poet-writer, Bible reviewer.



August 13, 2020

The Lexham English Septuagint

Lexham Press kindly sent me a copy of
The Lexham English Septuagint to review, which I welcomed gladly and look forward to reading in full.   

Released in 2019, this sturdy hardback edition gives us a recent English translation of the Septuagint (LXX) with  which Jesus, the apostles, and early church were familiar.

Sometimes referred to as “the seventy,”  LXX was itself a translation into the Greek language from the Hebrew, beginning about 300 years before Christ. However, the completed text includes the canonical Hebrew Bible plus deuterocanonical books, also known as the Apocrypha.

Included more and more often between the old and new testaments in editions printed by various Christian publishers, these “extra books” are a regular part of the “Old Testament” in some Bibles such as the recently reviewed Douay-Rheims. To make it a bit more confusing, the names and books included often differ from one Bible to another and may be placed in different locations!

The Lexham LXX offers these “Contents”:

 To give you an example of the actual text, consider this familiar passage from the first three verses of Genesis 1:

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. But the earth was unseen and unprepared, and darkness was upon the deep. And the spirit of God rushed upon the water. And God said, ‘Let light come into being.’ And light came into being.

For another familiar example, here are the first 3 verses of Psalm 22 – so numbered because the LXX combines Psalm 9 and 10, which were originally one poem:

The Lord shepherds me,

and nothing will be lacking for me.

In a place of tender grass, there he causes me to dwell.

At a river of rest he nourishes me.

He turns around my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness on account of his name.

One of my favorite deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books is the Wisdom of Sirach, especially chapter 2, which begins “Child, if you come to serve the Lord God, prepare your soul for temptation” and ends:

Those who fear the Lord will not resist his words,

and those who love him will observe his ways.

Those who fear the Lord will seek his approval,

and those who love him will be filled with the law.

Those who fear the Lord will prepare their hearts

and will humble their souls before him.

We will fall into the hands of the Lord

and not into the hands of humans;

for as is his majesty, so also is his mercy,” vss. 15-18.)

Unfamiliar-to-me books such as the Psalms of Solomon and the apocalyptic book of Enoch will make interesting reading, but I suspect I’ll return more often to the Odes – a collection of poetic writings from Moses, Samuel’s mother Hannah, various prophets, then (unexpectedly!) continuing through The Prayer of Mary, found in Luke 1:46-55 of the New Testament. Since the Septuagint does not typically include books from the Christian era, I was delighted to see the Odes ending with #14, “The Morning Hymn,” which begins “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will….” and ends with these verses 40-46:

…Lord, show me mercy.

Heal my soul because I sinned against you.

Lord, I flee for refuge toward you,

teach me to do your will because you are my God,

because from you is a spring of life,

in your light, we will see light,

may you extend your compassion to those who know you.”


 ©2020, Mary Harwell Saylerpoet-writer, Bible reviewer



August 3, 2020

Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version

Sometime between 1582 and 1610 A.D., the
Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version (DR) came into constant use, paralleling the 1604 to 1611 translation of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) into English.

Both translations included the deuterocanonical books often referred to now as the Apocrypha, and, from time to time, both saw revision. But for over 200 years, the original version of the Douay-Rheims remained the only English translation commonly used among Catholic Christians.

With many fine English translations available to us now, I’d never read the DR nor received a review copy, so I did what any Bible lover might do. I bought a copy.

Saint Benedict Press, in association with TAN Books, published my choice in a handy-sized paperback edition with an attractive, slick-to-the-touch cover. Inside, a small but readable font shows little bleed-through on the smooth pages.

More important, the title page tells us:

Douay-Rheims Version

Translated From The Latin Vulgate

Diligently Compared with the Hebrew, Greek,

and Other Editions in Diverse Languages

Then the copyright page following lets us know this revision received the Imprimatur on September 1, 1899, which shows its continued acceptance by the Roman Catholic Church as well as the “catholic” church or church universal.

Because of its reliance on the Septuagint (ancient Greek version of the Bible), the names of the individual books retain their Greek names, for example, First and Second Paralipomenon instead of Chronicles, The Apocalypse of the Apostle St. John instead of Revelation, and Isaias instead of Isaiah. (I’m writing this as the tropical storm by that name passes by.)

Wording occasionally differs slightly, too, giving readers of other translations cause to pause and think or to enjoy an unexpected poetic moment. For instance, in Genesis 1, verse 3 reads, “And God said: Be light made. And light was made.” Maybe it’s my pleasure in poetry, but I just loved that!

Speaking of poetry, the DR translation of Psalms is as exquisite as any. For example:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein.” What’s surprising is that verse begin the 23rd Psalm!

I’d often seen footnotes in various study Bibles that said Psalm 9 and 10 were originally one prayer-poem. With that clue, I turned to Psalm 9 in DR and saw a note identifying the second part as “Psalm 10 according to the Hebrews” – ironic since the psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem.

Back to more important matters, such as word choices that cause us to ponder.

If you’ve ever searched for a synonym, you know that most words offer many choices. And, if you’ve lived a while, you know that common phrases can take on a different turn or nuance, again giving us cause to pause, which is what happened to me when I read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 of the DR.

Most translations of verse 6 say something like “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (or justice), for they shall be filled (or satisfied.)” The Douay-Rheims Version puts it this way:

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.”

If you’ve ever had your fill of justice, you might long for mercy, which verse 7 gives:

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (DR.)

In today’s heated political and social climate, mercy may be sorely needed!

The Douay-Rheims Version gives us an English version of all the books of the Bible known to Jesus, the apostles, and early church, each of whom has referred to those deuterocanonical books. That alone made me interested, but I also wanted to see what the “missing” books of the Old Testament had to say.

However, the New Testament (which has always been in Greek or Aramaic and never included in the Hebrew Bible) is pretty much the same from one translation to the next. As a favorite example, here’s the Douay-RheimsVersion of John 3:16-17.

For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him.”



 ©2020, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, Bible reviewer