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



July 24, 2020

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary

To my delight, a local secondhand store recently had a used copy of the Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary in excellent condition, which I bought to aid research for my Bible Study discussion groups and also future writings. Before reviewing the book for you though, I wanted to be sure it’s still available, and yes, an updated version is.

The new edition has added a wealth of articles such as “Five Easy Steps to Better Bible Study” “Visual Survey of the Bible” with a number of subheadings, and a “Bible History Chart.” However, both editions have “An Index to Maps” as well as comprehensive explanations of the A to Z words.

Take Angels, for example. Are they really fluffy white, winged blondes? With the possible exception of seraphim or cherubim – no! More important, the entry for “Angel” says:

ANGEL – a member of an order of heavenly beings who are superior to man in power and intelligence. By nature angels are spiritual beings. (Heb.1:14)… They are not, however, all-powerful and all-knowing….”

“When visible to human beings, angels consistently appear in human form…. They are charged with caring for… people and serving them in times of need…. They also guide and instruct good people…. Angels also protect the people of God…. They meet a wide variety of human needs, including relieving hunger and thirst… and overcoming loneliness and dread… They sometimes deliver the people of God from danger.”

In the entry for “Animals in the Bible,” there’s a chart entitled “How Versions of the Bible Sometimes Differ in Translation of Animal Names.” For example, Zephaniah 2:14 mentions a cormorant in the King James Version (KJV), a pelican in the New King James Version, a desert owl in the New International Version, and a horned owl in the Revised English Bible. Why? Since the Hebrew language omits vowels, translating a word might rely on the best guess of scholars, depending on the biblical context and other references. Also, animals alive in Bible times, such as lions, may now be extinct in the Holy Lands.

Nevertheless, the wild ox in Numbers 23:22, remains a wild ox in each translation mentioned in the chart, with the exception of the KJV where it’s called a unicorn!

That’s a great example because it shows how dramatically language and/or our mental picture of a word can change over time and, therefore, how helpful a Bible dictionary can be in helping us better comprehend what God’s Word actually meant – then and now.

Mary Sayler, ©2020, poet, writer, reviewer, who hopes more publishers will send new large print editions of the Bible as well as updated Bible resources to review on this blog


June 23, 2020

Reviewing Bibles and Bible prayers

Publishers of various translations of the Bible often produce new editions to give us study notes and visual aids that help us better understand the people, times, or places to which those features refer. Sometimes, they provide new editions with wide margins for us to make our own notes or drawings. And sometimes they publish large print – even giant print – Bibles to ease our reading.

Whatever your particular need or preference, you’ll likely find a review of the Bible that speaks most clearly to you by scrolling through these blog pages. At the moment, though, I’ve received no new copies to review during these troubling times.

I look forward to letting you know about new translations or editions when they arrive. Meanwhile, we need the Bible more than any time I can recall in my own long life. As COVID-19, riots, and weird weather come crashing in on us, we need prayer!

Spontaneous prayers connect us immediately to God, even if that’s merely the first two words most likely prayed: “God help!” The Lord wants us to pour out our hearts in prayer as we turn to God for confession, guidance, protection, wisdom, intercession, thanks, or praise.

The people in Bible days did this too. And they also experienced scary diseases, wars, political unrest, doubts, fears, famine, and catastrophic weather conditions. They had much in common with us, and, more important, they had faith in God.

For years, I’ve read their prayers written in the Bible and prayed in agreement with those relevant to present-day events and concerns. Such prayers lift ebbing spirits, ease worries, and bump up the power in our prayer lives.

Remember, for instance, how Abraham begged God not to destroy the city of Sodom? Here’s my paraphrase of that conversational prayer:

Genesis 18:23, 32

Lord, would You really sweep away
the righteous with the wicked?

What if ten honorable people
are found?

And God answered:

For the sake of ten,
I will not destroy the town.

As you know, not even ten people could be found! And yet, that prayer brings hope and comfort as we pray for cities being swept by rioting.

And, remember, Jacob’s wrestling with an Angel as he wrestled with his own doubts and faith?

Genesis 32:26 – a prayer of Jacob

Lord, I will
not let
You go
You bless me!

Are there times that very prayer would speak for us and encourage us not to give up when facing all sorts of calamities? And what about the prayer of Moses after God’s people had been freed from slavery in Egypt? Does this prayer speak today?

Deuteronomy 21:8  

Lord, You freed us!
Now please
make peace with us.

Don’t let the guilt
of unsolved offenses
reside with Your people.

Give us peace, Lord.
Give us peace.

In times of sickness and personal loss, we have Job’s prayers to remind us we’re not alone. The wonderful prayers in the Book of Psalms remind us that the beloved King David had his troubles too.

Psalm 12:1-3, 6-7

Help, Lord!

Is there anyone still faithful to You?
Has all sense of loyalty disappeared?

People lie to each other
and flatter and deceive.
Stop them, Lord!

Whatever You say is purer than silver
refined seven times by fire.

Guard us, Lord.
Protect us in these terrible times.

Some Bible prayers will quicken our faith and amplify our voice more than others. And some translations will help us to hear better than others.

As I compiled the Bible prayers I found in God’s Word, I visited the Bible Gateway site often, so I could read each prayer in several versions before paraphrasing into everyday English. Later, I used the site to locate the King James Version of the same prayers to provide a separate edition for those who want KJV only. However, I encourage readers of the Book of Bible Prayers paraphrased and the Book of KJV Prayers to keep their favorite translations alongside for increased understanding of what the scriptures say.

For instance, most of us love and can recite the KJV translation in Matthew 6 of the Lord’s Prayer aka Our Father, but Luke has his way of recalling those words too.

Luke 11:2-4 – a prayer of Jesus

And (Jesus) said unto them,
When ye pray, say,

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
as in heaven, so in earth.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins;
for we also forgive every one
that is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.

from the Book of KJV Prayers, ©2019, Mary Harwell Sayler

Luke 11:2-4 – a prayer of Jesus

Father in heaven,
may Your Name
be kept holy among us.

Bring us into Your kingdom.

Give us bread for the day.

Forgive us
as we forgive those who
have wronged us.

Keep us from temptation.

Deliver us
from a time of hard trials.

paraphrased from the Book of Bible Prayers, ©2019, Mary Harwell Sayler

People often use the Lord’s Prayer as an outline to guide their prayers. For example, we might pray: “Father in heaven, please help my family and I hallow Your Name in our thoughts and conversations, decisions and actions. Please keep us one nation under God.”

Instead of lashing out at others, we might ask God to remind us of what we need to forgive and also of who might need to forgive us. We might pray for God’s help with specific temptations and God’s deliverance from ill spirits of every kind as we keep in mind those words of the Lord Jesus.

But, as you know, praying doesn’t always mean asking! Look at these words in the prayer of Jesus’ mother Mary and embrace them as her whole body embraced the Christ Child and forever stayed at His side.

Luke 1:46-50 – a prayer of Mary

With all my heart, I praise You, Lord!
What favor You have shown!

From now on, every generation 
will call me blessed
because of the great things
You have done for me.

Holy is Your Name!

In every generation,
You give mercy upon mercy
to all who honor You.

May 26, 2020

NIV First-Century Study Bible

The NIV First-Century Study Bible from Zondervan gives us an edition of the New International Version which broadens present-day understanding of the Bible by including “Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament,” Hebrew words studies, “Day in the Life Articles,” and other study notes, sidebars, timelines, and illustrations meant to introduce us to biblical times, places, and peoples.

For example, the word study for Genesis 16:13 says:

el roi    אל-רועי
"This has a double meaning: 'God of seeing” and “God of my seeing'.”

In Ruth 4:1, the word study sidebar offers this description of a word familiar to Christians yet perhaps not with the full understanding of the original biblical perspective:

goel     גואל
"The goel fulfilled the legal obligation of reacquiring property lost by family members because of difficult times."

Most Christians who have read the books of the Hebrew prophets see the connection between Isaiah 40:3 and John the Baptist who was likened to “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord…” The footnote for that verse tells us, “This was an important passage for both the Dead Sea Scrolls community and John the Baptist…” Then the opposite page has a photograph of “The Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found,” which helps us to envision that place.

Just prior to this illumination of the text, however, the footnote for 40:1-2 refers to “The consolation of Israel,” which brings to mind the fulfillment acknowledged in Luke. As that footnote states:

“The idea that Israel had served its time of hard service and would be restored and comforted seems to have influenced a man named Simeon who recognized Jesus as the coming Messiah (see note on Luke 2:25-35).

Turning, then, to that footnote in Luke 2, we read:

"The ‘consolation of Israel’ (v. 25) probably alludes to Isa 40:1-2, which not only has Messianic implications but also inspired the Dead Sea Scrolls community to flee to the desert to await the consolation, or salvation, expected in the Messianic age. Simeon’s words in verse 32 went further than predicting the salvation of Israel; they included the salvation of Gentiles….”

Looking for an example of the “Day in the Life,” my Bible opened to an article on the “Galilean Fisherman,” relevantly placed alongside John’s account of the apostles’ fishing after Jesus’ Resurrection. The article details the many aspects of a fisherman’s day, while the adjacent page illustrates “An artist’s reconstruction of a first-century fishing boat.” The article also informs us that Bethsaida “where at least three of the disciples were from…” means “house of fishing.”

In the back matter of this edition, the “Study Helps” section lists a “Topical Index to Articles” as well as a glossary, concordance, index to the maps that were scattered throughout the text, and full-page maps of world empires and the travels of God’s people.

Those travels come full circle in Revelation 22, when Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” (v. 13.) The footnote for that verse goes on to tell us:

Here Jesus takes on the title used for God at the beginning of the book…. This appears to be a culmination of John’s revelation, not an afterthought. Jesus is synonymous with the one Lord and God.”


May 18, 2020

Catholic Family Connection Bible

The Catholic Family Connection Bible
, which Saint Mary’s Press kindly sent me to review, aims to be “Where family, faith, and life connect” with God’s word. Since the edition has a Catholic emphasis, the translation used is the highly acclaimed New American Bible Revised Edition, which I, too, acclaim for its thoroughness and accuracy, especially if you want to read, as I did, the intertestament books.

The word “Catholic,” of course, means universal, wide-reaching, and all-embracing, so you can be confident it includes you. Nevertheless, you can expect to find pages with “Catholic Practices and Prayers,” which I also recommend regardless of your denominational preference simply because the more we understand where each other is coming from, the more apt we are to show respect and appreciation for fellow Christians with views we might not have considered.

As stated in an opening page, “The Bible Is Multicultural”:

In the Bible, God is revealed as the God of all nations and all cultures….” and since we “live in a multicultural word,” this edition “includes additional articles representing cultural perspectives from around the world” – namely, African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American.

For example, a “Cultural Connection” sidebar on Mark 1 tells us:

Most Native American peoples would not be surprised by all the angels and spirits in the first chapter of Mark. Many Native American cultures believe in the presence of good and bad spirits in the world. They view good spirits as personal helpers and message bearers, like the angels who take care of Jesus in verse 13.”

The “Cultural Connection” alongside Mark 4 reminds us how “Jesus teaches about God’s Reign through parables” or stories. Then,

In some Hispanic families, it is customary for young people to hear their abuelita (grandmother) tell stories about their family history, traditions, and faith. Many of the stories are true; others may be created to give a moral teaching, like the parables.”

Still in Mark, the “Cultural Connection” for chapter 15 says:

According to Mark 15:21, the Roman soldiers compelled a North African black man from Cyrene by the name of Simon, a passerby, to carry the cross of Jesus. We do not know anything more about Simon of Cyrene, except that Mark identifies him as the father of Alexander and Rufus. The reference to Simon’s sons by name and the possibility that Rufus is the same person Paul greets in Romans 16:13 indicate that they were known among the early Christians. This is significant for African Americans because it is evidence of the prominence and influence of African people in the early Christian Church.”

Each of those cultural references came in sidebars only from the Gospel of Mark, but such perceptive jewels have been scattered throughout the entire edition.

Other unique articles and sidebars encourage us to “Pray It!,” “Study It!,” and “Live It! Additionally, inserts such as “Praying with the Bible” go into more detail:

As Catholics we believe that God speaks to us in the words of the Bible. The words are not just human words but rather God’s own communication of love to us. When we pray with the Bible, God speaks to our hearts and can deeply touch us and change our lives.

The next two pages of that insert instruct us in the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina – “a prayer technique for reading the Bible slowly and contemplatively, allowing God’s word to shed insights on your life. It cultivates the ability to listen deeply, to hear the word of God with the ear of your heart.

Another insert focuses on “Family Faith Conversations” that provide:

  • thematic Bible passages to help start family faith conversations
  • prayer ideas for dealing with the death of a family member
  • ideas for family service activities

Can you see why I’m so impressed with this edition? And I haven’t even mentioned the helpful introductions to each book, the pages in the back matter that help readers find a wealth of topics, an explanation of “The Church Year,” a glossary, a timeline, and maps including one I always like to find (but rarely do) “The Holy Land in Modern Times.”

Like a good mother, this edition gives us almost everything a family might need!

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

April 21, 2020

Literary Study Bible, ESV

As a poet and writer, I’m just naturally interested in the effects literary forms have on readers. For instance, narratives draw us into stories with which we can relate, while poetry expresses for us the praise, laments, thoughts, and feelings we have in common.

In other words, poems and stories help us to connect with God, one another, and ourselves. It’s not surprising then that the Bible consists primarily of two main genres or types of literature: narratives and poetry.

In the Introduction to the Literary Study Bible, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, we learn that biblical narratives come in sub-types such as the “hero story, Gospel, epic, tragedy, comedy (a U-shaped plot with a happy ending), and parable. Specific poetic genres keep multiplying as well: lyric, lament psalm, praise psalm, love poem, nature poem, epithalamion (wedding poem) and many others.”

The Introduction goes on to say, “In addition to narrative and poetry, we find prophecy, visionary writing, apocalypse, pastoral, encomium, oratory, drama (the book of Job), satire, and epistle. Then if we start adding more specific forms like travel story, dramatic monologue, doom song, and Christ hymn, the number of literary genres in the Bible readily exceeds one hundred.

Since we might not be familiar with all of these literary terms, the publisher included a Glossary in the back of the book, explaining, for example, that encomium is “A work of literature that praises either a general character type (e.g., Psalm 1 on the godly person and Prov. 31:10-31 on the virtuous wife) or abstract quality (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13 on love and Hebrews 11 on faith).”

Does any of this matter? I think so. For example, if you know I’m a fairly well-traveled Southerner who grew up believing in God’s love for all people, in Jesus as the full embodiment of God’s Word, and in Christian fellowship as vital for up-building the church, you’ll have a better idea of where I’m coming from and, therefore, more likely to connect. Similarly, the literary forms in the Bible help us to know where the writers were coming from and what they hoped we, the readers, would relate to, hear, and heed as they bring us God’s message in a particular way. Or, as the Introduction puts it:

Whereas history and the daily news tell us what happened, literature tells us what happens – what is true for all people in all places and times…. The goal of literature is to prompt a reader to share or relive an experience. The truth that literature imparts is not simply ideas that are true but truthfulness to human experience.”

To give you a better idea of the features in this edition, let’s begin in the beginning with Genesis, “The Book at a Glance.”

As its title signals, the book of Genesis is the Bible’s book of beginnings. It is a foundational book that informs us about the first principles of the biblical faith – such first principles as how the world came into being, how sin entered the world, how God began to unfold his plan of salvation, and what people and human institutions (especially the family) are like. Although Genesis is a history book, its history is packed in highly literary forms, the most dominant of which is hero story. Because the history that is recounted in the book of Genesis reaches back to the primitive origins of the human race, it is particularly rich in universal, elemental human experience. Despite the seeming remoteness of the world of Genesis, the experiences are actually very close to our everyday lives.”

In one example of the timelessness of these experiences, we read how the serpent in the Garden of Eden cast doubt on whether God meant what He said – a question that troubles many people today. (Unnecessarily, I must add! If God said it, God means it!)  Another example of a common experience is the sibling rivalry Cain felt for Able (though we pray it doesn’t have the same tragic ending in our families!) Or what about Abraham’s lying to protect himself or Jacob’s learning the hard way that deceitfulness is apt to boomerang?

“The Book at a Glance” for Job has its own theme and purpose as “It raises the question not simply of why people in general suffer but specifically of why the righteous suffer. Philosophers and theologians call this ‘the problem of evil’ and the attempt to offer a satisfactory solution to the problem is called theodicy.”

Regarding the genres used in Job, “The story begins and ends with a narrative frame in which the author tells the story of the fall and restoration of the protagonist Job. Within these bookends, though, the primary form is drama, as we are presented with the speeches and dialogues of the actors in the story. The form in which these speeches are cast is poetry.”

Before reading The Psalms, its “Theological Themes” introduce us to “(1) The nature of God: no book of the Bible offers a more comprehensive survey of the acts and attributes of God. (2) The nature of people: because every psalm is at some level a personal statement by a poet. Psalms is also an index to what people are like, both good and bad. (3) Nature and the physical creation: the psalms say and imply many things about the external world that God made and sustains. (4) Worship: the psalms are used in worship, and many of them talk about worship. (5) Suffering: the many lament psalms yield a theology of suffering.

Skipping ahead to the New Testament, a footnote on Matthew 5 points out that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount “has the nature of an inauguration speech.”

The footnote goes on to say, “The beatitudes are one of the most patterned passages in the entire New Testament. They follow the Hebrew verse form of parallelism: In each beatitude, Jesus (a) pronounces a blessing on a group of people, (b) names the group according to their essential trait, and (c) offers a reason (which is at the same time a promise) for their condition of blessedness.”

A distinctive feature in the Gospel of John “is the linking of a sign or other great symbol with a corresponding statement made by Jesus in the form of either a conversation or a full-fledged discourse. For example, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink from the well (4:7-8) and then pursues a conversation with the woman about water that climaxes in Jesus’ claim to be the source of living water that wells up to eternal life (4:9-15). To cite another example, Jesus feeds five thousand (6:1-14), and a few verses later we read his discourse on Jesus’ being the bread of life (6:25-40).”

Symbolism reaches great height in the book of Revelation as the author uses narrative story and poetic imagery, metaphor, and simile in presenting its “pageant of visions.”

With these unique aids and insights into studying the highly acclaimed English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible,I look forward to sharing this excellent resource in my Sunday School and mid-week Bible discussion groups, which, Lord willing, will begin again soon, even if we need masks to accompany our prayers.

March 31, 2020

God’s promises in God’s Word reveal God’s will

As you have surely heard – and, hopefully, sung – the hymn “Standing on the Promises” of God encourages us to stand firm in our faith as we live our lives and interact with the world. But what if we kneel on those promises?

Claiming God’s promises and praying in agreement with God's vows to us ensures that we’re praying in God’s will.

Regardless of the translation we choose from the many editions reviewed on this blog over the years, our belief in the Bible as God’s Word lets us know we have God’s word on matters crucial to our lives! By claiming those promises, we strengthen our faith and empower our prayers.

As God-incidence would have it, the Lord put this timely subject on my mind months ago! And thankfully, the Bible Gateway blog eased the research, enabling me to collect and paraphrase over 250 of countless Bible promises into the new book, Kneeling on the Promises of God.

Each page begins with the next timely promise, found according to the typical arrangement of the books of the Bible then divided into two sections of Old Testament Promises and New. (Interestingly, those turned out to be about the same length!)

A conversational prayer in everyday language follows each Bible verse with space at the bottom of the page for you to write down prayers that come to you as you claim God’s word and agree with God’s will in prayer.

To give you an example, here's the first page:

Genesis 28:15 – “Look! I Am with you. I watch over you as you come and go. I will not leave you before I have done everything I promised.”

What joy we have in Your presence, Lord! What empowering promises You have given us to claim!

You, our Heavenly Father, our Loving God, and the Creator of all life in heaven and on earth, have given Your word to be with us. No matter where we are, You are there.

We need You now, Lord.

We need You now.

At present the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic has slowed shipping of nonessential items, but Kneeling on thePromises of God is essential! Therefore, you can also find it in an  e-book. Whether you prefer electronic or snail mail, there’s rarely been a more crucial time for the whole world to pray with power and conviction.

Seriously! Let’s take God at His Word!

©2020, MaryHarwell Sayler, poet-writer, and lifelong believer in the Bible and prayer