Showing posts with label Apocrypha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apocrypha. Show all posts

July 30, 2018

God’s Word: The Apocrypha


Using natural English and the closest equivalent to the primary languages of the Bible, God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society has provided a contemporary version of The Apocrypha, which they kindly sent me to review.

The word “apocrypha” means “hidden” or “secret,” but the books really weren’t. They first gave hope and inspiration to God’s people during their exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, where the people learned to speak, think, and read in Greek, rather than Hebrew. However, Jewish scholars decided not to include the books written in Greek when they canonized the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) many centuries later.

Nevertheless, during the time of Jesus most people - both Jews and early Christians - accepted the books as inspired, and New Testament writers even quoted them. Many more centuries later, the King James Version (KJV) of an English translation of the Bible included the books, where they remained until the Reformation.

Happily, these “deuterocanonical” books are now being returned to many English versions, giving us a clearer view of biblical times and situations that occurred between the old and new testaments. In addition to those historical texts, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, the apocryphal books include wisdom writings relevant to today. Consider, for example, this passage from the God's Word translation of the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 1:

Verse 1. “Love justice, you rulers of the world.
Consider that the Lord is good.
Be sincere in your search for him.
Verse 2. Those who don’t test him will find him.
He will reveal himself to those who obey him
.”

Verses 6b-7. “God is a witness to people’s hidden feelings.
He has keen insight into what they think,
and he listens to what they say.
The Lord’s Spirit fills the world.
The Spirit holds everything together
and understands everything people say.


For another example, Wisdom 3 begins, “People who worship the true God are in God’s hands.” And verse 9:

Those who trust the Lord will understand what truth is.
Those who are faithful will live in a loving relationship with him,
because he is kind and merciful to the people he has chosen.


Another spiritually insightful book, Sirach, (one of my favorites) has this to say in Chapter 1, verse 13:

Everything will end well for people who fear the Lord.
They will be blessed on the day of their death
.”

Or Chapter 4:20 & 21:

“Don’t be ashamed to be yourself.”
“Don’t remain silent when one word could make things right.”


Or Chapter 10:11:

“All authority on earth is in the Lord’s hands.
He will appoint the right leader for the right time."

Amen!

Mary Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Word: The Apocrypha





February 16, 2016

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible: KJV with Apocrypha


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

© 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler


The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha, calfskin leather



The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha, hardcover



January 15, 2016

THE Bible for Catholic Christians


My title for this review makes a rather bold statement, especially since I’ve reviewed some wonderful editions from various Catholic Bible publishers over the years. As I recall, I recommended each one in earlier posts, which you can read by scrolling through this blog and finding ones that interest you.

However, the title - The Didache Bible - surely did not sound interesting to me! Although the word “didache” labels something as instructive, it’s generally used in the negative sense of getting preachy. If, therefore, someone says, “Your writing is very didactic,” they’re probably not giving you a compliment and might even be saying, “B-o-r-i-n-g!”

So, why do I hold The Didache Bible in such high esteem that I purchased a hardback covered in leather as shown below?

Besides being published in the beloved RSV (Revised Standard Version) text with all of the deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal) books included, this Bible has footnote-commentaries from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which brings you the full Bible and the teachings of the church in one priceless book.

Let’s take, for example, the footnote for Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:

This simple statement that initiates the first book of the Old Testament reveals that God is eternal, i.e., his existence transcends time, and all time is eternally present for him. Second, God is omnipotent. Everything that exists originated with him. By his Word, he brought all of creation into existence without the use of pre-existing materials. Finally, God alone is the Creator, and he has authority over all creation. We affirm God as Father and omnipotent Creator when we pray the first lines of both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. (CCC 268, 279-280, 290-295)”

To give you an example from the New Testament, I flipped open the book and saw the short but profound note for Matthew 7:3-5:

Failure to see our own faults leads invariably to harsh and unfair judgment of others. (CCC 1861)”

Naturally, I had to look up that number in my copy of the CCC, where I read then read again with bold emphasis:

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of santifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

Deep! So it could take a lifetime to get the full value of this Bible and commentary. If that sounds overwhelming, take heart! The front matter has pages to ease our study and research, for example, by giving us a brief description of each book of the Bible followed by chronologies of the Old Testament and the New.

Other upfront pages list the parables and miracles of Jesus with back pages providing maps, a brief concordance, and a helpful glossary that’s like a mini-dictionary of Bible people, places, objects, and ideas – almost everything we need to know about our Judeo-Christian faith, Jesus Christ, and the Church. All that's left is putting what we read into practice and developing our relationship with our Lord God.


©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and highly ecumenical lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts and peoples.


The Didache Bible, hardback covered with leather



In case you want to explore further, this update of the CCC makes the perfect companion to The Didache Bible:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paperback



September 28, 2015

Kids Study Bible, NRSV with Apocrypha

As soon as I learned of the NRSV Kids Study Bible with Apocrypha, I requested a review copy from Hendrickson Bibles, which the publisher kindly sent to me.

Primarily for children 8 to 12, this unique edition has the New Revised Standard Version text (NRSV) with the Apocrypha and all sorts of kid-appealing sidebars and study aids too.

Each book of the Bible begins with an Introduction that summarizes “What Will You Learn About In This Book?” followed by information about the writer(s), setting(s), main characters, and highlights from stories of our ongoing relationship with God.

For example, the apocryphal aka deuterocanonical book of Sirach “contains guidance on how to act towards all kinds of people and to God. The sayings it contains are like the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.”

Under “Who Wrote This Book?” readers learn that the writer, “Ben Sirach, a Jewish scribe, may have written the work about 180-175 B.C.”Then, if readers want to “Take A Closer Look,” they’ll see how the “Fear of the Lord is true wisdom,” Sirach 1:11-20 and how we all have “Duties toward one’s parents,” Sirach 3:1-16.

Sidebars to over 60 "Bible People" introduce children to patriarchs, prophets, poets, and other people of interest – people with whom we all identify and from whom we continue to learn.

In the New Testament, for example, “Mary and Martha were sisters, and Lazarus was their brother. They lived in Bethany and were close friends of Jesus. Mary poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feed to wash them because she loved him so much. Martha is best remembered for busily preparing and serving a meal rather than being with Jesus.”

To encourage children to remain in the company of God’s Word through memorization, little sidebars have been interspersed throughout the text. In First Corinthians, for example, “Hide It In Your Heart” provides this memory verse, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Cor. 15:57.

Besides glossy color inserts within the pages, the lists of Bible parables, miracles, and more in the back matter will help young readers to see that God's Word is meant for them. Also, the readable dark blue font, bright headings, and attractive suede-like cover give the feel and eye appeal that will encourage kids to read.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler


NRSV Kids Study Bible with Apocrypha, flexisoft cover



March 14, 2015

The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, articles, and ESV text


Apocrypha, apocryphal books, deuterocanonical books, literature from intertestamental times, or whatever you call it, this highly recommended edition is unique!

Edited by Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes published by Concordia Publishing House fills the gap between Jewish and Catholic Bibles, between Catholic and Protestant Bibles, and between Old and New Testaments.

Why is that important? Each gap can cause us to slip away from one another or get trapped in debates, but this edition can help us to see where each other is coming from as we build new bridges and do what we can to administer healing to the church.

Similar in appearance to The Lutheran Study Bible, also edited by Rev. Engelbrecht, this slimmer, hardcover edition includes reader-friendly articles on “The Holy Scripture and Other Ancient Writings,” “The Apocrypha in Modern Bible Publications,” “The Historical Setting of the Apocrypha,” and the Judeans during various times in world history.

Before you get to the text itself – or even the Introductions and outlines of each book, you’ll discover “Theological Teachings of the Time between the Testaments,” which, as it suggests, gives insight into the ongoing development of theology. Under the heading “The Doctrine of God,” for example, we’re told that “In the Intertestamental literature, there is a tendency to think of God in terms of His transcendence, of His remoteness from the world. There is also a hesitancy to use the divine name directly, and in its place circumlocutions are employed,” such as referring to God as “heaven,” “the Dwelling Presence” (Shekinah), or “the Name.”

Another heading “The Role of Angels,” tells us that “Instead of God having direct contact with creation, the apocryphal writings assign to the angels the responsibility for lightning, snow, rain, clouds, darkness, cold, heat, and frost. As a caution, one should note that many passages of the Old Testament refer to the role of angels and divinely appointed leaders. The change is one of frequency and emphasis.”

In addition, “The literature from the Time between the Testaments of the postcanonical biblical period has many references to the existence of evil spirits or demons.” This biblical era also develops beliefs in life after death, the Kingdom of God, and the Messianic hope, bringing continuity and bridging the gap between testaments.

Other features in this edition include “Apocrypha Prayers,” variations in titles and arrangements of the books, “The Apocryphal Books in Other Christian Traditions,” and “The Apocrypha and the New Testament,” which I found especially interesting as the article charts possible influences of Apocryphal texts on Jesus and New Testament writers.

Also, in the back matter, appendices give a brief summary of such important documents as “The Dead Sea Scrolls,” the development of midrash, and the biblically relevant writings of Philo, Josephus, and others. “Apocrypha Chronology and World History” charts major events from the fall of Samaria centuries before Christ through the martyrdom of the Apostles, destruction of the Temple, and subsequent revolts. And, for a bridge into our times, “Key Terms and Phrases" provide definitions whereas the section on “Apocrypha Topics” lists citations of the relevant book, chapter, and verse beneath the subject of interest.

Although I've read other apocryphal books I recommend, this unique edition, which Concordia kindly sent me for review, not only includes a highly recommended encyclopedia on the Apocrypha, it presents a heavily footnoted translation of the text in the English Standard Version (ESV), known for its accuracy and beauty.


©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, hardcover



November 29, 2014

Catholic Bible Dictionary for every Bible lover and Christian reader


If you want a Bible dictionary with entries on the names, places, and topics in the deuterocanonical aka apocryphal books, the Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn and published by Doubleday, provides that and more.

When I first saw and ordered the review copy offered for free on the Blogging for Books site, I thought this dictionary might define the rites, rituals, and liturgy of the Catholic Church. Come to find out, others have made this mistake, too, but, as the title clearly states, this is a dictionary on the Catholic Bible. Therefore, the text includes information on Judith, Tobit, the Angel Raphael, and others mentioned in the deuterocanonical / apocryphal books but generally omitted from most Bible dictionaries.

Like any dictionary, religious or otherwise, this one has no need for an index as each topic is already alphabetized for an easy A to Z search. A clear font and spacious leading make the conversational entries easy to read, while clear maps in the back of the book make the movements through biblical places easier to envision. Also, in the back matter the chronologies of kings and historical movements help us to get grounded in what happened, with whom, and when, whereas the entries themselves offer insight into why.

For those insights and other information, we have the extensive research of former Protestant pastor, Scott Hahn, who has become well-known as an author, Christian apologist, and Catholic theologian. To further ensure accuracy in the material, the book has the official Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur of the Church to show freedom from doctrinal or moral errors.

To give you an example of the entries, I turned to a word rarely found in a religious dictionary “purgatory.” The closest entry in most Bible dictionaries might be “purge,” which eliminates or eradicates some type of impurity. To definite “purgatory,” however, the Catholic Bible Dictionary says:

“PURGATORY (Latin, ‘cleansing’ or ‘purifying’) Defined by theologians as the condition of those who died in the state of grace but with lingering attachment to sin. In purgatory these souls are purified for a time before being admitted to the glory and happiness of heaven. In this period of passive suffering, they are purged of unrepented venial sins, satisfy the demands of divine justice for temporal punishment due for sins, and are made ready for the beatific vision."

As the entry goes on to say: "The doctrine of purgatory is found in Scripture but is not fully developed. The two passages most clearly related to it are 2 Macc 12:45 and 1 Cor 3:12-15.”

For another example, let’s look at the entry for Tobit, a book unfamiliar to many Christians:

“TOBIT, BOOK OF The story of two Israelite families whose lives were touched by God in the Assyrian Exile. They were brought together by marriage and the intervention of the angel Raphael. Tobit is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament that is deemed scriptural by Catholics but not by modern Jews or Protestants” – the key word being “modern” as both Jewish and Christian readers originally accepted these books from the Greek Bible or Septuagint.

And, as the entry for “Septuagint” explains:

SEPTUAGINT (Latin septuaginta, ‘seventy’) The most ancient and important translation of the Old Testament into Greek. It was produced between the third and first centuries B.C.,” so Jesus and the Apostles would undoubtedly have been familiar with these books, which came about because “King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt requested a copy of the Jewish Bible to be placed in his famous library at Alexandria 9ca. 250 B.C.) Unable to read Hebrew, the king brought seventy-two scholars from Palestine to Alexandria to make a translation of the Hebrew Torah….”

That desire – to present the Bible in the language of the reader – has led to many translations of Holy Scriptures into English with excellent resources such as this to clarify our understanding and electrify our interest in embracing the Bible as an everyday part of our worship, our faith, and our lives.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.


Catholic Bible Dictionary, hardback

November 18, 2014

Reading The Jerusalem Bible


When the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) stimulated a spiritual awakening that crossed all sorts of denominational lines and stirred a charismatic renewal, Bible study groups became a highly active part of Christian fellowship. By 1966, The Jerusalem Bible (JB) gave us a translation of the original languages in an accurate contemporary text, first in French then English with both approved by the Catholic Church and used by Christians from a variety of backgrounds.

That same year, the American Bible Society published the New Testament in the Today’s English Version (TEV) better known as the Good News Bible (GNB), which I used in the Bible study group that met each week in my home. So, I didn’t even hear of the JB until 1985 when the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) came out, and I readily embraced its dynamic tone, conversational style, and thought-provoking footnotes.

In the 1990’s, a Catholic edition of GNB came out with the full biblical texts including the deuterocanonical books aka Apocrypha. Indeed, from the second half of the 20th century to the present day, Christian scholars and publishers produced such a wealth of English translations and updated versions that the JB went out of print for a decade.

When I finally tracked down the availability of The Jerusalem Bible, I asked for a review copy, and Doubleday kindly gave me the “First Doubleday Reader’s Edition” printed in this century with notes and introductions shortened “to the minimum which are necessary for understanding the primary, literal meaning of the text; to explain terms, places, people and customs; to specify dates, and to identify the sources of quotations. In short, the brief Introductions and Notes are here only to help the ordinary reader to understand what he is reading….”

For example, the “Introduction to Tobit, Judith and Esther” says: “Although these three books have the literary form of historical stories, the events of which they tell are not attested from other sources and the books are found to treat the facts of history and geography with a good deal of freedom. Plainly they were written” as historical novels and devotionals might be today “to teach lessons of another kinds, and some of the early Greek Bibles include them with the wisdom writings.”

The Introduction goes on to say that “Tobit, the story of a dutiful son who is given miraculous help by an angel, was written among the Jews of the dispersion… though the setting of the story is some two hundred years earlier. The book was not accepted into the Hebrew Bible and was recognized by the Church only after a certain hesitancy in the patristic period. In the new translations of the Bible made at the Reformation, it was put in the Apocrypha.” The same is true for the book of Judith while the book of Esther has variations in Greek that do not appear in the original Hebrew versions. Therefore, “the Greek passages are ‘deuterocanonical,’ their history being the same as that of Tobit and Judith.”

Other introductions provide equally helpful information that ground us in the circumstances and history of each book. For example, the ”Introduction to The Psalms” informs readers that “The Psalter, or Book of Psalms, is a collection of hymns used in the liturgical worship of the Temple.” Arranged in five parts, “the 150 psalms represent the work of several centuries.” Although some psalms shock readers today, “in their own time there was nothing improper about violent curses against enemies…” Most of the Psalms, however, can be categorized as hymns of praise, thanksgiving, prayer, or lament.

One lament sometimes voiced about the JB has been its use of the sacred name “YHWH” rendered as “Yahweh” – the Name Which was once anglicized as “Jehovah.” Since the Hebrew alphabet does not contain all of those letters, newer versions of the Bible often translate the sacred name as "the LORD" in capital letters or small caps.

In its aim for accuracy and clarity, the JB clearly demonstrates its own goals, for example, by translating the opening lines of the 23rd Psalm in this way:

Yahweh is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.


As another example of clarity, the “Introduction to The Minor Prophets” offers brief explanatory notes “in what is most probably their true historical order.” This chronology places Amos first with Joel and Jonah last in the introduction but their typical positions retained in the actual text, ending the minor prophets with Malachi.

Finally, the “Introduction to The Book of Revelation” informs us that “The framework of a Revelation is always a vision of hidden supernatural events; the language in which the vision is described is richly symbolic and so allusive that the message can be interpreted in more ways than one.” Therefore, “the Book of Revelation is not to be accepted simply as an allegory which can be directly translated into other terms. It contains the author’s vision of heaven and of the vindication of the Christian martyrs in the world to come, but it must be understood first and foremost as a tract for the times, written to increase the hope and determination of the Church on earth in a period of disturbance and bitter persecution…,” such as we might be facing again.

Praise God, though, for this and other excellent translations of the Bible that let us know how this book and The Book end.

©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 Jerusalem Bible, reader edition



December 17, 2013

Common English Bible (CEB) with Apocrypha

The more I get to know the CEB Study Bible, which I recently reviewed, the more I appreciate the fresh footnotes and study helps, but I’m also grateful for a new review copy of a reader edition of the Common English Bible (CEB) that includes the Apocrypha.

With or without study aids, the contemporary text and ecumenical input of scholars from most of the major denominations make this Bible ideal for easy reading alone or aloud in church worship.

The review copy of CEB I recently received from Church Publishing would make an excellent Christmas gift for teens and young adults but also an inexpensive pew Bible for church members who might want to present a memorable gift to their congregation or parish. I’ll include an Amazon ad below, as I do with each review for readers who might want to order. Thanks to the online help of Bible Gateway, the following excerpts from the CEB may be helpful, too, in giving you a feel for the reader-friendly text:

From the NT book, James 5:13-16

If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.

From the apocryphal book, Judith 15:13-14

I will sing to my God a new song.
Lord, you are great and glorious, marvelous in strength
never to be outdone.
May all of your creation serve you;
you spoke,
and they came into being.
You sent forth your spirit
and it shaped them;
there is no one
who can resist your voice.


From the apocryphal book, Sirach 2:1-6

My child, if you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for testing.
Set your heart straight, be steadfast,
and don’t act hastily in a time of distress.
Hold fast to God
and don’t keep your distance from him,
so that you may find strength
at your end.
Accept whatever happens to you,
and be patient
when you suffer humiliation,
because gold is tested with fire,
and acceptable people are tested
in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust him, and he will help you;
make your ways straight,
and hope in him.


Amen.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler


Common English Bible with Apocrypha, paperback




Common English Bible – Pew Bible with Apocrypha, hardback



October 13, 2012

Which books go in which Bible?


Christians from all denominations often ask me which Bible is which and why, and I’ve been explaining away – incorrectly! Well, not totally wrongly, but I was under the forgetful impression that any Bible “with Apocrypha” is the same as a “Catholic edition” – not!

With apologies to all, I’ll try to set things straight, confusing though it may be, but important too, so please bear with me.

As I’ve also mentioned over the years (and, yea! – gotten right) – the order of the books in a Bible “with Apocrypha” differ from a “Catholic edition” most noticeably by placement.

Each edition approved for Roman Catholic readers has the “extra books” woven into the “Old Testament” according to category. For example, Tobit and I and II Maccabees go with historical books whereas The Book of Sirach (one of my favorites) wisely goes with Wisdom Books and Baruch goes with the Prophets. However, Bibles labeled “with Apocrypha” typically place the extra books between the Testaments or after Revelation.

That can be confusing if you enjoy interdenominational Bible study groups, as I do, but otherwise, it’s no big deal. Right? Well, at least not until you come to some extra “extra books” with no clue what to do, which is what happened recently to me.

Reading my new copy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha, I ran across books I did not recall ever reading in my Catholic Study Bible or Revised English Bible with Apocrypha or The New Jerusalem Bible. Just to be sure, I double-checked the lists and saw that some of the books “with Apocrypha” are not part of the deuterocanonical books of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church does not consider books labeled “apocryphal” as such since “Apocrypha” means hidden, which those books clearly are not. Rather the Roman Church deemed the “extra books” to be “deuterocanonical” or outside the canon established by Jewish scholars who canonized the Hebrew Scriptures sometime after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D.

When Protestants left the Catholic Church, the Jewish Bible went, too, as the “Old Testament.” In the ecumenical environment we now have, however, most Christians want to see all the books inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, surprise! Most new editions of the Bible “with Apocrypha” have books the Catholic Church never included.

Let me quickly add:

The New Testament (NT) is the same for every Christian.

The NT books are the same; the order is the same, and only the footnotes might differ.

Before I leave you hanging in confusion and despair of knowing, here’s a list of deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal books) included in Bibles approved by the Roman Catholic Church:

Tobit
Judith
Additions to the Book of Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus aka the Wisdom of Jesus aka Sirach
Baruch
The Letter of Jeremiah
The Additions to the Book of Daniel – Prayer of Azariah
(aka Abednego)
Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 and 2 Maccabees


In addition to those “extra books” in the “Old Testament” (OT) of a Catholic Bible, the Greek and Slavonic Bibles include all books above plus:

1 Esdras
Prayer of Manasseh
Psalm 151
3 Maccabees


Finally, Slavonic Bibles include:

2 and 3 Esdras
4 Maccabees


To recap: “with Apocrypha” Bibles include all the “extra books” just listed, which, together, equal the length of the entire New Testament. Therefore, having done my extra reading, I think I’ll focus on the NT, OT books of Wisdom, and the Prophets to see what’s coming next!

~~

© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler reserves all rights to correct her mistakes and be corrected, so if I still got it wrong, feel free to tell me – nicely, of course :)

August 5, 2012

Common English Bible for common use in churches everywhere


Whether representing the Catholic Church or Episcopal, United Methodist or Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ or Presbyterian Church U.S.A., over 100 Bible scholars considered the diverse cultures of Christians from many, many countries, who want to read and study a contemporary English version of the Bible.

In addition to helping Christians of mainline church denominations to stay “on the same page,” the Common English Bible (CEB) also helps children to understand Holy Scriptures better and participate more fully in church worship services. Adults who are learning English as a second language will be enabled to follow the communal Bible readings too, but even people who are used to reading thick textbooks with complex syntax will enjoy curling up in an easy chair to readily read the CEB cover-to-cover as they would a poetry anthology, historical novel, or gripping adventure tale.

The CEB has all of that and more – with each of the prophetic books found in any translation of Hebrew Scriptures as well as deuterocanonical books from the Septuagint or Greek versions of the Bible. Although the paperback shown below does not include those apocryphal books, the e-book edition does with more print editions and cover choices to follow as communally-minded Christians from communities all over the world welcome this common English translation of God’s word.







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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. Thank you for telling your church and Christian friends where you found this Bible review. If you’re one of the many church publishers who plan to publish study editions and various cover choices of the CEB, be sure to send me a review copy. May God bless you and all peoples of God who come together in Jesus’ Name to worship, work, and lovingly represent the church Body of Christ in the world.

May 31, 2012

Four Bibles in one: The Complete Parallel Bible


If you like to compare translations as you study the Bible but don’t like to juggle several books at once, The Complete Parallel Bible by Oxford provides an ideal solution for Catholic, Episcopal, and other Christian readers or poetry lovers who also want the deuterocanonical books often referred to as the Apocrypha.

This 1993 edition may not be super easy to find in the bonded leather cover mine has, but I suggest a stout hardback cover for this thick book anyway. Otherwise, the wobbly spine on the cumbersome cover will eventually morph into a “V.” (The fat Bible on the far right of the photo should show you what I mean.)

The Amazon ad posted below for your convenience and my teeny “commission” will lead you to options for a less expensive used copy in good condition. (Yeah, I know some people do not like books other people have sneezed on while reading but just put a little vinegar on a paper towel and wipe those worries away.)

If you get this particular edition, you’ll find a small font in four side-by-side columns with footnotes only as essential for clarification. Bleary-eyed readers might need a magnifying glass, but it’s worth it. Why?

This edition gives you two of the most reliable English translations closest to word-for-word (New American Bible and New Revised Standard Version) in addition to two rather lively and very readable versions (New English Bible and New Jerusalem Bible.) If a verse doesn’t grab you in one translation, another of these choices surely will. By comparing all four versions of a verse along with the surrounding context, you’ll get a broader picture and deeper insight into biblical truths.

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© 2012, Mary Sayler. Thanks for letting your church, Bible study, or other group know where you found this information.

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March 26, 2012

King James Version with Apocrypha

In 1604 King James I of England authorized a translation of the Bible into English, and 47 scholars from the Church of England set to work with the Bishop’s Bible as their guide. The translators also referred to the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts as needed, approving one another’s work as they aimed for accuracy in a translation that would promote church unity and meet church approval. Indeed, James instructed the team to use the word “church” instead of “congregation.”

To abide by other instructions provided by the king, the translators included no marginal notes unless a word or phrase in the original language needed further explanation. In addition, the translation included all of the books canonized by Jewish scholars as well as the deuterocanonical books written in Greek between the testament eras. Eventually referred to as the “Apocrypha,” which means “hidden,” those books remain clearly in sight in Catholic, Orthodox, and other Bibles but, a couple of centuries or so ago, were removed from most editions of the King James Version (KJV) published for Protestant readers.

With or without the deuterocanonical books aka apocryphal books aka Apocrypha, the poetic KJV has been a best-seller for four centuries, greatly influencing art, literature, and poetry in England, America, and other cultures too. A variety of editions (with or without the study articles and footnotes added in the last century or two) can be found in most bookstores, but I wanted a copy of the entire KJV as first published, so I purchased the one shown in the ad below.

Binding: This thick, slick-surfaced paperback has nice quality pages tightly affixed with glue. Since I use my copy for a desktop reference rather than straight reading, the pages have not separated, but then, they don’t get very rugged treatment.

Size: At 5” wide by 7.5” long, the book stand over 2” thick! And, it really does stand up on its own! The plump size, however, will not open flat or stay opened but works just fine when hand-held.

Font: Somewhat on the small side, the font provides clear black ink on stark white paper for easy reading.

Notes: In addition to upfront introductory information about the history of KJV and other English translations, this edition groups explanatory notes to each book of the Bible at the back of the book.

KJV: Most Christians of all church backgrounds know the KJV very well as a beautifully poetic translation with gorgeously quotable verses! Most also think of the KJV as being highly accurate since, unlike many new translations, scholars aimed for a word-for-word rendering into the contemporary language of the time. But times change, and so do the meanings of words.

To many readers the use of “thee” and “thou” for “you” is quaint and readable, but the unfamiliar verb forms with their “ith” endings can slow comprehension the way well-written poetry often does. Nevertheless, the KJV remains beloved to anyone who loves literature or grew up with this familiar version.

This particular edition, which includes all of the books of The Book, also provides Christians with a less familiar look at deuterocanonical books, such as one by Baruch – the scribe who assisted the prophet Jeremiah. Since Baruch wrote during the Babylonian captivity, he often addressed reasons for the exile, lamenting the misery of their predicament, but calling the people of God to repentance, praise, and prayer.

For example, Baruch 3 begins: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, the soul in anguish, the troubled spirit, crieth unto thee.”

After asking God to hear his prayer and the cries of his people, Baruch 3:4 continues with an unusual prayer I triple-checked to be sure I’d correctly quoted words and spelling: “O LORD Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee their God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us.”

Other books in this edition of the full KJV include wisdom sayings, inspiring stories, and additions to such books as Esther. You’ll also find the KJV translations of I and II Maccabees as well as other historical writings that fill the gap between testaments and provide an interesting “read.”

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you share the article with your church, Bible study, or other group, please tell everyone where you found it. Thanks. For more Bible topics, see Blogs by Mary.

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March 15, 2012

A study Bible with an ecumenical view


The Oxford Study Bible contains the full Revised English Bible with Apocrypha (aka deuterocanonical books) and “A Complete Guide To The World of The Bible” in such articles as “Historical Contexts of the Biblical Communities,” “The Contribution of Archaeology,” and “The Social World” in both Testaments.

As a Christian writer and poet, I especially appreciate the articles on “Early Christian Literature,” “Literature of the Ancient Near East,” and the “Literary Forms of the Bible.” The latter, for example, talks about the biblical forms used for Bible poetry in the Psalms, of course, but in wisdom books and books of prophecy too. The article also discusses genres such as narratives, parables, and proverbs as well as the literary form prophetic books often took, and the general format found in epistles or letters.

Binding: Thick, glossy paper is my preference for the Oxford REB edition, and the cover has held up well. In other translations such as the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), my Oxford study Bibles have top quality leather, but on each, the spine bowed or pulled away slightly. Since the pages were sewn together, none fell out, but pages on this paperback edition (as shown in the ad below) seem to be strongly glued to the cover.

Font: The highly readable font in the text decreases slightly in size for the footnotes, but they’re still easier to read than most.

Format: In addition to the study articles already mentioned, each section of the Bible has an Introduction as does each of the individual books.

Footnotes: Whether in the RSV, NRSV, or REB, the footnotes avoid denominational differences and aim for a wider, ecumenical view. This is not to say the information straddles fences, but the emphasis is on providing readers information about wordplays, historical settings, and cultural backgrounds, rather than rhetoric aimed to sway readers toward one stance or another.

REB: The Revised English Bible translates thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word, providing a highly readable text that flows well in public or private reading. Some spellings and word choices reflect a British accent, rather than American English, but then the same can be said for the King James Version, which British scholars produced (word-for-word, deuterocanonical books included) over 400 years ago.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler


Oxford Study Bible, REB, paperback



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March 5, 2012

Which Bible would Jesus choose?


Since Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, He probably read scrolls written in those languages. Most likely He and the apostles were also familiar with the Septuagint or Greek Bible since, during their lifetimes, the extra books contained in that version were generally read, accepted, and quoted by the peoples of God.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., scholarly leaders among both Jews and Christians wanted to canonize Holy Scripture, so everyone could, figuratively speaking, be on the same page. But, Jewish scholars decided to stick with Hebrew Scriptures exclusively, which meant excluding books written in Greek, whereas Christians initially kept all of the books in the Septuagint. In fact, not too long after Latin and other European languages morphed into English, the King James Version of the Bible came into being (1611) with all of the books still intact.

After the Reformation, however, Protestants took out the books now referred to as the Apocrypha. The word is a bit of a misnomer, though, since it means hidden, and, well, the apocryphal books have always been highly visible in Catholic and Orthodox editions of the Bible. So, when Catholic and Orthodox Christians refer to apocryphal books, they mean those such as the Gospel of Thomas that were never, ever part of canonized scripture. Nevertheless, the extra books in the Septuagint remain outside the Jewish canon, so Catholic and Orthodox Christians sometimes refer to them as deuterocanonical books.

Yeah, it’s confusing at first! But the important thing is whether you want a Bible with all of the books.

To find out, read Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus) on the Internet, especially my favorite verse Sirach 2:18: “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD and not into human hands, for equal to God’s majesty is the mercy that He shows.”

To most readers, I and II Maccabees just won’t seem as inspired as wisdom books because they’re not always inspiring! However, they do provide us with an interesting record of historical events that occurred in the few hundred year’s gap between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Deciding whether to get a Bible with the Apocrypha will not be your only choice though! You have other choices to consider too:

Word for Word Translation
This option gives you the closest possible meaning of the original texts when Bible scholars translated the Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek manuscripts into English. If you want biblical accuracy, these choices give you that, literally, but you may need footnotes to explain what now-archaic phrases initially meant.

In alphabetical order, the more literal translations of the Bible into English include: Amplified, Douay-Rheims, English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New King James Version (NKJV.)

Of these, the Douay-Rheims and KJV with the Apocrypha will give you all of the books.

Thought for Thought Translation
This option gives you the most readable text with each thought kept as close as possible to the original intent as shown by overall context.

Again alphabetically, these translations include: the Common English Bible (CEB), Contemporary English Version (CEV), Good News Bible (GNB) also known as Today’s English Bible (TEB), New American Bible (NAB), New Century Version (NCV), New International Version (NIV), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), New Living Translation (NLT), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Revised English Bible (REB), and Revised Standard Version (RSV.)

Reportedly, the CEB, CEV, ESV, GNB, NAB, NJB, NLT, NRSV, REB, and RSV can now be found with all of the books that were originally included in the Septuagint and early Christian Bibles.

Paraphrase
This choice provides an easy-reader especially helpful to children and readers of English as a second language. Although most Bible students want more accuracy and fewer words than paraphrases have, both the Living Bible (LB) and The Message continue to be very popular.

But, to get back to our first question:

Which Bible would Jesus choose?

I cannot prove this, of course, but His tender regard for peoples of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, and levels of faith show me that He has most probably chosen them all!

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. If you want your church, Bible study, or other group to have this information, just promise me you will tell people where you found it. Also, I hope you remember to name drop my blogs and websites to your friends. Thanks. For more Bible topics, poetry help, and writing tips, see Blogs by Mary.

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