Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts

March 14, 2020

ESV Seek and Find Bible


When Crossway kindly sent me a review copy of the ESV Seek and Find Bible for children, its many features made me regret the categorization for kids 5-9. This hardback edition of the English Standard Version is so sturdy and well-done, older kids might want to read it -- and I do too!

Consider these features listed on the inside fold of the slick, attractive cover:

The complete ESV Bible text
provides a reliable translation in a readable font.

130 full-page, full-color illustrations
depict Bible people and scenes realistically in full color.

A simplified Bible story retelling for each illustration
For example, “Deborah’s Message from God” depicts the story found in Judges 4-5, with an era-friendly illustration and the words in this excerpt:

After twenty years of living under the mean King Jabin, the people of Israel cried out to God for help. God listened to their prayers and sent them help through a judge named Deborah. Every day Deborah sat near a palm tree in the desert and helped the people of Israel with their problems.
God told Deborah exactly what to do.”

Reflection questions for each story to help kids understand and apply God’s Word
In the story “Jesus Calms the Storm” from Mark 4:35-41, “Key Questions” include:

Why were the disciples afraid when the storm was raging?
What did Jesus say, and what happened when he said it?
Why should Jesus’ miracles fill us with faith?

Related Bible readings for each of the 130 stories
For the story of Jesus’ calming the storm, readers are encouraged to look up relevant scriptures in Luke 8:22-25 and John 6:16-21.

50+ illustrated profiles of major Bible characters from Adam and Eve to Timothy
For example, a side bar in the Gospel of John introduces readers to Andrew:

“Andrew was a fisherman who listened eagerly to the teaching of John the Baptist. John told people that they must repent and get ready for the promised Messiah. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, Andrew knew that he must now follow Jesus the Messiah. Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and brought him to Jesus, too. So Andrew and his brother Simon Peter became two of the 12 disciples, who were Jesus’ closest friends and helpers.”

Introductions to each book of the Bible
The Introduction to Psalms, for example, lets readers know the book, “written by different authors over a period of centuries” became the hymnal of God’s people.

“…Some psalms praise God with great joy for victory (Psalm 18); others for his acts of creation (Psalm 104) or for his provision and care ((Psalm 105). Others are laments, songs of mourning that praise God by bringing to him deep feelings of sadness (Psalm 88). Many psalms are cries for protection against persecuting enemies (Psalm 7). Other psalms confess sin and pray for forgiveness (Psalm 51). Still others express deep longings to know God better and follow him more closely (Psalm 27). The longest psalm praises the Word of God from many different perspective (Psalm 119). Several psalms look ahead to the Messiah in his sufferings (Psalm 22) and in his glory (Psalm 110). The book of Psalms is one of the best loved books of the entire Bible, having something for every believer, no matter what their specific circumstances or feelings.

Alongside that Introduction (as with all the others intros), each page briefly includes information on:

  • Author(s)
  • Date
  • People
  • Purpose
  • Central Themes
  • Memory Verses


20+ illustrated facts about Bible objects, structures, and places
including the Jerusalem Temple, its main contents, and the city at various times. As children see what these look like, the Bible text becomes more real to them. One picture, for example, is of a “Galilean Fishing Boat” with these words beside the illustration:

“Jesus and his disciples probably used a boat like this one that fishermen typically used. It could have held 15 men and was 26.5 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, and 4.5 feet high.

Key verses to memorize
has a little key drawn within a circle and placed next to verses such as this one from John 8:12:

…Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

A few pages later, the Bible story of “Jesus Heals the Blind Man” includes that verse, so the above key verse shows the page number to that event. The problem I had, however, was finding that and other pages by number – ironically because the generous illustrations and other fine features utilize the same space in this highly recommended edition of God’s Word.


Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020.



March 3, 2020

Conversing with God’s Word


We’ve talked about the God’s Word (GW) translation of the Bible before, but recently God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society sent me two newer editions attractively covered in flexible Duravella – one a two-tone gray and the other a two-tone burgundy and gray.

Both editions have large print, but the latter also has wide margins, which encourage us to respond to God’s Word with whatever thoughts or prayers come to mind. This “conversation” becomes a spiritual diary of sorts as we claim a Bible verse or prayer, especially if we add the date as a reminder. And, it can become a private study edition as we jot down insights and relevant notes, making this a priceless heirloom to hand down to the next generation.

The most important feature of the GW translation, however, is its readability. In an accompanying brochure, the “Word Choice” column says: “The translation team chose words that were natural in context and as easily understood as possible without sacrificing accuracy or faithfulness to the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible.”

When it comes to “Gender References,” the brochure explains that “GW avoids using words like man and he if the Hebrew of Greek is speaking about people regardless of gender.” If, however, the text refers to a specific group such as the Jewish council, which consisted exclusively of men, the text will reflect that.

As a poet and writer, I particularly appreciate GW's “Translation Philosophy,” which does not “attempt to make all books or passages function on the same level. The more difficult books of the Bible are translated to the same level of difficulty as the original languages. In addition, abstract concepts in Greek and Hebrew are translated into abstract concepts in English, and concrete concepts remain concrete in translation.

Both of these editions include an A to Z topical reference to scriptures on “The Teachings of Jesus,” providing an excellent resource for Bible study. Both also contain A to Z topics with their biblical references for “Life Applications.”

If you consider the Lenten season leading up to Easter as a time of intense reflection, you might turn to Psalm 51 as a memory-booster prior to corporate or private confession. Many churches refer to that psalm during Lent, but one of my favorite guides into reflection or meditation is The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, which helps to align our attitudes with the ones the Lord wants us to have. Thanks to the high readable GW translation, the Beatitudes become even more accessible:

Blessed are those who recognize they are
spiritually helpless.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blesses are those who mourn.
They will be comforted.

Blessed are those who are gentle.
They will inherit the earth.

Blesses are those who hunger and thirst for
God’s approval.
They will be satisfied.

Blessed are those who show mercy.
They will be treated mercifully.

Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
They will see God.

Blessed are those who make peace.
They will be called God’s children.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing
what God approves of.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you,
lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you
because of me.
Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward
in heaven!
The prophets who lived before you were persecuted
in these ways,” (Matthew 5:3-12.)


May God help us to take God’s Word to heart, soul, mind, and spirit in Jesus’ Name.

Mary Sayler, ©2020




January 28, 2020

The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel


When Koren Publishers Jerusalem kindly sent me a review copy of The Susan & Roger Hertog Edition of Exodus, entitled The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel, I wondered if they had printed it wrong! Unlike the right-to-left books we’re used to, this one opens left to right. So it took me a second to remember that’s the Hebrew way to read. Since this book includes passages of scripture in both Hebrew and English, the choice is not only appropriate but a great conversation opener!

Upon its release in February 2020, this large, attractive hardback will certainly dress up a coffee table. Besides the artistically rendered cover, the interior presents an abundance of colorful photographs on thick, slick paper. These ample illustrations help us to see the land of Israel and the people who lived there in sweeping vistas and up-close detail. However, you’ll want to actually read this beautifully produced book as it combines art with an in-depth study of Exodus. As the inside flap of the book jacket tells us:

The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel is the first work of its kind in English to use contemporary 21st century biblical scholarship with traditional Jewish perspectives."

For those who might not know “What is the Tanakh?”, the Introduction to the Series responds to that very question:

“The word Tanakh is an acronym comprised of the Hebrew letters t n kh, referring to the fundamental collection of writings on which Judaism is based: Torah (the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (the Prophets), and Ketuvim (the Writings). The Tanakh is a literary collection composed over the course of a millennium.”

Christians refer to these books as the Old Testament, which is not intended to give offense but to indicate the vital placement of the Tanakh before the books known as the New Testament – and vital, it is. The more Christians study the Tanakh, the clearer the life and times of Jesus become, which can greatly alter the misinformation, suppositions, and contemporary perspectives often brought to scripture reading.

Regarding the particular scriptures used for this book, the highly respected Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks served as the primary translator of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts in a new translation of Exodus into English. Portions of both the Hebrew and the English text appear on each page, along with short articles and insights highlighted by these categories:

  • Archaeology  - notes on archaeological objects relating to the adjacent text
  • Near East – backgrounds on the ancient civilizations who interacted or affected God’s people
  • Language – insights into the languages of the times
  • Flora and Fauna – identification of plants and animals mentioned in the Bible
  • Egyptology – comments on the culture, religions, and powers in Egyptian society
  • Mishkan – descriptions of the Tabernacle
  • Geography – information on biblical places  
  • Halakha – textual links to Jewish rituals and contemporary practices

For example, the opening text begins with the Hebrew “names of the sons of Yisrael (Israel) who came to Egypt with Yaakov(Jacob), each with his household: Reuven (Reuben), Shimon (Simeon), Levi and Yehuda (Judah); Yissakhar (Issachar) Zevulun (Zebulun) and Binyamin (Benjamin); Dan and Naftali (Naphtali); Gad and Asher. The descendants of Yaakov were seventy in all, and Yosef (Joseph) was already in Egypt.”

Above that English translation is the Hebrew passage, and below is the sidebar on the Near East, which says:

“The numbers 7, 10, 12, 40, 60, 70, 300, and their multiples appear many times in the Torah. Rather than representing an exact or historical quantity, these numbers have allegorical and typological meaning. The family of Yaakov consists of 70 souls who immigrate to Egypt. The Israelite nation has 70 elders (Ex. 24), Gideon and Ahab had 70 sons (Judge 8:30; 11 Kings 10:1), and Adoni-Bezek rules over 70 kinds (Judges 1:7).”

The note ends by saying:

“In the ancient Near Eastern texts, the number 70 has referred to gods, kings, and more…. in the ancient Near East, the number 70 represented totality.”

Then, in reference to verse seven, the note on Archaeology briefly discusses the “Semites in Egypt” and explains:

“Water in the Middle East is always an issue. In ancient times the Canaanite shepherds brought herds to the Nile delta in times of famine, because the Nile provided a steady supply of water that supported agriculture and fertile grazing pastures even when rain was scarce. The Egyptian government blocked infiltrators when it was strong, but when the central administration was weak, shepherds from Canaan would bring their herds to graze there.”

As Exodus 2 begins the story of Moshe (Moses), a note appears on “The daughter of Pharoah” under the heading “Egyptology” and offers this insight:

“…the Egyptian princesses were very precious to their fathers. In the time of the New Kingdom, when foreign princesses were sent as diplomatic gifts to the king of Egypt, no Egyptian princess was ever sent in return to a foreign ruler.”

Alongside the story of the burning bush in Exodus 3, the note on Flora and Fauna tells us:

“The traditional commentaries unanimously identify the seneh, or thorn-bush, as what is now called the holy bramble, Rubus sanguineus – a bush that grows in proximity to springs and streams.”

By chapter 15, God’s people have left Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds, and  entered the “Shur Desert, toward Beershaba,” which is discussed under the heading “Geography” and says:

The main route across the desert would have been a relatively straight, level journey from the Isthmus of Suez, to Beersheba, an approximately 180-kilometer trek that would take around a week on foot.”

 Hopefully, those examples give you a good idea of what you’ll find in the text and commentaries, but this highly recommended biblical resource also includes a Timeline, Maps, and Introductions to the book, ancient Egypt, the plagues, and more. If, however,you never get to read every elegant page, the color photographs and captions will give you a broad and, sometimes, detailed view of the times, places, and people along with the artifacts and items of worship that enriched their lives – and ours.

Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020.

January 17, 2020

Bible Gateway: opening the gate to God’s Word


Bible Gateway has been my “go to” Internet resource for years, so it finally occurred to me to review the site that includes blog posts, podcasts, study notes, articles, and more. Most impressive, though,  is its being, as it says, “A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.” 

Since I regularly receive review copies of new editions of God’s Word, my bookshelves are piled high with Bibles, but I certainly don’t have all 150 versions! So I often click onto the Bible Gateway site to compare translations and, especially, to research a biblical topic.

For example, when I felt urged to see what the Bible says about love, I readily found over 600 references simply by typing the word “love” in the Search box provided at the top of the main page. Then I added brief devotionals and published the book by that name.

That same Search box let me type in the Bible book, chapter, and verse(s) of the actual prayers in the Bible then compare numerous translations before paraphrasing them for the prayer book I've always wanted, the Book of Bible Prayers. Shortly thereafter, I published the Book of KJV Prayers with the same scriptures but from the King James Version only.

Instead of having to retype each prayer for the latter, I was able to copy/paste the KJV text directly from the Bible Gateway site into a word processing file then remove verse numbers and break lines into a more contemporary rhythm of speaking.

The site’s features also work wonderfully well in preparing sermons and Bible lessons. Not only does it take less time to look up topics and key scriptures, the site offers a wealth of translations for comparison. A quick click onto the version in place lets you immediately change to another.

If you look up a single verse, you can also see numerous versions of that same verse on a single page. By comparing the words chosen to translate the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts into English, we get a broader perspective of biblical truths, and we see that God’s Word truly is living, constantly speaking to us, and moving us closer and closer to the Lord.



January 3, 2020

The Enduring Word Bible: ESV


The Enduring Word Bible, which Concordia kindly sent me to review, makes a blessed beginning for the New Year or any time. 

This edition of the highly acclaimed ESV (English Standard Version) of the Bible invites you to make God’s Word your own as you color memory verses and pencil in prayers, insights, and other responses in the wide margins provided alongside the readable 9.5-point text.

Besides the 350 line-art illustrations in the margins of the book, this edition includes ten full-page illustrations for you to color, preferably with colored pencils or other medium that won’t smear or bleed through the thin pages.

Since the idea is to encourage you to meditate on God’s Word and use the margins to remind yourself of those close encounters with the Lord, you might want to add a date each time you jot down whatever comes to mind. Those reminders can continue to be a blessing in years to come as you recall your unique relationship with the Lord and pass along to loved ones this ongoing evidence of faith  and devotion to God.


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




December 17, 2019

Portals of Prayer Devotional Bible


The Portals of Prayer Devotional Bible, which Concordia Publishing House kindly sent me to review, makes a wonderful Christmas gift (if ordered right now!) However, in its attractive gift case, this hardback edition makes a thoughtful gift any time for anyone, especially since it uses a 10.5 font size that most of us can easily read.

In addition to the accurate and clear English Standard Version, this Bible includes over 700 devotions relevant to the text. For example, the heading “Delight In God” quotes Job 27:10, “Will he take delight in the Almighty? Will he call upon God at all times?  In the devotional that follows, “Job asked if the godless would take delight in the Almighty and call upon Him. The obvious answer is no. Why would they? But do we delight in God?” If so, then….

How do we reveal our delight in God? One way that Job indicated is to ‘call upon God at all times,’ especially in thanksgiving and praise. But how can we do this when we go through suffering as Job did? Our delight in God does not depend on our outward circumstances, but on who God is, on what He has done and continues to do for us.

For another example, the prophetic word of Hosea 6:2 tells us, “On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” Then the devotional entitled “For A Little While” reminds us:

Though we suffer now, we have an eternal perspective. For a little while, the Lord says, we will suffer the woes of the sinful flesh. But the third day is coming – the third day of resurrection.

“Easter morn meant that no suffering, disease, or death could touch Jesus again. It was also God’s promise to us of our resurrection day to come….”

With Christmas presently only a few days away, we’re reminded of Luke 2:20 when, “…the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” 

The devotional “The Night of Hope” follows that scripture of the Nativity then goes on to say:

As you read the Christmas story anew, focus on Jesus. Focus on God’s love for you in the babe of Bethlehem, born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. There He is in an animal shelter, having come to be your Savior. Don’t focus on your losses, failing health, tragic disappointments, or wretched sins. Focus instead on that glorious One who came to remove the stain of your sins and fill your heart with hope. This hope is for you and all humanity.

As occurs in each devotional in this edition, those faith-building words end with a pertinent prayer:

We praise You, Lord Jesus, begotten of the Father’s love from all eternity, and born to be who You truly are – the Prince of Peace. Amen.”


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer

Portals of Prayer Devotional Bible, ESV, hardback, gift case

September 16, 2019

Kingstone Bible: a novel adaptation

This 3-volume graphic adaptation of the Bible from Kingstone is a novel heavyweight edition for youth from middle grades through teens. And when I say “heavyweight,” I mean that figuratively and literally. According to the information on Amazon, the set  weighs over 12 pounds!

Why so weighty? The heavily inked graphic art illustrations and the thick pages (stitched into sturdy hardback covers) carry a lot of weight, but then, so does God’s Word.

These graphic novels don’t present a word-for-word translation of the Bible, of course, but are more akin to comic-style Bible story books for older youth. Therefore,  the text takes liberties in portraying the words, thoughts, and feelings of the people involved. However, scriptural references to the actual biblical events are located at the bottom of each page.

Although I wish more emphasis had been place on those Bible references  (perhaps in a larger font), the opening pages of “The Epic Story of God” assures us that the publisher “attempts to cover the revealed and inerrant Word of God in serialized art form.”

In each volume, that art seems to capture well the dress, customs, and general appearance of relevant eras, (though I do wonder about the muscular appearance of Job!)

The dark colors also seem heavy to me, as do the somewhat scary covers. But then, I’m not the intended reader for this edition, which our teen and tween children or grandchildren will surely love!


Mary Sayler, ©2019




July 16, 2019

Which Bibles capitalize pronouns for God?


Does it matter if a translation of the Bible uses capital “H” instead of lower case for He/Him/His pronouns referring to God? In the eternal scheme of things, probably not. Nevertheless, I prefer it.

Why? Two reasons:

1.) Capitalizing pronouns that refer to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a way of honoring God and showing esteem.

2.) Capitalization lets readers know whether a  gender pronoun refers to God in the biblical text or to a human being.

If you’re now wondering which translations of the Bible use capital “H,” regardless of the publisher, here’s a list of the ones I found, thanks to a search of a pronoun-laden verse on Bible Gateway.

 TVB – The Voice Bible



Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer and life-long lover of God’s Word in the many translations we're blessed to read, study, and absorb



May 9, 2019

KJV Giant Print Bible


If you love the
King James Version of the Bible (KJV), you might want to check out the KJV Bibles Store, who kindly sent me a review copy of the reasonably priced leather burgundy KJV Bible in giant print, published by Christian Arts Publishers.

The box itself is impressive as though each Bible is a gift, which the Word of God surely is!

Thumb-indexing will hasten your search for a particular book of the Bible during a study, class, or discussion group and simply help you find what you’re looking for as you read – and re-read this reader edition – at home.

To ease your topical search for specific verses, this Bible offers a concordance and unique “Verse Finder,” which is divided into sections, topics, and locations of chapter/verse. For example:


  • When You Need – has headings of “acceptance,” “forgiveness,” “mercy,” or “wisdom.”
  • When You Feel – includes such headings as “afraid,” “burned out,” criticized,” “tempted,” or “worried.”
  • What The Bible Says About – subjects such as “angels,” “astrology,” “confession,” “parenting,” “pride,” “work,” or “worship.”


Although I prefer thicker paper, the 14-point font is clear and amply inked. The cover has a nice feel, allowing the book to lay flat when opened, and, compared to the high cost of other leather-covered Bibles, this one comes at a premium price!

Those features and a manageable size (less than 6x9”) make this two-column Bible pleasant to hold as you read and a joy to hold onto as you study God’s Word.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, Bible reviewer


Premium Leather Burgundy KJV Bible Giant Print, thumb-indexed







May 7, 2019

A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths


Bring together a group of people who want to study the Bible, and you might find unified interests, but highly diverse ways of reading what’s there.

From a Jewish perspective, for instance, the Bible reveals providential guidance while instructing God’s people on how to live a life of faith. 

From a Christian perspective, the Bible shows the ongoing relationship between deity and humankind. Again and again, we mess up, and each time, God redeems.

How the old and new come together (or not!) takes a whole book to discuss, which is what former Oxford professor and Anglican priest John Barton does in A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths.

Published as part of the Allen Lane Imprint by Penguin Books, who kindly sent me a copy to review, the “Notes,” “Further Readings,” “Bibliography,”  “Bible References,” and “Index” in the back matter confirm the extensive research involved, but then, that’s not surprising as Rev. Barton  previously co-edited The Oxford Bible Commentary, edited The Cambidge Companion to Biblical Interpretation , and wrote scholarly works on various aspects of the Bible. 

Reviewing such a comprehensive history can be daunting and, at times, disconcerting as I’m a believer in the Bible as Holy Spirit inspired and not just inspirational. Nevertheless, I hope to encourage you to discover the diverse conditions and religious mindsets surrounding the Bible before you come  to your own well-informed conclusions.

After leafing through a “List of Illustrations,” “Maps,” “Acknowledgements,” and “Introduction: The Bible Today,” you’ll find the book has been divided into four parts. In addition to the back matter previously mentioned, the “Content” page shows the topics addressed:

Part One
The Old Testament

1. Ancient Israel: History and Language
2. Hebrew Narrative
3. Law and Wisdom
4. Prophecy
5. Poems and Psalms

Part Two
The New Testament

6. Christian Beginnings
7. Letters
8. Gospels

Part Three
The Bible and Its Texts

9.  From Books to Scripture
10. Christians and Their Books
11. Official and Unofficial Texts
12. Biblical Manuscripts

Part Four
The Meanings of the Bible

13. The Theme of the Bible
14. Rabbis and Church Fathers
15. The Middle Ages
16. The Reformation and Its Readings
17. Since the Enlightenment
18. Translating the Bible

Conclusion: The Bible and Faith

Rev. Barton’s conclusions may or may not coincide with mine, but this comprehensive history can certainly expand understanding of the biblical text and the way we perceive what’s there.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, reviewer and lifelong student of God’s Word



...

February 21, 2019

NRSV large-print leather Bible with or without Apocrypha


When I heard that Cambridge had published a large-print reader edition of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, I requested a review copy, and they generously sent two – one with the Apocrypha and one without.

As you might know or guess, Cambridge University Press is the world’s oldest publisher of Bibles, the first being the Geneva Bible printed years before the King James Version even existed.

The quality is immediately apparent – from the thin but strong pages sewn into a high-grade French Morocco leather binding to the Bible’s sturdy packaging – as though they’re working with something that needs to be treated with respect and care. And, when they say “large-print text,” that’s what they mean – a font of ample size that’s attractive and easy on the eyes.

If I’m going on a bit about the physical aspects of this Bible, it’s because some publishers seem to expect their Bibles to be throw-aways. But maybe that’s too harsh. Maybe some just want to offer inexpensive editions almost everyone can afford. Or maybe they want to draw young people to God’s Word with pages glued into lively, colorful covers meant to catch the eye.

It’s hard for me to know since I cherish the Bible I regularly took to church – from early childhood through my teen years. (When I graduated from high school, my home church gave me a Revised Standard Version bound in quality leather, which would have lasted forever had it not been for a young dachshund left alone while her peoples were at work.)

Cambridge Bibles are made to last! So I'm happy to report they publish other versions in fine bindings, in case that interests you. However, when I want a translation that’s as close to the original languages as possible, I grab a NRSV.

When I want a translation that’s accurate and readable with a poetic flow, I go for the NRSV.

When I want a translation that renders the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with the profuse flow of thought he had in speaking and teaching, I go for the NRSV. (Note: Paul can get so long-winded, some translations chop his paragraph-long sentences into bits. The spiritual truths remain the same, of course, but the change of tone makes it hard to hear his unique voice.)

And, because I always want a Bible that incorporates linguistic and archaeological findings in an edition translated by an international, interdenominational team, who aims to provide an impartial, well-balanced edition, I go for the NRSV with the Apocrypha.

Be advised though: These NRSV reader editions from Cambridge focus on the biblical texts, period. If you want a study Bible, this isn’t it. I have a bunch of those anyway, and I’ve found that most have so many articles, maps, notes, and commentary, the biblical text itself gets squeezed into small print that’s barely readable. In addition, most study editions weigh several pounds, so I keep them on my desk to research a topic before writing a “Bible Talk” or preparing a class discussion.

Since these text-only editions have no study aids to weigh me down and almost no footnotes to distract me, I can easily carry them anywhere or curl up in my favorite chair to read. Indeed, I aim to read and re-read this reader edition of the NRSV as long as God, my eyes, and our family pets allow.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer

If you want one too, click here:









February 13, 2019

New Testament TransLine: A Literal TRANSlation In outLINE Format


The NewTestament TransLine published by Wipf & Stock, who kindly sent me review copies of the two-volume set, is “A Literal TRANSlation in outLINE Format,” which, as author Michael Magill explains in the Introduction, is “not only to translate the words, but also visually display the flow of thought contained in the Greek words” in which the New Testament was written.

Although this TransLine edition probably isn’t one we’ll want to use to just sit down and read cover to cover, it’s an excellent resource for those of us who want greater clarity and deeper insight into God’s Word. As the Introduction tells us:

“Think of it this way. When you hear a foreigner first learning to speak English, you commonly hear such a person rendering the forms and sentence structures of their native language in English words. It sounds foreign to English-speakers. It is improper English. Sometimes it is difficult to understand. As the person learns more English, they adopt the commonly understood Englsh patterns of expression. In a similar way, since the NewTestament TransLine is seeking to give the English reader more insight from the Greek point of view, the Greek forms and structures are retained to a greater degree than proper in good English, but not to such a degree that the meaning is obscured.”

In addition to this approach to translation, the author provides outlines of the text to demonstrate the Greek way of thinking as one thought flows into another. For example, verses in the fourth chapter of Matthew show this thought process:

3B. “You are the light of the world
1C. “A city lying on a hill is not able to be hidden
2C. “Nor do they burn a lamp and put it under the basket, but on the lampstand – and it shines on all the ones in the house
3C. “In this manner, let your light shine in front of people so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in the heavens.”

Those verses also include references to corresponding footnotes on the adjacent page.  For instance, the note for “light” says, “That is, the source of spiritual truth, reflected from God, lighting the darkness. Note Phil 2:15.”

As that footnote clearly shows, we don’t light up ourselves, but God does. And our part is to refrain from hiding that light.

Then, if we think in terms of the “lamp” available during the time of Christ, we know such lighting fixtures had no electricity, unwieldy cords, switches, or breakable bulbs! And so, the word “burn” and its corresponding footnote remind us of the kerosene lanterns used between Jesus’ cultural era and ours, but with either type of “lamp” relying on fire, which brings to mind one of the symbols for the Holy Spirit. In this manner we’re to glow through the glory of the Lord where all can see and be drawn to the light of Christ.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer


To order, click here:





January 22, 2019

Running from Mercy: Jonah


In the book Running from Mercy, published by B&H Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy to review,  pastor-author Anthony J. Carter provides pertinent study questions in the back pages of his discussion of “Jonah and the Surprising Story of God’s Unstoppable Grace.”

Having read the Bible story numerous times, I didn’t feel like I discovered any big surprises in this book. Then I realized the conversational style is deceptively light as Rev. Carter’s words and wisdom fill us with insight into scripture and into ourselves.

The Introduction starts by grounding us in the fact that “Jonah is an actual person established in Scripture. We know he had a family and a father, whose name was Amittai (Jonah 1:1, 2 Kings 14:25). God had commissioned Jonah on another occasion to prophecy good news to the national of Israel. According to 2 Kings 14:24-27, God sent Jonah with a word of mercy and grace for Israel, despite the rebellion and disobedience of King Jeroboam. Jonah prophesied that God would bless Israel, and she would experience prosperity accordingly. Consequently, Jonah’s first experience as a prophet was a pleasant one. He experienced prophetic prosperity that no doubt brought him popularity and pleasure.”

The author goes on to point out that the city of Ninevah actually existed. More important, Jesus referred to the reality of Jonah in Matthew 12.

In “Grace for the Rebellious,” Rev. Carter equates the book with the entire story of the Bible! i.e., “Chapter 1 is the narrative of rebellion. Chapter 2 is the narrative of repentance. Chapter 3 is the narrative of redemption. Chapter 4 is the narrative of restoration– all of which can be said about God’s Word.


Everywhere, everywhere – God is – in Word and deed.


In the same chapter, the author reminds us that “The idea of God’s omnipresence is not that God is simply present or partially present; the idea is that He fills the place.”

And so, like Jonah, we need to know, “You cannot hide from God. A better course of action is to hide in God.”

That awareness begins to surface when we, like Jonah, feel we’re drowning in problems and finally come to the end of ourselves. Then, as the chapter “Divine Appointments” points out, “When God delights to move in your life to rescue you, to redeem you, to save you, you have no doubt who did it.”

Ironically, that same mercy moves in the lives of the most undeserving people – like those in Ninevah. As the chapter “Jonah’s Resentment, God’s Restraint” reminds us,”Sometimes God defeats the wicked not by destroying them but by extending grace to them and thus changing them.”

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we, too, have resisted God’s will at some time in our lives. Maybe more than once! But, praise God, “…mercy comes running after you and me. It is mercy we need and, therefore, mercy we receive – undeserved, unearned, life-changing mercy.”

by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-author and reviewer


To view or order the book, click this link:

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