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

January 30, 2018

The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times: a book review


As I began researching the culture and era in which Jesus lived, I saw that Ralph Gower had updated the 1953 best-selling book Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred Wight in the 2005 book, The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, published by Moody Publishers. I also ordered other Bible resources to help me research the biblical novel I hope to do, but I’m reviewing this one first because it’s a must for every Bible teacher, Bible student, and anyone interested in Christ, Christianity, and the Bible.

Divided into two sections, the book presents family life in Part One and “Institutions and Customs” in Part Two. This edition has about 350 pages with over 250 full-color or black and white photographs and drawings beautifully illustrating the text and helping us to envision what life was like - from typical attire to the tools Jesus would have used in His early days of carpentry. If we merely looked at the illustrations and read their captions, we’d get a clearer, vibrant picture of everyday life.

Bold captions help, too, as does the text that follows. For instance, “Cleaning clothes” tells us: “Clothes were cleaned by allowing the swift current of a stream to pass through the coarse-woven cloth, washing the dirt out and away, or else by placing the wet clothes on flat stones and pounding out the dirt.” If soap was necessary, it was “made either from olive oil or from a vegetable alkali.”

That example seemed timely since I’m presently washing clothes in a machine with lots of choices and an electric dryer beside. But, oh, I’m even happier I don’t have to weave my own cloth - especially on a horizontal loom!

“The problem with the horizontal loom was that the width of the cloth was limited to the arm span of the weaver, because the weaver had to sit or crouch at his work. The invention of the upright loom enabled wider material to be made because the weaver could walk across the face of the cloth.”

Knowing that and seeing the illustrations for the text help me to better understand why soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ robe: It had no seams. (See John 19:23-24.) And what about shoes? Wondering about those led me to the Apostle Paul’s profession of tentmaking since a tentmaker was actually a leatherworker who mainly made leather bottles, belts, military equipment - and shoes.

As the book describes the profession: “A tentmaker (or leather-worker) had first to skin the animal, then remove the hairs from the hide, make it supple for use, and sometimes dye it as well. The hairs were removed by a combination of scraping, soaking, and (applying lime.) The hides were then soaked in water containing oak galls and sumac leaves, rubbed with dog manure, and hammered. The smell of the work was so bad that the tanner had to work outside the town in the direction of the prevailing wind, and it was so bad personally that it could become grounds for divorce.” No wonder Paul never married!

Most Jewish men would have married around their eighteenth birthday, which Paul had presumably passed before meeting the risen Christ. For more about that, the pages on marriage include a photograph of a woman wearing a traditional headdress and a detailed illustration of “The Wedding Feast” as it would have been in Bible days.

Other pages give a rich and well-illustrated history of Jerusalem, typical modes of travel, paper-making, “The Zealots,” “The Roman Empire,” and so much more, I hope you’ll get the book for yourself. It’s one to open often.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, hardback




December 12, 2017

FIREBIBLE from Hendrickson Bibles in large print

When Hendrickson Bibles kindly sent me a review copy of the Fire Bible, my first impression was, “Huge!”

At 9” wide, over 11” long, and over 2” deep, this large print hardback study edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) should work exceptionally well on a pulpit or a study desk. Despite the unlikelihood of our carrying it to our Bible study groups or sit around reading it on our laps, it’s what I’ve been looking for – a large print Bible with large print footnotes, which require ample space.

Originally known as the Full Life Study Bible, this expanded edition includes study notes from the late Donald C. Stamps, a pastor and prolific writer who had a vision of a study Bible that would especially appeal to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Although he did not live to see his work in print, the Fire Bible accomplishes his goal with study notes and articles of interest to most students of the Bible.

Those study helps include “Contents: Articles,” “God’s Plan of Salvation,” a cross-reference system, book introductions, theme finders, subject index, concordance, and more.

To give you an example of the articles, the one on “The Fear of the Lord” says, “By fearing God, we can avoid being trapped by the natural pull toward going our own way, defying God and giving in to the inviting ways of immoral behavior.”

But what does that fear mean? The article goes on to explain that the fear of the Lord “involves understanding several things about a believer’s relationship with God.” For instance, “we must recognize that God is loving, merciful and forgiving; but he also is holy, just and righteous.” Therefore, we’re “to be in awe of his holiness, to give him complete reverence and to honor him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power.”

Such high regard shows we can trust God to be wholly free of pettiness, mean-spiritedness, or any kind of evil. Nevertheless, “It is a sobering and absolute truth that God is constantly aware of our actions and motives, both good and bad, and that we will be held accountable for those actions….”

Thankfully, the Bible gives us the guidance needed to keep our actions in line with God’s will. Consider, for instance, Psalm 1:2, which tells us the “blessed” person meditates on God’s law days and night. As the footnote for that verse explains, “Those who desire to live with God’s blessing and favor meditate on God’s law (i.e., his Word) in order to shape their thinking, attitudes and actions in a positive way.” Yes!

As we read the Bible, again and again, God’s Word corrects and perfects our way of looking at things, freeing us from misconceptions and the darkened thoughts most of us receive from bad experiences. Although we can do nothing to change the past, we can ask for God’s healing over our memories and hurts, and we can re-form our skewed thinking by meditating on God’s Word.

How? The footnote on Psalm 1:2 goes on to suggest we consider the following questions:

“How might God’s Spirit be applying this verse to my present situation?
What is this passage teaching me about God’s character?
Is there a promise here for me to recognize and claim?
Is this passage revealing a particular sin I must try to avoid?
Is God giving a command I must obey?
How should this truth affect my relationship with other people?
Is my spirit in hamony with what the Holy Spirit is saying?
Is the passage expressing a truth about God, salvation, sin, the word or my personal behavior that I need to understand better with the Holy Spirit’s help?
Is there something in this passage I can thank or praise God for?
How can I grow closer to God in light of what he is showing me through his Word?


In the New Testament, the first words in the Gospel of John let us know that God’s Word comes to us, fully embodied in Christ Jesus. “Also, the Word describes Jesus as the perfect revelation and representation of the Father’s nature and character…. That is to say, he is God in human form.”

By living among us and being part of our everyday lives, Jesus showed us The Way to the Father and The Way to live on earth. And, amazingly, Jesus showed His trust – God’s trust in us! In Matthew 5:13, for example, we are called “the salt of the earth.” Those words aren’t calling us to become the salt of the earth, but to accept the fact as Jesus sees it: “You are the salt of the earth.”

As we meditate on that verse and what it means in our lives, the footnotes provide these insights:

“Salt seasons and flavors food, just as Christians should enhance and favorably influence the people and society around them. Salt is a preservative, just as Christians and the church should resist moral corruption and decay, preserving a godly influence on the culture. In addition, salt has healing properties, just as Christ’s followers must help bring healing to people who are hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually. Salt also creates thirst, just as Christians – through their good example – should create spiritual thirst or desire in others to know more about God.”

May we, too, know more about God as we let God’s Word reshape our thoughts and lives.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer and lifelong student of God’s Word

Fire Bible, large print, hardcover






October 27, 2017

What the Bible Says about the Bible

Every morning, Bible Gateway emails me a Bible verse for the day. Today’s scripture reminded me of the power we have when we see and believe what the Bible has to say about the Bible:

“God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions,” Hebrews 4:12, Common English Bible (CEB.)

Reading the Bible brings into focus the relationship God developed with His people – an ongoing relationship that wasn’t just for a particular time and place, but for all times, all places, and all of us – here and now.

In Deuteronomy 12:28, for example, Moses received God’s Word, which said:

Observe and obey these words I’m commanding you, so things will go well for you and your children because you followed what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.

Psalm 106:12 tells us, Our ancestors trusted God’s Word and praised God in song.

The whole earth may do the same! As Psalm 147:15 says, God gives a command to the earth, and whatever God says is quickly done!

When we don’t know what to do or are feeling vulnerable, we can take comfort in Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God is tried and true – protective armor for those who take refuge in Him.

This source of care and comfort isn’t only for a troubling moment though. As Isaiah 40:8 tells us, The grass dries up. The flowers wither. But the word of our God will last forever.

The same can be said for every word Jesus gave. Even before His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus was known for speaking truth from God’s perspective. As Luke 5:1 reports: One day as Jesus was standing by Lake Gennesaret, crowds of people pressed around Him to hear God’s word.

In Luke 11:28, Jesus told us to expect to be blessed when we hear God’s word and put it into practice.

After He ascended into heaven, His followers came together to pray. Then, after they prayed, the place where they’d gathered began to shake! And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit! And they began speaking God’s word with confidence, Acts 4:31.

As people listened to those early believers, they, too, began to believe, and the church grew. In Acts 12:24, however, the Bible doesn’t mention the growth of the church or of Christianity. Instead, it says, The word of God continued to grow, spread, and increase.

That’s what it’s about! Our faith isn’t about the size of our church membership or our church buildings or number of denominations. It’s about letting the Word of God grow strong in us and spreading that Word to others.

What power we have in God’s Word!

What power we have when we believe the Bible means what it says about the Bible!

As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: Ever since you were a babe in Christ, you have learned Holy Scriptures that helped you to be wise in a way that led to salvation through your faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, training, showing mistakes, improving, and exercising character, so those who belong to God will be equipped to do everything good.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer and author of the new book, What the Bible Says About Love.


May 22, 2017

KJV Super Giant Print Bible


The KJV Super Giant Print Reference Bible, which Hendrickson Bibles, kindly sent me to review, comes with a huge 17-point font to help visually impaired people read the King James Version of the Bible with greater ease.

This extra-large type also works well those who need a much larger than normal print when reading the Bible aloud in a worship service. Also, the inexpensive, imitation leather cover lays flat, making this a good choice for a pulpit Bible.

A problem may arise, however, due to the thinness of the paper, which causes shadowing or bleed-through on each page, thereby lessening contrast. Even so, I was able to read the text – including the words of Christ in red ink – without my reading glasses.

Other features include a brief “Dictionary and Concordance” with key “words, people, places, and ideas, and where they are found in the Bible.”

Equally helpful are the pages devoted to “Key Bible Promises,” “Miracles of the Old Testament,” “Parables of the Old Testament,” “Old Testament Prophecies of the Passion,” “Miracles of the New Testament,” “Parables of the New Testament,” and color maps.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer, reviewer

KJV Super Giant Print Reference Bible, imitation leather






April 21, 2017

more on The Message

The more I get to know The Message, the more I want to encourage you to check it out! As you might recall, I’ve previously reviewed a Catholic/ Ecumenical edition, which includes (as the original King James Version of the Bible did) the books often referred to as the Apocrypha. We’ve also talked about a special edition of The Message 100, which arranges the books of the Bible by the dates they were most likely written, rather than the sequence typically found in a Protestant Bible.

Instead of hoping for a review copy this time, I bought myself a present to read during Lent – a large print, reader edition of The Message in a premium leather cover as shown below.

Why leather? I want a reader edition that’s comfortable and pleasant to hold, which hardbacks just aren’t. However, I prefer hardback study Bibles on my desk to do the research needed for writing projects and to find the background information and insights that enliven a weekly Bible study discussion group.

When I’m just reading cover to cover, my Bibles and I often have conversations in the margins and, more important, develop a relationship that’s like the tangible presence of a spiritual being. Since John 1 tells us that Jesus Christ IS The Word, a huggable Bible is the closest I can come to a physical touch or embrace.

If that seems foreign to you, it's possible The Message will too! i.e., It’s not a word-for-word translation in heightened vocabulary and Shakespearean tempos (aka iambic pentameter.) It’s everyday language with rhythms that convey the inspiration, passion, and conversational tones of Bible times yet keep current readers reading and relating.

It’s real. It’s huggable.

To give you an example fresh from Lent, consider the opening lines of this penitential psalms:

Psalm 51
“Generous in love – God, give grace!
Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.”


Long before reading those lines – or any other in The Message – I felt God leading me to prayerfully paraphrase psalms and scripture (prayer-a-phrases.) For decades I’ve been studying the Bible at home and in almost every church denomination, but I don’t have the advantage of knowing the original languages in which the Bible was written.

Dr. Eugene Peterson does. Not only did he study Hebrew and Greek, he taught those languages on a university level for several years. In addition, he pastored a church for decades where he brought members of his congregation into the life and heart of the Bible. Once I learned of those qualifications and saw Holy Spirit inspiration in his work, The Message became a totally unexpected favorite.

It’s real. It’s huggable.

Since Lent has now ended in Easter, let’s look at the resurrection story in John 20:19-23 to give you an idea of the language:

“Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, ‘Peace to you.’ Then he showed them his hands and side.

The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: ‘Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.’

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ he said. ‘If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?’”


Good question! Frankly, I’d rather let the forgiveness found in Christ Jesus take care of me and those I need to pardon! Otherwise, I have no good place to stack and store my lack of forgiveness.

The Bible is all about the forgiveness, restoration, and redemption culminating in Christ. To clarify this, my copy of The Message has an article in the back matter on “The Story of the Bible in Five Acts,” which includes Creation, The Fall, Israel, Jesus, and The New People of God.

Another unique feature of this Bible comes in the Introductions, which introduce us to the spirit of the message in each book. Take, for example, this intro to Philippians:

“This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves – the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.”

Then in verses 9-11 of the first chapter, we read:

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that yu will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

May the grace of God be with us to do exactly that!

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer reviewer, appreciates your clicking the ad on each Bible Reviewer post to order the Bible that best suits your present needs.


My copy in premium leather, large print

471681MI: The Message, Large Print Premium Leather, Black  - Imperfectly Imprinted Bibles The Message, Large Print Premium Leather, Black - Imperfectly Imprinted Bibles

By NavPress




genuine leather, large print




April 18, 2017

KJV Thinline Bible, large print, hardback


BookLook Bloggers sent me a copy of the large print KJV Thinline Bible in a colorful green hardback to review, and I really like the sturdy quality, double ribbon markers, words of Christ in red, and especially, the rounded, well-inked 10-point font that the publisher, Thomas Nelson, commissioned for their production of the King James Version of the Bible.

Although this edition does not have all of the books included in the original KJV (aka Apocryphal books), it does include clear, colored maps and "30 Days with Jesus" to take readers through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

As you probably know by now, I prefer quality leather covers for regular reading, but I requested this particular reader edition for several reasons:

• A sturdy hardback works best on the bookshelves in our Fellowship Hall as this won’t flop around like a paperback or get musty as quickly as some leather covers might.

• The easy-to-read font works well for church members who forget their study Bibles and/or their reading glasses.

• The attractive green cover brings to mind Christ as the Vine and we as the branches who have no spiritual life or power apart from Him.

• This thinline edition is easy to carry and makes an excellent choice for reading in a waiting room, on a train or plane, or anywhere you happen to be.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, is a poet-writer, reviewer who welcomes review copies of new editions and translations in 10-point type or larger, reader editions in premium leather, sturdy hardback study Bibles, Bible storybooks, children’s Bibles actually designed for children, and Bible resources such as a Bible dictionary, atlas, or encyclopedia. Send your review copy to Mary Sayler, P.O. Box 62, Lake Como, FL 32157.

KJV Thinline Bible, large print, cloth over board hardback




I review for BookLook Bloggers

March 9, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible

When Zondervan announced the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible (FSB), I wondered if this would be a repackaging of the ever-popular NIV Study Bible or the more recent NIV Zondervan Study Bible, both of which I’ve previously reviewed. However, as I look at the complimentary copy of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible Zondervan kindly sent me to review, I see a new study edition, edited by John D. Barry, whose preface says: “Our ultimate goal is to help you engage with God’s Word – and with God himself.”

With that goal in mind, Editor Barry explains, “we have curated the most relevant data to illuminate the biblical text, from archaeological findings to manuscript research. Historical, cultural and linguistic details help you understand the background of the Bible so you can interpret its significance.” In addition, the FSB “looks at the Bible as a work of literature, explaining how different genres, narrative structures and literary devices shape the text.”

Readers who want to know if the FSB focuses on a particular Christian perspective will be interested to hear that the “FSB stands in the Christian tradition summarized by the ancient Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. It is committed both to the authority of Scripture and to the challenge of wrestling with its full meaning.”

In the article “How To Study The Bible” at the beginning of the book, Douglas Stuart reminds us “There are several different ways to look at any piece of literature.” He then goes on to list “11 such angles, or steps, in the study process,” including a closer look at “the correct meaning of individual words and phrases found in a passage” and “the literary category and the characteristics that make any passage special.” Most important is the application by which readers “Act on what the Bible says.”

Additional articles discuss the formation of both testaments and introduce each book with in-depth information about the background, structure, outline, and themes on which the writer(s) focused. To further aid our understanding of the context, this edition includes timelines, illustrations, charts, maps, and verse-by-verse notes – so many, in fact, that the Bible text may take up only a third of the page!

Although jam-packed with information, this edition is not as bulky or weighty as some, which makes it an excellent choice to carry to a Bible study discussion group for adults of all ages – from teens to elderly readers – and all levels of study – from beginners to long-time students of God’s Word.

In the latter group, I turned to the FSB as I prepared for the mid-week study group I lead. Looking up Mark 6 (our next lesson as we make our way through the New Testament), I saw the most helpful treatment of “Coins of the Gospels” I’ve ever seen. In addition to illustrating the size of the coins commonly used, the notes explained that a silver denarius “was considered a fair day’s pay for a common laborer in the first century” and went on to say that one denarius could buy 15 lbs. of wheat.

Similarly, the information on a silver shekel says: “Minted in Tyre, the shekel and half-shekel were the only coins accepted for the temple tax in Jesus’ time because of the high purity of the silver.” A half-shekel paid an individual’s temple tax for the year, while a whole shekel could buy “A tunic, a liter of olive oil, two 1 lb. loaves of bread, and a half-liter of cheap wine.” By contrast, the widow’s mite (a small bronze lepton) could only pay for “A bath at the public bathhouse.”

The same chapter of Mark my group will be studying this week includes the story of Jesus walking on water. Although very familiar with that event, I’ve often wondered why Jesus intended to pass by the disciples. It just didn’t make sense to me – until now! In explaining “pass by,” the FSB footnote note says: “The same expression appears in the OT when God displays his glory to people,” for instance as recorded in Exodus 33:17-34:8 and 1 Kings 19:11-13.

As you’ll recall, the passage in 1 Kings relays the story of Elijah on the mountain where God passed by – not in the wind or earthquake or fire, but in that still, soft voice that speaks to each of us who want to hear.

And the scriptures in Exodus 33? As God-incidence would have it, that’s the very chapter the Sunday School class I attend will be discussing this week! It's the passage where God passes His glory by Moses -- and us, even now, as we read.

Bible Review by poet-author and lifelong Bible student, Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017


NIV Faithlife Study Bible, hardback



Media link to the FSB



January 26, 2017

NKJV, Notetaking Bible

When I received my complimentary copy of the NKJV, Notetaking Bible, which Holman Bible Publishers kindly sent me to review, I immediately noticed the attractive cover and high quality of construction in this reader edition.

Besides having sewn-in pages to keep the book from falling apart with heavy, long-term use, the bonded leather cover has been stitched over board, sturdying the overall structure and creating a very attractive black and brown book that reminds me of a well-made diary.

I also like the size – 8.5 high by 6.5 inches wide, which works nicely for writing marginal notes, especially since the pages lay flat.

To aid notetaking, double-spaced lines run alongside the single-column text of the New King James Version of the Bible, which happens to be one of my favorite translations. This would also make an excellent journal for jotting down thoughts that come during reading or for noting the date of prayers using the adjacent scriptures.

As a regular reviewer of new editions of the Bible, I’ve received many fine study Bibles over the years, which I frequently refer to in private study or preparation for my Bible study group. When I lead a discussion, however, I like to make my own notes of information I want to share or points I want to remember, which makes a wide-margin or journaling Bible, such as this, ideal.

If the font were 9 points or larger, this notetaking Bible would be my new companion, but, sadly for me, the 8-point type is hard on my eyes. Nevertheless, the font is crisp and well-inked, which should make it work well for most readers and Bible students who want to take notes of helpful info and insights in a discussion group.

Clear maps in the back matter aid Bible discussions, too, as does the concordance, which I appreciate for looking up themes or topics to see what the Bible has to say about a particular subject. Then the double-spaced lines beside the scriptures gives readers a place to respond to and interact with God’s Word.

Review by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017

NKJV, Notetaking Bible





November 10, 2016

Beyond Suffering Bible, NLT


People everywhere are hurting. If you are too, the Beyond Suffering Bible has you in mind.

Published by Tyndale House Publishers, who kindly sent me a complimentary copy to review, the Beyond Suffering Bible emphasizes the hope found in God as presented in the highly readable New Living Translation (NLT.)

In an opening letter from Joni Eareckson Tada of the Internatonal Disability Center, Joni thanks members of the Christian Institute on Disability (CID) team “who have worked diligently” to bring “a Bible that speaks directly to the hardship of handicapping conditions.” In addition “It showcases the righteousness and mercy of God on behalf of those who struggle under the weight of illness, poverty, and injustice.”

Suffering in silence has often been a common condition for many people with chronic pain or worry, but suffering with dignity, purpose, and prayer deepens a person’s spiritual life and relationship with the Lord.

More than any analgesic, relief comes in applying God’s Word as an ointment, and this edition shows you how. With “A Word from Joni,” devotionals, and articles for caretakers and people with disabilities, disadvantages, or pain, this Bible emphasizes the comfort God brings and also provides resources on the theology of suffering and sanctity of life.

Besides helping readers to connect God’s Word to their daily lives, the edition provides Book Introductions, Profiles, and helpful reading plans.

As those of us with good fortune and minimal pain read the articles and devotionals, we just might find our awareness increasing and compassion needing the relief of prayer and a commitment to help others in Jesus’ Name.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer

Beyond Suffering Bible, NLT, paperback



September 17, 2016

Holman NKJV Giant Print Reference Bible


Almost everyone in the last few Bible study groups I’ve led or attended has needed reading glasses, but with the small fonts many Bible publishers now use as standard, a lot of squinting is going on!

Thankfully, Holman Bible Publishers has just released a giant print edition of the New King James Version (NKJV) in a very readable 14-point font on good quality paper. Even better, Holman kindly sent me a copy for review.

In addition to offering one of my favorite translations, this Bible includes color maps, a concise concordance, and one-year Bible reading plan.

You’ll also find a couple of unique features: Instead of the usual thumbnail-shaped index tabs, this edition has squared out corners, which I suspect will keep their shape longer. This does make the book names a bit harder to see, but if you hold the Bible in your hand and let the pages drape down, you can read the tabs readily.

This edition drapes nicely in the hand – as genuine leather is apt to do. But when I first took the Bible from its sturdy box, I wrinkled my nose at the slight chemical odor that overcame the expected smell of genuine leather.

The cover feels as though it has a light coating. And yet, that feature, stitched edging, flexible leather, and a sewn spine make me think this well-made edition is meant to last for years.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer

Holman NKJV Giant Print Reference Bible, Leather, indexed



August 29, 2016

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

If you time-traveled 4,000 years into the past, how would you explain cameras, movies, telephones, moon landings, race cars, popsicles, or even the idea of voting for the leaders of a country? How hard would it be to explain our mechanized, technologically-minded culture to a people who speak another language, travel by donkey, and live in a rural environment with no electricity or easily accessible water? Reverse this situation, and you’ll see why the new NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, which Zondervan kindly sent me to review, is such an excellent idea for helping us to “be there” in Bible days.

As the “Author Introduction” explains:

1. “We study the history of the Bible world as a means of recovering knowledge of the events that shaped the lives of people in the ancient world.
2. We study
archaeology as a means of recovering the lifestyle reflected in the material culture of the ancient world.
3. We study the
literature of the ancient world as a means of penetrating the heart and soul of the people who inhabited that world.”

In the front matter of this edition, “Major Background Issues From The Ancient Near East” offers a sweeping view of the prevalent beliefs during Bible times. For instance, under “Creation and Order,” we’re made aware that, “In the ancient world people were much more inclined to think of creation not so much as manufacturing the material cosmos, but of establishing order in the cosmos and making it function with a particular purpose in mind.”

The sidebar “Creation And Existence” develops this idea by saying: “…in the ancient world something existed when it had a function – a role to play.” For example, we read in Genesis 2:5, “there was no one to work the ground,” but, as Genesis 2:7 tells us, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being,” NIV.

Genesis 2:8 goes on to say, “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed,” showing how God prepared everything we need before we existed then initiated work for us to be caretakers of creation. Working with God and nature became a privilege and an honor.

Throughout this edition, footnotes, sidebars, photographs, and maps keep us immersed in each biblical era, making familiar stories come to life. For example, those of whose who grew up in a church, most likely learned the song lyrics, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” which came about from the Bible story told in Genesis 28.

As the story goes, Jacob had left his home to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, go to his mother’s native land, and find a wife. After stopping that first night, “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac’,” Genesis 28:12-13, NIV.

The sidebar “Stairway To Heaven” offers an interesting cultural insight into Genesis 28 by referring to “the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia, which were built to provide the stairway for the gods to come down and be worshiped in their temples. Jacob did not see a ziggurat, but the stairway portal between heaven and earth that ziggurats were designed to provide.”

As the sidebar further explains: “There is a continuum in space between the heavenly dwelling and the earthly one such that they are not simply considered mirror images or paired structures, but in the sense that they are more like the upstairs and downstairs of the same building. Yet it is even more than that as the earthly temple can be thought of as actually exisiting in the heavenly realm.” Therefore, “We should not imagine that the angels Jacob saw were marching in procession down and up the stairway as often pictured in art. Rather he saw messengers (= angels) going off on missions and returning from delivering their messages.”

How much more sense this makes than images of angels holding a ladder to a heavenly loft for no apparent purpose than to show they had the right-of-way!

My only regret is the difficulty I had in reading that and other insightful notes because of the light ink in the thin font the publisher often uses. Nevertheless, I plan to refer regularly to this excellent resource in researching Bible background for my books or study group.

If you want to know more about this new study edition of the New International Version, visit Zondervan’s site. Or, if you’re eager to get your copy, I highly recommend the hardcover edition shown below as it’s ideal for keeping handy on a desk.

Those of you who have been following the reviews posted on this blog (thank you!) know how much I prefer fine leather as I’m reading, not only because of the durability but because such editions are pleasant to hold on my lap as I curl up in my favorite chair. However, this and other hefty editions work best as desk copies for reference, rather than straight reading, because of the weight and bulk. Also, the hardcover copy I received for review rests flat on my desktop, even if opened only to the first page. In addition, its very thickness makes this a “stand-up” edition with no need for bookends but a Bible that’s readily available to grab, open, and reveal God’s Word in its original context.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016, poet-writer reviewer


NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, hardcover



NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, bonded leather



May 9, 2016

Slimline Bibles for youth, NLT


One of my favorite renderings of the Bible into English is the New Living Translation (NLT) because of its contemporary language, poetic flow, and ease of use in discussions when others have different translations.

Since I also recommend the NLT as an excellent choice for youth in mainline denominations, I requested the Girls Slimline Bible, NLT, from Tyndale House Publishers, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

I chose the girls’ edition rather than the Guys Slimline Bible, NLT, because of the bright cover covered by the word, “Love,” which also covers us and a multitude of sins. If, however, you want to give a copy to a boy, just remove the packaging on this edition or consider the one shown below.

Regardless, the back matter in these editions will help young people in a youth discussion group or Sunday School class. For example, the back pages include:

• Dictionary/Concordance
• Great Chapters of the Bible
• Great Verses of the Bible to Memorize
• 365-Day Reading Plan
• Colorful Maps

Another blessed help can be found inside the front cover, which has Ephesians 3:12 printed in large caps:

Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”

Amen!

Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer


Girls Slimline Bible, NLT



Guys Slimline Bible, NLT



April 15, 2016

Your Bible notes as heirloom


Some time ago, I posted a review of one of my most literal and beautifully produced leather Bibles in the “NASB wide-margin Bible in goatskin” – a Cambridge University Press edition now covered in a sturdy split-calf leather that’s shown on the review since Amazon no longer carries my particular goatskin edition.

Meanwhile, my copy has become my cache for thoughts that come as I read and insights that arise in my Bible study group at church. Studying for that discussion of God’s word, I also find interesting notes and comments that put a passage into its intended context while showing the Bible’s relevancy today. So, I pencil (never ink!) those notes into the wide margins.

Since I’ve been doing this for several years, most of the pages have some type of response to the scriptures read. Therefore, I began taking that Bible to my study group, instead of carrying one or more of my typically heavy study Bibles. Not only is this less cumbersome, but I can add new comments during our discussion and also have my own notes ready to share.

Recently, however, some changes occurred: 1.) I now have trouble seeing type smaller than 11 points, and this lovely edition has only around an 8-point font. 2.) The NASB (New American Standard Bible) has been updated. 3.) I'm praying my children will want to read my personal responses to God’s word. 4.) I have more than one child!

When I began an Internet search for a large print leather Bible with sewn pages and wide margins, I found that few existed. I also realized that most contemporary editions of the Bible will continue to be updated, often losing a precise word by substituting a fresh phrase that readers today will understand. But what about readers tomorrow?

As God-incidence would have it, the only 11-point font I found in a leather-covered Bible with wide margins is the King James Version (KJV) published by Hendrickson Bibles – a perfect choice for now and, hopefully, for ages to come!

Since I also plan to use this edition in my Bible study group, I welcome such “Special Features” as a concordance and color maps. In addition, the back matter includes:

Key Bible Promises
Harmony of the Gospels
Miracles of the Old Testament
Parables of the Old Testament
Miracles of the New Testament
Parables of the New Testament
Old Testament Prophecies of the Passion


Although I wish the cover were split cowhide, this genuine leather is supple and sturdy with sewn pages to last a lifetime and, Lord willing, long beyond.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, lifelong Bible lover, Bible reviewer, and blogger for The Word Center and Praise Poems, © 2016

KJV wide margin large print Bible, genuine leather cover, sewn pages




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 16, 2016

The Word Center: centered on words and The Word



After a few years of trying to maintain several blogs with regular posts on Blogger, I saw a need to simplify! So a new umbrella blog has been set up for The Word Center on WordPress.

Lord willing, the blog will include Bible prayers, Bible poetry, devotionals, articles on writing, biblical principles of Christian healing, and reviews of new editions or translations of the Bible.

If you're a worker of words or a minister of The Word, I pray you will Follow the blog and find what you need. If not, please leave a question, helpful comment, or suggestion for future posts.

Thanks and blessings.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

...

January 2, 2016

Start the New Year with the King James Study Bible


Christians from almost every church denomination have loved the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) for centuries. Our hearts beat to its iambic rhythms. Our breath holds its pentameter when we read the words aloud, and when we memorize a favorite verse or passage of scripture, the KJV is the default setting we often seek for familiarity and a lift of poetic beauty.

The vocabulary in the KJV inevitably lifts us too! Translated in the time of Shakespeare, one can readily speculate on the identities of the members of the translation committee, but regardless of who helped, the English language itself was still in the making, which contributed to the KJV as surely as the KJV has influenced poetry and the English vocabulary ever since. Thus, hence, and therefore, every English-speaking poet, writer, and all-around Christian doth well to hath a KJV.

The vital next step, though, is reading it! And here’s where many have fallen away, thinking they’ll never get what it says. True, you will find most contemporary versions to be an easier read. Without the fullness of vocabulary, though, readers may miss the deeper meanings subtly packed into a Bible verse or story.

So, what’s the solution? If you want it all, the Holman KJV Study Bible has it.

The full-page color illustrations, photographs, and maps ground you in Bible times, places, and original intent, while a “King’s English” glossary defines words that might otherwise be unclear.

With the same outstanding features found in the award-winning Holman Christian Study Bible that I previously reviewed, this edition is one to turn to for in-depth study, Bible research, and the pure joy of reading God’s Word, silently or aloud.

As the only full-color KJV study Bible out there, you can expect to use this edition for many years, so a genuine leather cover makes a wise choice. But, since Holman Bible Publishers kindly sent me a free copy to review, I didn’t have that option. In case that’s your preference, too, I’ll include a link below to the leather, indexed option I normally consider the ideal. However, my review copy of the Holman’s LeatherTouch™ far exceeded my poor expectations for imitation leather. In other words, I like it!

The LeatherTouch™ feels sturdy yet silken to the fingertips. More importantly, unlike every other “fake leather” cover I’ve received, this one lays wide open on my desk or one my lap – the place this excellent edition is very likely to be.


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


Holman KJV Study Bible, leathertouch



Holman KJV Study Bible, genuine leather, indexed





November 4, 2015

My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word


Instead of a Bible storybook, The My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word by Jon Nappa brings, as the sturdy cover states, “Guidance for 40 real life situations” that children six to ten are likely to encounter.

Published by NavPress, who kindly sent me a free copy for my review, this hardback book has slick pages, colorful artwork, and a lively layout to encourage children to interact with God’s Word.

Although the book includes verses from The Message in each section, the Introduction tells young readers, “…we want you to use this book with your Bible. This book will show you how to find help in your Bible for lots of the things you’ll deal with as you grow up. It’ll help you figure out what some grown-up words mean too,” particularly through the kid-friendly concordance and dictionary within the pages.

For example, the two-page Concordance shows topics such as these:

When I’m Discouraged
When I Feel Sad
When I Say Things I Shouldn’t
When I Get Really Mad
When I Get Stressed
When I’m Afraid
When I Don’t Want to Help Others
When I Make Excuses
When I Don’t Know What to Do


Besides addressing very real situations faced by most children of elementary school age, a two-page layout for each topic provides “Bible Help for Daily Experiences.”

For example, the double-page spread for “When I Don’t Want to Obey,” asks “Are you trying to be the boss?” followed by a brief discussion then closing with the Bible verse in Deuteronomy 7:9, “It’s good to obey God.”

Various perspectives presented in colorful columns help children to get real with themselves about themselves before going to the adjacent page where they’re asked to look up a key verse in the Bible then write what they think it said in the lined spaces provided.

Similar interactions are encouraged in the Bible Dictionary portion of the book where readers learn more about abstract ideas and words they hear at home, church, or school but don’t always have explained to them! Some of these discuss:

What The Bible Is All About
What Character Is All About
What Church Is All About
What Courage Is All About
What Eternal Life Is All About
What Friendship Is All About
What Trust Is All About
What Truth Is All About

For example, the Bible Dictionary page on “What Forgiveness Is All About,” explains it like this:

“Has someone ever owned you something? When you forgive, it’s like saying that person doesn’t owe you anything anymore. You don’t hold anything against them. God gives us forgiveness and doesn’t ask for anything in return. It’s free. All you have to do is ask for it. You can give forgiveness to others too.”

The text then headlines, “Look at what the Bible has to say about forgiveness,” with several Bible verses followed by these suggestions:

“Get a pencil and a piece of paper. Write down the things you’d like God to forgive you for. They can be little or big things. Then talk to God and ask him to forgive you. Erase each of the things on your list. That’s what God does when you ask for forgiveness.”

What a blessing for children and people of all ages to know: God does not use permanent markers against us!


©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts. Recently she began writing and posting Praise Poems.


The My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word, hardback




August 14, 2015

The Literary Study Bible, ESV


Since I’ve had the privilege of receiving many review copies of new translations or editions of the Bible, I’ve discovered that each one has something unique to offer. Occasionally though, I see one not available for review that interests me anyway as did The Literary Study Bible, ESV, edited by Leland Ryken and Philip Graham Ryken and published by Crossway Bibles.

This hardback edition intrigued me because of its title and editors. As a Christian poet and writer, I’ve noticed and appreciated the Bible as literature and wanted to know more. So, over the years, I’ve purchased several books by Leland Ryken, an English professor at Wheaton College, who has written over 25 books such as A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible.

As the “Editors’ Preface” tells us, “We need to pay attention to the how of a Bible passage as preliminary to understanding what is said.” With this unique approach, “The commentary in this book is designed to draw readers into interaction with the biblical text instead of merely providing information about the Bible.”

In the “Introduction” we learn, “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.”

We read the Psalms, for example, as we might any poem or prayer and put ourselves into that moment as though it were our own. This personalizes God’s word for us, which we can embrace even more fully because the Bible does not try to cover up the flaws or gross sins of its heroes but shows them to be vulnerable, fearful, courageous, and filled with faith that occasionally wavers. Jesus Christ alone is the exception as He alone embodies the perfection of our Holy God.

And so, we “begin a literary analysis of the Bible exactly where all study of the Bible should begin by accepting as true all the biblical writers say about the Bible (its inspiration by God, its reliability, its complete truthfulness, etc.).”

Inspired by God, “The writers of the Bible refer with technical precision to a whole range of literary genres in which they write – proverb, saying, chronicle, complaint (lament psalm), oracle, apocalypse, parable, song, epistle, and many other” with poetry abounding throughout. Indeed, the Bible begins with poetry, poetic stories, histories, and origins of creation and our covenant relationship with God, which continues throughout our lives and throughout the Bible.

In Revelation then, we find epistles, prophecy, narration, drama, symbolism, and other poetic devices such as imagery, metaphor, simile, and allusion. In case those or other literary terms are unfamiliar to readers, the editors have included a “Glossary of Literary Terms and Genres” in the back of this book, which I highly recommend for poets, writers, and anyone interested in embracing and better understanding God’s word.


©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, a lifelong student of the Bible, is a freelance and assignment writer, who especially likes to write Bible-based poems and manuscripts.


The Literary Study Bible, ESV, hardback



August 7, 2015

The NET Bible

Unless you use the KJV (King James Version) of the Bible in the public domain, you can only quote X number of scriptures on your blog or in your book without gaining permission from the publisher. This can become problematic for sites who post a great deal of scripture, as happened with Bible.org.

To overcome this problem, Bible.org produced an entirely new translation called The NET, which can be quoted at great length without special permission. That does not mean you can copy the whole text, but if you’re, say, writing a devotional or other book relying on long passages or numerous scripture, you needn’t worry about profusely quoting The NET.

As the Introduction states: “The NET Bible was created to be the first major modern English translation available free on the Internet for download and use in Bible studies and other teaching materials so that the opportunities provided by the Internet could be maximized.”

Not only are those downloads available through the website, but so are almost 61,000 notes by the translators! Those notes can help us to understand variations of biblical interpretations among Christian denominations, which I see as a good and healing thing. i.e., The more we know the mindset of our brothers and sisters in Christ, the more empathetic, accepting, and embracing we might be. Such a response to one another is vital to the Body of Christ if we’re to stand together, healed and empowered to minister God’s love and forgiveness to one another and to a wounded world.

With so many translations of the Bible, “proof texts” might be easy to find to prove one's personal bias. However, a new and unfamiliar to us translation can help to bring us together again – not so we’ll all think or worship exactly alike, but so we’ll be respectful of one another and become a living testimony to the power of God’s love and Holy Spirit, Who enables diverse peoples to get along!

To become familiar with The NET and its fresh wording, I got a reader’s edition with almost no notes to hinder my reading the text straight through within a few weeks. Then, to avoid spending more time at my computer, I ordered the full edition with all 60,932 notes by the translators and editors in a print copy.

Besides those notes and the heft added, the full edition presently comes in a “premium bonded leather,” which is okay but not the real thing. That study copy also came with an odor, which thankfully evaporated within a few hours. Conversely, the genuine, top grain leather of the reader’s edition has a sturdy, supple feel, which I like with thin but smooth pages and a very readable font.

An unusual feature in both editions is having the chapter and verse numbers for each verse together and in a boldface font, which makes it easier to find the scripture you’re looking for in a Bible study group.

Also, both editions are Smyth sewn, which makes for a longer lasting binding than glued-in pages. However, the user maps in the back are so thick they’ve already separated that section in my reader edition.

About those maps: As fitting for this edition, the maps are also highly unusual. Instead of the typical colored ink drawings we’ve come to expect, these are satellite images that show the terrain of Bible lands such as Galilee and the hills of Samaria.

The freshest feature, though is that the full edition shows the thought processes that occur and countless decisions that must be made in translating the Bible into English. Unlike my usage of other study Bibles, I doubt that I’ll read the full edition straight through because that would be overwhelming! However, I suspect the full edition will become a favorite when I’m researching scriptures for a new book, poem, or Bible study.

I would show you what I mean here, but the notes typically include words in Greek or Hebrew, which I’m not technologically-minded enough to figure out how to type. So I recommend you look at the website, visit the notes, see if this edition will serve you well, then come back here to click one of the ads below. (Thanks!) Although most of the Bibles I review come to me as free review copies, I bought these and get a small percentage of each purchase.

If you enjoy reading and studying via the Internet, you might prefer the reader’s edition, which I like and have also shown below. To give you an idea of the clarity in this translation, here’s The NET version of a familiar Psalm:

23 The LORD is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
23:2 He takes me to lush pastures,
he leads me to refreshing water.
23:3 He restores my strength.
He leads me down the right paths
for the sake of his reputation.
23:4 Even when I must walk through
the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff reassure me.
23:5 You prepare a feast before me
in plain sight of my enemies.
You refresh my head with oil;
my cup is completely full.
23:6 Surely your goodness and faithful-
ness will pursue me all my days,
and I will live in the LORD’s house for
the rest of my life.



© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 27 books in all genres, including two poetry books: the Bible-basedOutside Eden and the environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.


The NET, premium bonded leather, Tuscany (brown)


The NET, premium bonded leather, burgundy



The NET, reader edition, genuine top grain leather, black




April 2, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible

When I received my review copy of the NIV Proclamation Bible from BookLook Bloggers, the attractive book jacket made me bristle! I later discovered that some reviewers objected to the quotation at the top of the cover where the well-respected Rev. Timothy Keller says, “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.”

Interestingly, the classic and highly acclaimed NIV Study Bible – also from Zondervan – is done as well as any study Bible from any publisher anywhere because of balanced, intuitive footnotes that answer the very questions I look to the bottom of the page to resolve. But, none of this had anything to do with what made me so reactive! What I objected to was the bold declaration in all caps directly below the title:

CORRECTLY HANDLING
THE WORD OF TRUTH

As a long-time writer for Christian and educational markets, my timbers shiver at such a statement. No matter how much we research or how much we know or how inclusive we aim to be, we just might miss something. Therefore, the very best of intentions, which I’m certain Zondervan has, does not necessarily guarantee success in “correctly handling” anything!

Having noted that objection, I removed the attractive book jacket and discovered a nice navy hardback beneath. So, even if company nail biting results in cost biting, I recommend redesigning the jacket or at least taking off this particular jacket in the present heat!

Immediately below the afore-mentioned capital letters, a modest note quietly announces in smaller caps, “With Cross-References And Concordance.” Paradoxically, that concordance includes far more entries than I have found in most Bibles published by most companies, so this addition alone gives a good aid for study.

Other additions add to this edition’s usefulness for group or private study, but my favorite is the attention given to the “melodic line,” a term I previously equated only with poetry. in this context, however, the phrase refers to “the overarching coherence of a particular book,” (italics, theirs.) “Therefore,” the idea involves “thinking in terms of identifying ‘the melodic line’ of a Bible book (as) an encouragement to us to see how the key themes and purposes of a book develop at its argument or narrative unfolds.”

As the article goes on to say, “Very often the key to finding some specific thing is to ask the right questions.” For example, “Why does the writer say the things he does? Why does he express himself in the way he does? Why is the book put together in the way it is? What is the overall purpose of this book? What impact was the writer intending to have on his readers/ hearers? What was he communicating to them? What overall purpose is served by each of the different elements of which the books is comprised?” Such attentive probing will surely result in well-researched sermons, books, poems, church curriculum, and other writings.

The next article, “From Text To Doctrine: The Bible And Theology,” reminds us that, as Christians and students of the Bible, we’re automatically theologians. This means we not only need to know what the Bible says and how we respond to that information, but “We must also be aware of our subculture or tribe, which brings its own set of values and practices into our lives.” Most of us realize that our culture influences us in various ways. More than this, “Our cultures not only shape us as individuals, but also shape our churches, our patterns of relating, and our shared values.”

In the article, “From Text To Life: Applying The Old Testament,” we consider how, “The more we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the wonderful teaching of the Old Testament, the more we shall revel in the glories of Christ to whom it all points.” And, as we consider how to apply the New Testament to our lives and churches, we’re reminded of the cultural changes which continue to occur.

“From Text To Sermon: Preaching The Bible” emphasizes the importance of “Getting the text right” and paying attention to the context. Identifying the literary genre (poetry, narrative, historical highlight, etc.) and the primary theme and purpose of each book are crucial considerations, too, as we aim to handle God’s Word correctly – which brings me back to my first reaction but now with a willingness to revise and respond to say:

The questions and pointers in this edition can help us – as readers, pastors, poets, Bible teachers, and other communicators for Christ – to handle the Word of Truth as correctly as possible, despite tendencies to react (okay, overreact) and interpret information through our own expectations, interpretations, or bias.

Just as I was starting to feel somewhat sage for (finally!) realizing the study aids in this edition are intended to help us – you and me and other readers – to handle the Word of Truth correctly as we speak, preach, or write in Jesus’ Name, I flipped to the “Editor’s Preface,” which I’d obviously skipped earlier, and saw the very first sentence, which says: “The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to do his best ‘to present [himself] to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the world of truth’ [2 Tim. 2:15].”

Oh, Lord! Sometimes it’s hard to see the truth, much less handle it! But thankfully, You send us lots of help!


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


NIV Proclamation Bible, hardcover





I review for BookLook Bloggers