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

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



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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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January 7, 2019

NKJV Premier Collection


As a Bible reviewer on this blog for a while now, I regularly receive free copies of new editions, which keeps me surrounded by God's Word - literally!

I love these versatile voices and choices in translations, each of which says the same truths but in a unique way that helps us to see different aspects of scripture we might not otherwise notice.  Nevertheless, I have continued to look for THE Bible that suits my particular needs and preferences, and so I bought the NKJV (New King James Version) single-column reference Bible from Thomas Nelson’s “Premier Collection.”

Since I use my favorite Bibles a lot, my needs and preferences include:  at least a 10-point font to ease eye strain; a poetic translation that's easy to understand but also known for its accuracy; and an edition that shows the publisher's  respectful handling of the Bible through such features as Smyth-sewn pages of good quality paper, bound in a soft, flexible, yummy-to-the-touch premium leather. 

As a Bible discussion leader in our Christian community, I also value the addition of references showing alternate translations of a word or phrase and, especially, showing the dialogue in God’s Word between the prophets and the Person of Jesus as prophecy after prophecy is fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection. And, because of the placement of the biblical references alongside the single-column text, I now have room  in this edition for my own conversations  with God’s Word as I write down the prayers and insights the Lord inevitably brings to me - and to those who ask.

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


September 28, 2018

ESV Story of Redemption Bible


Those of us who love reading the Bible and learning more about God’s Word most likely enjoy having a variety of study editions to add light and insight to our readings. If that’s the case for you, the Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God from Crossway might be one you’ll want to add to your collection.

Since the publisher kindly sent me a review copy this week, I’ve had a chance to skim through, but not read the entire book. My first impression, however, is that this edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) will be most helpful to new Christians, young people, or readers new to the Bible. For example, the Introduction says:

“The goal for the ESV Story of Redemption Bible is to allow the reader to see the majesty and beauty of the Bible. May this resource launch the reader into a lifetime of reading, cherishing, learning from, and better understanding the Scripture. Our hope is that the reader will increasingly stand in awe at what God has done to save humanity from its sin. Most of all, we pray that the reader will come away with an understanding of how Jesus Christ stands at the center and pinnacle not just of the Bible’s storyline but of human history itself.”

The Preface then goes on to discuss translating the Bible from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages into English and to explain the decisions translators must make to use a “thought-for-thought” method or “word-for-word” (as the ESV aims to do) or something in between.

With almost 900 notes from pastor Greg Gilbert scattered throughout this edition, readers get an introduction to each book such as this one prefacing Genesis:

“The whole history of the universe begins right here in the book known as Genesis.The word genesis literally means ‘origin’ or ‘beginning,’ and that is exactly what this book describes – the beginning of everything.”


Other notes, however, offer background information not obvious in the text. For example, a note in Psalms says:

“Psalm 72 is the only psalm attributed to Solomon, and it is doubtlessly placed here at the end of Book Two for a reason. Throughout this section, David’s cries for divine help have focused a bit less on his own personal distress and more on the nation’s need for God’s deliverance. Further, it has become clearer and clearer that the ideal of God’s king worshiping in God’s temple in the center of God’s city would finally be realized through God’s reign over Israel. Psalm 72 represents, without doubt, the high point of that vision…”

Other features include an attractive and reasonably readable 9.25-point font, a single column format, and over 80 new maps and timelines designed by illustrator Peter Voth. In addition, a “Story of Redemption” foldout in the back of the book produces a timeline that’s helpful but a little hard to follow as it seems to read up and down, rather than linear.

Also, the “Intertestamental Period” between 400 and 5 B.C. is labeled as “400 years of silence” – an assumption many will be likely to protest if they find any spiritual value whatsoever in the “Apocryphal” (aka deuterocanonical) books written primarily in Greek during those particular years.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer


ESV Story of Redemption Bible, hardback




July 30, 2018

God’s Word: The Apocrypha


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Or Chapter 4:20 & 21:

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


Or Chapter 10:11:

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

Amen!

Mary Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Word: The Apocrypha





June 23, 2018

God’s Word: The Bible in clear, natural English


Translated directly from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, GOD’S WORD Translation Large Print Bible: The Bible in Clear, Natural English comes to us as CNE:

Clear, Natural English

and

Closest Natural Equivalent


Even the title of this translation is clear, natural, and the closest equivalent to the anthology of books we call the Bible -- God’s Word (GW.)

To produce the fresh, reliable, relevant translation aimed for, biblical scholars and reviewers followed these guidelines established by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society:

“The first consideration for the translators of GW was to find equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text, ensuring that the translation is faithful to the meaning of the source text. The next consideration was readability; the meaning expressed in natural English by using common English punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and vocabulary. The third consideration was to choose the natural equivalent that most closely reflects the style of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text.”


What more could we ask?

And yet, there is more! Not only does this quality paperback use a 12-point font that aids our eyes and understanding, the single-column format provides the natural flow of text with which we’re familiar as we read any book in English. Chapter headings and sub-headings then help us to locate a passage easily and keep our place as we read privately or study with a discussion group. The book lays flat when opened too.

Free of distracting footnotes, the “Bible Study Helps” in the back of this reader edition offer such unique features as an A to Z topical guide with scriptural references on “The Teachings of Jesus” followed by an “Application Index” of Bible verses and the topics to which they refer.

But it’s the translation itself I love and appreciate. For example, Jeremiah 17:14-15 says:

“Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed.
Rescue me, and I will be rescued.
You are the one I praise.
People keep asking me,
‘Where is the LORD’s word?’
Let it come’.”


Yes! Let it come! And, as it does, may we truly listen and readily understand what God is saying to us.

Mary Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Word: The Bible in clear, natural English, paperback




May 3, 2018

God’s Book of Proverbs


God’s Book of Proverbs,
which LifeWay Christian Resources kindly sent me to review, provides “Biblical Wisdom Arranged by Topic” in order to “give you God’s guidance in matters related to everyday life.”

Using biblical text from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) published by Holman, the book groups topics alphabetically in the Table of Contents followed by headings ranging from “Anger,” “Beauty,” “Calamity” to “Wealth,” “Wickedness,” “Wisdom,” and “Wonder.”

Slightly larger than a typical paperback, this cloth-covered hardback edition makes an attractive, nicely sized book to give as a gift and/or keep in a purse or side pocket of a car, which is where my copy will most likely reside after this review, so I’ll have insightful, meditative-type reading material handy whenever I’ll be in a waiting room or any waiting mode.

To give you a few examples, I turned to “Discernment,” which lists 16 Proverbs such as:

The one who understands a matter finds success,
and the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy
.”
Proverbs 16:20

Counsel in a person’s heart is deep water,
but a person of understanding draws it out
.”
Proverbs 20:5

Under “Guidance,” you’ll find 43 Proverbs to guide your decisions, while “Happiness” has a couple of pages with such insights as:

Bright eyes cheer the heart;
good new strengthens the bones
.”
Proverbs 15:30

"The one who understands a matter finds success,
and the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy
.”
Proverbs 16:20

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones
.”
Proverbs 17:22

Those verses might especially speak to people with achy joints, arthritis, or aging bones! However, all of us can deepen our trust in the LORD with prayer, praise, regular Bible study, and these faith-building Proverbs that not only show us how God can be trusted, but that God knows our human nature and our spiritual needs.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Book of Proverbs, hardback




March 5, 2018

The #Bible: Reading is Believing


God's love seems like an abstract concept, but reading the Bible makes it real. Through God’s Word to us, we can feel the Holy Presence with us. We can discover the way to love God, other people, and ourselves. We can learn what true love is and how we can become part of that Eternal Life of Love.

As we read the whole Bible, cover to cover, we can also see how the Law, Prophets, and Wisdom books point to Christ. Jesus Himself confirms this when “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” Luke 24:27, New American Standard Bible (NASB.)

In Luke 24:44-46, the risen Christ also said, “'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

If we don't understand what we're reading or we feel confused about the character, will, and purposes of God, we can pray for the Lord to guide us and give us insight. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” Romans 15:4 (NASB.)

In an encouraging letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, “you have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:15-17, New Living Translation (NLT.)

Another word on the Word comes in Psalm 119, which I encourage you to read in the many translations presented by Bible Gateway. Or read my favorite renderings of Psalm 119, also found on Bible Gateway.

Comparing various translations will let you know which ones you prefer. If you don’t have a copy of that particular one, type the name of the translation into the Search box on this page to read reviews of Bibles translated from the original languages into your favorite English version.

May the Lord continue to bless your continual reading of God's Word.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

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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 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 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


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