February 12, 2015
What a blessing to receive review copies of a variety of Bible resources! Three Christian publishers sent new releases for me to review without knowing I would have one from a Protestant book publisher, one from a Catholic book publisher, and one from an Evangelical press at the same time – an ecumenical delight!
First, Saint Mary’s Press kindly sent a review copy of Living in Christ: The Bible, The Living Word of God by Robert Rabe, Editor Steven McGlaun, and a publishing team, who obtained church approval as shown by the nihil obstat and imprimatur.
This sturdy paperback with slick photos and an eye-appealing layout offers an excellent resource for Christians from most denominational backgrounds. However, avid Bible readers might be confused by the Section 1 title “Revelation” since this does not refer to the book of Revelation but rather the revelation God gave biblical authors. More importantly, that opening title addresses God’s revelation of Himself through creation, love, Holy Scripture, salvation history, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Section 2 briefly overviews how the Bible came to us in many literary forms, from poetry and prophecy to parables, making this all-time best-seller a masterpiece of literature. The Bible has far more than literary genius, though, as “The Old Testament is our compass, pointing us in one direction and one direction only – on the pathway to Jesus Christ.”
Following a series of articles on Hebrew scriptures, the section on the New Testament says, “The four Gospels are the very heart of the Scriptures. The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John herald the Good News that God came to earth to fulfill the promises made to our ancestors, to form a Covenant with all people, and to overcome the slavery of sin and the darkness of death. They are our primary source for all that was revealed in the life and teachings of our Savior and Messiah.” However, “The Gospels are not identical. Each (Gospel) presents Jesus’ life and teachings from a different perspective. Yet in harmony and without error, they announce the truth that Jesus is the one and only way to the Father.” Amen!
This highly recommended book goes on to offer a look at other books in the New Testament and also to provide insights into “The Liturgy of the Hours,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Scriptures and the Rules of the Saints,” offering further help for the Christian life such as the Lectio Divina (praying with scripture.)
In addition to that review copy from a Catholic publisher, I received a copy of The A To Z Guide To Bible Signs & Symbols: Understanding Their Meaning and Significance from Baker Books, a well-established Evangelical press. Written by Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor, this high-quality slick paperback includes color photographs, key verses, and sidebars relevant to the topic.
Each entry covers two pages, which provides consistency in the layout but doesn’t allow space for the coverage required for in-depth research. Nevertheless, the easy-to-read text and eye-appealing pages give readers a helpful overview of topics ranging from Altar to Zion.
For example, the entry for “Bride” has a subheading on the Church as the Bride of Christ, which says, “The lovely picture of a faithful bride and wife is picked up by both Paul and John in the New Testament to symbolize the relationship God wants to have through Christ with all those who make up the church. Believers have been bought with the bride-price of Christ’s blood and are now wooed by his love.”
The key verse for that entry comes from Isaiah 61:10. Then a sidebar reminds us that “Christ Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse. She often wanders from Him, and grieves Him – but He does not allow her faults to affect His love.”
For another example, the entry for “Fire” says that “Fire figures into the Bible in numerous ways – in daily life, religious ceremony, and as an instrument of warfare.” Also, “Fire is pictured as a purifying agent in people’s lives” as in refining gold and silver or in illustrating God’s judgment. Although I saw no mention of the tongues of fire that occurred at Pentecost (nor is there an entry for “Pentecost), the text under the subheading “Holy Fire” reminds us that “For biblical authors, the theophany of fire portrayed God’s power, holiness, and protection over his people.”
The third review copy I received came from Concordia Publishing in a nice reddish-brown pseudo-suede cover with cream-colored pages, a red marker ribbon, and an easy-to-read font. As the Preface tells us, the “Concordia Psalter intends to engage all Christians in singing the psalmody of the Church.” To enable readers to do that, “The tones are carefully selected to match the character of the psalm text…. Generally, only one tone is to be used with a psalm, but many of the tones are paired with complementary tones that can be used for singing longer psalms by switching tones somewhere during the course of the psalm.”
More importantly, these “Old Testament Psalms not only permit us to see Christ in them, but they also require it. Resurrection, eternity, a universal kingdom, forgiveness, even grace and blessing – each ultimately has its home and fulfillment in Jesus Christ,” Who embodies God’s Word.
With scriptures from the English Standard Version (ESV), the page for the 23rd Psalm begins with a musical notation followed by the Psalm and a prayer: “Lord Jesus, who alone is that one Good Shepherd, thanks be unto You for all Your spiritual and bodily benefits. Let the Word of Your salvation dwell among us richly, and suffer not that trusty staff, the Word of Your promise, to be taken from us.”
For another example, my favorite Psalm 103 includes two tones, the ESV text, and this prayer:
“Father of light, we praise You because You forgive iniquity and do not reward us according to our sins. What You promised to the fathers You have fulfilled in Your Son. As the east and the west can never come together, so remove our sins far from us, that they can be accounted to us no more, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.”
©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.
Concordia Psalter, suede-like cover
The A To Z Guide To Bible Signs & Symbols, paperback
Living in Christ: The Bible, The Living Word of God, paperback
July 8, 2014
We’ve talked about the Psalms before in The One Year Book of Psalms, a daily devotional from Tyndale, highly recommended for individual use. Recently, Crossway sent me review copies of the Psalms: A 12-Week Study and also The Wisdom of God, a 10-week study which includes 5 weeks on the Psalms. Whether for personal use or group study, I highly recommend both books.
As previously mentioned, studying psalms and wisdom books of the Bible gives an excellent foundation for prayer, poetry, and biblical insights into the people of God, who have turned to these books over the centuries for guidance. More importantly, both books from Crossway show how Psalms provide insight into the mind of Christ as they repeatedly point to Him, prophetically and poetically.
From Crossway’s Knowing the Bible series, Psalms: A 12-Week Study coordinates somewhat with the ESV Study Bible, but any translation you or your Bible study group chooses will, of course, be fine as you proceed numerically through the Psalms.
Beginning with the “Week 1: Overview,” the text offers a helpful outline of the five “books” within the book of Psalms. For instance, Book 1 includes Psalm 1-41, many of which were written by King David where “Prayers issuing from a situation of distress dominate” and are “punctuated by statements of confidence in the God who alone can save.”
In Book 2, Psalms 42-72 present the Korah collection where “Once again, lament and distress dominate the content of these prayers, which now also include a communal voice.” In Book 3, the “tone darkens” as it brings “most of the psalms of Asaph (Psalms 73-83), as well as another set or Korah psalms (Psalm 84-85; 87-88).” However, Book 4 (Psalms 90-106) “may be seen as the first response to the problems raised by the third book.” Then Book 5 (Psalms 107-150) “declares that God does answer prayer (Psalm 107) and concludes with five Hallelujah psalms….”
In addition, a footnote in this Overview tells us “the basic type of psalms can be summarized as laments (presenting a trouble situation to the Lord), hymns of praise (calling believers to admire God’s attributes) and hymns of thanksgiving (thanking God for an answered prayer). There are also hymns celebrating God’s law…, wisdom psalms…, songs of confidence…, historical psalms…, and prophetic hymns (echoing themes found in the Prophets, especially calling God’s people to covenant faithfulness).”
Throughout the study guide, a consistent format considers the setting, glimpses of the Gospel, theological terms, and personal implications with ample room for writing responses in “Reflection and Discussion.” Besides the high quality of information provided, Bible students and discussion groups will appreciate the high quality of the paper, cover, and print in this well-done series.
In the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series, previously included in a review of Bible Study Resources, Nancy Guthrie gives us insight in studying The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books.
As a 10-week study that also includes the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, five of those weeks focus on the Psalms. Instead of a sequential study, however, the author groups the psalms, not by book, but by divisions of “Psalms: The Songs of Jesus,” “Blessing and Perishing in the Psalms,” “The Royal Psalms,” “Repentance in the Psalms,” and “The Suffering and Glory of Messiah in the Psalms.” The wise insights and personable writing style make you feel as though you’re having a deep conversation with Nancy about the scriptures, but this series works well in group study too.
If you’re as interested in the psalms and wisdom books of the Bible as I am, you might decide to do what I did: Soak up both of these excellent resources from Crossway.
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible, writer in all genres, and poet-author of the Bible-based book of poetry Outside Eden
Psalms: A 12-Week Study from the Knowing the Bible series, paperback
The Wisdom of God (A 10-week Bible Study): Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Book, paperback