Showing posts with label English Standard Version. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English Standard Version. Show all posts

April 21, 2020

Literary Study Bible, ESV


As a poet and writer, I’m just naturally interested in the effects literary forms have on readers. For instance, narratives draw us into stories with which we can relate, while poetry expresses for us the praise, laments, thoughts, and feelings we have in common.

In other words, poems and stories help us to connect with God, one another, and ourselves. It’s not surprising then that the Bible consists primarily of two main genres or types of literature: narratives and poetry.

In the Introduction to the Literary Study Bible, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, we learn that biblical narratives come in sub-types such as the “hero story, Gospel, epic, tragedy, comedy (a U-shaped plot with a happy ending), and parable. Specific poetic genres keep multiplying as well: lyric, lament psalm, praise psalm, love poem, nature poem, epithalamion (wedding poem) and many others.”

The Introduction goes on to say, “In addition to narrative and poetry, we find prophecy, visionary writing, apocalypse, pastoral, encomium, oratory, drama (the book of Job), satire, and epistle. Then if we start adding more specific forms like travel story, dramatic monologue, doom song, and Christ hymn, the number of literary genres in the Bible readily exceeds one hundred.

Since we might not be familiar with all of these literary terms, the publisher included a Glossary in the back of the book, explaining, for example, that encomium is “A work of literature that praises either a general character type (e.g., Psalm 1 on the godly person and Prov. 31:10-31 on the virtuous wife) or abstract quality (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13 on love and Hebrews 11 on faith).”

Does any of this matter? I think so. For example, if you know I’m a fairly well-traveled Southerner who grew up believing in God’s love for all people, in Jesus as the full embodiment of God’s Word, and in Christian fellowship as vital for up-building the church, you’ll have a better idea of where I’m coming from and, therefore, more likely to connect. Similarly, the literary forms in the Bible help us to know where the writers were coming from and what they hoped we, the readers, would relate to, hear, and heed as they bring us God’s message in a particular way. Or, as the Introduction puts it:

Whereas history and the daily news tell us what happened, literature tells us what happens – what is true for all people in all places and times…. 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.”

To give you a better idea of the features in this edition, let’s begin in the beginning with Genesis, “The Book at a Glance.”

As its title signals, the book of Genesis is the Bible’s book of beginnings. It is a foundational book that informs us about the first principles of the biblical faith – such first principles as how the world came into being, how sin entered the world, how God began to unfold his plan of salvation, and what people and human institutions (especially the family) are like. Although Genesis is a history book, its history is packed in highly literary forms, the most dominant of which is hero story. Because the history that is recounted in the book of Genesis reaches back to the primitive origins of the human race, it is particularly rich in universal, elemental human experience. Despite the seeming remoteness of the world of Genesis, the experiences are actually very close to our everyday lives.”

In one example of the timelessness of these experiences, we read how the serpent in the Garden of Eden cast doubt on whether God meant what He said – a question that troubles many people today. (Unnecessarily, I must add! If God said it, God means it!)  Another example of a common experience is the sibling rivalry Cain felt for Able (though we pray it doesn’t have the same tragic ending in our families!) Or what about Abraham’s lying to protect himself or Jacob’s learning the hard way that deceitfulness is apt to boomerang?

“The Book at a Glance” for Job has its own theme and purpose as “It raises the question not simply of why people in general suffer but specifically of why the righteous suffer. Philosophers and theologians call this ‘the problem of evil’ and the attempt to offer a satisfactory solution to the problem is called theodicy.”

Regarding the genres used in Job, “The story begins and ends with a narrative frame in which the author tells the story of the fall and restoration of the protagonist Job. Within these bookends, though, the primary form is drama, as we are presented with the speeches and dialogues of the actors in the story. The form in which these speeches are cast is poetry.”

Before reading The Psalms, its “Theological Themes” introduce us to “(1) The nature of God: no book of the Bible offers a more comprehensive survey of the acts and attributes of God. (2) The nature of people: because every psalm is at some level a personal statement by a poet. Psalms is also an index to what people are like, both good and bad. (3) Nature and the physical creation: the psalms say and imply many things about the external world that God made and sustains. (4) Worship: the psalms are used in worship, and many of them talk about worship. (5) Suffering: the many lament psalms yield a theology of suffering.

Skipping ahead to the New Testament, a footnote on Matthew 5 points out that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount “has the nature of an inauguration speech.”

The footnote goes on to say, “The beatitudes are one of the most patterned passages in the entire New Testament. They follow the Hebrew verse form of parallelism: In each beatitude, Jesus (a) pronounces a blessing on a group of people, (b) names the group according to their essential trait, and (c) offers a reason (which is at the same time a promise) for their condition of blessedness.”

A distinctive feature in the Gospel of John “is the linking of a sign or other great symbol with a corresponding statement made by Jesus in the form of either a conversation or a full-fledged discourse. For example, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink from the well (4:7-8) and then pursues a conversation with the woman about water that climaxes in Jesus’ claim to be the source of living water that wells up to eternal life (4:9-15). To cite another example, Jesus feeds five thousand (6:1-14), and a few verses later we read his discourse on Jesus’ being the bread of life (6:25-40).”

Symbolism reaches great height in the book of Revelation as the author uses narrative story and poetic imagery, metaphor, and simile in presenting its “pageant of visions.”

With these unique aids and insights into studying the highly acclaimed English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible,I look forward to sharing this excellent resource in my Sunday School and mid-week Bible discussion groups, which, Lord willing, will begin again soon, even if we need masks to accompany our prayers.







March 14, 2020

ESV Seek and Find Bible


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020.



January 3, 2020

The Enduring Word Bible: ESV


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

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

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

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


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




December 17, 2019

Portals of Prayer Devotional Bible


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

December 16, 2019

The Growing in Faith Bible for children and beyond


Does it seem strange to you to call a Bible “delightful”? But that’s the word that came to mind when Concordia Publishing House sent me a review copy of  The Growing in Faith Bible for children in the highly accurate ESV (English Standard Version) which says:

 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them,” Psalm 111:2.

As caretakers of the earth blessed by vital waterways and vivid sunsets, we study those delightful works of the Lord in nature. However, the Bible itself is a work of God to be studied and to fill us with delight.

In this edition for children and (my assessment) beyond, the colorful artwork and unique features will surely help readers to find God Himself delightful. One such feature, the “Verse for Life,” highlights Bible verses for children to memorize and recall throughout their lives. For example:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4.

The front pages of the book list the features with an explanation for each, starting with “Parent Connections,” which could also be applied to teachers and other caretakers and says:

“Teach your children the important message and theme in each book of the Bible, raising them to be a child of Jesus Christ, their Savior.”

As the heading implies, “Bible Narratives” give important Bible stories to show “how God loves, forgives, guides, and protects us in our everyday lives.” Then “Christ Connections” reveal “places in the Old Testament that point ahead to Jesus….” while another feature, “Big Questions and Answers,” reflects on things children wonder about and want to know.

To help readers find these features, numerous pages in the back of the book provide lists and related page numbers as well as a concordance and maps.

In addition to relevant prayers at the end of each Bible story scattered throughout the book, the “Topical Prayers in the back matter also have children and young people in mind. Those prayers include the reader’s church, pastor, family, and enemies! And the section “For My Needs” reminds readers to pray for themselves too. For instance, “When I’m Scared” says:

“Lord God, heavenly Father, please help
me; I’m scared. Remind me that You
are stronger than anything You created –
and You control everything that happens.
Take away my fear for Jesus’ sake, and
give me quiet trust in You; through
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Not only does this prayer give a frightened person an appropriate prayer to pray, the words themselves are comforting, faith-building, and filled with delight!

Although there's no Lutheran Church in my small town, and I attend a non-denominational church accepting of all parts of the Body of Christ, I was happy to see the addition of “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism,” which brings up important points for every Christian to consider. Regardless of our age or denominational preferences, we need to know what we believe and why, and this excellent word will help us to do just that.  For example, we receive this word of advice:

…with young people, keep to a single, fixed, and permanent form and wording, and teach them first of all the Ten Commandments, the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., according to the text, word for word, so that they can repeat it after you and commit it to memory. 

The brief catechism goes on to explain each aspect of those faith-building tools from God’s word. 

With this and other unique features meant to meet a child’s spiritual needs throughout childhood and beyond, this edition comes in a sturdy hardback that should last for many decades of delightful use.




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




May 12, 2018

Super Giant Print Bible in ESV from Crossway

ESV Super Giant Print Bible (TruTone, Black)

The Super Giant Print Bible in the English Standard Version, (ESV) which Crossway published and kindly sent me to review, makes an excellent choice for a pulpit Bible. Not only is the ESV highly accurate and easy to follow along with other translations, the darkly inked 17-point type can probably be seen from the front pew! The humongous type should also eliminate the need to borrow someone else’s reading glasses in case you forget to bring yours to Bible Study.

This hefty reader edition is meant to last with extensive use too. The flexible TruTone cover has a double-row of stitching around the edges to minimize fraying over time, and the sewn-in pages have a center line down the middle to keep eyes from drifting from one column to the next.

Like most thick Bibles (which huge print or study editions are apt to be), the paper is thinner than some, but not overly so. However, to avoid any distraction by the ink shadowing the back of each page, this sturdy edition comes with a thoughtful touch – a black insert to place behind the page you’re reading.

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


SuperGiant Print Bible, TruTone cover




ESV Super Giant Print Bible (TruTone, Black)




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






August 11, 2016

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible


My review copy of the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, came in an attractive case matching the “summer garden” pattern on its hardback cover. The other option for this large print edition is a brown leather cover with closing strap as shown below.

I prefer the easy-on-the-eyes font found in both editions over the smaller type most Bible publishers use today, but, despite its current labeling, I’d wouldn’t call 9.5 point “large print.” Basically, it’s the text size of my older Bibles when “large print” was at least 12-point type with the standard size around 9 or 10.

The purpose of this single-column edition, though, is to give us a place to make notes to ourselves in the margins, which run an ample two inches on the outside edge of each page. Writing small will be necessary, however, as the lines allow a little over half the space of college rule.

Since I already have a hard-to-find leather-bound Bible with a 10-point font and wide margins all around, I’ll probably continue to use that for making notes before and during my Bible study class, but this journaling Bible makes me want to take another approach. When I first opened my copy, for example, I felt drawn to write haiku or aahcoo in the space beside the scriptures that evoked a poem. Or, I thought of claiming Bible prayers by writing down the date and the name of a person or event that came to mind upon reading. Or, I might jot down thoughts or insights relevant to the adjacent text.

You’ll probably think of other uses that haven’t occurred to me. Regardless, if you don’t have a wide margin Bible and would like to carry on a conversation with an accurate translations of God’s Word, this edition from Crossway makes a fine choice.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016, poet-writer reviewer


ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, large print in summer garden hardback



ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, large print in brown leather with strap




June 2, 2016

Large print ESV from Crossway


Praise God! Crossway has just published the Holy Bible, Large Print, English Standard Version (ESV), and as I can readily see from the copy the publisher kindly sent me to review, I can readily see!

With a highly readable 11-point font, this new edition provides welcome relief from the prevailing 8-point type found in too many Bibles, including those for young children, who much prefer this size or larger, as I do. For general readers, 9 to 10-point type might be fine, but anything less than that or larger than 14 seems to be out of touch with what most people want or need.

Besides encouraging us to read without eye strain, this reader edition also includes color maps and a 10,000-entry concordance to aid Bible study – alone or in a group. The page layout with its double-column paragraph format also assists comprehension, whereas either flap on the dust jacket can become an immediately accessible “bookmark” in lieu of fraying ribbons.

In case you haven’t yet read the ESV, this translation has been lauded for being accurate but readable – and familiar too. For instance, The Translation Oversight Committee opted to retain the word, “Behold!” which often occurs in both testaments because, as the Preface informs us, this one-of-a-kind attention getter “helps us read more carefully.”

Also in the Preface, the “Special Notes in the ESV Bible” explain the infrequent footnotes added for clarification. For example, the first note in this edition says, “The Hebrew word used here for man includes both men and women (see 1:27) and refers to the entire human race.” Similarly, “The note on Romans 8:14 shows you that ‘sons’ also includes ‘daughters’.”

Footnoted or not, this edition – like the content of the Bible in any language – welcomes all who come to read and heed God’s word.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

Holy Bible, ESV, large print, hardback



February 29, 2016

Holy Bible for Kids, ESV


The Holy Bible for Kids, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, now comes in this two-column “large print” edition, which is not very large but, nevertheless, a nice font size for the young eyes of the intended readership.

Adapted from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the text in the English Standard Version (ESV) is easier to comprehend than the King James Version used in some church school classes, but similar enough to both of those classical editions that children can keep up with either.

Maps and a concordance in the back of the book will help young readers to stay grounded in the biblical setting and times, but what makes this edition especially child-appealing is the lively cover and the many back-to-back illustrations of colorful Bible scenes.

The first illustration, for instance, depicts the baby Moses being taken out of his basket floating in the river with a circular inset showing “The Birth of Moses” and reference to Exodus 1:1-2:10 where that particular story can be found. On the back of that artwork, readers will find the white-haired “Moses and the Burning Bush” with reference to Exodus 2:11-4:31.

Since these realistically rendered illustrations can be found throughout this edition of the Bible, children could flip to the artwork then look up the scriptures to find the whole story. Such searches will help them to become more familiar with the location of each book and, hopefully, encourage them to read the whole Bible.

Reviewed by poet-writer Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.


Holy Bible for Kids, ESV, large print, hardback





December 2, 2015

Psalms: Jesus’ prayer book makes a great Christmas gift!


My Bible study group at church has been studying the Psalms – the prayer book of God’s people from pre-Temple days through the early church. Not only do these prayer-poems connect us with Jewish and Christian worshipers throughout the ages and today, the Psalms also comprise the prayers and poetry read, memorized, recited, and prayed by Jesus and His disciples.

Think, for example, of Psalm 22, which Jesus spoke from the cross. Although He didn’t recite the whole psalm, the opening verses reminded His followers to consider each line as they wept. Most likely, this reminder of the full psalm brought hope. And, now, once we have heard the 22nd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm gains even more significance and offers even more comfort.

After reading the latter in our study group today, we had a fresh and insightful discussion as we compared various translations and talked about word choices, metaphors, and what we learned about God from the poem.

For example, the psalm begins with the reminder that, with God as our Shepherd, we have everything we need – physically, mentally, and spiritually. We have nothing to fear with God providing for us, protecting us, caring for us, and giving lavish gifts – a banquet where the Lord God treats us – you and me – as honored guests!

Wow! We should be honoring God with every part of our lives, but Psalm 23 reminds us that God honors us, welcomes us, and takes care of every need.

Many of these joys in fellowship with God had occurred to us at one time or another, but with our commitment to read, pray, and study the Psalms, we saw amazing details we’d never noticed. For instance, verse 6 tells us:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me
all the days of my life.”


In the previous verse, we’re in the presence of enemies – people who want to do us harm! And yet this psalm and others assure us that we’ve nothing to fear. Not only can we totally count on God’s presence to be with us, we can count on the Lord's goodness and mercy to follow us around!

Can you picture it? Goodness and mercy follow us. Goodness and mercy pursue us. Goodness and mercy stalk us!

Even if we’re surrounded by ill will, enemies, and evil, Goodness and Mercy WILL follow us all the days and nights of our lives.

Well, I hope this gives you an idea of why I wanted a separate book of Psalms to read, study, and use as my prayer book – maybe an edition with room in the margins to write “Claimed” and the day's date beside promises or space to make a note, such as writing “stalks” or “pursues” beside verse 6.

You might have heard by now that I also appreciate quality paper with pages sewn into a supple top-grain leather cover that feels great to the touch and should last for generations.

Searching the Internet, I found one such edition of Psalms that fits all of the above – and fits nicely into my hand! So I bought the Psalms in ESV (English Standard Version) published by Crossway for myself, but oh, what a great Christmas gift this would also make for other lovers of prayer and God’s Word. Praise God!

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

Psalms, ESV, bound in top grain leather




September 12, 2015

ESV Big Picture Bible


After a child has outgrown Bible Storybooks, what then? The ESV Big Picture Bible provides an excellent edition for children ready to "graduate" to the actual Bible text but still in need of something more than solid blocks of text to keep them reading.

This highly recommended hardback includes 225 new illustrations in color to keep young readers interested and to help them better envision the biblical text and context too. The red ink used to highlight the headings and subheadings added to the text will also help children to locate topics and keep their place on the page.

Most importantly, the English Standard Version of the Bible, which is published by Crossway, who kindly sent me a review copy for an honest review, can be trusted for accuracy and readability. Its proximity to the King James Version (KJV) also makes the verses good choices for memorization.

For unique features, this children's Bible includes a blue ribbon marker, and instead of the maps often added to back matter, the book has a five-part catechism with 45 questions children will want to know followed by relevant scriptures.

For example:

Part 1 God Creates His Kingdom begins with “1 Who created the heavens and the earth?” followed by a quotation of Genesis 1:1.

Part 2 God Begins His Promise by asking “10 How did the Lord begin his promise to rescue all peoples on earth?” then quotes Genesis 12:1-3.

Part 3 God Continues His Promise calls into question, “Did Israel keep their promises to God” with 1 Samuel 8:7 provided as the response.

Part 4 Jesus Fulfills God’s Promise highlights how heavenly and earthly beings announced Jesus as the Christ.

Part 5 God Completes His Promise lets young readers know that, eventually, God will dwell with us as promised in Revelation 21:3.

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


ESV Big Picture Bible, 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



October 16, 2014

ESV Single Column Heritage Bible


Adapted from the beloved RSV (Revised Standard Version) of the Bible, which remains a perennial favorite in countless Protestant and Catholic Churches, the English Standard Version (ESV) also aims to provide an “essentially literal” and accurate translation.

The quality of language and poetic flow make this such a highly readable and recognizable version that Crossway publishes the ESV in a variety of formats to appeal to a broad readership. As discussed in previous posts, for example, you can find ESV in the Today’s Light Devotional Bible, Global Study Bible, Spanish-English Parallel, ESV Children’s Bible, and Women’s Devotional Bible.

Or, if you want a study Bible with extensive footnotes, in-depth articles, and other study aids, your ESV choices range from The Lutheran Study Bible, published by Concordia, to a variety of evangelically oriented editions published by Crossway such as The MacArthur Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible, Global Study Bible, and the ESV Study Bible.

For well over two years now, I’ve received review copies of all but one of the above – the highly impressive ESV Study Bible, which my husband bought for me, covered in the finest grade of leather. So, why would anyone who has all of these editions and many more be interested in the ESV Single Column Heritage Bible?

There comes a time when Bible lovers just want to read the Bible!

Instead of lingering over footnotes or reading articles about the Bible or getting distracted by lots of very, very helpful information, sometimes I just want to read the Bible, cover to cover, as I would any good book.

The ESV Single Column Heritage Bible encourages you to read.

Besides providing a highly accessible translation, my review copy had a quality cover of cloth over board outside and a reader-friendly layout inside with single columns such as you find in novels and nonfiction books of all types. And, speaking of types, a 9-point font eases your reading too.

If you want to look up a biblical locale, you can do so with the clear maps at the back of the book, but otherwise, only the presentation pages and brief introductory front matter take up space. The rest is devoted to the actual Bible text, which, in this edition, is no more than the size of a typical library book you might read within a week or two. And, why not?

Reading the Bible straight through gives a sweeping view of God’s love and merciful interactions with us since the beginning of time. If you haven’t done this before, I highly encourage the practice and recommend this edition as one to practice on – and on and on.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible and traditionally published author of 27 books, including her book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden.


You can order the ESV Single Column Heritage Bible from Crossway or Amazon.


ESV Single Column Heritage Bible, cloth-covered hardback




September 5, 2014

Women’s Devotional Bible


The review copy of the Women’s Devotional Bible I received from Crossway came in a nice Trutone® cover as shown below, but it comes in hardback too (also shown.) I mention this early on in case you recall that I’m not particularly fond of imitation leather! This one, however, has a nice feel and attractive birch design.

The important part, of course, comes inside any cover, which, here, would be the full text of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, widely acclaimed for its accuracy and generally preferred by evangelical and conservative Christians and other readers who also tend to study the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and/or the New International Version (NIV.)

In addition to the ESV, this edition provides 365 devotionals relating to the adjacent text and 16 articles created for this edition, which will especially appeal to young women or women of all ages who are new to the Bible and/or new to Christ and the church.

Throughout the text, for example, readers will find brief, but info-packed sidebars with profiles of such outstanding Bible characters as Adam, Eve, Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Miriam, Ruth, and others in the Old Testament and Mary, Elizabeth, Martha, Lydia, and others in the New Testament with more than half of the Bible people featured being women.

This edition does not aim for the in-depth study you can have, by yourself or in a group, with the extensive information and impressive aids provided by the ESV Study Bible, also published by Crossway, so you will find few footnotes at the bottom of the pages. However, the back matter contains the new articles I mentioned earlier and recommend for the range of subjects - from getting the most out of your Bible study to praying with Psalms to considering “The Church and Women At Risk.”


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and lifelong Bible lover, is a traditionally published poet and author of 26 books in all genres, many of which can be found on Amazon.


Women’s Devotional Bible, Trutone® imitation leather



Women’s Devotional Bible, hardback





July 19, 2014

Today’s Light Devotional Bible


As a lifelong lover of the Bible, I’ve read many reader’s editions and many, many study Bibles that helped me to learn a lot about God and God’s Family. Thankfully, that family includes me – and you. However, on the “Welcome” page of Today’s Light Devotional Bible, Jane Fryar reminds us that God is “not so much interested in your learning facts about Him, though that’s certainly part of the process. The holy, all-powerful, infinitely gracious God of the universe wants to reveal Himself to you. To you!”

Isn’t that awesome! Okay, so we live in an era where people call almost everything “awesome,” but God’s Word of love to us truly is!

As I read the review copy of this edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) that Concordia published and kindly sent to me, I wished I'd had it when I first began reading and studying the Bible as a preteen with little clue about what I was reading! Insightful comments by Jane Fryar remedy that situation by providing brief commentaries to help us “Get the Big Picture” then “Sharpen the Focus” for each book and most of the chapters in the Bible.

Those ongoing insights make this edition especially recommended for teens, young adults, and newcomers to the Bible. And, all of us will find a helpful layout throughout the text that correlates with the three checklists at the back of the book meant to guide our choices of a one-year reading plan, a two-year plan, or (what I'd like to try next) a plan to read the Bible chronologically.

But, what about the welcoming word that says the “God of the universe wants to reveal Himself to you”? How does Jane Fryar go about getting this across?

The examples extend beyond the space I have here, but to start at the beginning, “Get the Big Picture” says: “Genesis records many firsts – the first people, the first family, the first sin, the first city, the first musician, and more first besides. Today’s reading [One Year (Week 1, Monday) Genesis 1:1-3:24; Two Year (Week 1, Monday) Genesis 1:1-2:25] zeroes in on the first week of our world’s existence and on the first home God gave His human creatures. As you read, note the care God took as He made this home for us – the first paradise.”

Think about it! God gave everything we needed to live in paradise from the beginning of time, rather than the end. Knowing this about God is good to know, of course, but more importantly, good to ponder and sink into our spirits. Then, as this edition encourages us to do, we, too, can "...see God’s power, creativity, wisdom, and tender concern for His human creatures – His children.” Yes, that’s you; yes, me.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books, the Bible-basedOutside Eden and environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem that encourages us to be good caretakers of the earth as God intended.


Today’s Light Devotional Bible, hardcover





June 13, 2014

The Lutheran Study Bible


When Concordia sent a copy of The Lutheran Study Bible in the English Standard Version (ESV) for me to review, I noticed the heft, of course, but, more importantly, the sturdiness and quality of this hardback edition, which I later discovered was printed, Smyth-sewn, and manufactured in the United States. Yea!

I greatly appreciated, too, how Concordia wasted no time or space getting to basic beliefs by printing “The Lord’s Prayer” on the inside hardcover followed by a “Brief Service of the Word” (order of worship) and prayers such as this “Prayer to See God’s Ways:”

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears. Please show me
now Your ways, that I may gain Christ and be found in
Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes
from the Law, but that which comes through faith
in Christ. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light
to my path. Give me life, O Lord, according to Your
Word, and I will declare Your greatness. Amen.”


In the high quality opening pages, you’ll also find clearly labeled maps of the Holy Lands and a moving painting portraying Jesus, while the back matter include blank pages for writing notes. In between, the paper seems a bit thin, presumably to lessen the overall thickness and weight of the book, but, even with a little bleed-through, the text is easily readable.

As mentioned, the text chosen by Concordia is the ESV, known for accuracy and poetic grace when read aloud. With that translation literally in hand, hundreds of workers from Lutheran churches around the world were asked to read portions of the Bible and present questions, which a team of Bible scholars then addressed in the footnotes. Those questions numbered under 1,500 but resulted in over 26,500 study notes from a Lutheran perspective.

Other unique features to this impressive edition reportedly include “Insights from early church, medieval and Reformation era church fathers,” over 200 informative articles, and “over 2,000 application notes and prayers for every part of the Bible.”

Since I’ve been studying biblical wisdom, I turned to the Book of Job where I found interesting information on the “Legal Language in Job,” which helps to place that poetic debate into context. For ex., “In the ancient Near East, the elders of a community would typically hold court in a city gate (Jb 29:7). In the ancient city of Gezer, archaeologists have found stone benches in the gate chambers where the elders sat…. Parties in dispute would approach them at the gate, explain their case, and count on a wise ruling…. Job served as such an elder, and his friends likely did as well… The Book of Job never mentions that its setting is the city gate, but its dialogues are filled with the legal language of such proceedings (e.g., 10:2, 23:1-7; 29:7-17, 21-25; 31:11, 13, 21, 35-37).”

In Job’s case, however, his “friends” ruled against him. Although Job “was famous for defending the defenseless (29:15-17), he did not have the skill to argue his case before the ultimate judge: the Lord.” When he eventually realized he needed an arbitrator or mediator, he cried, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives’ (19:25).” As a note in chapter 28 attests, “People cannot find wisdom by their own reason or strength. God alone can give it through His declaration – His Word. St. Paul calls Christ Jesus ‘our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ (1 Co 1:30).”

To better grasp such terminology common to the Christian faith, a concordance in the back offers scriptural references while, in the front pages, “Luther’s Small Catechism” addresses issues of his day and ours.

For instance, in asking “What does this mean?” of sanctification, the catechism explains: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith./ In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith./ In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers./ On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ./ This is most certainly true.”

The many prayers, quotes from church fathers, and contemporary articles in this highly recommended edition consider the challenges we all have as Christians while letting us know that members of the clergy, laity, academia, and community of faith around the world join us in our struggles and our common faith.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible and traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books, the Bible-basedOutside Eden and environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.


The Lutheran Study Bible, hardcover



The Lutheran Study Bible, black bonded leather, thumb-indexed