Showing posts with label reader edition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reader edition. Show all posts

April 1, 2016

10 features Bible readers want


After reviewing new editions of the Bible for over four years and being an avid Bible reader long before that, I’ve learned that other readers look for the same features I like to see.

If I’ve omitted your favorite, please add it in the Comments section below. Or, if you’re a Bible publisher, please let us know what plans you have along these lines:

First, the physical features:

. Manageable Size .
The first thing most of us notice is whether a Bible is too big, too heavy, or too small to fit our needs. One of the most gorgeous study Bibles I’ve ever received was so massive, I found it too awkward to handle and read except at my desk. Nor could I comfortably carry it to my Bible discussion group, which was a loss to all of us since we missed the benefits of some very impressive footnotes and sidebars.

. Readable Font with Adequate Ink .
On several occasions, I’ve received review copies of “large print” Bibles that weren’t! Unless the font is a minimum of 10-point type with 9-point footnotes, the print will not be large enough for young readers to focus on or for older eyes to see without a blur. I hope type lauded as large print will become standardized at 11 or 12-point type with giant print at 14 points and super giant at 16 to 20. That said, none of the above will ease a reader’s eyes unless the publisher selects a well-inked font.

. Adequate Margins and White Space .
When a font of any size cuts into the surrounding margins, the text seems to scream at the reader’s eyes. That might be a necessary compromise for a study Bible, but people who interact with Holy Scripture usually need a wide-margin edition that provides space for jotting down those insights that come during reading.

. Quality Paper, Sewn into the Binding .
As do many Bible lovers, I like to underline God’s promises and words of encouragement, but some paper textures won’t readily accept a pencil or stop bleed-through from light markers. A creamy, thicker, easy-to-turn paper can be ideal for a reader edition, whereas thin paper might be necessary for a study edition. In either case, the quality of paper makes a big difference in Bibles meant to be kept and used often, which also means those pages must be sewn – not glued – into the cover.

I’m personally displeased with the cheap grade paper often used in children’s editions. I suppose the thinking is that they’ll soon outgrown a kid version and want a “grownup” edition, which might be true for some. However, a lifelong love for the Bible began for many of us in childhood, and I’m happy to say I still have the first Bible ever given to me. Keeping it was my choice, but if the publisher had used the cheap grade of paper I often seen now, I doubt my zipper-enclosed children’s edition would have lasted for decades!

. Durable Cover .
Regarding that zipper, which I don’t want in a Bible now, it still works amazingly well! Again, that’s because the publisher used quality materials and workmanship, which I’m finding more difficult to locate. However, contemporary translations in paperbacks with glued-in pages give us a chance to see if we want something more durable. If so, high quality leather covers that lay flat are a long-time preference for favorite editions, while top-quality man-made covers that lay flat can last well and also be pleasant to the touch. For encyclopedic editions, though, my gorgeous goatskin-covered study Bible can not stand up on my desk! Then, a sturdy hardcover binding with sewn-in pages makes the most sense.

. Two (preferably three!) Ribbon Markers .
Yes, we can always add bookmarks, but two or more ribbon markers encourage us to read from both testaments and actually check out those cross-references. For instance, I might want to read the Gospels straight through, as I would other books, but turn to Psalms for a morning meditation. Then, if I want to investigate the verses referred to in a passage, I need another ribbon to hold my place while I look up the next scripture. Therefore, three ribbon markers work great in study editions. Regardless of the number, though, each ribbon needs a hem-finished tip to prevent unraveling.

More importantly, students of the Bible, avid readers, and study groups need:

. Cross-References .
Make that readable cross-references! Most are not! Even in large-print Bibles, the references typically have a thin, tiny font that requires a magnifying glass. Since these often get placed between columns or in the outside margin of paragraphed text, this cuts into usable space for note-taking. One workable solution is to place a reference at the end of the Bible verse to which it connects, making it immediately accessible and also very readable as such cross-references sensibly use the same sized font.

. Book Intros .
For a reader edition, a brief introduction about the author, time, place, and purpose helps to get us grounded. For study editions, outlines and themes work well, but for either, a one-sentence thesis statement can help us to find which book is most likely to have what we’re looking for.

. User-friendly Layout .
Timelines, photographs, maps, and/or sidebars in an eye-appealing format make readers just want to keep reading, which should be a primary aim for any new edition. Those visual aids also help us to see the relevancy of scripture today. If space prevents those features, however, just having chapter subheadings will visually break up the text and help us to find the passages we’re looking for with greater ease.

All of the above features encourage Bible reading, but most importantly, we need:

. Unbiased Footnotes and Articles .
At first glance, this preference seems to have exceptions. For instance, when I received a review copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, I expected – and, indeed, wanted – footnotes to interpret the Bible from the perspective of that denomination. Ditto for the Didache Bible, whose footnotes include quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC.) Such editions provide an important service to members of a particular denomination by helping them to see where their church is coming from and why. In addition, this info can foster ecumenical understanding in Christians from other backgrounds.

Study notes that present various interpretations can be very helpful, too, when they’re fair-minded, avoid telling readers how to think, and do not speak against any denomination ever! The more Christians from diverse backgrounds read, study, and love the Bible, the more we come to respect one other and acknowledge the family we have as the beloved children of our one Creator God.

© 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler



August 21, 2015

Catholic Scripture Study International Bible, RSV, CE


Unlike many study Bibles, the Catholic Scripture Study International (CSSI) Bible places its informative charts, maps, and “Faith Facts” in glossy page inserts, rather than footnotes throughout the large print text. This gives you a distraction-free reader edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) – beloved by Catholic and non-Catholic Christians from all denominations.

Published by Saint Benedict Press and distributed by Tan Books, who kindly sent me a review copy, the CSSI Bible includes the deuterocanonical books often referred to as the apocryphal books of the Old Testament.

I purposefully said Old Testament rather than Jewish Bible or Hebrew Testament since these books, initially accepted by Jews and Christians alike, have been excluded from Jewish Bibles because they were in Greek, not Hebrew.

However, modern scholarship and findings near the Dead Sea show that the Pharisee community did not accept the Septuagint or Greek Bible, whereas early Jewish Christians (such as the apostles) did. Therefore, more and more Protestants want a Bible with the Apocrypha, which means “hidden” and which Catholics aptly call “deuterocanonical,” meaning outside the Jewish not Christian canon – books originally included, too, in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

Besides the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, what makes this edition uniquely “Catholic” are those glossy inserts, beginning with a “Catholic Apologetics” list of such topics as “Apostolic Succession” followed by relevant Bible verses .

In addition, you’ll find “Faith Fact” page inserts on topics such as “The Biblical Origins of the Mass,” genuflecting, “Signs and Symbols,” and “Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.”

In the latter, for instance, we learn that “no one taught that the presence of Christ was only symbolic until Ratramnus (d.868) and, more notably, Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088).” However, “The Church firmly rejected the teachings of both.” This belief of receiving Christ Himself through the bread and wine is affirmed by each individual partaker of the Eucharist who then receives the elements with a verbal “amen.”

Any Christian who would like to become better acquainted with the Roman Catholic Church will appreciate this highly recommended edition, which came to me in a nice quality bonded leather as shown below but which Amazon erroneously referred to as imitation leather.

Following each testament, a section of “Explanatory Notes” come in a smaller font than the large print used for the biblical text, but, with ample ink, the two appendixes are clear, readable, and informative. For example, the first note states:

“1:1-2:4a: The aim of this narrative is not to present a scientific picture but to teach religious truth, especially the dependence of all creation on God and its consecration to him through the homage rendered by man, who is the climax of creation. Hence its strong liturgical character and the concluding emphasis on the sabbath. It serves as a prologue to the whole of the Old Testament.”

Regarding that “whole,” I’m delighted to have the deuterocanonical books in the RSV translation as it and the KJV are ones with which I and other Christians from diverse denominations are most familiar, especially when it comes to hymn lyrics and memorization of Bible verses. If I want to follow a 3-year cycle of readings, I can follow the “Calendar of Readings” at the back of the book, but I suspect I’ll be eager to read this poetically beautiful text straight through.


©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.


Catholic Scripture Study International Bible, RSV, CE, bonded leather (which I confirmed by checking the ISBN number of my review copy with this one advertised on Amazon





October 22, 2014

New Jerusalem Bible, reader edition


The first time I read The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), I had a study edition with footnotes that were hard to see because of the small font but were so interesting, I got sidetracked from the Bible text! Recently, however, Image Books kindly sent me a review copy of their NJB reader edition, which rarely adds any footnotes, but has a nice, clear font and bonded leather cover.

The main additions in this edition are a brief but important-to-read “General Editor’s Foreword” by Henry Wansbrough in the front of the book and, in the back, black and white maps showing Palestine in Old and New Testament Times. Being somewhat geographically challenged, I wish a modern-day map had been included, too. Nevertheless, those of us who customarily lug around plump study editions will find this regular book-sized Bible highly refreshing.

Most importantly, the NJB translation itself is refreshing.

Instead of telling you about this, I’ll try to show you some examples of well-known passages in favored forms followed by the fresh, sometimes startling way NJB has of getting us to see, hear, and think about things we’re apt to glide by without realizing it.

Isaiah 60:1-3

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (King James Version, KJV)

"Arise, shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you. Look! though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, on you Yahweh is rising and over you his glory can be seen. The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"For this is how God loved the world:
he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in
him may not perish
but may have eternal life."
(New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 8:28

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (Revised Standard Version, RSV)

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 12:2

"Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (New International Version, NIV)

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (King James Version, KJV)

"Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

Romans 12:4-5

"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (King James Version, KJV)

"For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another." (New American Bible, Revised Edition, NABRE)

"Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same functions: in the same way, all of us, though there are many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another." (New Jerusalem Bible, NJB)

I Corinthians 12:4-6

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." (KJV)

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work." (NIV)

"There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord. There are many different forms of activity, but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all." (NJB)

I Corinthians 13:4-7

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (KJV)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)

"Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes." (NJB)

Hebrews 11:1

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." (NABRE)

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (NRSV)

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV)

"Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen." (NJB)


[Note: The Bible verses chosen as examples can be found on Bible Gateway along with Holy Scriptures from many other translations and other languages too.]


©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She’s the traditionally published author of 27 books in all genres, including the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden.


The New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition, bonded leather



July 5, 2013

NASB wide-margin Bible in goatskin

When I posted “Judging the cover on The Book” last year, I mentioned goatskin as the Bible cover of choice and, since then, have found lambskin to be even softer. Either will last longer than the reader, but goatskin has usually been the easier of the two to find. Since both cost more than most editions, however, you might wonder why anyone would want the extra cost.

Besides the fact that the Word of God is priceless, most Bible lovers want a Bible that will endure for years. If you also like to carry on conversations with your Bible, as I do, you’ll want ample margins and an erasable pencil for responding as you read.

A big point to consider before you make an expensive choice is the translation itself. When I just want to read, I like to curl up with an easy-to-read contemporary translation (not paraphrase!) such as the New Living Translation (NLT), Good News Bible, or other thought-by-thought translation mentioned in the posting, “Which Bible would Jesus choose?” Or, if I want to research a topic or study a book of the Bible in depth, I’ll keep my ESV Study Bible, Archaeological Study Bible, or Life Application Study Bible close beside me and, most likely, borrow my husband’s NIV Study Bible too.

But when it comes to reading and responding to a Bible, I want a lap-friendly reader edition with wide margins, a top quality cover, and an accurate word-for-word translation.

For overall accuracy, the main choices include Amplified, Douay-Rheims, English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Bible (NAB), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New King James Version (NKJV.) Any of those work well for a long-term relationship, but most do not come in a wide-margin edition with high quality leather cover, except for KJV, which I love but often miss what’s said.

I’m dismayed to say that the overall quality of Bibles seems to be declining. Many of the newer editions seem more like give-away or throw-away items with cheap paper, glued pages, and short-lived covers that cost more than they’re worth simply because they’re faddish or cute. But, when I ordered the NASB shown below, I discovered an edition of the very highest quality.

Within the two-column text, the cross-references in the center of the page provide help for looking up a subject or following a biblical train-of-thought, and an A to Z topical concordance at the back of the book eases that search too.

Since footnotes appear only as needed, this reader’s edition encourages me to keep on reading as I would any good book. The font is somewhat on the small side but very readable, and I like the writing space all around – even at the bottom of the page.

If that’s not enough for the thoughts, insights, and responses God gives to you as you read, you’ll be glad to know that a bunch of lined pages at the back of the book have your note-keeping in mind.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler


NASB wide-margin Bible in top quality leather
[Note: Sorry! My copy described above is no longer available on Amazon, but I found the same edition in split-cowhide which has recently become my favorite.]



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March 12, 2012

Bible Reviewer on NKJV reader edition


Having grown up with the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, I did not become an instant fan of the New KJV when Thomas Nelson released it in 1982. Then (and now as new English translations appear) my first inclination was to compare Bible verses, especially those favorites I memorized as a child and did not want anyone to change! Thirty years later, however, a God-incidence changed me and my mind.

During Lent, I felt drawn to reading the Bible cover to cover without footnotes or articles to distract me, which meant I needed a reader edition. Since I prefer either paperback or genuine leather, the poor quality bindings available in the Christian book store discouraged me, and I was prepared to leave empty-handed when I saw a box labeled “genuine leather” but available only in the NKJV. I started to pass it by then saw it been marked down. Below $50 seemed like an incredible price for a good quality leather Bible – even one with Thomas Nelson’s lifetime warranty. Although that Bible publishing company has had a fine reputation for over 200 years, I still felt skeptical as I opened the box, but here’s what I found:

Genuine Leather – Thick, supple, and of good quality, this leather looks and feels sturdy and long-lasting. By applying a leather conditioner or handling with hands very lightly coated in mineral oil, the softness increases even more.

Font Size
– The very readable 9-point font looks to be the equivalent of a 10 to 11-point type found in word processing software such as Microsoft Word.

Single-Column Bible – Instead of the line breaks that typically occur with a KJV or NKJV, this edition has the regular paragraphing used in most books, which make reading more natural and easy on the eyes.

Headings – The addition of headings also adds visual interest and helps readers readily locate passages.

NKJV – Considered to be a word-for-word translation like the KJV, this English version is highly accurate, too, but with the advantage of biblical scholarship in areas such as word origins or etymology. Like the KJV, the NKJV offers intelligent word choices, a devotional tone, poetic quality, and literary excellence while offering easy-to-comprehend contemporary English.

The format and paragraphing has made this Bible as easy to read as any book, but the translation itself has certainly helped too. Instead of comparing this verse to that, I immediately got caught up in the ongoing story of our relationship with God and settled in to enjoy this good, good read:


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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. If you want your church, Bible study, or other group to have this information, please tell people where you found it. Thanks. For more Bible topics and articles for Christian poets and writers, see Blogs by Mary.

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