April 6, 2019

The NIV Action Study Bible


The NIV ActionStudy Bible, published by David C. Cook, who kindly sent me a copy to review, provides faith-building, character-building insights into God’s Word. The lively illustrations by comic-book artist Sergio Cariello will appeal to young readers, hopefully drawing them to read and reread this reader-friendly New International Version of the Bible.

Other special features in this small-print edition include:

Remember It – presents key Bible verses to memorize.

What About This? – responds to questions many young readers wonder about but might not know whom to ask. For example, “Why Did God Create People?” and “How Do I Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Unlock It! – adds insights to the surrounding passages.

Guess It! – helps young people recall what they've read.

Find It! – uses icons to help readers do just that.

Activate – shows how to apply what’s been read.

Ancient Archives – describe the peoples, cultures, and eras so readers can picture and “be there” too.

In addition, the concordance, dictionary, and index guides to the above features will help readers to find what they want and gain a better understanding of God’s Word.

Also, in the back matter, the inclusion of maps and brief guides to centuries of ruling powers will connect Bible stories to historical world events and their geographical locations  - places where only the names seem to change as people are people, no matter the era, and God is God.

Mary Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer


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April 1, 2019

The Catholic Youth Bible


Known for the spiritual depth, insight, and accuracy of their books, Saint Mary’s Press has revised and published a quality paperback of The Catholic Youth Bible and kindly sent me a copy to review.

The visually appealing cover not only encourages us to “Pray It! Study It! Live It!®” the contents and unique features help Christians of all ages to do just that.

Almost immediately, the front matter assures us, “This Bible can change your life!” And how could it not? As the very next page declares:

“God loves you and wants to be in a lifelong friendship with you. The Bible tells the story of God’s love, revealed most perfectly in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Through Christ, God offers you forgiveness, freedom, companionship, and new life. It is a wonderful gift!”

The page goes on to add:

“This Bible is like no other because it belongs to you! So personalize it… make it a reflection of who you are. You will discover countless places to   . Write     .Color     .Draw     . Highlight     . Journal”

The attractive color-washed illustrations and relevant sidebars on the inside pages and colored-on “tabs” to mark various sections of the Bible on the outer edges generate interest and make it easier to find what you want. In addition, a colorful “bookcase” shows “How the Bible is organized,” while introductory pages provide a “Quick Summary” and “Headline Highlights” for each book of God’s Word.

To young readers or novices of any age, all of this might seem like mere academics were it not for the inclusion of such introductory features as “How Is This Relevant to My Life Today?” In Genesis, for example, the text responds to that question with these words:

  • ·       “God has the power to bring order out of chaos.
  • ·         When we fail, God still cares for us.
  • ·         Remaining faithful even when things seem impossible can lead to unexpected blessings.”


Or, if we feel the distance between ourselves and, say, The Book of Numbers, these responses to the relevancy of God’s Word will help to close the gap between the distant past and today:

  • ·         “Patience and trust in God go hand in hand.
  • ·         When things feel overwhelming, we must not give up on God.
  • ·         God’s timing may be different from our timing.”


And, looking into the future with the relevancy of Revelation, we find these encouraging words:

  • ·         “Do not lose hope; evil will ultimately lose.
  • ·         The magnificence of heaven that awaits us is unbelievable.
  • ·         Through all the trials now and at the end of times, Jesus is and will always be there for us.”


In the back matter of the book, other relevant helps include “Core Beliefs,” a glossary, an “Overview of Salvation History,” a “Biblical History Time Line,” and illustrations you can color. In addition, the feature “When I’m Feeling” addresses typically encountered emotions with Bible responses to “Let the word of God guide and support you as you face life’s joys and challenges.”

May God help us to seek and find this guidance throughout our lives!

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


Order a copy for yourself and the youth in your life, by clicking here: The Catholic Youth Bible.






March 20, 2019

NIV Giant Print Compact Bible

After reviewing Bibles I’d purchased over the years, Bible publishers began sending me review copies of new translations, study editions, children’s Bibles, and other biblical resources, but every now and then I buy one I want to fill a gap.

Although I have various editions of the New International Version (NIV), I wanted a large print reader edition – without the distraction of footnotes – to just sit down and read. For me, that necessitates either a paperback edition or a soft, flexible, yummy-to-the-touch leather binding, which this premium leather edition certainly has. (For study Bibles with lots of articles and footnotes, however, I prefer hardbacks to join the row along my desk, where they’ll stand at attention without slouching as leather or paperbacks are apt to do.)

When it comes to font sizes though, Zondervan and I do not see eye to eye (pun intended.) For them, the easy-on-the-eyes font in this edition is considered, “giant print.” For me, that’s a misnomer as I consider nothing less than 14-point “giant” with 17-point being super-sized. Yet this “giant print” edition has about 10-point type, which, fortunately, is just right for me.

The clear font, premium leather binding, and single column page layout encourage me to snuggle into my favorite chair (yeah, over-stuffed soft leather) and keep reading, as I would with any inviting text. With other books though, I’m apt to put the book away (often for years) or pass it on to someone else if I don’t expect to ever read it again.

Not so with the NIV Giant Print Compact Bible. Lord willing, I’ll read it again and again, which is why I appreciate the overall size and sewn-in pages able to withstand years of wear.

I also appreciate having two ribbon markers as my Sunday School class studies the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) while my Wednesday morning discussion group studies the New. In between though, I love to read the Psalms, so a third ribbon would have been nice, but one mustn’t be picky. Just having the Word of God in a conversational, thought-for-thought translation is a blessing that lasts longer than leather.


by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2019, poet-writer, reviewer, pray-er





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:





February 7, 2019

Mary Harwell Sayler : Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary by Brant Pitre gives Christians from all backgrounds a better understanding of the biblical view of the Mother of Christ. Does this matter? Yes, when we consider this Mother of the Lord is often a dividing line between Christians, this scholarly yet easy-to-read book arrives with the potential of healing that rift!

January 29, 2019

The NKJV Study Bible from Thomas Nelson


If I were forced to choose a single Bible over the many study editions lining my desk, I’d probably pick this one!

Actually I have two copies of The NKJV Study Bible to review as Thomas Nelson kindly sent me one in bonded leather with full-color illustrations and another less expensive leathersoft edition without the images. However, both are presently discounted on Amazon and both seem to have the same comfort print text, footnotes, and articles.

Regarding the text, the New King James Version (NKJV) retains the poetic style of the KJV but with contemporary language incorporating recent scholarship, such as the wealth of information found in archeological digs and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-20th century.  Unlike the KJV, however, the NKJV capitalizes pronouns referring to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which I prefer but may be the choice of the publisher, rather than the translators.

With sewn pages and comfort print font, this study edition includes the typical features found in most well-done study Bibles but with an impressive two-page list of the brief articles scattered throughout the testaments. For example, insights and information are offered on “The Noahic Covenent,” ‘The Abrahamic Covenant,” and the “Mosaic Covenant” in the Old Testament and articles on “The Lord’s Supper,” “Parables: More than Stories,” and “A New Way to Worship” in the New.

In addition, the section “Bible Times and Culture Notes” give us a quick acquaintance with "Ur," "The Code of Hammurabi,” “The Music of the Psalms,” “The Province of Galilee,” “The Origin of the Synagogue,” and much more.

Other features include “Charts and Diagrams,” ranging from “The Feasts and Sacred Times of Ancient Israel,” “Job’s Counseling Sessions,” and “The Christ of the Psalms” to “Grace vs. the Law,” “Right Living in a Wretched World,” and “The Facts of Love In 1 John.”  And “In-Text Maps” help us to locate “Abram’s Travels” as well as Paul’s missionary journeys.

In the front matter, “Word Studies” refer us to the descriptions and initial appearances of key words in their biblical order, while an extensive “Concordance” has been included in the back.

In most Bible study discussion groups I’ve attended, members often have no idea of the wealth of aids their study editions include, but these back pages bear close attention. Besides the “Table of Monies, Weights, and Measures” and color maps generally included, this edition offers lists such as:

  •         Teachings and Illustrations of Christ
  •         Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
  •         The Parables of Jesus Christ
  •         The Miracles of Jesus Christ
  •         Prayers of the Bible (OT and NT)

My favorite addition, however, is the 8-page chart “From Biblical Book to Contemporary Hook,” which lists the book, theme, Christ-focus, implications, and hook. For example,

Biblical Book
Habbakuk
Comfort in God

Theme
God is my only comfort in life and in death in a world of seemingly unchecked evil.

Christ-Focus
Jesus offers true comfort and rest to those who come to him (Matt. 11:28).

Implications
In any trouble, we may find comfort in God and in his care for us (1 Pet. 5:7).

Hook
When things go wrong, where do you turn for comfort? Do you really believe that God knows what he is doing?

From Genesis to Revelation, these book-by-book major themes provide us with prompts for Bible study discussions, sermons, nonfiction books, devotionals, and (my preference) poems.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer reviewer