Reformation Study Bible (2015 edition, ESV)

694400_1_box (1)Let me begin with the written content in the Reformation Study Bible (2015 edition, ESV).  The essence and flavor that arises out of this study bible are not only reflective of the Reformation era, but it is also clearly Reformed in theology and doctrine.  The study notes (or apparatus on the bottom), the introductions for each of the biblical books, the theological notes weaved throughout the study bible, and the topical articles placed at the end of the bible, are all beautifully set.  From cover to cover, I can say that the RSB is an attractive bible.  The symbol of the burning bush stands out and makes a statement.

Some of the theological notes are from the General Editor, Dr. R.C. Sproul, who is a passionate and effective teacher in the Reformed tradition (and from whom I’ve learned much from via audio/video/books).  The contributors to the RSB (2015) are respected theologians.  The editors: Associate, Old Testament, and New Testament and contributors have made a great effort in making the Reformation Study Bible a success. I think it’ll make a lasting impression and will be a go-to bible for this generation of Reformed-minded students of the Word.

I hadn’t used any previous editions of a Reformed study bible, but as I started reading more, I gradually became more impressed with the notes.  As I perused through some of the theological notes, I looked for a few anchoring points of Reformed theology. One example: under “Perseverance of the Saints” states: “The doctrine of perseverance does not rest on our ability to persevere, even if we are regenerate. Rather, it rests on the promise of God to preserve us,” and is followed by quoting Philippians 1:6 (p.1994). This is clearly covenantal interpretation so if you love covenant theology, you’ll love this bible for its Reformed-minded commentary and notes (image below: sorry for the poor picture quality I took with my phone)

Another example: under “Effectual Calling” (otherwise known as irresistible grace) states: “Before the inward effectual call of God is received, no person is inclined to come to Him… We see, then, that faith itself is a gift from God, having been given in the effectual call of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result” (p.2146).

Some of the topical articles in the back and apparatus are not necessarily relevant only to the Reformed-minded, but can also be accepted by traditional evangelicals. The insert of various creeds, confessions and catechisms are definitely Reformed (e.g., Heidelberg, Belgic, Dort, Westminster) with the exception of London Baptist Confession (which is Calvinist).  Well, for those who want a quick-reference to the confessions and Westminster catechisms, it’s conveniently placed near the back of the bible.  In my opinion, I might ask if they’re really necessary, or are they there just to make a statement: “that this is indeed a Reformed study bible!” You decide but I think it might be the latter reason.  Most lay-people will rarely refer to them except for the odd times they want a quick reference (so it’s great for pastors and theological hacks and nerds, like me) 😉

The study notes (or apparatus at the bottom of the pages) are plentiful. I like how the study notes are interlinked to the theological notes. For example, the note for Rom. 3:23 links to the theological note on “Human Depravity”; and the note for Rom. 3:29 links to the theological note on “Predestination”. This makes it useful for the reader to locate expanded thoughts for deeper theological reflection.

Regarding the apparatus/study notes, much of it were from previous editions of the Reformation and Geneva study bibles. There are some updates and additions (however, I cannot compare because I don’t have previous editions).  This 2015 edition has over 1.1 million words in commentary, which has increased from the 760,000 words from the previous 2005 edition.  In the book introductions, what I personally find interesting to read in particular are literary features, Christ’s salvation, and special issues.  Book introductions in study bibles these days are a quicker-fix reference than the long-reads of biblical commentaries (It’s good for lay-people, but for pastors, it’s never a replacement for updated biblical commentaries).  The color-filled maps are very good.  It’s printed on high-gloss paper and is very attractive.

The cross-references in the margins are located a little too close to the inner margins in-between the pages. You’ll need a magnifying glass if you want to read it.  The narrower cross-reference margins leaves more room for the biblical text though so it might have been a give-and-take decision.  It’s a minor issue for me though. Personally, I don’t use the cross-references much anyway.

First on the ESV translation. The ESV has become a very popular translation in the last ten years, and will rival the NIV. Reformed and Calvinist evangelicals tend to flock to the ESV, and I think it’ll be here to stay for at least the next generation of bible readers.  It will also come out in the NKJV later in the fall of 2015.  If I may put this idea out there… just a thought: if Reformation Trust and Ligonier should desires to expand its influence, then why not also include the NIV, NLT and NASB translations?  Including readers of other translations will also expand the readership of the RSB.  I believe Christians need more access to solid, historic, Evangelical theology. Much of today’s evangelicals have access to fluff, and not enough substance.  Good commentary can strengthen traditional Evangelical theology in the minds and hearts of its readers.

RSBhardcoverNow onto some of the physical aspects. When I took the Reformation Study Bible out of the box, I flipped through many of its pages just to take in the all-around aesthetics of it.  I like how the layout appears on the page. I examined the binding and it is definitely Smyth-sewn because it allows you to lay it down flat on the table (unlike cheap glued bindings which don’t allow for this).  Also, when you look down the top or bottom of the binding, you can notice the separation of sections of paper. If the pages were only held together by glue, you would not notice any separation of sections. So this Smyth-sewn pages is a good thing because it’ll be more durable. Moreover, it is also glued for extra strength. I have hardcover so I cannot comment on how the leather is, but it does feel like a sturdy bible that will last.  Most bibles produced today only use cheap glued-binding but this one will be much longer-lasting.  I have to say that this was a good job on this one.  I wouldn’t buy a study bible without Smyth-binding, especially with it being over 2,560 pages thick (which is now expanded from the previous edition of 1,968 pages).

The font size good for me.  It might even be a little bigger than some other study bibles, it doesn’t seem as readable. Perhaps this is due to the contrast of ink-on-the-page.  However, I do see a few places that could be improved for future batches off the press. From a contrast level, the ink could be kicked-up a notch or two. I pulled out six other study bibles just to compare the ink contrast-on-page, and this one had the least contrast. What is most legible are the chapter numbers. The bible paper itself feels thinner than other study bibles. It has about 2550 pages. The paper is not as crisp as the ESV Study Bible’s so it took me more time and care to turn each of the pages. If the ink was any darker, it might bleed through to the other side of the pages. The print itself is definitely on the lighter side, but for my eyes it’s sufficient. Having a desk lamp near to it will definitely help.

This is a study bible that would appeal to many Calvinist-minded and covenant-minded readers and those who desire the traditional evangelical perspective. It will be loved by Reformed-minded and evangelical Presbyterians. I really like this edition. The caliber of this study bible is very good. I would say the Reformation Study Bible (2015 ed., ESV) is up there along with the ESV Study Bible and Concordia’s Lutheran Study Bible (ESV) as my top-three personal choice.  Good job on the Reformation Study Bible.

Thanks to Ashley G. at Reformation Trust Publishing for sending me a copy for review.

Is the New Testament reliable?

Is the New and Old Testament reliable?  This is a question that some Christians is challenged with but are not sure how to respond because we don’t have the tools for a defense of the bible and theological apologetics.  To begin, here are some links to debates between Craig Evans (Acadia) and Bart Ehrman (UNC). They are just some of many New Testament scholars who can debate this issue critically.

Criag Evans vs Bart Ehrman  debate (Jan. 19, 2012) (Night 1; Night 2); (and an earlier debate from 2011) (here). (More may be added later).

Oldest book in Europe (St. Cuthbert’s gospel) found in a coffin

[from UK’s Daily Mail ]

Europe’s oldest book: St Cuthbert’s gospel which survived pillaging Vikings and lay in his coffin for centuries is sold for £9m

The St Cuthbert Gospel (formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is the oldest intact European book. Made in the late-7th century, the manuscript contains a copy of the Gospel of St John, and was apparently placed in the coffin of St Cuthbert (c. 635–687)

  • The seventh century St Cuthbert Gospel is on show at the London library
  • Book is a copy of the Gospel of St John
  • It was buried alongside St Cuthbert, an early English Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland in around AD698
  • Coffin was moved off island to escape Viking raiders and taken to Durham
  • Book was found when the coffin was opened at Durham Cathedral in 1104
  • Its original red leather binding survives today
  • Now bought by the British Library for £9million

The digitized manuscripts can be found here.

Does a genuine shell cordovan bible exist?

What do dress shoes have to do with bibles?  Not much except for the misnomer of “cordovan”.  I was wondering if genuine shell cordovan leather bibles really exist.  To date, I have found none.  To ask this is almost like asking if water exists on the moon.  It might but it hasn’t been discovered and/or confirmed.

Today, we have confusion about what is truly cordovan.  There are bibles that have “cordovan” in its name but it only refers to the color of the bible.  Cordovan is mostly being incorrectly used by many to describe the color of the leather (as they do with shoe wax polish).  This is because the natural color of cordovan is burgundy.   Some bible bloggers have blogged about it (here) but even the cordovan they’re talking about is not genuine shell cordovan. Then why are publishers not using the proper term of “burgundy”? Perhaps to add some value to their bibles?  Probably.  But one must be clear; “burgundy” does not equal genuine shell “cordovan”.

Not many actually know about shell cordovan, and to most people, it really doesn’t make any difference to them.  It is not from the cow.  Genuine shell cordovan is the most coveted material in men’s leather shoes.  It is leather from the hide (butt) of the horse and not just any skin off the horse type of leather.  Such genuine shell cordovan leather (by Horween, USA) is used in the manufacture of men’s dress shoes, like Alden’s and Allen Edmonds in the U.S., plus others in the UK and Europe.  These shoes can cost upwards of US$550-600.   Gulp.  Click here to see the manufacturing process of true cordovan.

Since the cost of shell cordovan leather shoes is sky-high, it would be safe to say that are no bible manufacturers in existence today that would want to use this valuable material on its bible covers.  They would never sell (unless the buyer sees such value in the “word of God”.   I have yet to see one on these on the bookshelves of a bible bookstore.  What might be the cost of such a bible?  I dare not say.  Any guesses out there?

Here are some bibles (Amazon.com, CBD) that incorrectly uses “cordovan” in its name but upon closer examination of the leather, the natural grains give it away.  It’s really fine calfskin (nice calfskin for sure…would love to have one on my bookshelf) but it’s still not genuine shell cordovan. Does one exists out there? If so, send me a pic.

HCSB Study Bible by Holman

I wish to thank the precious people at LifeWay for sending me a copy of the HCSB Study Bible to review.

Broadman & Holman has entered the study bible market with the new HCSB Study Bible in 2010.  This is a very good study bible.  As a perused through the HCSB Study Bible, I was taken in by its use of color in highlighting of subheadings, study notes, and cross reference verses.  It uses an orangy-tan color to give it that old rustic papyrus look—a tasteful use of color. The various colors give good contrast makes it easier to locate verses.  What makes most other reference bibles inconvenient and difficult to use is when the cross references look like “one big blur” of numbers and verses.  The HCSB-SB’s blue contrasting of verse numbers makes it much easier to locate the verse you are reading.  The solid horizontal yellow bar that highlights the alternate and literal translations acts as a natural page divider.  This breaks the page up so the reader can quickly find the bible text above and the study notes below.  I like this.

The font size of the bible text is reasonable and not too small and is similar to Times New Roman.  The study notes font size is a smaller type of Arial is readable.  The bolded text of key words is good too because it breaks up the “one big blur” factor.  The tan-brown subheadings is easy to read and helps the reader to locate the topic of the biblical text.  In the paper department, the bible paper used is not too thin, which is good. Some study bible paper is so thin that they can tear easily if you’re not careful. The paper in this one is a decent weight.  For a bible that has 2280 pages, it is on the heavier side but it’s not difficult to carry around.

The construction of the HCSB Study Bible is very good because the binding is Smyth-sewn rather than glued so I expect this bible will last a long time. All of the glued bibles are cheap to make and begin to fall apart after the glue dries up.  How can you tell if a bible’s binding is Smyth-sewn or glued?  Lay it flat and if the pages stay flat, then it is likely Smyth-sewn.  A more sure way to tell is by examining the edge of the binding from either the top or bottom view, if you see sections of pages folded into many sections, these sections are sewn together.  If you see some glue, it’s just to tighten it up but not to hold the page together.  However, if all the pages look like they are individually glued directly to the glue (similar to paperbacks), and you don’t see any small sections of folded pages, then you can be sure it’s a cheap glue job.

The text uses a two-column layout.  This is fine for me.  Some people prefer a single-column layout but I’m fine with two-columns.  What is important for me is that the inner biblical quotations (intertextual quotes from other books of the bible) are indented. This helps the reader to know when a passage or verse is being quoted by another biblical writer.  For example, the writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews 3:7-11.  The quote text from Psalm 95 is bolded in Hebrews. This is a good feature I really like about the HCSB-SB.  I think it is important when you are doing a study or exegeting a passage of text.  A careful exegete-reader wants to easily determine where the inner biblical text originates from.  Moreover, given the good visibility of cross-references, the reader can quickly locate the inner-biblical text.

Another feature that is useful for the exegete-reader is the word study of key words or family of words showing the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of the 175 Hebrew key words and 133 Greek key words.  It also explains the definition and expands upon how the word is used in other instances in the bible.  If you like AMG Publishers Key Word Study Bible but you’re too lazy to flip pages to really use it to its potential, then you might like this handy feature.

Each book introduction includes circumstances of writing (authorship, background); message and purpose; contribution to the bible; timeline; structure; and outline.
•    There are 18+ hand-drawn color illustrations, plus many more color photos in various places throughout the bible.
•    20 charts, plus many more charts placed throughout.
•    62 maps, plus 8 full-page maps on thick paper in the back of the bible.  In the maps and illustration category, I would say that it is even better than the other major study bibles.

The contributors to the study notes are some of the top evangelical scholars.  These include Ed Blum, Robert Yarbrough, Andreas Kostenberger, Duane Garrett, Walter Kaiser, Tremper Longman III, Carl Anderson, plus many more.  The essays are also contributed by some of the top evangelical scholars George Guthrie, Robert H. Stein,  Mark E. Dever, Daniel B. Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, plus more.

The contributors to the study notes are evangelical first and they seem to be largely from a Baptistic background.  That is very obvious in looking at the list of contributors of the study notes and essays.  I get a very strong impression that the study notes of this study bible are primarily written by Baptists, and secondarily by evangelicals.  If you are Baptist, and prefer a baptistic theology, then this study bible is for you.  Dr. Edwin A. Blum is the general editor of the HCSB, and is the executive editor of the HCSB Study Bible, is not Baptist, but the overall tone of this study bible is still Baptist and conservative evangelical—either dispensationalist and Calvinist.

Will the majority of contributors being Baptists be a barrier for this study bible?  I don’t think so. Most evangelicals are familiar with baptistic theology and we receive Baptists like any other evangelical Christian. On the other hand, if Broadman & Holman wanted the broadest appeal for the HCSB-SB, they might want to broaden their scope of contributors.  There are many other evangelicals other than Baptists, e.g., Wesleyan, Alliance, Pentecostal, Holiness, Nazarene, Ev. Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Free, plus many more.

This is an excellent study bible.  I definitely put this study bible up there in the same league with the ESV Study Bible and NLT Study Bible [added: and Concordia’s Lutheran Study Bible].  Broadman & Holman did a very fine job putting this together.  I am sure this will become one of the premier study bibles as people begin to take more notice of it.

Were the tongues “distributed” or “divided” in Acts 2:3?

When I first read in Acts 2:3 about how the early Christians received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (or glossolalia), I learned it from the KJV’s rendering of “cloven tongues”.  However, this is not necessarily an accurate picture of what may have happened in Acts 2:3.  Different translations differ in how they portray the appearance of the flame of Pentecost. This may also impact our theology of the charismata.

How is it rendered in the original Greek?  It uses διαμερίζω (“diamerizō”, divide, part, cloven). The word diamerizō may be defined in several ways: literally in distribution or in appearance, and also, figuratively in dissension.  We can rule out the third: dissension. This leaves us with either distribution or appearance.

Greek: καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρὸς καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐφ᾽ ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν,

The NRSV, ESV, CSB and KJV all seem to portray flames (or tongues of fire) being “divided” (in the sense of being split in half), and resting over their heads. (Notice first picture below on the left with the divided flames).  The NRSV/ESV/CSB renderings interpret diamerizō in such a way that it leads the readers to view the flame as the object of the matter.  As a result, the reader will focus on the physical appearance of the flame, rather than, the action of the flame.

ESV: And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
CSB: And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

NRSV: Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

When I read the New English Translation (NET), I noticed that the flame is not “divided” (in the sense of not being split in half), but rather, it is “distributed” and “spread out” amongst the people.   Notice NET’s rendering of “spreading out”  projects an action of distribution, rather than, a static image of physical appearance. The word diamerizō may be interpreted as being distributary or dispersionary, which is also in line with the Spirit’s nature of distributing gifts or charismata. This helps the reader to perceive tongues in a more active sense (like fire in a raging forest fire).

NET:  And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them.

The Revised English Bible (REB) use of the word “distributed” also portrays an image of tongues of flames being distributed in the  dispersionary sense.  This rendering of diamerizō is dynamic too.

REB: And there appeared to them flames like tongues of fire distributed among them and coming to rest on each one.

The NLT, however, completely avoids making any interpretation regarding the appearance or distribution of the flame, all though it tends to focus on its appearance rather than action. Perhaps its translators didn’t know how to properly render diamerizō.

NLT  :  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

The TNIV could be interpreted either way.

TNIV: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

I tend to prefer the NET bible’s rendering because it allows for γλῶσσα (“glōssa”) to be interpreted as a language that is dynamic and is actively spread out or distributed to others, rather than a tongue of flame being a static object.   The REB is my second choice.

Holy Bible: Mosaic and the blog tour winner today

Congratulations to Mr. Juan Martinez who is the winner of the Holy Bible: Mosaic contest on New Epistles .  I will be mailing out to you a certificate for a copy of the Holy Bible: Mosaic redeemable at your local Christian bookstore, compliments of Tyndale Publishing House.   Mr. Juan Martinez asked a great question: “When I have read previous books with historic Christian artwork, I have been puzzled to find inappropriate artwork such as demonic beings or undressed angels and ugly pictures of Jesus. Is this found frequently inside the Mosaic?”  Well Juan, I checked and didn’t see any demonic pictures of Jesus–nothing even close to being inappropriate, in my opinion. They are mostly very beautiful and colorful.

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I also have several other questions  regarding the Holy Bible: Mosaic that I hope can be answered by someone from Tyndale or one of the contributors.  My originally assigned guest on this blog tour was not able to answer my questions because they were more of an insider’s editorial type of question.  So I’ll leave this up to someone from Tyndale.

Question #1: The Holy Bible: Mosaic includes a one-year lectionary of readings that follow this church-year.  Throughout history, there have been one-year lectionaries developed by Catholics, including adaptations by Anglicans and Lutherans (i.e., Revised Common Lectionary).  Was this lectionary one of the historic one-year lectionaries, or if it this lectionary of readings was designed by Creedo Communications, who are the developers of this bible?

Question #2:  I find some of these themes very good—some more challenging than others (e.g., mastering virtues; God in community; global church community; fasting; wealth; possessions; authenticity; blame; service; diversity; righteous judgment).  How were these themes chosen?  By the editors or by the contributor?

Question #3:  It was mentioned that the contributors were from a diverse background.  This is another reason why it is called the Holy Bible: Mosaic.  How many countries and cultures are the contributors from?

Question #4:  The artwork is one of the best features of this bible.  It reminds me of some of those older bibles with artwork depicting biblical stories.  They range from ancient to modern-contemporary.  How did the artwork get picked for the Mosaic bible?

The Lutheran Study Bible special pricing deadline is October 31: Get one!

I didn’t get a review copy of  The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) but I know that I will be very impressed with it when I get my own copy.  Yesterday, our bible study group put in an order for a case of these babies before the October 31 special pricing deadline.   The regular hardback is 3½ pounds and large print is a whopping 5½ pounds.  I prefer large print but am I going to lug a 5½ pound bible to bible study? No way. So I ordered the regular font sized hardback edition without the frills, just a basic hardcover that I can use for bible study on Thursday evenings.

Why would a person want to use The Lutheran Study Bible?  There are 12 reasons if you’re Lutheran.  But if you’re not Lutheran, I don’t really know why except to educate yourself in some good old Lutheran theology.  It’s good…really! In the past, I know Lutherans haven’t exactly been high profile bible publishers and translators but I think this edition will be a first for Lutherans putting out a very high quality study bible so I applaud Concordia for taking this initiative.  I was impressed with the sampler so I’m looking forward to finally getting my own copy just for its Lutheran content written by Lutheran contributors.  Note, that I’m not in it for the translation (ESV);  I’m in it for the uniquely Lutheran perspective, and its emphasis on rightly dividing law and gospel, which is lacking in much of our theologies today.

In the past, the small Lutheran voice in the culture of faith have been drowned out in the cacophony of evangelical voices in airwaves and popular Christian media.  And sadly, I think The Lutheran Study Bible will also likely be lost in the plethora of evangelical-based study bibles and translations, but that’s okay.  If you’re Lutheran, don’t let that deter you from investing in one.  I honestly believe that if  TLSB had the opportunity to really display its qualities, I’m sure it would stand out as a bright gem amongst other gems of study bibles. It easily holds its own against the ESV, NLT, and T/NIV study bibles and it might even out-do them. I still need to get a copy in my hands before saying anything more.   I admit–the reality is that if you’re not Lutheran, you probably won’t get one.

But okay, enough bragging up for the Lutheran Study Bible.  Get one for yourself, especially if you’re Lutheran.

New Epistles Contest: Give away of Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT)

Someone has a chance to win a free copy of the Holy Bible: Mosaic here on New Epistles.  (I have posted my review of Holy Bible: Mosaic).  Here are the simple rules to my contest.

  1. Reply in the comments section of this post below and ask any question about any feature of this bible. I will determine the winner by deciding on the most interesting, quirky, or insightful question. Note: There is no such thing as a dumb question!  Your questions may be asked on my interview with a Mosaic contributor on November 3, 2009.
  2. Make sure you email me your email address and question so I can contact the winner.
  3. Link this contest to your blog (or if you don’t have a blog, try to tell someone else about this contest).

Deadline to enter is: November 2, 2009 @ 11:59PM.  I will announce the winner the next day on November 3, 2009 (which is the scheduled date of my interview with a contributor on this blog tour of 50 blogs, so you have lots of chances to win.

I will contact the winner by email to obtain the mailing information so I can send out the certificate for a free copy to the winner (officially authorized by Tyndale and redeemable at any Christian bookstore where the Holy Bible: Mosaic is sold).

Review of Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT) by Tyndale

Laura Bartlett from  Tyndale asked me to participate in the 10-week Holy Bible: Mosaic Blog Tour participated by 50 blogs. Be sure to enter the New Epistles Contest here to win a free copy of this brand new bible.  I will be sending out to the winner an authorized certificate for a free copy redeemable at any Christian bookstore.
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Holy Bible: Mosaic
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers and Creedo Communications.
ISBN: 9781414322032 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781414322056 (Leather-like in antique brown with cross)

Holy Bible: Mosaic is based on the 2007 edition of the New Living Translation (NLT).  The NLT is amongst one of my favourite gender-inclusive translations.  It is very easy to read and understand, and yet, accurate.  The New Living Translation has already become a standard translation for today.  I predict the NLT will become one of the top modern translations of the 21st century—becoming what the NIV was for the 20th century.

The artwork in Mosaic is another big part of this bible.   I have found the artwork very stimulating to my visual senses.  It is very colorful and exudes with beauty making this one of my favourite aspects of the Mosaic.  The artwork includes both ancient and contemporary, ranging from Asian, African, European, North and South American.  The layout in this front section makes it easy on the eyes.  There is a lot of empty space, ancient crosses, and color to highlight the varying font types. This is very well done, for which I hail my felicitations and adulation.  It’s a beautiful layout that is aesthetically pleasing to one’s sense of sight.

When I first examined the bible from a top-down perspective, one of the first things that stood out for me was its diversity in art, contributors, and meditative readings.  If there’s one word that describes this bible is: “diversity.”  The lectionary’s readings are also diverse.  Regarding this lectionary, the readings are related to a theme.  For Pentecost, Week 23, the readings focus on a theme, which happens to be on diversity: Ruth 1:1-22; Psalm 145; Philippians 1:27-2:11; Matthew 12:46-50.  It includes a one-year lectionary of readings (52 weeks) of which I am curious to know if it was originally developed for the Mosaic.

The contributions that give this bible its distinctive flavour are all located in the front of the bible.  Scripture itself is located in the second half of the bible.   Some of the contributions are original and are written by Christians throughout the world from different cultural and theological makeup.  I have found that some of them can also be challenging because of these differences in culture and theology.  Diversity can bring a new and refreshing perspective.  Here is one such contribution from the diversity theme that reflects a view of my own human nature:

In 1 Corinthians, Paul suggests that it is human nature to gravitate toward people who are like us.  Sometimes we maintain this habit by preferring to be with others who mirror us culturally, racially, economically, etc.  In this way, I have found, I can reduce the likelihood of conflict and find others more willing to validate my opinions.  I protect and reinforce my own identity through an easier, more comfortable option.  But God is calling me to so much more.  Jesus destroyed the barriers that keep me from engaging others (Chinn, p. 299).

What also makes the Mosaic interesting is that there are also historical readings and poetic reflections from theologians and luminaries from the historic ancient, medieval and post-reformation church.  They vary in theological traditions, including well-known figures like Albertus Magnus, Thomas à Kempis, John Calvin, Teresa of Ávila, Julian of Norwich.  Authors of readings from the ancient church include: John Cassian, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, Basil the Great. Even the Didache and St. Augustine’s Invocation are a few of the ancient meditations scattered throughout the 52 weeks of readings.  There are also some of our more contemporary theologians: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, John Wesley, Alexander MacLaren, Witness Lee, Watchman Nee, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Hodge, Horatius Bonar, and more.

The Mosaic contributors include some of today’s most contemporaries whom I have never heard of, e.g., David Sanford and Rex Koivisto of Multnomah University; Pastor Bill Senyard of New Life Church.  This makes the contributions very diverse—ranging from people who are unknown, and even, completely unknown, including editors and contributors for Creedo Communications who developed this bible for Tyndale.

Regarding the text of holy scripture itself, there is a center-column reference feature.  Personally, I find this to be a useful feature because I research related passages of texts.  The font of scripture is just large enough to be read comfortably in good light, but personally, I do wish the font size were a tad bit larger.  I like the font size that’s in the NLT’s basic hardcover edition.  However, this is only a minor concern for me.

Well, Tyndale, I say “Fine work” on this bible.  The Holy Bible: Mosaic is amongst one of the most unique bibles I have seen of late.  There are combined elements of simplicity, beauty, and diversity.  This is why this has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing bibles my hands and heart have embraced in the past several years.

Other Holy Bible: Mosaic material is also available from Amazon:

  • Devotions for Advent: 9781414335780
  • Devotions for Lent: 9781414335810 (Available January 2010)

NLT Holy Bible: Mosaic released

The Holy Bible: Mosaic was released on September 22, 2009. I will be posting a review of this later. I just received my copy of Mosaic in the mail today.

But if you want a free copy of it, here’s a list of bloggers who are participating in this Mosaic blog tour. You have 50 opportunities to win your own copy by checking out the list of bloggers.

But if you want to buy a copy of it, it can be purchased on Amazon, and of course, at your local Christian bookstore.

Wesley Study Bible by Abingdon

The Wesley Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher: Abingdon Press, 2009
ISBN-10: 0687645034
ISBN-13: 978-0687645039

I wish to thank the good people at Abingdon Press for sending me this review copy.

The first thing I noticed about the Wesley Study Bible was the abundance of study notes.  The study notes seem to be geared toward the average reader of the bible, which makes it very accessible to the average person.  One is not required to have a theological education to make sense of the study notes.  I would also like to point out that occasionally some of the study notes also contain what John Wesley believed and practiced. So it is not just the Wesleyan core terms (which I will say more on) that make the study bible Wesleyan.  However, personally I would like to see even more of Wesley’s commentary.  Why not?  It’s a Wesley Study Bible.

The other thing I noticed were the boxes containing explanations of Wesleyan core terms, and there are more than 200 of these terms. A small handful of these terms include: Christian Conferencing, Circuit Rider, Conviction of Sin, Convincing Grace, Evil Tempers, Free Will, Grace and Works, Holiness of Heart, Itineracy, Means of Grace, Offices of Christ, Sanctifying Grace, Social Holiness, etc.  I think this is one of the most useful features of this bible because they open up some of the terminology related to the Wesleyan tradition.   I would consider this an educational feature of the study bible and it is most fitting.  One such Wesleyan Core Term, “Prevenient Grace”, states:

Wesley followed the idea of prevenient grace (pre-venire, to come before)—that God’s action, not ours, is the beginning of the process of salvation, followed by the necessity of our response.  Wesley believed that God’s universal offer of salvation was analogous to natural conscience whereby everybody knows the difference between good and evil.  However, Wesley said that such a discerning ability was not natural but the result of God’s enlightenment in every person’s mind.  Thus, we are enabled by God to respond freely in one of two ways—respond positively and accept this distinction between good and evil, realizing that we must repent of our sinful ways, or respond negatively, reject such knowledge, and continue in our sinful ways.

I am glad to see this because many people who may call themselves Wesleyans or Methodists may not even understand the meaning of such terminologies.  I sure didn’t but I’m not Wesleyan or Methodist either; however, it gave me a good reason to learn.  Some study bibles based on specific theological traditions do not have much content about what the founding personalities believed and practiced.  As a Wesleyan-Methodist study bible, I am glad to see notes on what John Wesley believed.

There are also nearly 200 Life Application Topics.  These are useful for the practical side of living out of one’s Christian faith.  It runs along similar lines as the Life Application Bible.  Here’s an example from one such topic on pride:

Pride is arrogance and conceit and manifests itself when we delude ourselves into thinking we operate under our own power.  We assume and live as if the world revolves around us instead of our will and way revolving around God.  Pride was the downfall of the first man or woman in the Gen account.  Pride always comes before a fall!  On the other hand, humility looks to God admitting we don’t have all the answers or solutions, but we submit to God’s will and way knowing God knows best.  This is wisdom, and the wise always find joy and lasting fulfillment with God and others.

This Life Application Topic feature further reinforces this bible as a practical study bible. The average persons or readers of the bible who desires to live out one’s faith in society will find this feature helpful in applying scriptural principles to daily living.  There are also nineteen colorful maps in the back of the bible.

The Wesley Study Bible is based on the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the bible.  It is one of the best, if not the best, formal equivalent translations available today.  I rely on this translation because it is very accurate and reliable.  It will certainly not be outdated for a long time.   It is also the first translation of choice in many United Methodist churches.

The general editors are Joel B. Green, Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and Will H. Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church who is also an outstanding preacher.  As I turned the pages near the front of the bible to see the editorial board and contributors, I noticed that the people on the editorial board and contributors were from a mix of mainline United Methodists and evangelicals of the Wesleyan and Nazarene traditions.  I believe this makes the Wesley Study Bible one of the most diverse within the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition.  I do not think other study bibles based on specific theological traditions have been able to pull together contributors from a broad spectrum of theological worldviews, but this one manages to do so, which is admirable indeed.

I recommend the Wesley Study Bible to all interested bible readers who want to study the written word of God and receive input from a Wesleyan-Methodist viewpoint.  The very helpful features will deepen one’s theological understanding, and help one apply biblical principles into their lives.  I’m sure you will enjoy the Wesley Study Bible and find it a valuable resource.

It can be purchase online from Cokesbury, Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

The TNIV is now officially a dead translation

Thanks to a commenter here I’ve just learned that the people at Zondervan have officially killed the Today’s New International Version (TNIV translation).  Christianity Today blog has just released news of this decision which had been brewing in the headquarters at Zondervan within the last ten days.  Zondervan’s past and present supporters of the TNIV have been sorely let down.  I am currently reeling from my deep disappointment with this decision.  At this point, I don’t really know what to think.  My emotions are going up and down as I am writing this blog post.

I suspect that Zondervan may have a strategic plan on the drawing board to rally support from the Christian community before they launch the new edition of the NIV in 2011.  Zondervan feels that how the TNIV was handled was a mistake.  Christianity Today’s blog post writes:

“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV….

We are correcting the mistakes in the past,” Girkins said. “Being as transparent as possible is part of that. This decision was made by the board in the last 10 days.” She said the transparency is part of an effort to overhaul the NIV “in a way that unifies Christian evangelicalism.

The first mistake was the NIVi,” Danby said. “The second was freezing the NIV. The third was the process of handling the TNIV.”

Well, was the TNIV a victim of division or a cause of division in the evangelical community?  I believe the TNIV was a victim of division rather than a cause of division.  The cause of division came from its critics who railed against gender-inclusive language but these are the same people who did not say a thing against the New Living Translation.  That was hypocritical.

Is Zondervan caving into the pressure of the bias against gender-inclusive language?  In my opinion, they are.  Perhaps there might be several spots in the TNIV where gender-inclusive language could be curbed, but on the whole, it is a very good translation.  People like me and many others who supported the TNIV will be disappointed upon hearing this sad news that came to my attention yesterday.

Douglas Moo, chair of the Committee on Bible Translation stated:

“I can predict that this is going to look 90 percent or more what the 1984 NIV looks like and 95 percent what the TNIV looks like,” he said. “The changes are going to be a very small portion of the whole Scripture package.”

Okay, so how much of the new NIV will actually contain gender-inclusive language?  95 percent?…75 percent?…50 percent?…25 percent?  Or God-forbid 10 percent?  I think the decision-makers at Zondervan are probably so dizzy trying to make sense of what happened that they have no idea what to do about the new NIV.

Will I trust Zondervan to make decisions on their future editions?  My trust has been betrayed.  What seems to be determining Zondervan’s business decisions is profit.  So the TNIV had not been selling well… so is it the almighty dollar that’s going to determine their publishing decisions in the future?

As far as I’m concerned, the only gender-inclusive translations I am going to read regularly at this point will be the NLT and NRSV.  My feelings toward Zondervan and the TNIV has turned from positive to negative.  For now, I am going to lay down my TNIV aside for now.  How ironic that I was just reading Deut. 31:12 from the TNIV earlier today in front of a group of thirteen parents and students.

The Lutheran Study Bible to release on Reformation Day

October 31 seems too far away.  I just got the promotional kit in the mail today from Concordia Publishing House (CPH). It says that this new upcoming release of The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) in the ESV translation is to be released on Reformation Day, October 31.   I can’t wait.  This really is something I am really looking forward to as a Lutheran.

I know some of you out there are not too keen on the ESV but I still like it, despite some of the rough spots.  But the study notes in this study bible are going to be amazing. I’ve only seen a sampler and it looks very good from what I can see so far. I guess the old NIV Lutheran Self-Study Bible is on the way out.

Some of the features will include:

• 26,500-plus uniquely Lutheran study notes.
• Over 2,000 application notes and prayers for every part of the Bible.
• 80,000 center column cross-references.
• Over 900 cross-references to 120 full or half-page maps, charts, and diagrams.
• 220-plus articles and introductions to biblical books and topics.
• Insights from early church, medieval and Reformation era church fathers.
• Uses the English Standard Version translation, one of the most precise English translations available.
• Durable Smyth-sewn binding.

The promotional DVD is slick…I mean totally slick.  They have two young post-moderns in their twenties talking up the new TLSB.  This campaign is really geared for the younger generations.  Take a look at this video. I have to hand it to Concordia. They’re really doing a top-notch marketing campaign–one of the best I’ve seen, at least in the Lutheran world.

Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV by Augsburg Fortress

Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher:
Augsburg Fortress
ISBN:  9780806680590

I wish to thank the good people at Augsburg Fortress for sending me this copy to review. 

The Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is the first study bible published by Augsburg Fortress.  This was a fruit of the Book of Faith Initiative in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is designed to encourage members of the church to dig deeper into the bible.  Through this initiative, Augsburg Fortress has inadvertently entered the study bible market. I don’t think it was meant to compete with the upcoming Lutheran Study Bible, which is soon to be released in October by Concordia Publishing House.  These are entirely two different study bibles and are based on different translations.

The NRSV is the translation that is most widely used in the ELCA.  As a result, it was the obvious choice for the Lutheran Study Bible.  The NRSV is one of my favorite translations because it is very accurate, dependable, and uses gender inclusive language.

Upon my opening of the bible, the first thing I noticed was that the study notes were situated on the side of the page instead of the traditional place at the bottom.  I found this easy to locate the study notes because I could just look horizontally and right next to the passage is the corresponding notes.  There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of study notes but since this is Augsburg’s first study bible, it’s a good start already.  Perhaps the next edition in the future will be more notes.  It also surprised me to find that some of the articles were located in between the books of Nahum and Habakkuk. It would be so much easier to locate them if they were all placed at the beginning of the bible, including the subject guide and the bible reading plan.

Added to this critique would be my recommendation to either increase the font size of the biblical text from a 10 point font to an 11 point font, or to change the font to something easier to read, but preferably both.  Keep the study notes located on the side.  It’s a great approach to layout.  I also like the single-column layout because it is much easier to read than a two-column layout.

On a note of personal preference, I prefer something other than baby blue for the chapter headings and cover.  A darker and more visible color would be easier on the eyes.  But since this is also the theme color of the Book of Faith initiative, I guess I could go for that, but I say: “Buck the theme color and go against the grain!”  Give it a nice richer and fuller color in the future.  I’d also like to note the nice art work at the beginning of each book.  That’s a nice addition.

The forty-nine contributors of the study notes with individual book introductions are Lutheran scholars almost entirely from the ELCA. However, as a Lutheran, I’d also like to see some commentary by Martin Luther himself.  If that were to be included in the future editions, it would really make it a ‘Lutheran Study Bible.’ So add some more of Luther. 

The study notes use four icons to indicate:
• World of the Bible: people, places, events and artifacts;
• Bible Concepts: ideas and theological insights;
• Lutheran Perspectives: asks a question about a bible verse or passage from a uniquely Lutheran theological perspective;
• Faith Reflection: asks a question to cause one to think about and discuss the meaning of the text.

The other main feature of this study bible is all the articles throughout the bible.  All the contributors are ELCA scholars and pastors.  I will comment in more detail what I think about my four favourite articles below.  However, regarding the other five articles, they range from okay to good. Moreover, there is some overlap between these other articles. I appreciate their scholarly background, however, I found some of the contributors to the articles being overly-defensive about the Lutheran perspective, which need not be.

Among my top favourites are the Old and New Testament Overview and Section Introductions.  The two articles written by Walter C. Bouzard (O.T.) and Arland J. Hultgren (N.T.) provide a top-notch scholarly perspective on the Old and New Testaments. 

Bouzard provides the reader with a simple explanation of JEPD.  He also describes God’s involvement in the life of Israel as a picture, in stating: “virtually all agree that the Penteteuch is made up of multiple literary strands. Thus, the Penteteuch is like a mosaic created of many colored stones or pieces of glass.” I also like his explanation of the Penteteuch:

“Jews refer to these books as the Torah, a word that is too narrowly translated as ‘law,’ as in the ‘books of the law.’  That translation is unfortunate, because torah cannot be summed up in the single word law.  Torah also includes ideas like direction, instruction, and teaching.  Moreover, thinking of the content of the Penteteuch only as law is not helpful.  It is true that many of the chapters in these books are filled with legal material, but they include much more than that.  Between Genesis and Deuteronomy we find stories, poems, genealogies, folk tales, and other types of literature” (p. 45).

Hultgren takes a stand on the authenticity of Paul’s authorship for at least seven of the thirteen epistles that have been traditionally seen as authored by Paul. Of these are: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  I like his admittance to Paul’s use of secretaries or scribes to help write his letters.  I have always thought that this was done by Paul in writing his epistles.  Some scholars don’t admit to this.  To not consider this as a real possibility denies the circumstances of Paul’s days.  Regarding the other six epistles, Hultgren states:

“The other six letters attributed to Paul may not have been written or dictated by him in a literal sense. Many scholars believe that their authors were associates of Paul who felt authorized to speak for him and who may have continued to speak and write in his name for some years after his death.  This would explain why these six letters are so different from the other seven letters of Paul in vocabulary and style….and why some major concepts found in the seven letters certainly written by Paul are missing from these six” (p. 1850).

My third favourite article is the Introduction to the Bible, written by Hans Dahl, discusses how the bible came to be, beginning from an oral tradition and leading up to the culmination of various manuscripts over centuries, and eventually forming the canon.  I like how Dahl leaves room for the various interpretations of the inspiration of Scripture: “…the Bible does not explain how this inspiration occurred.  Some believe the Bible’s words were communicated directly by God to its authors, and the authors wrote them down as if listening to recording.  Others argue that the message of the Bible is what God inspired, but the actual words were the work of the authors.  Still others believe the authors themselves were inspired by God, but not necessarily the words” (p. 20).

This leaves room for the learner to make up their minds for themselves, which is what I like.  Dahl also mentions that Martin Luther wrestled with four books—Jude, James, Hebrews, and Revelation—which were included in the canon.  I also like his mention of Luther’s idea of a canon within a canon.

“Luther also promoted the idea that the Bible contains a “canon within a canon.”  He recognized that within the biblical canon there are books, such as the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John, that hold greater authority than others because they convey more clearly who Christ is and what Christ came to do” (p. 23).

My fourth favourite article is the Small Catechism: A Simple Guide for the Book of Faith written by Timothy J. Wengert (who is also co-translator of the Book of Concord).  Wengert ably explains the doctrine of law and gospel par excellence.

“The law—in addition to providing good order in this world and its institutions and restraining evil—breaks down, strips bare, destroys, terrifies, and puts to death by unmasking our lust for control of God and salvation.  The gospel, as God’s answer to our human predicament, builds up, clothes in righteousness, creates, comforts, and brings new life by announcing God’s unconditional promise.”

Wengert explains that our human condition is not that we ought to feel guilty, but rather, we are guilty and ashamed by our sins.  Our weaknesses in our sinful condition trap us into manufacturing the proper spiritual feelings.  He states:

“The Holy Spirit (not the preacher, teacher, or reader) then takes those very truths and does what only God can do—destroys the unbelieving Old Creature and creates the New Creature of faith by revealing the truth about God: that God is gracious and merciful” (p. 1531).

When the Holy Spirit does the work, it removes any possibility of glory due to our our human efforts.  We are left without any choice but to give God all the praise and glory.

I recommend the Lutheran Study Bible for any Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, and learners who are searching the Scriptures and desire to reflect more deeply upon Lutheran perspectives as they read the Holy Scriptures. This first edition of the Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is wonderful.  I am sure Augsburg Fortress will see that many Lutherans will also be highly appreciative of this.