The Evangelism Study Bible

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s difficult for me to review the Bible.  After all, what am I supposed to write?  “Great job, God!  You knocked it out of the park on this one!  I see a best seller here!”  I mean, I’m certainly not going to critique it and suggest there are mistakes, that something could have been worded a little more clearly or gently… “Hey, God, overall I like the book, but this Jesus character?  He was pretty blunt – couldn’t you have toned him down a bit?”  Yeah, not gonna happen.

So when I was given the opportunity to review the Evangelism Study Bible I understood that I was not reviewing the scripture itself but rather the extra-biblical resources contained in the Bible – things like book introductions, the concordance, study notes, etc.  This particular bible is a NKJV, so unlike one of my earlier reviews I wasn’t even reviewing the translation.

So here’s my thoughts…  Overall the notes seem to be helpful and high-quality.  They do a nice job of bringing an evangelistic focus to verses I would have never thought about looking at in that way (as in the notes on how to help a new believer choose a church aligned with the building of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles).  The concordance seemed comprehensive enough for a paper version (let’s be honest, at this point I use the internet on my phone to do word searches more than anything else), and the included ribbon bookmark was a nice little feature that I always appreciate in any Bible.

But I guess this is where I get hesitant: why not just public a book on evangelism rather than embed a book within the Bible?  Wouldn’t that be more useful and easy to read?  It’s like they took a book of Q&A on evangelism, cut it up into small chunks, and then just split them up on pages throughout the scripture – but, as with all Bible, the important stuff isn’t this commentary, it’s the scripture. And I guess that’s my biggest struggle with bibles like this in general.  I’ve been in too many settings where someone will read the notes or commentary as scripture, when they aren’t.  I’m not suggesting notes and commentaries are bad, I’m just saying they don’t have the same level of authority as do the words of scripture themselves.  Many who read the Bible seem to understand this, and I’m certainly not against using notes and commentaries in Bible studies and discussions (I do it myself).  But there are also many who seem unable to distinguish between what God has written and what man has interpreted and written.  At the end of the day, these Bibles too often seem more about marketing than they do anything else (as a disclaimer, I have multiple study Bibles at my house that I have purchased).  In many ways I think someone could find more valuable and accurate resources (and save some money) by doing a little online research or just purchasing a commentary/study guide/book as they could by purchasing one of these Bibles.

Having said all that, it is not a mistake to purchase a Study Bible and if you’re looking for a good translation to carry around with you and you want to get some “bonus” features thrown in, this is an excellent choice.  I often think of buying study bibles as a 2-for-1 deal – you get the Bible and a basic commentary for one price.  So if you want the ease of carrying only one book, or if it’s more cost effective to purchase a study Bible rather than a Bible and a commentary, this may be a good option for you.  I’ll give this book 3.5/5 stars.  For the record, I did receive a complimentary copy in exchanges for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.


99 Stories from the Bible

I’ve been on this kick recently of reading and reviewing children’s books, book I got in an effort to find resources to support me in guiding their spiritual development and growing their faith.  Some have been good, and some have been not-so-good; unfortunately, this book falls in the latter category.

The difficulty with reading books that take Biblical stories and water them down to levels kids can understand is that it’s hard to reduce the word of God at all – how do you take the fall and reduce it to just a couple of sentences without loose the truths contained in it?  Not to mention the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.  And that’s the problem with 99 Stories from the Bible – in trying to reduce the stories into “readable” versions for little kids, the truth is water-ed down (at best) or completely omitted (at worst).


If you’re looking for a devotional to do with your kids, this book isn’t it – I would still recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones The Jesus Storybook Bible instead.  Overall I’ll give this book 1/5 stars; for the record, I did receive a complementary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Book Review: The Voice New Testament

I’ve fallen a little behind on my reviews, but in the next couple of weeks I should be getting more caught up.  The fact of the matter is one of the books I have been reading just hasn’t been very good (I’ll post that review soon), one has been absolutely fantastic (that will be posted this week as part of a blog tour), and one, well, I’ve just gotten lost in the book and enjoyed it so much I was afraid that if I posted my review I’d not come back to it.  That book is Thomas Nelson’s The Voice translation of the The Bible, originally released back in 2008.

It’s always difficult to review a Bible translations because I’m not a language scholar, so I don’t understand translation in general yet alone the finer nuances that make one version of the Bible different from any other.  But I am a follower of Jesus, the living and risen Savior and Son of God, and through him I have a relationship with God the Father and am in-dwelled by the Holy Spirit.  That is not to suggest this blog review is “inspired by God”.  It’s simply to say that I view reading a Bible translation through the lens of deepening my relationship with Him.  Since I believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and we know that God’s Word does not return to Him void, then it makes sense that reading the Scripture should draw me closer to Him.  So how do I judge whether the translation is a good one or not?  In large part by whether I notice any change in my life after having read it.  Reading this translation has done exactly that.  I’ve already blogged on how it’s begun to impact my prayer life, and I can also testify to the fact that I find myself excited every day to get up and read it – which is something I struggled with for a long time.  I find that, in short, I don’t want to put it down but instead want to spend more time reading what God has said to me.

There are a couple of unique aspects to The Voice.  The first is how they translate the Greek word “Christos”, or “Christ”.  I have read several chapters in the Gospels a couple of chapters from Acts, the entire letters of Ephesians and Philippians, and a scattering of chapters elsewhere.  The word “Christ” never appears once.  The translators made the decision to translate the word “Christos” literally, or as “The Anointed” (or a variation thereof) instead of the English word “Christ”  The reason for this is “Christ” is actually a title (like Mr., Mrs. Dr. etc) in the original Greek, but many people in the English-speaking word have interpreted “Jesus Christ” not as “Jesus the Anointed” but thought “Christ” was simply the last name of the Jesus.  At first this took some getting used to as a I read through the scripture, but the more I read the easier it is to process.  I will also say it’s given me a new appreciation for the name “Jesus” (something I’ll blog about separately soon).

Another difference is the book is written in script format, meaning there are no “He said” or “She said” references.  Instead, you read the name of the person speaking and then just see what they speak.  As a drama person I absolutely love this – and there are even examples of what might be considered “stage directions” to help set the scenes.  As I read through the chapters I read this format really caused the text to come alive to the point I could literally see everything happening!  It was very exciting to read.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this translation is that it wasn’t performed solely by ancient-text scholars (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic).  The translation was performed by a team of people – and the team consisted of both ancient-text scholars and modern-day writers (poets, dramatists, writers, etc) as a way to blend experts in the original language and experts in the modern language (English).  I can’t say how it was handled or who had what role, but I can tell you the text is an absolute pleasure to read.  In terms of “word-for-word” vs. “thought-for-thought” translation, the introduction describes this as a balance between the two, which personally makes sense to me.  Some may argue that since this translation is not a word-for-word translation it shouldn’t be used for serious Bible study.  And that may or may not be true.  All I can say is that if reading it leads to a deepening of my walk with God as evidenced by the fruit in my life, why would I not read it?  When I do serious Bible study I never stick to one translation, because, in reality, no translation is truly word-for-word for the simple fact there are no exact matches for all words between two languages – every translation at some point has to translate thought-to-thought otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.  Poetry is a perfect example of this – you can’t perform a word-for-word translation of poetry from one language into another without loosing some of it’s meaning (since the form partly defines the meaning), so the work of any translator (or team) is to figure out the best word in the target language to match the original.  The introduction actually does a good job of placing this argument out there, and it was one I was excited to read because for years I have struggled with the fact certain teachers prefer one translation over another or say one is better than the other.  The fact is that every translation is exactly that: a translation, which means by definition we are reading a certain amount of interpretation based on the viewpoint of the translator.  If you want to study “the original Word of God” then you’d better do it in the original language, otherwise recognize there may be imperfections along the way.

Below is Acts Chapter 12 quoted in it’s entirety – the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison.  I encourage you to read this and you’ll see much of what I’ve talked about in terms of the style of this translation – particularly how enjoyable it is to read.  For a free copy of the entire New Testament visit Hear the Voice‘s homepage, which also contains information on how the translation was performed.

1Back in Jerusalem, hard times came to the disciples. King Herod violently seized some who belonged to the church with the intention of mistreating them. 2He ordered James (brother of John) to be executed by the sword, the first of those appointed as emissaries to be martyred. 3This move pleased Jewish public opinion, so he decided to arrest Peter also. During the holy festival of Unleavened Bread, 4he caught Peter and imprisoned him, assigning four squads of soldiers to guard him. He planned to bring him to trial publicly after the Passover holiday.

5During Peter’s imprisonment, the church prayed constantly and intensely to God for his safety. 6Their prayers were not answered, until the night before Peter’s execution.
Picture this event: Peter is sound asleep between two soldiers, double-chained, with still more guards outside the prison door watching for external intruders. 7Suddenly the cell fills with light: it is a messenger of the Lord manifesting himself. He taps Peter on the side, awakening him.

Messenger of the Lord: Get up, quickly.

The chains fall off Peter’s wrists.

Messenger of the Lord: 8Come on! Put on your belt. Put on your sandals.

Peter puts them on and just stands there.

Messenger of the Lord: Pull your cloak over your shoulders. Come on! Follow me!

9Peter does so, but he is completely dazed. He doesn’t think this is really happening—he assumes he is dreaming or having a vision. 10They pass the first guard. They pass the second guard. They come to the iron gate that opens to the city. The gate swings open for them on its own, and they walk into a lane. Suddenly the messenger disappears.

11Peter finally realized all that had really happened.

Peter: Amazing! The Lord has sent His messenger to rescue me from Herod and the public spectacle of my execution which the Jews fully expected. 12Peter immediately rushed over to the home of a woman named Mary. (Mary’s son, John Mark, would eventually become an important associate of the apostles.) A large group had gathered there to pray for Peter and his safety. 13He knocked at the outer gate; and a maid, Rhoda, answered. 14She recognized Peter’s voice, but she was so overcome with excitement that she left him standing on the street and ran inside to tell everyone.

Rhoda: Our prayers were answered! Peter is at the front gate!

Praying Believers: 15Rhoda, you’re crazy!

Rhoda: No! Peter’s out there! I’m sure of it!

Praying Believers: Well, maybe it’s his guardian angel or something.

16All this time, Peter was still out in the street, knocking on the gate. Finally they came and let him in. Of course, the disciples were stunned, and everyone was talking at once. 17Peter motioned for them to quiet down and then told them the amazing story of how the Lord engineered his escape.

Peter: Could you please get word to James, our Lord’s brother, and the other believers
that I’m all right? Then he left to find a safer place to stay.

18But when morning came and Peter was gone, there was a huge uproar among the soldiers. 19Herod sent troops to find Peter, but he was missing. Herod interrogated the guards and ordered their executions. Peter headed down toward the coast to Caesarea, and he remained there.

20At this time there was major political upheaval. Herod was at odds with the populace of neighboring Tyre and Sidon, so the two cities sent a large group of representatives to meet with him. They won over one of Herod’s closest associates, Blastus, the director of the treasury; then they pressured Herod to drop his grudge. Cooperation was important to the two cities because they were all major trading partners and depended on Herod’s territory for food. 21They strucka deal, and Herod came over to ratify it. Dressed in all his royal finery and seated high above them on a platform, he made a speech; 22and the people of Tyre and Sidon interrupted with cheers to flatter him.

The People: This is the voice of a god! This is no mere mortal!

23Herod should have given glory to the true God; but since he vainly accepted their flattery, that very day a messenger of the Lord struck him with an illness. It was an ugly disease, involving putrefaction and worms eating his flesh. Eventually he died.

24Through all this upheaval, God’s message spread to new frontiers and attracted more and more people. 25Meanwhile, the time Barnabas and Saul spent in Jerusalem came to an end, and they reported back to Antioch, bringing along John, who was also called Mark.

I do recognize there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this translation, and it’s hard to give a rating for the Bible, for fear I might offend the original author!  But I believe that this translation, working side-by-side with other translations, can lead one to a deeper understanding and relationship with God through Christ.  Many of the objectives I’ve read online can easily be addressed, so, with that being said, I’ll give this a 5/5 stars.

Book Review: The Family Illustrated Bible

Reviewing Bibles is one of the most difficult things to do – especially Bibles that are paraphrases for children, because they raise so many questions regarding interpretation and theology.

So here’s the long and short of it: this would be a good Bible for families with children in the 6-10 year old range, but it just wasn’t appropriate for my girls (ages 2 and 4).  The illustrations are fantastic and the “study” notes give great context (both historical and cultural) to the Biblical stories.

My biggest problem with Bibles in this style (and I have some and use them regularly with my girls) is that they present the Bible as a collection of stories – so it becomes little different than a big book of Dr. Seuss or Grimm’s fairy tales.  They too often fail to connect the stories with each other to form The Story – that over-arching story of a God who goes to extraordinary (divine) lengths to rescue and redeem a lost and fallen people.  The other issue with Bibles like this is the amount of Scripture they omit – much of the wisdom literature and prophets in the Old Testament and over 1/2 of the New Testament.  This particular Bible basically ends with Acts (though there is one page devoted to “The Letters of Paul” and one page devoted to “The Book of Revelation”, but they hardly do the contents justice)

Now I understand that when you create a book of “stories” it is hard to include scripture that doesn’t fit into the “story” genre, but it also gives a misrepresentation to our kids about what the Bible is.  My girls need to understand that not all of the Bible is nice, neat stories – some if it requires thought and energy to both read and understand.  And that’s what this Bible lacks.

Over all I’ll give it 3/5 stars.  For the record, I received this book free from the publisher for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review.

Enter to Win a Free Bible

Okay, for all you Facebook people out there, you can actually enter a contest to get a free Bible.  They’re having a contest to vote on certain Christian ministries, and one of the prizes is to be entered into a drawing for a free Bible.  Here’s some of the info (copied directly from them):

With the Give the Word Bible Contest and Giveaway:
Ministries win: Each time the NLT Facebook Page reaches a fan count milestone, votes will be tallied and the three ministries will receive cash donations from the New Living Translation and Tyndale House Publishers.
Everyone wins: Everyone who enters on the Bible Contest website wins a free download of Matthew West reading the Christmas story.
Daily NLT Study Bible winners: Vote on the NLT Facebook page and you will be entered to win two NLT Study Bibles—one to keep and one to give away. A new winner will be chosen every day.
Weekly Give the Word Locally winners: Tell us about a deserving local ministry on the NLT Bible Contest website and they could win five NLT Study Bibles and $250 worth of NLT products.
One Grand Prize winner will enjoy a unique trip customized just for them and their family (or three guests of their choice), to Wycliffe Bible Translators world headquarters and the WordSpring Discovery Center where they will experience firsthand the exciting world of Bible translation. The Grand Prize winner could also choose to donate the value of the trip–$2000–to Wycliffe instead.

Feel free to check out the Facebook Page for more info.