I've long been a fan of the New English Translation (NET) Bible, especially due to its copious notes. Nathan at Bible Snippets reviewed the NET Bible recently, and I think he did a great job pointing out the NET's place in the pantheon of English Bible Translations. You can read the review here, and be sure to check out the rest of his site--it's quite good.
Surely most, if not all, readers of the Bible Bookshelf Blog know that, for a lot of people, "the Bible" does not mean the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. For Catholic and Orthodox Christians, there are seven or so other books in their Bibles, known to most Protestants as the Apocrypha, but more accurately known as Deuterocanonical books. For Jews, of course, the Bible consists only of the Hebrew Scriptures, known to many Christians as "the Old Testament." I have a few different Jewish Bibles I'm quite fond of, because they help to break my out of my culturally bound preconceptions of the Bible as a Christian collection of books. No doubt some of my more conservative readers will take issue with that statement, reminding me that the whole of scripture points toward Jesus. If that were the case, however, one would think that it could have been made a bit more plain to people who lived before Jesus was born. My point being that it is all well and good to read the Hebrew Scriptures through a Christian lens, so to speak, and seeing all of these "clear" signs pointing to Jesus as Messiah, but it must have been quite different for the original readers of those Hebrew Scriptures, as it is for modern Jews. Moving right along...below are a few of my favorite Jewish Bibles:
The Jewish Study Bible: this study Bible, based on the 1985 New Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS), is comparable to many Christian study Bibles, with excellent notes and resources from a Jewish point of view.
Stone Edition Tanach: this Hebrew-English Tanach is translated by Orthodox Jewish translators, and the notes are from an Orthodox Jewish perspective. Therefore, the name of God appears as "HaShem," rather than "the LORD," with which most English Bible readers are probably familiar. This is a beautifully bound Bible.
The Koren Tanakh: not quite as beautifully done as the Stone Edition Tanach, this is nevertheless a great Hebrew-English Tanakh. The translators of the Koren Tanakh retain the English language tradition of translating the Tetragrammaton as "the LORD." The formatting of the text is a little odd, with verse numbers in the margins, and long spaces between verses in the body of the text. The language is rather archaic, and sounds much like the King James Version much of the time.
The Five Books of Moses: this translation by Robert Alter is, of course, only the Torah, rather than the entire Tanach. Alter is quite sensitive to the demands of the Hebrew language and its cadences, which are so different from English. A great example is his rendering of the Hebrew phrase tohu vabohu in the opening lines of Genesis: "...and the earth was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters." (italics mine) The commentary is enlightening, and the translation is refreshingly unique.
These are just a few of my favorite Jewish Bibles. There are several others in my collection that I also enjoy, but I'm running out of time, and so I shall leave them for a future post!
I hadn't realized when I requested the ebook of Ray Stedman's Adventuring Through the Bible from NetGalley that I had a print copy of the earlier 1997 version of the book that I inherited from my grandmother's collection. That turned out to be very interesting for me, as I was able to read the book both on its own merits and in comparison to its earlier edition. I can confidently say that the new version is much expanded and enhanced, and a definite improvement over the earlier edition. (The expanded 2012 version is over 100 pages longer than the 1997 publication.)
Adventuring Through the Bible is an excellent survey of the Protestant Bible, both Old and New Testaments. (Stedman, writing for an evangelical audience, does not cover the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books, of course.) The book is written at a layman's level, with many anecdotes to help explain the meaning of the Bible, as well as the reason for reading the world's best selling book. Meanwhile, the book is quite thorough in its explanation of the Bible, book by book, and despite the layman's level of reading, the book is not "dumbed down." The expanded edition is loaded with maps and charts, discussion questions and sidebars, as well as some beautiful color photographs of the Holy Land. (The only difficulty I had with the ebook version I read was that a couple of sidebars in the first few chapters were almost too dark in color to read.) There are also a few Bible reading plans added before the book's Index, that many readers will find very helpful if they are interested in reading the Bible in one year.
For a reader-friendly guide to the Bible, the average Bible reader will find Adventuring Through the Bible a useful addition to his or her library.
[In the interest of full disclosure, I received the ebook of Adventuring Through the Bible free from NetGalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions expressed above are my own.]
Growing up in the Lutheran Church (ELCA), I actually don't remember ever observing Lent, if you can believe that. Which is funny, because I was pretty active in church as a teenager: I attended confirmation class religiously, and sang in the adult choir. But I don't remember ever giving up anything for Lent, or talking about it much at all.
But I do remember all the sung responses from the Lutheran Book of Worship, my favorite of which was always the snippet from Psalm 51, "Create in me a clean heart." Since today is Ash Wednesday, and the Psalm 51 text is often read on this first day of Lent, I thought I would present the text from Psalm 51:10-12 that has been in my memory for so many years, in a variety of versions:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (NRSV)
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. (HCSB)
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. (KJV)
Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (Living Bible)
God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! (Message)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (NIV)
Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me! Please don’t throw me out of your presence; please don’t take your holy spirit away from me. Return the joy of your salvation to me and sustain me with a willing spirit. (CEB)
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit[a] from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (NLT)
I'm posting the current Bible Translations Bestseller List from Christian Booksellers Association, as I often like to do. Please note, the CBA's list only tracks retailers who are members of the CBA. I imagine, if you factored in sales figures from secular bookstores and online sellers (like Amazon), the list would be significantly different.
There are a few interesting points on this month's list (posted below):
The KJV has dropped to third place, in both dollar sales and unit sales. This is unusual, as the KJV has maintained the #2 spot for years, with very few exceptions.
The NKJV is #2 in dollar sales, but #4 in unit sales, and vice versa for the NLT. That's interesting to me, but I'm not exactly sure what it means (if anything).
The CEB is holding firm at #9, which is not bad for a "liberal" translation.
The Reina-Valera (the most popular Spanish version) and the NASB have a similar thing going on in positions 7 and 8 to what is going on between the NLT and NKJV.
As I've said in the past, I try not to read too much into these best-seller lists. After all, how a translation is selling doesn't seem to have much bearing on how it's being read. I've certainly had encounters with people in bookstores who had no idea what the differences between versions were. I suspect an awful lot of Bible buyers make their choices based on what their pastors recommend, or even how the Bible looks (cover design, formatting, etc.). And marketing certainly has a little something to do with it, as well. Anyway, take a look at the March 2014 Bible Translation Bestseller List below, and see what you think...