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Lifeway Stores Remove "The Blind Side" from Shelves Over Profanity--Is the Bible Next?

According to a report in Louisiville's Courier-Journal, Baptist-owned Lifeway Stores have pulled the 2009 movie The Blind Side from its shelves over profanity. 

In spite of the film's positive treatments of issues like racial reconciliation, care of the homeless, and true hospitality, a bit of swearing will keep this movie out of Lifeway Stores. Perhaps the PTB at Lifeway didn't catch the MPAA's PG-13 rating of the movie for "one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references" to begin with. Maybe if that were the only issue and no swearing was involved in the above-described scene, the movie could stay on the shelves. 

Regardless, this got me thinking... What if Lifeway were to really get consistent with this "no swearing" policy for everything they carried. Would they really go all the way and remove the Bible, too?

Wait...what? You didn't know there was swearing in the Bible? Well, if you didn't, it's because most translations tend to smooth over objectionable language. 

I should stop to point out right now that the posts on this blog have always ranged from being rated G to PG, and that's not going to change now, but I will respectfully offer three examples of profanity (or at least very strong language) in the Bible for sake of argument. 

Philippians 3:8

Let's start with Paul in the New Testament, who after offering a pretty impressive resume of his earthly accomplishments, calls them for what they are in light of what he's gained from knowing Christ:

"More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth [σκύβαλον/skubalon], so that I may gain Christ" (HCSB, emphasis added).

Paul uses a very interesting choice of words here. The Greek word σκύβαλον/skubalon could refer to garbage or excrement according to its use. However, there's very little doubt as to how Paul was using this word here. And it's interesting to see commentators attempt to explain this without using strong language themselves. Consider J. I. Packer's explanation (NIDNTT, 1:480):

The only NT usage is Paul’s in Phil. 3:8, where he says of all the natural and religious privileges which once seemed sweet and precious, and all the things he has lost since becoming a Christian, “I count (estimate, evaluate) them as (nothing but) dung.” The coarse and violent word shows how completely Paul had ceased to value them.

Spicq may have made the sense a bit more plain when he wrote, "To convey the crudity of the Greek, however: 'It’s all crap'" (TLNT, 3:265). Truthfully, though, when you think of our modern word that's a bit stronger, that's the kind of intensity that Paul probably meant. 


Ezekiel: just about any time he refers to idols

Ezekiel is not alone in this in the Old Testament, but he has a preferred word when referring to idols: גִּלּוּל/gillul. 

Daniel Block explains it best in his commentary on Ezekiel (NICOT, Ezekiel, vol. 1, p. 226):

idols. The word gillûlı̂m...represents Ezekiel’s favorite expression for “images.” Although he did not coin the term, the fact that 39 of its 48 occurrences in the OT are in this book indicates its usefulness for his purposes. The word appears to be an artificial construct derived from the verb gālal, “to roll,” but vocalized after the pattern of šiqqûṣı̂m. The adoption of this word as a designation for idols may have been prompted by the natural pelletlike shape and size of sheep feces or, less likely, the cylindrical shape of human excrement. The name has nothing to do with the shape of idols, but it expresses Ezekiel’s/Yahweh’s disposition toward them. Modern sensitivities prevent translators from rendering this expression as Ezekiel intended it to be heard, but had he been preaching today, he would probably have identified these idols with a four-letter word for excrement.* A more caustic comment on idolatry can scarcely be imagined. Yahweh’s treatment of these images will involve not only their “smashing” (šābar) and “obliteration” (šābat), but their exposure as powerless figments of the human imagination. The destruction of the images testifies to the deities’ impotence to defend themselves, and the slaughter of the devotees to the gods’ inability to defend their worshipers.

In the original of the above, there are actually a number of footnotes that I'm not reproducing here. However, I will reproduce (with apologies for those who might be offended) footnote 45, which I have replaced with an asterisk above. It reads: "Bodi (RB 100 [1993] 481, 510) captures the intended sense with 'shitgods.'" You can read Block's explanation of Ezek 16:36 in the second volume of his commentary for an even more harsh use of this imagery. 

Hmmm... based on this example and the one from Paul, I'm noticing a biblical theme not covered in most topical treatments of the Bible...


1 Samuel 20:30

“Then Saul became angry with Jonathan and shouted, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you are siding with Jesse’s son to your own shame and to the disgrace of your mother?” (HCSB)

Now, you probably think that I'm referring to the phrase, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!" (בֶּן־נַעֲוַת הַמַּרְדּוּת/ben-na‘awat hammardut) which would certainly have an equivalent modern expression not fit for mixed company, but I'm not actually referring to that phrase. While not specifically swearing perhaps, Saul is using language that is quite strong and forceful in the second half of his sentence. The more literal New American Standard communicates it differently (but not necessarily more clearly): "Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness [עֶרְוַת אִמֶּךָ/‘erwat ’immekha]?" (emphasis added).

David Tsumura explains (NICOT, p. 520):

The term nakedness (ʿerwat), which may refer euphemistically to genitals, is used in a curse: to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness. Here the emphasis is on the disgrace or shame which Saul thinks Jonathan has brought upon himself and his family rather than “his mother’s genitals, whence he came forth.” Note that the nakedness itself is disgraceful to anyone.

As an aside, it is well known that, in regard to the first phrase, when the Living Bible was first completed in the early 70s, Kenneth Taylor, did in fact use the modern expression "son of a bitch." It even appears that way in The Children's Living Bible that my grandmother gave me in 1973. In all later editions of the Living Bible, the phrase was altered to "You fool!" which is probably too weak. The current New Living Translation reads "You stupid son of a whore!" which like the original Hebrew, is pretty tough language if you're the recipient of it. 


Honorable Mentions

  • Although not offensive in 1611, reading 1 Sam 25:22, 34; 1 Kgs 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kgs 9:8; 18:27; Isa 36:12 in the King James Version would not be seen as appropriate in many churches today.
  • And while not containing actual profanity, in my mind "Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite” (Ezek 16:45, HCSB) is an example of real fighting words :-)


My apologies to my mother, for all the language, if you are reading this post. 


As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments below.


Obvious? Maybe Not: Why the HCSB and NLT

Over on Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins has written an insightful analysis (that I highly recommend) of Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 in the updated NIV. See "A Review of the New NIV of Qohelet 11:1-2." Incidentally, I agree with John's assertion that Eccl 11:1-2 in the updated NIV is more interpretation than translation.

In the introduction of John's post, he mentioned my post from a couple of days ago regarding my initial thoughts about the updated NIV. Following that mention, he referred to the fact that I stated that I had moved on from the TNIV, and that now my two primary translations were the HCSB and NLT. Then John wrote this:

What Rick never explains is why he makes primary use of HCSB and NLT. It ought to be obvious: he is Southern Baptist. For the same reason, a United Methodist might make primary use of NRSV and CEB; a Roman Catholic, of (say) RSV and NAB. The sociological reasons for choosing one Bible over another tend to go undiscussed. But they are often determinative.

Initially, I began writing what you see below in the comments on John's website. However, because I can sometimes be a bit longwinded, I decided to move my response here to This Lamp.

Here is how I began my response:

John, actually, I have explained why I currently make primary use of the HCSB and NLT before in other posts. My initial take on the updated NIV was already long enough and rehashing this other issue would have been too far off subject.

However, to say that my choices for the HCSB and NLT are merely (obvious was the word you used) because I am Southern Baptist is a bit reductionistic, and frankly, I feel, sells my preferences, and perhaps me, a bit short.

I've been a collector and student of Bible translations before I ever studied biblical languages. Initially, I thought that perhaps after studying Greek and Hebrew, my interest in English translations would wane, but that was not the case. In fact, it increased because I found that I had a better understanding of why particular translational choices were made. My most valuable M.Div level class in the nineties was the elective I took on textual criticism taught by John Polhill, which gave me further tools for understanding translators' choices.

Most of my personal study of the Scriptures takes place on a computer—usually in Accordance, but increasingly in BibleReader on my iPad. I like using Accordance because I can have the original languages side-by-side with my own translation of the text as well as all the standard English translations. Sometimes I throw in Luther's German Bible, too, because I want to see how a phrase reads in the German (although I don't claim any great skill in German, I'm usually interested enough to look up what I can't work out on my own).

The English translations I favor tend to go through cycles, rising and falling like investments on the stock exchange. Four years ago, I created a "Top Ten" list based more on my print collection than what I have access to electronically. Recently, I updated that list to better reflect where I am now. Yes, there are more Protestant Bibles on that list, but not exclusively so. And yes, about half tend to be rooted more in Evangelical use, but there tends to be more of these kinds of translations to begin with. All things considered, I believe I have a more eclectic of a list than one might have predicted.

Nevertheless, it's important for me to point out that I do not begin with translations in my study of the Bible.

Study of the scriptures, for me, begins with the original languages, although admittedly my Greek is still better than my Hebrew.  My study of the Bible is currently focused over three areas: (1) I am still working on my dissertation which focuses on Paul's "prayer wish" in 1 Thess 5:23-24; (2) I teach a weekly Bible study at church and occasionally find opportunities to preach; and (3) sometimes like many of us, I become interested in a subject or a passage, and I study it for no other reason than the fact that I am simply interested.

When I speak about "primary Bible translations" and my own preferences these days, I am primarily referring to what I use publicly. I have two regular public audiences: my church and the classes I teach as an adjunct for Indiana Wesleyan University. Any exposition I do at church is fresh. My presentations at IWU do not require new preparation, although I do try to review my previously used material and tweak it now and then as I see fit.

My choice of Bible translation is something I consider very seriously. And while not an exact and always division, currently I use the NLT a lot with my college students and the HCSB a lot at church.

Forty to fifty individuals attend my weekly Bible study at church on any given Sunday (I'm actually taking November and December off to focus on finishing my dissertation). I spend on average about six hours in preparation to teach one of these studies. If I had unlimited time in my week, I can assure you I would spend longer. I enjoy it. It is my best worship of the week. Yet when I've compared notes with other Sunday School teachers at church, I find that most of them do not put this much time into their lessons. And that's fine.

For many years, I carried my Greek New Testament to church every Sunday. I tried to be inconspicuous about it. It's not that I was ashamed of it, but I never wanted to come across as showy in these kinds of habits. Sometimes, I also carried my Hebrew Bible, and occasionally I carried my LXX, too. I used to carry an entire bag with me to church every Sunday with my laptop (for teaching) and a stack of books. Now, it's conveniently all on my iPad, so I'm much less weighed down. My pastor preaches from the NLT (partly my influence I admit, but not exclusively), and I enjoy following along with the Greek or Hebrew text as well as I can on my iPad.

For whatever reason, I've still chosen to teach from English translations in a church context. Maybe this is a lack of confidence on my part, but maybe it is also a recognition that I'm not going to instantly produce a translation on my own in a few hours that's as polished as one for which a group of people have spent years.

Everything above, John, has been a longwinded route to come to my respectfully intended rebuttal to what I realize was a minor point in your post. For me, when I began talking about the HCSB and NLT as preferred translations, it's primarily in the context of public use, public proclamation.

I like to say that I still see the scriptures from an "Old Testament" perspective—that is the idea that God's Word is not something stale and stagnant, but living—just as the writer of Hebrews expressed it: "The word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing so deeply that it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discriminates among the purposes and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12, REB).

This belief alone makes me take translation choice very seriously.

On one hand, I want a translation that accurately reflects the original languages (who doesn't?). On the other, I want a translation that communicates the biblical writers' meaning in a way that is not just clear, but also in a manner that seems natural.

I hear you, John, when you say you would prefer a common Bible more closely rooted to the Tyndale/Geneva tradition. I understand that and even value that tradition. But I don't use Bibles in that tradition in public. For those who have never heard the scriptures before, or are at least are unfamiliar with them, I want the language to sound contemporary. I want it to sound as natural as possible. Because I believe the Bible is "alive and active," I don't want newcomers to to hear God's word fully in their language and not the language of a century ago (or four centuries ago).

The church is more important to me than the academy. Church has played a central role in my life since (my mother tells me) I was two weeks old. I love the church, and I love the people in the church. But I often notice that people in the church are so used to doing the same church routines over and over again that on some level, their faith has lost real meaning for them. The Bible has lost real meaning. So sometimes, I believe it's important to hear the Bible in a "new way." That is, to hear the same familiar passages in unfamiliar words—not the words of the Authorized Version or even a later revision in the same tradition. Rather, I want these people to hear God's word fresh.

As for the HCSB, I do not use it only because I'm Southern Baptist. This does play a small part in that our Bible study curriculum uses the HCSB, so there's a nice connection. But for years (decades), I used translations that were not the same as the one found in the curriculum. In fact, I know of only two other individuals at my church who use the HCSB. It's heavily in the minority at my Southern Baptist church. As already mentioned, my pastor preaches from the NLT. But the majority of the Bibles I see carried by members in my church (and I do look for such things) are 1984 NIV Bibles. And then a few KJV or NKJV and a few NLTs. No ESV at all that I've ever seen.

And I don't keep up with what other Southern Baptist churches are using, but I can only guess that we are not that unique. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the NIV is still quite dominant in Southern Baptist churches, for better or worse. And I would guess that the NIV and KJV numbers combined trump all current use of the HCSB.

No, I use the HCSB because I'm impressed with the accuracy and boldness of the way that the translators let the original text be itself without apology. So, John 3:16 is changed for sake of accuracy, in spite of the fact that no doubt a "new" reading turns off a lot of people steeped in traditionalism.

Recently, Michael Horman wrote an article for Biblical Archaeology Review, "Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?" Horman rightly points out (para. 2) that most English translations of the Bible never mention beer. I'm fairly positive that when he wrote that assertion, the HCSB was probably not on his radar. But if you run a search for beer in the HCSB, you'll get 25 hits in the Old Testament and one in the New (which is quoting the OT). That's because the HCSB translators were honest enough to translate ‏שֵׁכָר as beer as it should be translated. And consider that faithfulness to the text in light of the fact that Southern Baptists have been associated with teetotalism since at least the Prohibition Movement!

These are the kinds of issues for which I choose to teach from the HCSB at church. That doesn't mean that I like all of the HCSB's translational choices. While the updated NIV has mankind in Gen 1:26-27, the HCSB has the even worse choice, man. Yet for me the positive value of the HCSB's technical accuracy overrides these other issues. And this technical accuracy is achieved while the HCSB, stylistically, is still considered a median translation, between formal and dynamic equivalencies. As I continue to say, if I study a passage first from the original languages, I reserve every right to correct it on the fly when I read from it in public.

My answer regarding the NLT is even simpler. The NLT has the most natural-sounding, conversational-level English I've heard from any Bible version that is still considered an actual translation and not a paraphrase. Plus the more contemporary gender-related translation choices in the NLT help me mentally balance the more traditional choices in the HCSB. Where I find the NLT to be of less use is in poetic passages and Wisdom Literature.

For almost two decades, I taught and preached primarily out of the NASB. I was under the mistaken assumption for many years, even after studying biblical languages, that "literalness = accuracy." Then, one day in 2005, while teaching a half-year study on Romans, I realized that I was spending more time explaining the language of the NASB than explaining the meaning of the Bible. At that point, I began considering other versions for public use. Since I had copies of all of them already in my collection, it was pretty easy to experiment.

I settled on the HCSB by the time I posted my first "Top Ten" list. However, within a year, I moved to the TNIV, wanting to go slightly further to the right on the dynamic scale. From there I went to the NLT, which I still genuinely like in the right context. But I found it to be weak in poetic sections as I've already said. Too many beautiful metaphors of the Hebrew were "flattened" down to just their basic interpretational meaning in English.

While teaching a study at church from the Psalms, I grew frustrated with the NLT and went back to the HCSB. In doing that, I not only rediscovered the HCSB, I found myself amazed at how well it handled the Psalms. Now I've come full circle. I use the HCSB in some public contexts and the NLT in others. And occasionally, I even use something else. I feel plenty of freedom to do that.

But none of these decisions ever come quickly. And I certainly didn't base my choice on my denominational ties (plus, it should be remembered that half of the HCSB translation team is not Baptist). The fact that I am Southern Baptist may have put the HCSB in front of me a bit easier, but since I have always collected translations, I would have found it regardless. And now that the HCSB is in an updated edition, too, I've found it to be an even better choice.


First Look: NLT Study Bible for Accordance

UPDATE: The NLT Study Bible is now available to purchase and download.

Tomorrow (May 20), OakTree Software will release The NLT Study Bible for Accordance. In addition to the NLTSB, this will also mark the release of the 2007 NLTse text and notes for Accordance. OakTree has given me permission to post a few screenshots.

Click on the images below for a closer view.

The Instant Details info displays the result of hovering over the key number (1249) in the cross references. An article from the NLT Study Bible The high-res maps in the back of the NLTSB are also included in addition to the many other images.Look for a full review on This Lamp in the coming days.



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Horrified! ἐκθαμβέω and ἀδημονέω in Mark 14:33 HCSB

Last Sunday, I taught from Mark 14:32-50, which details Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane and his subsequent arrest. Our curriculum uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible which is one of my favorite English translations. In fact, about six months ago, I returned to using it exclusively on Sunday mornings. Occasionally, the HCSB breaks with the norms of tradition when it comes to translation, opting for accuracy over what sounds familiar.

So, it caught my eye when I saw that according to the translators of the HCSB, Jesus was "distressed and horrified" (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν) in Mark 14:33. It's this latter word, horrified, that really caught my attention. Was Jesus horrified in the Garden? Distressed, yes. Troubled, yes. But horrified? I mean, when I hear the word, horrified, I think of Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream. Thus, I wondered if the HCSB translator's simply over-translated here.

Honestly, even though I'd translated through this section in Mark at least twice in the past, I'd never given much extra thought to these two descriptors of Jesus' mental and emotional condition here, thinking of them as not much more than synonyms. Most translations make some variation on the words "distressed and troubled" sometimes even switching the two English words. Consider other translations of the phrase: "deeply distressed and troubled" (NIV/TNIV/NLTse), "greatly distressed and troubled" (RSV/ESV) , "to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy" (KJV), "to be distressed and agitated" (NRSV), "to be very distressed and troubled" (NASB), "troubled and deeply distressed" (NKJV), "very troubled and distressed" (NET). In my scan of translations using Accordance (I did not consult the 80+ translations on my bookshelf), I could find only two other translations besides the HCSB that used the word horror: "filled with horror and deep distress" (NLT1) and "Horror and anguish overwhelmed him" (REB).

My initial label on the whole issue was simply over-translation. I figured the HCSB translators were guilty of over-translating the text here. If that was the case, I supposed that a more traditional reading would be found in the updated 2009 text of the HCSB.

Not so. It read the same. This led me to the lexicons I have in Accordance. But even before I could do that, I had to consider the fact because troubled and distressed were interchangeable in many translations, and because the NLT1 and the REB placed horror in the first position, I wasn't really certain whether I was dealing with ἐκθαμβέω or ἀδημονέω in the HCSB. The use of the conjunction καὶ would technically allow for either order in an English translation.

Context does not help that much. These are both infrequently used words (I admit up front that I didn't have them in my working vocabulary for the NT, but I suppose I do now). ἐκθαμβέω occurs four times in the NT (Mark 9:15; 14:33; 16:5–6) and ἀδημονέω occurs three times (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33; Phil 2:26). ἐκθαμβέω occurs once in the LXX (Sir 30:9), but there is no use of ἀδημονέω in the LXX.

  ἐκθαμβέω ἀδημονέω
BDAG to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of someth. causing great surprise or perplexity, be very excited be in anxiety, be distressed,
& Nida
to be greatly astounded,
with either positive or negative reactions — "to be amazed, to be
astounded, to be alarmed"
to be distressed and troubled, with the probable implication of anguish — "to be troubled, to be upset, to be distressed"
& Scott
to be amazed to be sorely troubled
UBS be greatly surprised or alarmed; be greatly distressed be distressed or troubled
LEH to amaze, to astonish NA

As you can see, there does seem to be a bit of overlap between these two words; they carry aspects of synonymous meaning. However, there seems to be more heightened emotion in the first word, ἐκθαμβέω than in ἀδημονέω. If word order prevailed in the HCSB, did the REB and NLT1 switch the order for sake of translation? I only have one copy of an HCSB text with Greek tagging, and that is in WORDsearch (although I've heard it's coming for Accordance). I double-clicked on horrified in the WORDsearch HCSB, and as I anticipated, a window appeared tying the word to the second word, ἀδημονέω.

Regardless, I was still back to my original question about the HCSB's use of horrified, although it was now extended to the REB and NLT1 as well. Usually when there's a significant difference in a translation of a word or phrase in a more recent version of the Bible, there's been an influential commentary or article that's influenced the change. In this case, I don't know what that article or commentary is. I looked in the Word Biblical Commentary on Mark as well as the New International Greek Testament Commentary since both of these are often a bit more technical. Neither had any specific discussion of this issue.

I did find a note, however, in the lesser technical New American Commentary on Mark by James A. Brooks that might have had some bearing since both the NAC commentaries and the HCSB share the same publisher. Brooks writes:

Mark’s description of Jesus is shocking. Mark employed words that express the strongest possible anguish. The NEB does a better job than the NIV, NASB, and RSV in bringing out their meaning: “Horror and dismay came over him.” The REB has, “Horror and anguish overwhelmed him.” Matthew softened the statement, and Luke’s text is most uncertain.

So cheers to the NEB/REB, NLT and HCSB. I'm certain some influential article is out there, but we at least know this rendering goes back at least to the NEB. In the long course of translation history, the NEB continues to emerge as a greater influence in translation than is often thought. And as I've often noted, the NLT1 took more risks than the more conservative NLTse which came after it. And once again, the HCSB will break with traditional renderings for the sake of accuracy.

But there's one more thing...

Why is it that I would question Jesus' reaction of horror to the events that were before him to begin with? Could it be that a horrified Jesus didn't mesh well with the narrow-minded view of Jesus I sometimes have? Do I prefer the "Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" over the "Take this cup away from Me" when I think of Jesus?

Am I guilty of picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane like the one in that painting that was on the wall of my Sunday School room as a child? You know the one. The one with the light-haired stoic Jesus. The Jesus in the brightly colored robes looking confident and resolutely skyward as his father in heaven radiated his glory down upon him.

I talked about this with the class I was teaching at church. The Jesus in that painting really looks nothing like the Jesus described in Mark's account. I really can't imagine the Jesus in that painting saying "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death" (Mark 14:35). I don't really see that Jesus saying "Take this cup from me."

In the parallel passage written in Luke's gospel, we're told that "Being in anguish, He prayed fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

I knew a manager years ago who was told by the owner of the company to fire a particular individual. The manager didn't feel that she deserved being fired. He knew of some difficulties in her life that would be compounded by the loss of income. He stressed over having to fire her so much that he burst blood vessels in his face. I've never seen anything like that before or since. But I can't help feel that based upon the gospel writers' descriptions, Jesus' stress level was well beyond this—it would have been off the charts.

Jesus looked ahead to the events that were to come—his betrayal by a close friend, his arrest, his beatings, his crucifixion, his taking upon himself the sin of all humanity, his ultimate alienation from God the father, and then his death—and Mark tells us he was horrified.

What other word works here? Distressed? Troubled? I don't think so. Yes, I think horrified is the right word, the only word. Horror unlike anything ever experienced before or since. Horror over our sins would be enough, but the rest, too? I cannot imagine his total pain. If anything horror is not word enough.

But it will have to do.


Review: Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT)

Stop #3 on Tyndale House's Holy Bible: Mosaic Blog Tour

both-bindings-2Long ago, the body of Christ recognized that the Canon of Scripture is closed. Thus, no matter how inspiring a Christian voice can be—such as Martin Luther King Jr. in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"—we don't tack that on in our Bibles somewhere after the Book of Revelation. I understand that. But at the same time many contemporary Christians completely miss out on the voices of other believers from the past two millennia since the Bible was written. Often this comes from simply not having an easy way to access them.

I'm sometimes guilty of such "chronological snobbery" myself. When preparing to teach a passage from the Bible, I tend to only look at articles, reference works, and commentaries written in the last fifty years of so—if even back that far. I mean, surely contemporary writers have consulted previous thought, right? Well, probably not. And I don't want to say I dismiss the past. I regularly read from historical Christian voices for other purposes—sometimes curiosity, sometimes for devotional purposes and always with a deep respect. But the average believer in my circles tends not even to do this. And for many of my peers, one might think that Christendom didn't really begin until the Reformation.


So now, along comes Holy Bible: Mosaic from Tyndale House Publishers (already most seem to be referring to this Bible as "the Mosaic Bible" or "Mosaic NLT." I'll probably do the same). The title of this Bible comes from the definition of a mosaic itself. As described in the "Mosaic User's Guide:

Mosaics are curious things. Bits and pieces of stone and glass that on their own may be interesting, but only fleetingly so. Together, however, those pieces form images that move us in unexpected and profound ways. From the simplest forms to the most complex, it is the combined effect of tiles arranged in their diversity that brings about something much greater than the sum of its parts. ... But as Christians, we are part of something much larger than simply the here and now. We are part of a mosaic—a patchwork of people, places, times, and cultures—that depicts one person: Jesus Christ. ... The purpose of this Bible is to provide a way to encounter Christ on every continent and in every century of Christian history. ... [Y]ou will find an extensive block of weekly meditations that draw on the collective wisdom of the global church across two thousand years of history, which will engage your heart and mind and guide you back into God's life-changing word.

And that's what the Mosaic Bible does: it incorporates Christian voices from two thousand years of history and from all over the world. These voices are collected into a series of readings that are organized around the Christian year. Now, I'll admit up front, that growing up in Southern Baptist churches, I've never formally celebrated the Christian year in any meaningful way. When Kathy and I moved to Kentucky, I noticed that many of the Baptist churches recognized Advent, and a small few observed Lent, but most did not. In fact, I only observed Lent—in a very clumsy way, miind you—for the first time this past year. But as I've grown older, as I've learned more about Christian history, I've had more desire to engage myself with many of the Christian traditions of ages past—and those traditions that many Christians still observed today. I don't think that's "non-Baptist" of me. What I do think is that often in an attempt to emphasize God's grace over the church's traditions, we've been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Traditions can be very healthy. They can help ground us and give meaning for the days as we express our faith.

The Mosaic Bible is divided into two sections. The first contains a year's worth of readings and reflections around the Christian year. These aren't "daily" readings, although they could certainly be broken up into that. Rather, they are readings for the week to keep one focused on Christ. It's interesting to me that these readings are held in a separate section from the biblical text. But really, this is a good idea. It separates them from holy Scripture so that no one might be confused as to what is God's word and what is from human thought. The readings are printed on a cream colored paper and include color images of Christian art from ancient mosaics to modern treatments.

epiph6_chinese2-2Just as the readings represent a wide diversity from history and location, so does the artwork. I was especially struck by the painting on p. 80 shown to the left. It is a depiction of the parable of the Lost Son by an unknown artist in Hong Kong. This image goes with the readings for Epiphany, week 6: "Seeking and Saving." And yet, the nature of the painting itself, with Asian style and imagery reminds us that Christianity isn't limited to our own culture and thought.

I've suggested to the folks at Tyndale House that the section of readings could be published as a separate book all by itself. They are keeping this idea under consideration. However, in the meantime, there will be a separate Mosaic book for Advent readings as well as one for Lent.

Continuing with the mosaic theme, two sections called "tesseraes" are included at the end of the readings. The first lists all the many sources for the Christian voices in the order of the weekly readings. The second lists these same sources in chronological order. Want to spend the next ten or twenty years reading through Christian history? Here is your list of names to begin.

In regard to the the layout of the biblical text, the Mosaic Bible may be the best reference Bible yet released with the second edition NLT text. A two-column format is used with center collumn cross references. Included within the cross references are selected words studies to 100 Hebrew and 100 Greek words as previously seen in the NLT Study Bible. If the first portion of Christian readings could be contained in a publication on its own, there's no reason why the biblical text wouldn't work as a Bible by itself as well except for the occasional reading icon in the margin.

I'd reported a few months back that the NLT Mosaic Bible is almost a wide margin Bible. There are wider margins on the outer edges of the pages, but unfortunately, there is no space for writing next to the inner columns of text. Thus, if you're one of the many who long for a wide margin NLT Bible, this isn't it, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Last night I took this Bible with me for the class I was teaching at IWU. I found the text easy enough to read from with my students. Granted, the Mosaic Bible is more suited for personal use and meditation, but it's still good to know it could be used for public proclamation if one wanted to do so.

As seen in the picture at the top of the page, the NLT Mosaic Bible comes with two covers. One is a multicolored hardback with the Apostles Creed on the back. The other is is a "deluxe edition" with an imitation leather cover. From what I've seen in pictures, the latter is the one I would recommend and will eventually get for myself (it's only about $10 more on Amazon). For whatever reason, I simply prefer a leather Bible or one that at least looks leather. I'm tempted to take the Mosaic Bible with me as I go on my church's men's retreat this weekend, but I probably won't unless I can find the deluxe edition in time.

Nevertheless, I commend to you the Holy Bible: Mosaic to use for your personal use and devotion. I think I'll wait until Advent, but I imagine I will use the weekly meditations over the coming year as they're intended. For anyone who doesn't want to wait, but wants to jump in right now, a schedule is kept on the Mosaic website. And in case you're wondering, Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is quoted on p. 251 as part of the 15th week of Pentecost. The theme? Justice.

Win a Copy of Holy Bible: Mosaic from Tyndale House Publishers and This Lamp

For This Lamp's part of the Mosaic "blog tour," general editor Keith Williams will be responding to your questions in the comments. He's willing to do this for more than just today. So leave a question for him in the comments of this post for him to answer. I'll let folks participate until the end of the week. Then I'll compile a list of the individual names of persons asking questions and have a drawing on Sunday. The winner will receive a new hardback copy of the Holy Bible: Mosaic. The only persons excluded from the contest are those who have already received a free copy from Tyndale House.

Useless Trivia About the Mosaic Bible

I promised that I would have information about the Mosaic Bible that (to my knowledge) has not been repeated anywhere else. Well here it is: according to the metadata of the sample PDFs, Holy Bible: Mosaic was created in Adobe InDesign for Windows. Even though I'm a Mac user (and have my own copy of Adobe InDesign CS3 for the Mac), I will try not to hold this Bible's Windows origins against it.

For More information on the Mosaic Bible...



Review: Cambridge NLT Pitt Minion Reference Edition Bible

This post was originally published on September 17, 2009 on the original This Lamp website and has been moved to this location. Please redirect any links here.

When I was in college, I worked in a Christian bookstore where we had the audacity to demonstrate the quality of Cambridge Bibles by suspending them in the air holding onto a single page. When it comes to quality and craftsmanship, Cambridge beats all other publishers, hands down. Therefore, I was very pleased to receive in the mail today a dark brown goatskin ("real Morocco") Pitt Minion Bible in the New Living Translation.

Cambridge has been publishing Bibles since 1591, and Pitt Minion Bibles were introduced in the 1930s. Cambridge publishes a number of Bibles in the Pitt Minion style: KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, and now the NLT.

For those who keep up with such things, this Bible has the 2007 second edition text of the NLT.

If you're looking for a high-quality, sewn-binding NLT, you won't find anything better than the Cambridge Pitt Minion NLT.

The back of the box claims that "The NLT Pitt Minion Reference Edition Bible continues the Cambridge tradition, now using a stylish modern font which combines utility and elegance. The result is a classic Bible for the twenty-first century produced in a remarkably comapct yet readable form." Yet any hint of modern characteristics is only subtle at best.

At first glance, this Bible looks and feels like something you'd find in the bureau drawer of an old time preacher from a previous generation. That's the beauty of the Pitt Minion style. It has a classical air to it. Even upon opening its pages, it seems to have more in common with the kind of Bibles that my grandparents would have carried than one I would find on store shelves today.

The cover is made from goatskin. It is flexible, but still more firm than the cowhide cover of the Renaissance Leather TNIV Reference Bible. It feels good in the hand and would make a good Bible to preach from, assuming the type is not too small for the preacher's eyes.

To get an idea for the size of the Pitt Minion NLT, see the picture below where it sits on top of the NLT Study Bible. This Bible is only 7.8 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches. It hearkens back to a day when books were often "hand-sized." Compare for instance any volume in the Loeb Classical Library or even the International Critical Commentary (not counting recent editions such as the volume on the Pastorals). The Pitt Minion's dimensions fits in with these books in size and in the way they fit in one's hand. It can easily be carried with a few other books or placed in a bag or even a purse.

In every sense, this is a compact, ultra-thin Bible. Yet unlike most Bibles of this sort, the NLT Pitt Minion is sturdy and made from high quality materials. One won't have to worry about pages becoming unglued five years down the road.

As seen below, the NLT Pitt Minion has smyth-sewn India paper pages. The sewn binding allows the Bible to lay flat, in spite of its small size. Although the pages have a golden gilded edge, one can easily see a shade of red when the pages fan out. Note also two ribbons for easily marking one's spot for either personal reading or public proclamation.

Generally, I don't care for red lettering in Bibles. However, it somehow seems appropriate in this particular Bible. I do notice however, that the red is a darker color than the bright red used in similar Bibles a generation ago.

A center-column reference runs through the middle of a two column text. NLT textual notes are presented at the bottom of the second column.

There is a mild level of bleed through of text from the underlying page, but it's at a minimum as with other Pitt Minion Bibles. The underlying type is not distinct enough to be a distraction as is often found in some thinline Bibles.

Also included is an NLT Dictionary/Concordance following the book of Revelation. This is more detailed than one might imagine at over 115 pages in length. A set of maps as well as a detailed index to the maps follows the concordance. In keeping with the traditional style of the Pitt Minion Bible, these maps, although up-to-date, reflect a look that also reminds one of Bibles from an earlier era. This is not meant as a criticism, but rather I appreciate the consistent style of this Bible from beginning to end.

As with most things in life, one gets what one pays for. Thus, this is not an inexpensive Bible. The suggested retail price on the edition I received (ISBN: 978-0-521-75921-2) is $129, although it is available at well under $100 from most discount book outlets on the internet. Yet, in an age in which even Bibles have seemingly become disposable consumer items, the NLT Pitt Minion is made to withstand the test of time. Odds are, it will outlast its user because of its quality binding and materials. Therefore, when seen from the perspective of a Bible designed to last throughout one's entire life, the price tag should not be seen as a negating factor.

From my perspective, the only reason this Bible won't be suitable for some readers is due to its small 7 pt. print size. All Pitt Minion Bibles use this smaller type. And although the particular typeface in this edition is more readable than the type used in some previous Pitt Minion Bibles, some may decide to go with a different Bible containing larger print for regular use.

Overall, though, I commend this NLT Pitt Minion Reference Edition Bible to you for use in both personal reading and proclamation. In one binding a 21st century translation is combined with the style and quality of previous generations. Don't be surprised if someone seeing you with this Bible assumes you're carrying the KJV. If this happens, simply read a few verses out loud to demonstrate the contemporary and conversational quality of the New Living Translation text, but don't be surprised if your Bible doesn't get a few second glances.


MOSAIC--Finally, a Wide[r]-Margin NLTse! (Well...kinda)

This entry was originally posted on June 4, 2009, at the original This Lamp site and has been moved here.

Yesterday, via Twitter, I received confirmation from Keith Williams, Bible editor at Tyndale House, that the upcoming Mosaic Bible will have wide margins (of some sort). Currently, no printing of the second edition (2004, 2007) NLT Bible has any significant room for personal notetaking. The first edition (1996) NLT Bible was available in a printing known as the Notetaker’s Bible, which--in my opinion--had the best layout for making personal notes of any Bible I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it was a weak seller (it didn’t have the advantage of a strong NLT blogosphere base at the time, no doubt) and after going out of print, it was never re-released in the second edition NLT.

In the NLT Mosaic, slated to be released this Fall, the NLT biblical text will be intermingled with full-color art and devotional content. From what Williams said publicly on Twitter, biblical text will have a 0.82” margin on the outside of the page, 0.55” top and bottom, but disappointingly, the inner margin will only have what he calls a “standard” width.

Why do I use the word disappointingly? What’s the problem with this? Well, it has to do with the fact that the Mosaic Bible contains a two-column text for biblical content. Now, I’m not opposed to a two-column wide margin for taking notes. However, as I’ve noted many times here on This Lamp in regard to Bibles suitable for notetaking, publishers often make the mistake of giving the outer column ample space while neglecting the space around the inner column; that is, the space next to the binding.

This runs contrary to the way I’ve experienced writing personal notes in Bibles as well as what I’ve observed in the practice of others. Most of us who write notes in the margins of the Bible need these notes to be in close, if not immediate, proximity to the text upon which we’re commenting. Personal notes are not like the notes in a study Bible which can all be at the bottom. The note-taker does not want to have to create a whole new reference system to connect his or her personal notes to the biblical text.

There is still some hope for a true wide-margin NLT Bible, however. This Fall, Cambridge is going to release a high end Pitt Minion edition of the New Living Translation. In the past, Cambridge has often released a wide-margin edition of a new Bible at some point after initial publication. And Cambridge tends to give the inner margin proper space for taking notes, so there’s lots to be hopeful for here.

I’ve suggested repeatedly that although well-designed, wide-margin Bibles (in any translation) may never become huge sellers, they are used by individuals with great influence by teachers and pastors. These individuals, often referred to as “gatekeepers,” usually have influence over what translations members of a study group or congregation will buy. There’s comfort in reading along in the same translation as the one that someone preaching or teaching is using. So while individuals listening to someone using a wide margin Bible in a particular translation may not run out and buy the same wide-margin edition themselves, they will instead be more likely to buy that same translation in an edition more to their own suiting. Currently, I feel that only Crossway Publishers truly understands this influence as evidenced in their offering of numerous well-designed, wide-margin editions of the ESV.

In spite of my initial excitement and then hesitancy regarding the layout of the upcoming NLT Mosaic Bible, I’m still looking forward to its release. I imagine that it will have much to offer, and at this time any space for personal notes is better than none. Further, I welcome any significant and serious addition to the current offerings of NLT Bibles.

From Tyndale House’s webpage for the Mosaic Bible:

Encounter Christ on every continent and in every century of Christian History.?A new genre of Bible—a weekly meditation Bible—Holy Bible: Mosaic is an invitation to experience Christ both in His word and in the responses of his people. Each week, as you reflect on guided Scripture readings aligned with the church seasons, you will receive a wealth of insight from historical and contemporary writings. Full-color artwork will engage the soul; quotes, hymns, prayers, and poems enhance the rich devotional experience. Also includes a Dictionary/Concordance, NLT word study system with Hebrew/ Greek dictionary. A beautiful layout of art and devotional content, and an online community and content (coming Fall 2009) will extend the experience.

Back Cover Copy
On our own we are little more than bits of stone and glass . . .
. . . Together we are the Body of Christ.

A living mosaic of believers, spanning the centuries and crossing the globe. This mosaic is larger than all of us, yet when we claim the name of Christ, we add our bits to help complete the picture.

Join us on a journey of transforming discovery. Explore a few of the pieces of the picture with us.

Holy Bible: Mosaic is unlike any Bible that you have held before. It is an invitation to encounter Christ both through his word and in the responses of his people. Each week as you read and reflect on God’s Word through guided Scripture readings appropriate to the church seasons, you will also encounter a wealth of insight from the church, including:
Full-color artwork that will engage your soul
Contemporary and historical writings
Prayers, hymns, and poems for devotional reflection
Space for your response to God’s promptings
Opportunity to add your responses to the community at _______________
Add your tile to the mosaic.

Currently, there are plans for both a hardcopy and “LeatherLike” (Antique Brown) editions of the Mosaic NLT. As of this writing, the Amazon page for the Leatherlike edition is incorrectly listed as hardcover.