Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT) — A Review

Mosaic

Over the past few months, my anticipation has been growing regarding the release of the Holy Bible: Mosaic (New Living Translation).  Since I heard of the concept from Mosaic‘s general editor, Keith Williams (@KeithWilliams), I have developed high hopes and high expectations for what I wanted this bible to be.  Last week, I graciously received a review copy from Laura Bartlett at Tyndale and have been pouring over this bible ever since.  After a week with this work I can sum up my review in a few works:  My expectations were not only met, they were far exceeded!

Opening this bible for the first time, it is readily apparent that it is neither a study bible nor a devotional bible in the traditional sense.  All the devotional material is contained in the first 350 pages, preceding and completely separate from the biblical text except where cross-referenced by marginal notes.  I confess, I really like this approach to devotional material.  One of the stated goals of Mosaic is to offer ‘the complete text of the Bible without interruption’–a goal it has achieved with this unique approach to separating devotional material from the biblical text.

The devotional material that makes up Mosaic is structured into weekly meditations ordered to follow the church year.  For those of us in liturgical traditions, this approach is instantly recognizable, but for those in other traditions, the introduction offers a short explanation of the form, function, and purpose of the church calendar.  Each meditation has its own theme with scripture passages drawn from, but not rigidly tied to, the Revised Common Lectionary.  While centered on scripture, each meditation presents readers with approximately six pages of beautiful artwork, quotes, hymns, poems, prayers and space to write down their own reflections.  The materials presented in these meditations are drawn from the entire spectrum of Christianity, from the 1st century to the 21st century and from Mennonite to Eastern Orthodox.  As stated in the introduction, all this is ‘designed to bring you into contact with the global, historic church as you engage with God’s Word.’

As an Air Force chaplain, Mosaic offers me a unique treasure beyond that obviously offered in the Word of God.  The written material in these meditations lends itself to use not only individually but corporately for worship, devotion, study, and pastoral care.  In addition, the materials are drawn from all regions of the world, which allows me an instant connection with the people our troops will be working with and living among–and if we cannot broach the language barrier, the artwork in Mosaic, also drawn from all cultures, can create a powerful visual connection with members of any culture and ethnicity.  While I will have several study bibles in my office / tent / chapel, Mosaic will be the one bible I will have in my hands or in my rucksack at all times!

DeluxeI will not endeavor to offer a review here of the text of the New Living Translation (2nd ed, 2007 text) itself.  Others have done such reviews in painstaking detail.  I shall only point out that, through the last ten years,  I have gone from the NASB to the ESV to the NLT as my primary text for preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.  The details of this bible’s textual layout, however, warrant a few words.  Mosaic is a typical two-column layout with one of the most extensive center-column cross-references I’ve seen in a NLT edition.  In addition to scriptural cross-references, there is also a basic word study cross-reference listing of 100 important Hebrew and Greek (200 total) words with expanded definitions, usage, and other information just before the over 100-page dictionary/concordance.  The margins of Mosaic are just under an inch (top, bottom, and outside), which isn’t much room for extensive notes but which provides a small writer like me enough room to make a few notes.  Mosaic is also a black-letter edition, so there can be no complaints about Tyndale’s historically rose or pink-looking ‘red-letter’ editions.  The font used in Mosaic may be a bit small for some, but while smaller than that used in some other bibles I have, it is wonderfully crisp, clear, and easily and most readable of any NLT edition I own.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend Mosaic for anyone looking to grow deeper in their walk with God, be challenged to see Christianity beyond their own denominational or ethnic boundaries, or anyone looking for a fine edition of the New Living Translation.  Tyndale has given us a great resource in Mosaic, and I thank them not only for their tremendous efforts but for the opportunity to review it!

Note:  I am participating in Tyndale’s Mosaic blog tour on Friday, October 2nd.  More details can be found at:  www.holybiblemosaic.com Stay tuned for a Q&A with Mosaic‘s General Editor at Credo, David Sanford and a Mosaic giveaway!

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Mosaic NLT Released Today!

The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that Tyndale’s newest NLT, Holy Bible: Mosaic, releases today!  For those like me who have anxiously been waiting, this is great news.  For those who may not have heard or read about Mosaic, here is the brief description from its website:Mosaic

Holy Bible: Mosaic is about helping you encounter Christ in a deep and authentic way, through insight from every continent and century of the Christian Church. Historical and contemporary art and writings from across the globe offer a depth of Scriptural wisdom and understanding as you read and reflect on God’s word.

Mosaic is arranged so that every week has variety of content for reading and reflection. Each week follows a theme appropriate to the Church season (such as Advent, Easter, etc). The content included for each week includes full-color art; Scripture readings; a historical reading; a contemporary reading; a prayer, creed, hymn or quote; and space for reflection.

Tyndale has much more information on the Holy Bible: Mosaic website (http://www.holybiblemosaic.com)

As with other bloggers writing about Mosaic, I will be spending some time with Mosaic and writing a review in the days to come.  Additionally, this blog will be one of the stops on the Mosaic blog tour–currently, I’m scheduled for October 2nd.  Finally, courtesy of Tyndale, I will be giving away a free copy of Mosaic via a contest I will be beginning in a few days!  If you can’t wait to try and win one…jump on over to Amazon, do some early Christmas shopping and get a copy for yourself!

Until all these kick off on this website, I encourage you to check the Mosaic blog for the schedule of blog stops and check out the first stop (and blog-a-thon) at The Church of Jesus Christ!

The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB)–A First Look

It’s finally here!  As hoped, my copy of The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) arrived yesterday from CPH, so I thought I’d take a few minutes and discuss my first impressions.  This is by no means a thorough or critical review of the contents of the notes, etc., just a few of my first thoughts on some of the features of this highly-anticipated release.TLSB

TLSB size–Those familiar with the Treasury of Daily Prayer will notice that TLSB has almost the exactly same dimensions as TDP.  This means that, proportionally, it is a bit more ‘squarish’ than most books, but I confess that I really enjoy its proportions aesthetically.  As wide as the pages are (nearly 7″), I much prefer the hardback binding to a very floppy leather…I can almost hear some of you gasp as that!

TLSB text–The TLSB uses the English Standard Version (ESV) bible, and though the copyright page lists a 2001 copyright from Crossway, a cursory check of the changes between the 2001 and 2007 versions (from Rick Mansfield’s blog) reveals that this is indeed the updated 2007 version of the text.  While not a huge deal, it frees Laban’s children from the oversight of his goats (ha, ha) and spares the rest of us some awkward renderings that were improved in the update.

TLSB fonts–I’m not exactly sure what font size is used, but the print is perfectly readable, even with the bit of bleed through that is common to just about every bible.  The font size of the main text is approximately the same of that used in the NLT Study Bible (to cite a recent example), but the TLSB print is more crisp, clear, and readable.  The font of the notes is quite a bit smaller but still clear and easy to read.  This is a red-letter edition bible, which I am not fond of for either theological or practical reasons, but the red lettering is also crisp and easy on the eyes.

TLSB book outlines–I’ll probably show a bit of my bent toward being an egghead here, but the outlines presented at the beginning of each book are superb.  Some bibles present half-hearted outlines that paint so broadly as to be less-than-helpful.  Until now, the gold standard in my mind were the outlines shown in the Reformation Study Bible, but I can say without hesitation that TLSB has the most thorough outlines I’ve ever seen in a study bible.  They go at least three levels deep (sometimes four) and are a tremendous help for getting feel of the overall structure and flow of the books.  Fantastic!

TLSB drawings–Anyone who has seen any of the preview/promo material has probably seen the examples of Schnorr’s engravings that precede every book in TLSB.  As classical representations of biblical events, I happen to like them, though I suppose some will think otherwise.  CPH was fortunate enough to secure permissions to use several of Hugh Claycombe’s line drawings of the Tabernacle, the temples, Jerusalem, Jesus’ route through Passion Week, etc.  If you’ve used the NIV Study Bible, you’ll recognize these drawings immediately.  I personally think they are some of the most helpful illustrations of their type to appear in recent study bibles.

TLSB maps–This is the single lackluster area I’ve noticed so far in TLSB.  The color maps appear in the front, interestingly, and are relatively few and devoid of much detail.  The consistency of the in-text maps varies widely from other similarly bland ones (e.g., Jesus’ ministry in the gospels on p. 1584) to some wonderfully detailed and helpful ones (e.g., Assyrian exile of Israel, p.609).  As a complete cartophile, I treasure great maps but find nothing to get too excited about here.

TLSB articles and charts–The in-text articles and charts are definitely a strong-point of this bible!  The articles cover a wide range of topics, from the primarily doctrinal to the primarily application-focused.  Those I have read are well-done, concise, and very helpful in addressing the concerns raised (including alternate viewpoints) by each topic.  Charts are similarly well-done, thorough, and helpful.  More to follow on these in future reviews.

TLSB book introductions–While I haven’t had the opportunity to read many of the introductions, I have been pleased with those I have looked over.  The introductions do not hesitate to deal with matters of historical higher criticism; discuss form, genre, and literary devices where helpful; include large excerpts from Luther’s introductions, and provide a wealth of other helpful introductory information.  One of my favorite features is the substantial definitions included in the “Key Terms and Phrases” sections before the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Pauline Epistles.  Given the sometimes challenging language of the ESV, I think this offers great insight into some ‘churchy’ theological terms that may be used differently in Scripture than in everyday language.

These ‘few’ thoughts have gotten pretty long, and I haven’t even mentioned the TLSB introductory materials–articles on how to read the bible (hermeneutics) and understanding Law and Gospel; lectionaries; a two-year reading plan; and the text of Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this, and a more in-depth review of the content of the study notes will have to wait for another day!

After just a few short hours, I can say without reservation that, in TLSB, CPH has provided an amazing resource that will serve to edify, strengthen, and nurture the church of God for many years to come.  My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who contributed!

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New Bibles Coming Soon: The Lutheran Study Bible and Mosaic NLT

As I type this, the FedEx website tells me that my copy of The Lutheran Study Bible is on the truck for delivery this afternoon.  With many others, I’ve long looked forward to see what gems this new ESV-based, distinctly Lutheran work has in store.  From the preview material that CPH has been steadily pumping out for several months, it doesn’t look like anyone will be disappointed!  According to its forward:

TLSB

The Reformation started from a man studying the Bible: Martin Luther. It grew from an educational setting: Wittenberg University. As these facts show, biblical studies and Christian education had the greatest importance for early Lutherans. Everywhere the Reformation spread, Bible reading and Christian education followed. Lutheran congregations, schools, missions, colleges, and universities still place great importance on study of Holy Scripture.

But there is another, perhaps even more important, factor binding the Lutheran Church to the careful study of Scripture, something that distinguished the Lutheran Reformation from other movements–its beliefs about God’s Word.

Mosaic

On a similar note, I received confirmation yesterday from Tyndale that a review copy of the Mosaic NLT bible is on its way as well.  I’ve been very excited about this project since learning about it from one of its editors, Keith Williams (@KeithWilliams).  Though I’ve wrestled with the NLT at times since adopting it as my primary translation last year, it’s still my translation of choice and doubtless will be for many years to come.  While Tyndale has been more tight-lipped about the exact contents of Mosaic, what I have seen so far looks fantastic.  I’m particularly excited that Tyndale has chosen this blog as one of the stops on the Mosaic Blog Tour.  October 2nd is the currently scheduled date, so be sure and check back.  There will also be a contest to give away a copy to one lucky reader!

Until then, I plan to review both of these promising new offerings…coming soon!

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Justification in the NLT–A Final Look

nlt_logo

Over the past few months, I’ve been musing here and there about the way the NLT presents the doctrine of justification, especially in the Pauline epistles.  To be precise, I have been working through my understanding of the way the NLT presents the causality (i.e. by/through faith) versus the instrumentality (i.e. because of faith) of justification.  Two recent exercises have led me to believe that, on the main, I’ve been making a mountain out of a molehill.

First, I finally spent some time reviewing the notes and articles in the NLT Study Bible for the passages I listed in previous posts.  Most notably, I read through the article titled, “Righteousness By Faith,” which appears in Galatians.  This article unequivocably articulates the doctrine of justification by faith and says, “There is nothing people can or need to do. Only Christ could do—and has done—what must be done to make people acceptable to God. So we should simply receive his gift, gratefully thank him for what he has done for us, and trust in him” (emphasis mine).

Second, I talked with friends, co-workers, church members, and members of my Guard unit about the readings as presented in the NLT.  Essentially, I asked them to explain to me their understanding of the passages.  Though anecdotal, without exception, the people I talked to were able to articulate justification by faith because of Christ’s work on our behalf.

In sum, I am coming to think that my anxiety about how the NLT presents justification stemmed from my desire for more precision than the average reader brings to the text.  ‘By,’ ‘through,’ and ‘because’…for many folks, though not all…are essentially synonymous terms in the everyday usage of the language.  In preaching or teaching through the few passages where the NLT says ‘because of faith’ I will continue to be careful to articulate the instrumentality of faith over against the causality of faith in justification.  Will I be driving home a point that some or many will think is unnecessary?  Perhaps.  If it avoids confusion for anyone, however, it will be worth it.

Many continued thanks to the NLT team for a fantastic translation that I have used as my primary preaching and teaching bible for over a year now…with absolutely no regrets!  May God continue to use this translation to build his church!

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