Wednesday, May 06, 2009

3 Bibles, 2 Translations, 1 Goal

The ELCA has recently set out a motion to encourage the reading of the Bible. It seems that few Lutherans, or Christians really, were reading the Bible, though most Christians considered it something that Christians should do. In response to this, the ELCA has started "The Book of Faith Initiative." Part of this initiative was to put a good translation of the Bible into the hands of their members. A "good" translation of the Bible, of course, is highly subjective and is the source of debate. That is an argument for a different paper.

When one translates, there are two directions that a translator can go: they can be as literal to the text as possible or they can make it as readable as possible. A literal translation of John 1:1 could be, "In beginning existed the word, and the word existed with the god, and god existed the word." Another translation, that is easier to read is, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The King James Version is one of the more literal translations, the Good News (Contemporary English Version), one of the more readable. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)is closer to literal than readable, but has a good balance. Two of the Bibles that have been published in light of this "Book of Faith Initiative" are NRSV Bibles. These two Bibles have been published by Augsburg Fortress and are intended for two different audiences, "The Lutheran Study Bible" for Adults, and the "Spark Bible" for Kids grades 2-6.

"The Lutheran Study Bible" is meant for the Lay Adult to learn more about the Bible and the land and people that produced this "Book of Faith." The beginning of this Bible has and introduction to Bibles. For instance, a section on Biblical Manuscripts and the languages of the Bible. This is followed by a chart of who thinks what should be in the Bible and then a timeline of the people and events in the Bible. The end of the book has a limited subject concordance and a 3-course, Bible-reading plan. This plan has a Challenge, Survey and Sampler path to read the Bible, or parts of it, in a year.

The three sections are aptly named in that the Challenge path is the most intense path and the deepest read into the texts. The Survey gives a good overview of the promises that God has fulfilled to his people and the Sampler gets one somewhat familiar with the books of the Bible and the stories therein. Following this are key stories and prayers in the Bible. This is a fine place to start for those who have never looked at the Bible. From there, one can then take one of the Bible-Reading paths.

The maps that follow are colorful and numerous. They provide a great source of interesting geographic curios and are something to look at during a boring Law/Gospel sermon.

Each section of the Bible begins with a great overview of what is contained in each section. All that I have read are expertly crafted by excellent Biblical scholars and each book also contains well-thought information to help one in study. At somewhat regular intervals, there are explanations of what is going on in the text. These, surprisingly, help the reader to think, but does not tell the reader what to think. All these features make this a great lay resource for more in-depth study.

The "Spark Bible," in contrast, is much smaller in size and has fewer of the features noted above. It's audience is not the Lay scholar, but a young person looking to get used to and familiar with the Bible. This is a strong resource for that purpose. It starts with the permission to mark up this book, something this author didn't really learn until Graduate work (one can make marks in all sorts of books!). This is to encourage the young person to make this book their own.

Each book of the Bible has a short, child-appropriate introduction to that book. Generally, it seems to be a one-page synopsis of important moments in that book. While there are no explanations of events happening in the text, there are a series of questions to help the child think through the story. On the bottom of certain pages, there are pointers called, "Did you know?" These point out facts of the times that are being discussed in the story.

There is a section in the back teaching kids how to mark up the Bible complete with stickers. These stickers have specific purposes including: I don't get it, I memorized it, Makes me wonder, and the like. Each page in the Bible has wider margins for the use of these stickers and for making margin notes.

The third Bible is a new translation, a story Bible for children called, Spark Story Bible. Since this is for children, they paraphrased the Bible and only took stories out of it and placed them with full-color, highly engaging illustrations.

The editors worked hard to make sure that the stories and illustrations not only matched the other, but also that they were accurate to the Biblical witness. The stories don't have the extra traditional lore that some other story Bibles may have.

The illustrations are vivid and each illustration contains a little worm named Squiggles. He's in each story (after the Creation story) to show the mood of the story. While I was skeptical of this "mood informer," there is only so much a worm can portray and it gives a point of reference to the child who is looking at the pictures and the parents have something to point out.

One of the more fascinating of features is the star section at the end of each story. They are a call to action for the reader, something to do that is related to the story and helps the child to engage in the story.

Each of these Bibles is a fantastic way to engage in the Biblical narrative from the youngest to the oldest. Each has their pluses and minuses, but I feel that the editors have minimized the minuses and maximized the pluses. All three will serve their purpose well, and I am excited to see what else comes from Augsburg Fortress to this end.

1 comment:

Beth A. Lewis said...

I'm delighted to read your summaries of these three new books. They are all being very well received by people throughout the Church. The two Spark Bibles are the centerpieces of learning for children with the Spark Sunday School curriculum www.activatefaith.org . Or, of course, they are likely to be given as gifts to children by congregations or loving parents/grandparents. The Lutheran Study Bible is a core resource for the Book of Faith initiative. And, we have also just published a number of adult Bible study resources, too. www.bookoffaith.org

Thanks, again, for your reviews of these new Bibles from Augsburg Fortress! Blessings, Beth Lewis, President & CEO, Augsburg Fortress
ceo@augsburgfortress http://twitter.com/bethalewis