Bible Review – “The Memorization Study Bible” by Thomas Meyer

MSB main

I love various study Bibles.  I also love memorizing the word and looking at different techniques and methods people use.  When I found out that fellow Wordsower Tom Meyer was releasing a Bible that could help guide people through methods on memorizing God’s word, I was excited for an opportunity to review it.

Tom Meyer is a great person to put together a Memorization Study Bible, as he has personally memorized over 20 books of the Bible.  He has also studied memorization techniques used over Jewish and Christian history.

Meyer establishes his techniques on what he calls the “three pillars of memorization”: Seeing the text in 8 words or less, reading out loud/hearing, and writing the text down.  He has explained that one can use any or all of those pillars, though he personally uses all three as he commits Scripture to memory.

The Memorization Study Bible is a (King James Version) KJV New Testament, but it has a unique layout, which I will discuss later in the review.

MSB Back Cover

There are notes from the author before the Bible text.  These notes include the following (all information in parentheses is mine): Memorization Matters (quotes from other Christians about memorization); a Quick Start guide; Timely Tips; A Word of Encouragement; The Memorization Method; Why It Can Make a Difference; The Process (a breakdown of how the Memorization Study Bible is set up); and Simple Science of Memorization — You Can Do This!  This initial section is very encouraging to read and builds the memorizer’s confidence.

The books of the Bible are next, followed by 7 appendices (all information in parentheses is mine): Seven Short Scriptures (to memorize); Sin to Salvation in Ten Verses; Popular New Testament Chapters (to consider memorizing); Important New Testament Verses; Historical Development of Bible Memorization; Techniques Used to Memorize in Judaism; Techniques Used to Memorize in Christianity.

MSB TOC

Each book of the Bible has an introduction that includes a breakdown of how many chapters and verses are in the book, some basic background to the book, specific aspects of how the book contributes to our understanding of the Bible, and a few quotes from others (such as commentaries) about the book.

MSB Book Intro

The key difference between this Bible and others is its layout.  This Bible is double columned (like most Bibles, although some are single-column Bible now).  Most Bibles, however, either have a verse-by-verse format (each verse is its own paragraph) or a paragraphed layout.  This Bible, in keeping with the author’s goals, breaks verses down into lines of 8 or fewer words.  Each new line attempts to begin with a preposition or conjunction.  Numbers mentioned in the Bible stand alone as their own line.  The goal is to present the Scripture in more memorable lines, lines short enough that the eye can take them in quickly and the mind can retain them.

These lines are what Tom Meyer encourages people to focus on when memorizing; one small bit at a time.  He encourages memorizers to read the line, copy it by hand, and say it out loud repeatedly until they have it, then move on to the next line.

MSB Sample Page

I think the Memorization Study Bible is a great tool to help people memorize Scriptures.  It will be especially useful to those who read the King James Version of the Bible.  Those who use another translation, however, have a few options if they would like this Bible: They can memorize the KJV, even though they do not read that version; they can use this Bible for the intro, book information, and appendices only; or they can use the ideas in this Bible to try to divide up the version they prefer so they can apply these ideas in order to memorize it.  I have not personally tried dividing up another version this way, but it seems like it would work as long as you keep the number rule in mind and try to find prepositions or conjunctions to use to divide the verses up.

The Memorization Study Bible retails for $19.99, and I think it is definitely worth the price.  I, for one, am glad to have another tool to recommend to other believers when they ask me for tips on committing more Scripture to memory.  If you want to be encouraged to memorize more and if you are looking for some techniques that have been tried and successfully used, look no further than this Bible!

You can purchase a copy from the publisher here.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

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Book Review – “Satan and the Problem of Evil” by Gregory A. Boyd

Satan and the Problem of Evil

*To read my review of the first book in this two-book set, please click here.

I am going to preface this review as I did the first one:  Boyd’s book is both large and complex.  No review I could write would be able to do it justice, and I do run the risk of misunderstanding or misrepresenting something he holds to, though I will certainly try not to.  While I will try to give enough insight to guide anyone’s choice on whether or not to read the book, I am sure any review I write will seem to be overlooking or oversimplifying quite a bit, and there is no way not to.  Boyd’s writing is very deep.

This is the second book in Greg Boyd’s Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy explanation.  The first book, with the review linked above, was called God at War, and in that book, Boyd sought to establish that the overarching viewpoint the Bible espoused from Genesis to Revelation was one of warfare between God and Satan.  Through this viewpoint, Boyd argued, we would have the best chance of understanding why evil exists in the world.  Boyd set up his view in opposition to what he called the “blueprint worldview” that would be taught most strongly from a Reformed/Calvinistic standpoint and still espoused (albeit less strongly) in a traditional Arminian worldview.  The main goal of Boyd’s first book was merely establishing that the Bible contained a warfare paradigm.  But it did not delve too deeply into how that would play out in the problem of evil, necessarily.

This second book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, seeks to do just that.  In this book, Boyd seeks to explain the finer details of how this warfare worldview would be a better explanation of why evil exists in the world than a blueprint worldview.

The book itself is 456 pages long.  This includes the book itself, 5 appendices, a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and author/subject index, and a scripture index.  There is one major adjustment to the layout of this book that I love, and that is that the notes are throughout as footnotes on each page rather than as endnotes in the back of the book.  Since Boyd uses quite a few notes, I think this was a great publishing choice, as it made it easier to check the notes without having to flip to the back of the book each time.  I appreciated that greatly.

The first part of the book focuses specifically on the issues of God’s sovereignty, God’s foreknowledge, and the free will of personal beings (humans, angels, demons, and Satan), especially as these relate to the problem of evil.  If you have not read God at War, Boyd does offer a much abbreviated overview in the first chapter, but it really helps to have read the first book prior to this one.

As Boyd discusses free will, he sees it as a necessary component of God’s creating people who could truly choose to love Him.  Boyd sees this free will as necessary and irrevocable.  But he does still see the freedom as limited (after all, there is only one completely free being, and that is God; all other freedom is granted by Him to beings).

It is in this first part of the book that Boyd really looks into the contrast between a divine blueprint view (especially as it requires “eternal divine foreknowledge”) and an open view of God’s knowledge.  The open view teaches (as I understand it) that God can fully know the past and present, but cannot completely know the future, as it is not yet determined by creatures with freedom.  God may be able to know all possibilities of what creatures will choose, but until they choose, the future does not exist in actuality, so God cannot know that perfectly.  This is not a limitation on God’s part, but is something God chose to set in place by allowing creatures to have non-compatabilist freedom.  To Boyd (and others who hold to the open view of God’s knowledge), this does not weaken God.  Rather, it shows His strength and power because despite not knowing how creatures will choose, God is so wonderful and sovereign that He will still bring about His ultimate will, and can redeem anything creatures do, even evil actions.

Here is the biggest difference in the trinitarian warfare theodicy Boyd espouses and a blueprint worldview.  A blueprint worldview sees every evil action as being at least permitted by God (with His foreknowledge that it would occur) if not ordained by Him.  In either case, every evil action is a part of God’s larger plan from the very beginning.  The view Boyd argues for is that because we are in a war zone, with God at variance with some evil free creatures, there are some things that happen for no purpose.  Still, God is able (as Romans 8:28 states) to bring good out of every evil occurrence eventually.

The hinge is really that God chose to allow the risk of creaturely evil against His will in order to give personal beings the choice to either love or reject Him, and the only way to guard this choice was to permit the possibility of evil and continue to allow it.

Boyd would be quick to point out that God can, and sometimes does, intervene in situations, but that He does not always do so, and we cannot understand all the various reasons why this occurs.  Many things can impact whether or not God intervenes, from His overall purposes to the prayers of others to even “chance” occurrences (set up, of course, by prior actions).  So while God does not always intervene, He does sometimes, and we cannot fathom all the reasons that go into why the intervention sometimes occurs and sometimes does not.

Part 2 focuses on miracles, natural evil, and even tackles the concept of suffering in the afterlife.  Boyd does argue that supernatural beings can occasionally be behind “natural” evil, as we think of it.  He also tackles the idea of eternal conscious torment versus annihilation in the afterlife, coming up with a combined view that people do suffer forever, but they do so in a sort of self-contained existence, where they cease to exist to anyone but themselves.  He alludes greatly to C. S. Lewis and The Great Divorce for some of these ideas, and, while I don’t know whether I accept them fully or not, I do admit the concepts were intriguing.

There are 5 appendices in the book.

The first deals with remaining objections to his trinitarian warfare theodicy, including arguing whether it works on a practical level; that is, does it provide comfort to those who are suffering.  I was quite surprised to find myself agreeing that it is possible that an open view of God’s knowledge could provide better comfort than a blueprint worldview.  I think Boyd did an outstanding job of explaining his perspective there.

The second deals with philosophical arguments regarding the incompatibility of eternal define foreknowledge and self-determining free will.

The third deals with the idea of incomplete probationary periods and the possibility of salvation after death.

The fourth deals with a theology of chance and how it relates to God and freedom.

The fifth tackles some proof-texts from the Bible often used to support a compatabilistic view of God’s sovereignty and human freedom.  Here, Boyd tackles some of the stronger texts Calvinists and other compatabilists would bring up to argue that God is in control of everything all the time, both good and evil.  He works on dealing with them exegetically to show how they do not necessarily rule out his views of God.  There were a few verses that I’m not sure Boyd argued very well, but overall, I found his arguments very strong.

While I am still not sure where I stand regarding Open Theism, I found Boyd’s book extremely well argued regarding the idea of viewing evil from a trinitarian warfare theodicy worldview.  I suppose it could still work with Arminianism, though I would have to think it through quite a bit to determine how that would work as well as it seems to with an open view of God’s knowledge.

If you have read other books on theodicy, especially those from a blueprint worldview model, I would strongly encourage you to read this book (and Boyd’s first book) to help provide another picture.  Even if you do not ultimately agree with Boyd, I think his argument is strong enough that it needs to be considered.

I highly recommend Boyd’s book, though be prepared for an often deep and complex read.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – God’s Book of Proverbs (CSB)

main proverbs

The book of Proverbs is one of the most-read books of the Bible, and with good reason.  We need wisdom, and there is no better place to get it than straight from God’s word.  But remembering where to go for proverbs related to specific issues is not always easy, as they sometimes jump around in the Bible.

Enter God’s Book of Proverbs by Broadman & Holman.

This is a wonderful little book that takes the Proverbs from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and arranges them topically so that one can easily locate proverbs related to whatever issue one is needing wisdom on at the time.

The book is cloth over board with a small dust jacket wrapped around it.  It includes one ribbon bookmark, which I think is a great touch.

Proverbs with cover

Proverbs back with cover

Proverbs without cover

There is a presentation page, if you want to give it as a gift.  (And I think it would make an amazing gift for many situations, such as marriage or graduation.)

Proverbs presentation page

After a brief introduction, there is a table of contents where one can look for and find the section they want to dig into wisdom about.

Proverbs TOC

In each section, the proverbs related to that topic have been pulled together in one place for easy reference.  Below are the first pages for “anger” and “prosperity.”

Proverbs anger example

Proverbs prosperity example

There is also an additional index for finding specific topics.

Proverbs index

At a retail of $9.99, this is an amazing little book!  While I would never say we should replace the Proverbs as they are in the biblical canon, having this handy companion volume is great.  It makes a great quick reference when you know what wisdom you need.  I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of God’s Book of Proverbs.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – The Spurgeon Study Bible (CSB)

basic spurgeon image

Holman Bible Publishers has been coming out with some awesome Bibles containing their Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation.  One of the more unique ones has been The Spurgeon Study Bible.

Let me state up front that this is not a traditional study Bible.  You will not find notes related to culture, words studies, hermeneutics, or application as we would normally think of it.  The only part of this that matches normal study Bibles are the introductions to the books of the Bible.  (More on that later.)

This Bible is unique in that every study note is a quote from Spurgeon’s sermons that ties in to the text in question.  For Spurgeon lovers, this is an interesting way to combine Spurgeon’s thoughts with the biblical text.  Rather than having to comb through Spurgeon’s sermons to see where he refers to some Scripture verse, one can see them related here.  The notes are not exhaustive, I’m sure, and if you read through Spurgeon’s sermons, you may find multiple times he references verses, but this Bible gives you at least some quotes to connect to the Biblical text.

The edition I have is a cloth over board edition.  It comes with a partial paper slip cover that gives some information on the Bible on the back.  If you remove the cover, you will find a two-tone brown cloth over board cover with C. H. Spurgeon’s signature at the bottom right corner.  It comes with two ribbon bookmarks: one dark brown and one a lighter tan.

spurgeon front cover

Spurgeon back cover

spurgeon no slip cover

The Bible starts with a Table of Contents that lists the books of the Bible and the page references of additional material in this Bible: a Spurgeon biography by Alistair Begg, the lost sermons, Spurgeon quotes, Spurgeon illustrations, and intro to the CSB, abbreviations in the CSB, and the page where the concordance begins.

There is a four page (two columns each page) biography of Spurgeon by Alistair Begg to give people some background on Spurgeon as a person.

spurgeon bio

In addition, twenty of the lost sermons of Charles Spurgeon taken from The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854, Volume 1 are interspersed throughout the Bible.  For each sermon, the handwritten sermon is included on one page and a typed-out version is on the next.  I have to admit, it is neat being able to see a sermon outline in Spurgeon’s own handwriting!

lost sermons list

lost sermon handwritten

lost sermon typed

Each book of the Bible has an introduction to it.  Most of the information in the introduction matches the introduction from the CSB Study Bible or The Disciple’s Study Bible.  The outlines that are generally included with the books of the Bible introductions is not present in this edition.  In its place is a section titled “Spurgeon on [the Bible book].”  From what I can tell, this section is taken from the notes that will come later in the book’s footnotes on the text, so it is sort of a brief summary of what is to come.

spurgeon book intro

Spurgeon Quotes are scattered throughout.  They are typed in a cursive font that seems like it was intended to resemble Spurgeon’s own handwriting.  These quotes are highlights from the notes at the bottom of the page, and the quote itself is in a green font at the bottom of the page so you can see where it was taken from.  (That may not show up with my camera very well.)

The CSB footnotes are included at the bottom of the page in a green box.  There are no cross references in this Bible, unlike most study Bibles.

spurgeon sample page 1.jpg

There are also illustrations throughout, which are not included in the notes at the bottom of the page, but are additional thoughts on the notes.

spurgeon sample page 2

If you are looking for a deep study Bible, this is not the one you are looking for.  I would recommend the CSB Study Bible in that case.

For someone who loves C. H. Spurgeon, however, this is a wonderful Bible.  It gives a way of combining some of Spurgeon’s thoughts with the biblical text, allowing you to see what Spurgeon might say as you are reading the word of God.

You can order the Bible directly from the publisher here, or from Amazon here.  It is available in the cloth over board edition, in Leather Touch, or in genuine leather.

*I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Bible Review – CSB Pastor’s Bible

I am continuing to dig into the CSB, to read it and compare it with other translations and what (very) little Greek knowledge I have gained.  I am still enjoying what I am reading and finding.

Holman Bible Publishers graciously agreed to send me a few different editions to look over and review, and I hope to get to all three soon.

Today, I am reviewing the CSB Pastor’s Bible.

As far as I know, for the time being, if you want a single-column Bible in the CSB, you only have two options: the CSB Reader’s Bible, which I already reviewed, and the CSB Pastor’s Bible.  I do believe they have another personal size single-column being released later in 2018, but I’m not sure when it will be available exactly.

Some of the basic information for this Bible, from the back of the box, are that it has a smyth-sewn binding, black-letter text throughout (no words of Christ in red), and 11-point type (the Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible has 9.5-point type; a picture comparing the two is posted later).  Unlike the Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, there are no cross-references in the Pastor’s Bible. It comes with three ribbon markers (one black, one red, and one white).  The edition I received is a black LeatherTouch, and it has silver gilding on the edges.  It has all the CSB footnotes throughout, and the CSB topical subheadings are included.  As with most Bibles, it has a presentation page, a concordance in the back, and full-color maps.  The perimeter has stitching around it: black on the outside and red on the inside.  But the inside cover liner seems like it is glued on rather than sewn in.

In terms of size and weight, it is certainly not the smallest and lightest Bible you can purchase.  It is, however, still a good size for carrying to church, unlike some of the massive study Bibles out there.  Even if you don’t want to carry this one with you, it is good for keeping at home to read.

Pastor's box cover front

Pastor's box cover back

Pastor's bible cover and ribbons

Pastor's bible table of contents 1.jpg

Pastor's bible table of contents 2

Pastor's Bible inside

Pastor's bible-LPUT compare.jpg

As you can see in the above two pictures, there appears to be a decent amount of margin space in the Pastor’s Bible for those who like to make notes while they are reading.  No, it is not a wide-margin Bible, per se, but it has more space than some Bibles do in the margins.

The Pastor’s Bible is designed to be a CSB resources specifically for pastors.  After the book of Psalms, it includes a section for wedding ceremonies (classical and contemporary, pictured below), information on funeral preparation, and some funeral sermons.

Pastor's bible classical wedding

Pastor's bible contemporary wedding.jpg

The funeral preparation is broken down into a few tips with detailed information under each one: what to do on receiving notification of death, what to do when visiting in the home, what to do when scheduling the service, what to do during the funeral home visit, what to do during the service, what to do when concluding the service, and what to do at the graveside.

The funeral sermons include a basic funeral sermon, one for a funeral for a child, one for a funeral for a student, and one for a funeral for a suicide victim.

At the end of the Bible, there are various pastoral helps.  These include a “where to turn” section with Scripture references to help (pictured below), “A Brief Biblical Theology of Leadership,” “Eight Traits of Effective Church Leaders,” “Pastor, Find Your Identity in Christ,” “Glorifying God in Your Ministry,” “What is Biblical Preaching?,” “Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures,” “What is Doctrinal Preaching?,” “Four Keys for Giving an Effective Invitation,” “Five Ways to Improve Congregational Singing,” “Soul Care: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love,” “Letter to the Church,” “Five Steps to Start and Keep an Evangelistic Culture,” “How Do You Disciple Others?,” “The One Thing You Must Do as a Student Pastor,” and “Sharing the Gospel with Children.”  The last two articles demonstrate that this Bible is equally valuable for youth and children pastors, as well as senior pastors.

Pastor's Bible pastoral care

While it is geared toward pastors, I have seen many discuss their love for this Bible merely because of the large print and single-column format, so if you are not a pastor, don’t rule out this Bible, thinking it is irrelevant to you.  The layout itself is beautiful and easy on the eyes.

If you are a pastor and are looking for a Bible with many helps and articles of encouragement and advice, this is a wonderful Bible to add to your library.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – CSB Reader’s Bible

I have recently become a huge fan of Reader’s Bibles.  I love the simplicity of only the text on the page without the distractions of chapter numbers, verse numbers, and footnotes, helpful as they may all be.  I currently have a six-volume ESV reader edition, a one-volume ESV reader edition, and the NIV Books of the Bible reader edition.

One recent (re)translation that has come out is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).  I have enjoyed reading through that translation, and I was excited to hear that they had a Reader’s Edition being released.  Upon request, the publisher agreed to send me a copy to review.

The edition I received was a gray cloth over board edition.  Interestingly, the slipcase is the same cloth over board material as the Bible itself, which was a nice tough in my opinion.

CSB R 1

CSB R 2

CSB R 3

CSB R 4

The Bible is well constructed, and it lays flat from the very first page of the Table of Contents all the way to the end.

CSB R 5

The font is a decent size and boldness, which makes for easy reading.  The paper is very white, but that helps the text stand out. Because it is a one-volume edition, the paper is not as thick as the multi-volume editions released by other publishers; it can’t be if you want a portable Bible.  But the line matching helps to minimize ghosting from one page to the next.

Each chapter starts with a larger initial letter in a blue font, and the same blue font is used at the bottom of the page to give you a rough guide as to what book and chapter you are reading in.  This could be helpful if one were to take the Bible to church to read with, although you would still need to listen to the context and be familiar with it, as there are no verse numbers throughout.  It also retains the bold font for quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament.  There are maps in the back, but there are no guides as to what page numbers certain chapters could be found on.

CSB R 6

CSB R 10

CSB R 11

I like the CSB’s use of setting new dialogue in different paragraphs, more like a modern novel would.  It helps me keep track of who is talking when.  This has always been a weakness of the ESV to me, as they may have a back-and-forth conversation all in one paragraph.

CSB R 12

The Bible does include on dark blue ribbon bookmark to help you keep track of where you are reading.

To me, the CSB Reader’s Bible is almost the perfect layout.  I love the font, and the boldness of the text.  It doesn’t seem too cramped on a page.  But the one thing I wish they had done is take more of a note from Biblica’s Books of the Bible set or the six-volume ESV set and do away with chapter numbers all the way around, possibly redividing text by thought.  I understand that keeping the beginning of chapters noted with the large blue first letter helps orient some readers, but it still forces an unnatural division into the text.  It’s almost like the CSB Reader’s Bible got right on the verge of producing one of the “perfect” Reader’s Bibles and stopped just short of the final goal.

All in all, the CSB Reader’s Bible is a welcome addition to my collection of reader’s editions, and it is one I will refer to again and again.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – ESV Devotional Psalter

A while back, Crossway had released an ESV Psalms standalone book.  A little more recently, to help move the psalms into a devotional use, they released the ESV Devotional Psalter.  Crossway was kind enough to send me a copy to review.  (I will say at the outset, please forgive any blurry pictures.  My camera phone does what it wants half the time.)

There are many similarities between the two, including the layout, the font, and paper type, and the color scheme used. The paper is thicker than normal Bible paper, and it has more of an opaque, almost beige appearance to it.  The text is a decent size for reading, and verse numbers are out to the left of the text in a distinct red font.  It also contains one ribbon bookmark.

The biggest difference is that after each psalm  there is now a devotion to help guide the reader into a time of reflection and prayer as they read the psalms.  The few that I read seemed very theologically sound (which I would expect from Crossway) and life applicable.

psalter 4

psalter 5

psalter 6

The copy I received came in a hardshell slipcase.  I love having slipcases like this as it helps protect the Bible itself when it is on the shelf.

psalter 1 (50)

psalter 2

The psalter is a TruTone portfolio design, which is a beautiful design for a Bible, in my opinion.

psalter 3

If you are looking for a standalone psalter that offers some guidance to help move the ancient prayers into a modern way of applying them, this is certainly the psalter to consider.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this psalter from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.