Monday, April 6, 2015

Guest Review: Life with God Bible (NRSV)

Thank you to Owen for providing this overview of the HarperOne Life with God Bible (w/ Deuterocanonicals) in the NRSV translation.  You can view some pages here.

As to its content:
- In its "with Deuterocanonical books" edition the Life With God Bible it is a wonderful bridge as an ecumenical bible for both its choice of translation and the nature of its notes [more on that follows]. By ecumenical I mean more than Catholic/Protestant but actually ecumenical as this bible includes books held as authoritative by the RC as well as those recognized by Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches as well as in the Slavonic and Greek bibles.

- the treatment of the notes in the Deuterocanonical books is as thorough as it is in the books of the Protestant canon. That is to say this is more than a passing nod to non Protestant Christians for the sake of publication sales.

- it is devotional yet not feel-good fluff or same-old, basic-basic content.

- in the notes and supplementary material it asks of the reader as often as it tells-to the reader; this excellent for personal growth

- it is my preferred over-time translation; interestingly the NRSV is the one I return to over and over again even though it was not my first choice when I became Catholic [in spite of the fact that in Canada it is the NRSV that the CCCB has approved and adapted for Liturgy] nor was it the translation I used when a Protestant.

- it includes the second canon books and respectfully refers to them by their Catholic designation, "the Deuterocanonical books" [ I cannot think of even one other bible produced by Protestants that calls those books anything but Apocrypha]. 

- Yes, the second canon is not in Catholic order but sandwiched between the two Testaments as is typical of Protestant bibles that include these books. Within the Deuteros the book of Esther is given in total in translation from the Greek not merely the books LXX portions added which is wonderful for reading in context.

- it gives attention to spiritual disciples/devotion ultimately borne of Catholic tradition & practice in a holistic manner that frankly no single bible carrying the imprimatur and/or the nil obstat or do. In kind it is the only Bible I am aware of period that pays attention to the mystic side of our Christian tradition.

- it is chock-a-block full of worthy Catholic writers modern and ancient and canonical saints

- the bunt of Foster's spiritual disciplines are borne of Catholic/catholic/universal tradition

- without being even close to comprehensive its book introductions, notes and supplementary articles are attentive to modern scholarship and respectfully ecumenical. Zero quibbles.

- it includes writers and thinkers from other Christian traditions whom I valued at one time and lost touch with in the years of attention and mis-attention to hard-headed Catholic apologetic.

it speaks directly to the heart not only the head or if one prefers, to the heart first and not the head alone [as do the study notes of Catholic bibles where, understandably, there has been an heavy even over emphasis on the apologetic] asking/inviting practical action. [this is not to say that dogma, doctrine, apologetic are not without the inherent intention of spawning good deeds it's just that they so often seldom do; James 2:17 ahem].

It comes with:
 - multiple personal study suggestion tracks suitable for a day, a week, a month and a year.

 - a verse by verse "Spiritual Disciplines Index" on the themes of "celebration, chastity, confession, fasting, fellowship, guidance, meditation, prayer sacrifice, secrecy, service, silence, simplicity/frugality, solitude, study, submission, and worship" / while not Roman Catholic the interpretation/application of these verses to their theme is not anti or contrary to Catholic teaching that I have found.

 - a standard NRSV concise concordance; great for a beginner reader

 - very well detailed yet simple black & white maps printed on the same paper as the rest of the book, which I vastly prefer over thick, glossy, colour maps.

As to its physical properties:
- it's very practical size that doesn't sacrifice readability; it is perfect for taking with to Mass, park bench, bible study, bringing Communion to the shut-in [which I do] yet offers surprisingly readable fonts even for mid-life eyes. One can very comfortably hold it in one hand for extended periods.

- it opens flat right "out of the box" and that''s something considering its chubby 2448 pages. With use it is one of the flattest lying bibles I have.

- the page ghosting is pretty standard, as in not overly a problem

As to what I do not like:
- what do I not like; not much: the imitation Italian leather is utterly imitation. It is smooth [Italian?} but does not feel remotely like leather in the hand rather it feels like any number of duo-tone et al products produced for bibles in the past decade plus.

- it would have been excellent to have notations within the MT/Hebrew text highlighting where the LXX/Greek/Deutero books and portions would be placed. However as this is an ecumenical bible not merely a Protestant bible that includes the Deuteros recognized by the RC as scripture, I can understand why they would refrain from the kind of notation I suggest.

As to my chronic bible-geek pickiness
- the pages are white-white; great for night time reading under poor lighting yet blinding outside.

- the text and not setting is single column; I do so love me some single column text though I have heard it said it takes up more space and makes a book bigger

- the margins are small, well, actually the margins are rather normal but small for we who like to include our righteous marginalia in our bibles

As to other:
- on a decidedly subjective note the spiritual disciplines as laid out by Richard Foster take me back to the day I first encountered his book, The Celebration of Discipline, or to better say this bible takes me full circle to my early days as a disciple of Christ when all was new, hopeful, dynamic and I was not yet burdened by too often petty division within the Body and the ugliness of the varied modes of self-righteousness Christianity yet with the appreciation I have now as a Catholic for all things that are truly catholic/universal.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very helpful and comprehensive
review. Certainly agree about the cover.

Timothy said...

Should mention that it is a sewn binding too.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best Bible reviews I have read. Thank you


losabio said...

Thanks for the review! I've been using the NRSV text for reading the daily lections for the past few weeks/months, and the translation is starting to grow on me. If (when?!) I add an NRSV to my collection of print Bibles, this Life with God Bible NRSV will be at the top of the list, I think. I actually don't mind that Duo-Tone stuff, if that's what the cover is on this one.

David Garcia said...

I wish it had gold page edges :)

Russ said...

Owen, I wish you hadn't done a reveiw on this. My will power isn't too strong when it comes to new translations/bibles and this one with the spiritual commentary that you described seems to be calling me. I will let you know if I completely collapse and buy it. Thank you for a terrific review.

This is leather?

Timothy said...


It's a soft imitation leather, with sewn binding.

Russ said...

Thanks, Tim. It looks really good....

owen swain said...

My type-os are embarrassing and your good readers, Timothy, have been kind.

I am grateful the review has been helpful.

I'm also glad you noted the sewn binding that I neglected to note.


Russ, my apology. This one is gem, it is. I'm sorry but not that much ;-)

[The review notes this is an imitation leather that the publisher calls "Italian". It is soft and smooth but a far cry from the real thing but then the price is also a far cry from the price of a real Italian leather thing :)]

I'm rather used to the non gilt edged pages now. Some descriptions online state gilded edges. Perhaps that was true in earlier print runs but certainly the one I have and the one our daughter gifted to someone do not.

Anonymous said...

I already saw this one on a bookstore here in the Philippines.

It is a handy one, similar to the bulk comparable to a hand missal.