Review: KJVER Sword Study Bible; Giant Print Edition.

The KJVER Sword Bible Giant Print Red Letter Edition in Genuine Leather.

Preamble

 

Title: KJVER Sword Study Bible Giant Print Genuine Leather(Burgundy)

Publisher: Whittaker House, New Kensington, PA, USA

Country of Printing: South Korea

ISBN: 978-1641230476

Dimensions: 21.34 x 5.33 x 25.4 cm

Format: Double Column, single ribbon marker

Page number: 2352

Font Size: 15 point.

Retail Price: £54.70 UK

 

 

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 KJVER

 

If you’re not a Christian, the world must seem to be a depressing, confusing and bizarre place right now. Global lockdowns, pestilence, freak weather, a dramatic increase in the frequency of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, strident attempts to create a one world government, massive spikes in human conflict leading to wars and rumours of wars, the ‘celebration’ and empowerment of the sexually depraved, wholesale economic collapse, the current implosion of the formerly Christian United States under a thoroughly wicked and illegitimate Marxist government, which is tearing down every traditional institution that once made the nation great, large increases in UFO sightings(demonic in nature) and so on and so forth.  To the Christian in tune with God’s unchanging Word, as uniquely revealed in the Bible, there can now be no doubting that we are living in the final phase of human civilization; a time the Bible refers to as the last days.

The Bible predicts that such events are like the birth pangs of a woman with child. As the time of delivery approaches, so too do the birth pangs become more frequent and more intense. I believe that is what we are now seeing in this dying world in which we live. Human wickedness is now off the charts and it’s time for God to begin to wrap things up. But the body of Christ shouldn’t be fearful or anxious. God is acting and in complete control, and Jesus is coming back! So we continue to watch world events with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

This past year, I’ve been spending more time than ever reading the Scriptures. They are a source of great comfort to me and help me make sense of world events as they continue to unravel. Having read and enjoyed many of the fine English language Bible translations now available, I felt it was high time that I settle on a good study Bible that best reflected my convictions and nourish me spiritually as these last days unfold. And while many Christians have moved away from the King James because of its archaic language, I’ve found that I’ve been swimming against the tide, as it were, moving back from the New King James, which has been my favourite for many years now, to the Old King James.

Why? Well, I have been witnessing the trend in recent years to continually update and ‘improve’ the Biblical texts with new research findings, new footnotes etc. But what I’ve also been noticing is how the arrival of these new translations has dove-tailed with the rampant apostacy in the Church. Instead of coming together in Christian unity, all we see is schism after schism. My own personal reaction to all of this was to seek out a version of God’s word that could not and would not be changed and the only one that was immune to this constant flux was the Authorised King James Version.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the language of the King James Version(KJV) is the most majestic and beautiful of all Biblical renditions. It uniquely connects the faithful across many generations since it was first published in 1611. It was the Bible of Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Spurgeon, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, James Clerk Maxwell, William Thomson(Lord Kelvin), C.S. Lewis and Amy Carmichael. The men who served on the committee to create the KJV were undoubtedly godly individuals who were deeply interested in conveying Biblical truth to the masses. In contrast, many Biblical scholars today are non-believers or have developed nuanced opinions about the truth claims of Christianity, and this can sometimes come across in the work they do. They bring naturalistic science into their decision making, sowing more seeds of doubt. When I read the text of the KJV I can be assured that, as far as is humanly possible, the doctrines it outlines are those most clearly delineated by Almighty God.

But having said all that, I recognise that no translation is perfect and that also is true of the KJV. I have followed the ‘KJV Only’ controversy with great interest, but I also had the presence of mind to consider both sides of the argument. Accordingly, I have read some of the works of David W. Daniels, Gail Riplinger, and Dr. James White. I have sympathy with both sides of the argument, but ultimately my reasons for gravitating towards the Byzantine line of manuscripts(from which the KJV is derived) were based on nostalgia and literary beauty more than anything else. Still, I recognised that some of the language of the King James has become dated. Some of the words it uses no longer mean what they once meant. Nor do we speak in Shakespearian English and I’m pretty sure God doesn’t either. Accordingly, I recognised a need to update the language of the KJV in a reverent but minimalist way.

I wanted a study Bible that would strongly uphold the doctrine of Creation, thoroughly purged of satanic evolutionary thought. I have spent many years explaining to people that evolutionary thinking, as applied to the biological sciences, is, as St. Paul so eruditely claimed, ‘science falsely so called‘(1 Timothy 6:20). There’s a good reason why it is now falling from grace among a growing army of serious scientists. Modern science has clearly shown that living things are stupendously complex and couldn’t possibly have evolved. And the more we probe the living realm, the more complex it becomes. Quite simply, we are ‘without excuse‘(Romans1:20). But instead of expressing awe and humility for the mysterious, some militant materialists cling to evolutionary ideology like a sinking ship. I have faced reality. Evolution is pseudoscience and damnable heresy. It is blasphemy. And if you continue to believe it in light of all the science now stacked against it, you’re a naive fool and you deserve to be deceived!

These considerations led me to this unique study Bible produced by Whittaker House, the King James Version Easy Read (KJVER) in giant print format. As we shall see, it ticks all of the above boxes.

Content & Presentation

The KJVER is a beautifully constructed Study Bible, from end to end.

From the moment I unpacked this Bible, I was overpowered by the strong smell of leather from the burgundy Bible cover. This is by far the best quality Bible I have thus far purchased for personal use. Sure, it’s not a Cambridge or a Schuyler but it’s a nice, soft genuine leather with a good Smyth sewn binding and beautiful gold gilding on the page edges. How can you tell it’s Smyth sewn? Well, a good sign is that it opens flat in the Book of Genesis and requires little or no ‘breaking in’. This Sword Study Bible does. Another way to verify a sewn binding is to open the Bible near the centre and look carefully along the spine edges of the pages where the stitches should be clearly seen; and they are!

The contents in a nutshell.

Unlike the thinline version of the KJVER I previously reviewed, this giant print edition contains a list of all the words – about 700 in all – that were changed from the original KJV. The vast majority of these are simple modernising of the archaic word. For example, ‘doeth’ becomes ‘does,’ ‘craveth’ is changed to ‘craves’ and so on. The thees and the thous are changed to ‘you’ and ‘yours,’ and unlike all other Bible versions where it is unclear if the ‘you’ is singular or plural, the KJVER places a small p subscript after the ‘you’ to indicate that it is plural. Although the text renders the name of God as ‘Lord’ throughout, the KJVER also tells you the exact Hebrew expression used for God at the end of the sentence.

The words in the KJVER changed are shown upfront. No doctrine is changed by these updates.

Because of these minimal changes, the text of the KJVER is much closer to the KJV than the NKJV. The Biblical text is a lovely, large 15 point font, is properly line matched and very easy to read, even without glasses. Each book of the Bible has a useful, two- page introduction covering the background to the text. Words of God are presented in red throughout the Old and New Testaments – a unique feature of the KJVER. Words that are a difficult to understand are underlined and a modern alterative is placed at the end of the sentence. The alternative words are not strictly meant as substitutes so the reader is free to ignore them as appropriate. The KJVER study Bible also contains an excellent essay on the so-called inter-testament period, covering the time between the writings of the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The text of The KJVER study Bible is large and very easy to read. Words of God are in red, even in the Old Testament, and difficult words are underlined, with a modern alternative suggested at the end of the sentence.

Now for some negatives.  Although the Biblical text is 15 point, the accompanying study articles are considerably smaller, and are of varied size. Some are 12 point, some are 10 and a few are smaller still. Indeed, it looks like 7 or 8 point in some places. In addition, there is only one ribbon marker for such a large study Bible. Finally, I found a typographical error in Luke 12:59;

I tell you, you shall not depart from there there, till you have paid the last mite.

Luke 12:59 (KJVER)

 

The Study Notes: Emphasis on Creation

The Bible makes it crystal clear that the Biblical God is the “Author of life”( Acts 3:15) and this KJVER study Bible honours that position better than many others I’ve perused. There are some really great essays by Ken Ham(founder of Answers in Genesis), the late Dr. John D. Morris, Dr. Carl Wieland, Dr. Don Batten and Ray Comfort, who have written excellent mini-essays on the origin of the races, the Noachan flood, scientific discoveries that support Creation, interpreting the fossil record, and how evolutionary theory is fundamentally at odds with Biblical teachings. While the contents of these essays present their anti-evolution stance from a Young Earth Creationist(YEC) perspective, I personally take the view that the Earth and the Universe around us are old. Indeed, I see no problems whatsoever with holding to a Old Earth Creationist(OEC) perspective and fully embracing the Biblical narrative.

There is however, a widespread misconception that those who do not accept a YEC worldview are somehow compromising their faith because they falsely claim that believing in an old Earth and Universe also entails accepting evolution. This is categorically not the case, because even if the Universe had millions of times more matter and existed for trillions instead of billions of years, the laws of physics and chemistry are just not capable of generating anything viable without Divine fiat. In short, all creationists hold the following to be true:

Physics + Chemistry  + Time  ≠  Life

 

In addition to upholding a creationist worldview, the KJVER study Bible also has very interesting material on the strengths of the Authorised King James translation,  the Biblical End Times(by Rev. Charles Childers) into which we are now entering. Though the KJVER writers seem to favour a pre-Tribulation rapture scenario, they also give mention to other eschatological positions. Personally, I haven’t ruled out or in any of these options, so it’s good that all have been included for posterity.

The KJVER study Bible also presents an essay on angels, a comprehensive list of Messianic Bible prophecies, genealogies, the significance of Babylon and the Tower of Babel, but also a wealth of ancillary material, such as a guide to Christian witnessing, how to interpret the Bible, Biblical chronology & symbolism, and the harmony of the gospels. Finally the KJVER study Bible features a very comprehensive 300 page topical concordance, enabling the reader to study any Biblical topic or concept in depth. 8 comprehensive maps cover biblical geography, from the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem, to the conquering Empires surrounding it. They are not in colour though, as many study Bibles now are, but are still very clear to read and easy to understand.

Having a good physical copy of a study Bible that you can hold in your hand is important to me. Make no mistake about it; the banning of Bibles is coming! With more and more government officials now influenced by the wicked woke in our societies,  they’ll soon be calling for our holy books to be removed from sale. That’s why it’s very important that serious Christians buy a good Bible that they can study and memorise tracts from after the online Bible software websites get wiped.

I would highly recommend the KJVER study Bible to anyone who enjoys the KJV. It will provide an excellent bridge back from the newer Bibles now saturating Christian bookstores the world over, and will undoubtedly help more people appreciate the majesty and literary beauty of the greatest story ever told.

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

 

 

De Fideli.

Book Review: “The Story of the Cosmos.”

Declaring God’s majesty throughout the Universe.

 

Title: The Story of the Cosmos, How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God

 

General Editors: Paul M. Gould & Daniel Ray

 

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

 

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7736-4

 

Price: US $22.99

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

The night sky is the last great frontier. From a dark country site, away from the lights of towns and cities, the full grandeur of the starry heaven can be enjoyed. It melts even the hardest heart and fills us with awe as we contemplate its vast size, its teeming multitude of effulgent hosts and its great preternatural beauty. But for the Biblical King David, the night sky also presented powerful evidence that a Creator had fashioned it all. As an avid stargazer from my youth and a committed Christian, I have always regarded the majesty of the night sky as a grand expression of the created order.

That’s why my curiosity was piqued when I came across a new book, The Story of the Cosmos: How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God, edited by former schoolteacher and amateur astronomer, Daniel Ray, and philosopher/apologist, Paul M. Gould, who have assembled a stellar line of some of the finest Christian minds across a multitude of disciplines from the sciences, arts, philosophy and theology, united in their conviction that the Universe at large displays the unmistakable hallmarks of order, design and foresight from the microscopic realm of the sub-atomic to the macroscopic world of stars and galaxies; the handiwork of an all-powerful God; the God of the Bible.

The Story of the Cosmos comes at an especially exciting time when Darwinian ideology is being toppled by an avalanche of new science. The origin of life is as mysterious as ever; the more we probe its depths the more complex it becomes.  So too is the nature of human consciousness. The book draws upon an exceptionally rich repository of intellectual thought from Aristotle, Plato and St. Augustine in the ancient world, to great Christian thinkers in the modern era including C. S Lewis,  Alvin Plantinga, John Lennox and others who have all formulated the same answer to an age old question; why is the cosmos intelligible, rational and ordered? Their answer, arrived at using various philosophic approaches, is that the universe is the way it is because its Creator is also rational and human beings, made in the image of God, are capable, to some degree, of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.

Three chapters in Part I of the book, written by distinguished scientists, Guy Consolmagno, Guillermo Gonzalez and David Bradstreet, respectively, explore another, related question. What was God’s purpose in creating a cosmos that is intelligible to humankind? Their answer is that God has allowed us to be active participants in unravelling the mysteries of His creation and delights in humans figuring things out through the dual virtues of deep, logical thought and scientific experimentation. Our God has spilled his grace upon humankind in such a way that it encourages us to explore the riches of the Universe and to delight in learning something new. Planetary scientist, Dr. Guy Consolmagno, imagines himself studying the precious meteorites in lock step with his Creator, who he imagines is ‘sitting across from him’ in his laboratory, watching as he stumbles on some new insight. Astrobiologist, Dr. Guillermo Gonzales, describes the fascinating details of how our planet, far from being an ordinary world lost in the immensity of space, shows all the hallmarks of super-intelligent design for life in general, but human beings, in particular. He offers fascinating insights into things few people would never even consider. Why can we see the stars? Why is the Earth just right for launching probes into space? Why are we located on the outskirts of an enormous spiral galaxy, where the night sky is dark and transparent? The answer, as Gonzalez explains so eloquently, is that our Creator had it in mind all along to allow humans to come to some understanding of the great power, majesty and glory of His creation. In this sense, when we express awe for the beauty of the night sky, we are, in a certain sense, offering up a prayer to the Almighty. The same kind of enthusiasm is conveyed by stellar astronomer, Dr. David Bradfield, who describes how studying the complex light curves of variable stars is an exciting way to unravel the machinery of God’s creation.

It is not only through the media of science, philosophy and theology that humans have reacted to the created order. Artists too have also responded with their delicate brush strokes. In a wonderful essay by Terry Glaspey, we learn how the great out of doors and the beauty of the night sky inspired artists throughout history to see both the terrestrial and extra-terrestrial realms as a “grand cathedral” wherein the presence of God is palpable.

But all of this naturally raises other questions; what happens when scientists do not pursue the evidence wherever it leads? That’s a fascinating question that is answered by astrophysicist, Dr. Sarah Salviander, who describes in some considerable detail, the consequences of abandoning what I would call Judeo-Christian ways of thinking. Salviander showcases the disputes that arose between the astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington, and his brilliant Indian graduate student, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (Chandra). Although Eddington admired Chandra’s theoretical achievements, he refused to accept where those conclusions concerning the fate of massive stars (neutron stars and black holes in particular) would lead him. Salviander writes:

The answer is that Eddington fell victim to some combination of the four primordial barriers to understanding that are constantly at work in the minds of every person; limited perspective, misleading emotions, intellectual inertia, and excessive pride……………..Longstanding and popular ideas are often difficult to overcome even when compelling evidence like Chandra’s is presented. And, sometimes people like Eddington experience a lapse in humility that causes them to use their authority to oppose an idea they just don’t like.

pp 94-95.

In similar fashion, the distinguished nuclear physicist, Robert J. Oppenheimer fell victim to the same kind of cognitive dissonance:

A close friend of Oppenheimer’s, the Nobel laureate physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi, believed that Oppenheimer’s abilities as a physicist suffered as a result of his turning away from the beliefs of the Old Testament in favour of the literature of Hindu mysticism. According to Rabi, Oppenheimer was scientifically blinded by an exaggerated sense of mystery and the boundary between the known and the unknown and became incapable of following the laws of physics to the very end.  pp 95.

The same resistance to wholly rational and reasonable conclusions about the nature of reality is explored by Christian apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig, who explores the mindset of atheist cosmologists such as Lawrence Kraus, who expects his readers to believe that the Universe came into existence out of nothing, with no material cause or need for a Creator. In particular, he focuses on what Kraus attempts to pass as ‘nothing’ and convincingly concludes, citing sonorous rebuttals by his own scientific peers, that Kraus’ concept of nothing is in fact, a whole lot of ‘something.’

Physicists, Luke Barnes and Alan Hainline, who take a decidedly neutral stance on Christian theism in the book, similarly debunk ill-thought-through statements made by Darwin-thumping atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who famously declared that;

The Universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

Unlike Dawkins, whose expertise is in zoology, Barnes and Hainline are actually qualified to comment on the notion of cosmic fine tuning, observing that, at every conceivable level, our Universe provides compelling evidence of being very special indeed. Why? Because if Dawkins’ statement were actually true, our Universe would simply not harbor life, especially conscious human life.

Given the overwhelming evidence for design and purpose in the Universe, how should the atheist or agnostic best respond to it? That question is explored in a thought-provoking essay by Paul M. Gould, who sets out a robust argument for theism based on the reasonable premise that naturalism cannot account for the flourishing of human life. Gould highlights the significant weaknesses of the so-called neo-Humean synthesis, which asserts that all of physical reality can be reduced to its micro-physical parts, in favor of what Gould calls the Aristotelian-Christian worldview, which much more robustly accounts for the properties of the Universe we humans observe in practice as image bearers of God’s character.

It was a great pleasure to read this beautifully composed work of Christian literature. It is timely, thoughtfully written and illustrated, reverent and inspiring, with great apologetic appeal. The Story of the Cosmos is a refreshing oasis for the human soul and deserves a special place in the library of all Christians, sky gazers and curious agnostics alike.

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy.  His large historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, explores the lives of astronomers and how their work often re-affirmed their strong Christian convictions.

 

De Fideli

Bible Review: The KJVER.

The only way to keep sane in a world gone mad.

Make no mistake about it, we live in very dark and perilous times. The secular world, of course, can offer no coherent answers to our problems. Believing humans to be nothing more than evolved animals, their inept ‘woke’ officials are just too preoccupied corralling hard working people into pseudoscientific, oppressive lockdowns, decimating livelihoods and whole economies. The corrupt mainstream media peddle fear and promote the ideologies of creepy elites who finance their aberrant narratives. Liquor and cannabis stores, casinos and abortion clinics across the United States, once the greatest Christian country on Earth, remained open for business, of course, but churches and synagogues were either shut completely or restricted to just a few tens of people. You can shout from the top of your voice in a riot, but are prohibited to sing in church. Brainwashed by clueless ‘masktards’ into wearing useless face diapers which offer no credible protection against a virus that only poses a danger to a very small minority of individuals, swathes of once sensible, intelligent citizens of our nations have turned into intimidated imbeciles or snitching Nazis in all but name – take your pick.

Meanwhile, the ongoing push to enforce the politics and ideologies of the far left on our societies continues apace. Organisations like Black Lives Matter, run by trained Marxists and sexual deviants are feverishly dismantling Judeo-Christian values and the sacredness of the nuclear family. They care nothing for black lives, of course, or any other lives for that matter. Their goal is the complete dismantling of western society, profaning everything decent and civilised in their wake. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church too, has turned his back on historic Christianity, quoting mostly himself, to embrace the new Eco-Marxism, placing the pagan gods of the nations on an equal footing with the true God, which is idolatry. Francis is a pantheist and one of the leading architects of the Great Reset! I sometimes wonder if Pope Francis has ever read the words of Genesis, where God promised mankind that the world will go on until the day He decides to end it?

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:28

No, clearly not! He ‘d rather hug a tree than feed his flock!

Brown-nosing with elite socialists and fear mongering environmentalists, who worship the creation rather than the Creator, and using the new religion of ‘climate change’ to impose their radical, unscientific, Draconian, and unworkable polices, is it any wonder that the faithful are leaving the Roman See in record numbers? Yep, God has left the Vatican and the so-called ‘descendant’ of St. Peter has donned the robes of the Biblical False Prophet.

Our societies are sex obsessed. No longer do people promote themselves primarily in terms of their worldly achievements; it’s their sexuality that counts most! They define themselves in terms of their homosexuality, bisexuality or pansexuality(does that mean they’d get up on just about anything?). Or how about transsexuality? Normal, heterosexual people, in contrast, have no platform any more. We are the silent (or silenced) vast majority. And you daren’t say the obvious: that every child gets the best start in a stable, loving family, with a mother and a father at the helm. No, that is now deemed hate speech.  How about polyamory? Yep, it’s already happening in Massachusetts City. And what about paedophilia? No, surely not paedophilia! Well, canvass the boys at Netflix to explain this?

Legal bestiality is sure to come next! Approved of by the good citizens of planet Earth.

And there, in a nutshell, is what St. Paul prophesied in Chapter 1 of the Book of Romans.

We’ve well and truly arrived!

Woke social media networks have become nothing more than cesspits of immorality, patrolled by hate-filled cowards hiding behind keyboards. Free speech and common sense are being silenced and those that dare speak out are ‘cancelled’ or fired from their jobs. In short, the Bible expresses this new spirit of lawlessness that is now alive and well in our societies most succinctly:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Of course, I’ve not mentioned the proliferation of false teachers that have infiltrated the Church, the push for cashless societies, the ‘strong delusion’ God has clearly placed on the unbelieving world, a marked increase in persecutions of the saints, wars and rumours of war, pestilences, famines, earthquakes, wild fires and a string of other natural disasters. All these signs are before our eyes, just like Jesus said they would( see Luke 21, Mark 13, Matthew 24 & Revelation 13).

Without a shadow of a doubt;  the Biblical End Times are upon us.

For sure, we cannot know with certainty what time it is on God’s cosmic count-down clock; it could be months, years or even a decade, but all Bible believing Christians can clearly see that day is rapidly approaching and indeed, Christ Himself implored us to keep watch and to occupy the time until He comes in flaming vengeance against all the sons and daughters of disobedience.

With world events worsening by the week, it pays to stick closely to the time-honoured truths of the Bible. Reading Scripture is like watching the news headlines as prophecy after prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes. There are many versions of the Bible available in the English language but the King James Version is still loved and adored by millions of Christians around the world. The reasons pertain to its majestic prose, unchanged wording, as well as its literal accuracy. And while there are a few modernised versions that stick quite closely to the King James Version(KJV), some readers feel that none of them capture Biblical doctrine quite the same way.

That said, many Christians are turned off by the KJV because it uses archaic words that are no longer spoken in everyday English. And while many of these words can be negotiated, it can make for a difficult read in many places. But what if you had a Bible that uses the original KJV text but only updates those archaic words that make for a smoother read? Enter the King James Version Easy Read or KJVER.

First published by Whitaker House back in 2001, the KJVER has a number of neat features not seen in other English translations. For one thing, both the Old and New Testaments have red lettering! To see what I mean, take a look at this section of Leviticus shown below:

Words spoken by God in the Old Testament of the KJVER are printed in red.

The KJVER updates the text but it does so with a very light touch. This is achieved by replacing words like ‘thee’,  ‘thou,’  and ‘ye’ with ‘you.’  But unlike all other versions where ‘you’ can be  singular or a plural, the KJVER places a small superscripted ‘p’  where the ‘you’ refers to the plural case.  And rather than totally removing all of the archaic words, a great many are maintained but a modern equivalent is listed at the end of the sentence to help the reader more fully understand the text. This greatly helps both in public and private, devotional reading. An illustration will help:

The text of the KJVER only lightly updates the original KJV and offers modern equivalents to old words that are no longer used in everyday parlance.

The reader will also note that the KJVER gives the Hebrew words for God whenever He is mentioned in the Old Testament. In this capacity, it actually enhances the original KJV. Italicised words are also preserved in the KJVER and represent the words that were added by the original committee who compiled the Authorised version. In all about 800 of the most redundant, archaic words are replaced by their modern equivalents. For example instead of saying ” cleave to” in the KJV, the KJVER replaces with “cling to.” As a result, the reader will hardly notice these changes as they read through the text.

As a result of these very modest changes, the KJVER is much closer to the KJV than the NKJV or MEV(both of which are also based on the Textus Receptus). Does it work? I would have to say yes, although I would have personally kept the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ in because they are not a hindrance to understanding Scripture and many readers will quickly come to terms with them. Who is the KJVER for? Those that love the language and cadence of the KJV but have difficulty understanding archaic language. It will make an excellent study text for folks who want to eventually use the KJV as their main Bible.

In summary then, the KJVER should be in the library of anyone who likes Bibles which are based on the Majority(Byzantine) Text. One reading through of this Bible will allow you to more fully engage with the KJV and enjoy it without prompts or footnotes.

In the end though, I urge the faithful, who are not appointed to the wrath to come, to keep holding the Bible as their gold standard, especially in these days when our societies are plunging ever more into depravity and insanity, as we enter the tribulation period. Like the Bible reminds us:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2 Timothy 3:16 KJVER

Thanks for reading!

 

De Fideli.

 

Book Review: “Dominion” by Tom Holland

The Christian influence on Western Civilisation will never be erased.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland

Little Brown 2019

(594 pages, Hardcover $20.79)

 

 

As I sat down to collect my thoughts for the review of the distinguished British historian and author, Tom Holland’s latest book, Dominion- How the Christian Revolution remade the World,  we are in lockdown, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the planet. Deprived of our usual liberties to roam where we will, humanity had risen above the drudgery of government imposed captivity, and shown its better side – if only for a while – helping those who are vulnerable, the sick and the elderly, the poor and the destitute, supporting our health care workers on the front line, raising countless millions of dollars for struggling charities, as well as lifting the spirits of families around the world with songs, stories, games and jests.

The irony of this predicament was not lost on me as I finished the final chapters of Holland’s latest tour de force. The thesis of Dominion is that, despite the west’s departure from Judeo-Christian values upheld for centuries and millennia, and though we largely live in a post-truth society more concerned with feelings than facts, the Christian message still casts a long shadow over the shared values of our contemporary, secular, civilisation. Acts of charity, selflessness, compassion and sacrifice – all of which are deeply anchored in the gospels of the New Testament- were abundantly on display in our societies during this time of crisis.

Drawing on 25 centuries of human civilisation, Holland calls upon a rich depository of ancient, medieval and modern history to drive his point home. Beginning with the Jews, who were the first people to receive instruction from the Creator God of the Bible, Holland contrasts the strict monotheism of Judaism to the polytheism of the surrounding nations. In addition, unlike the idols of silver, gold and fine polished stone used to characterise the gods of other nations, the Biblical God first revealed to the patriarchs was not to be worshipped in like manner. Drawing on the moral laws preserved in the Torah, Holland explores the implications of the Ten Commandments, the sabbath and laws establishing proper sexual relations in this ancient people. These laws and precepts, Holland convincingly argues, though resisted by the Persians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, gradually became written on the hearts of what we might call western civilisation in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman world.

The singular life of Christ – an itinerant preacher and healer born and raised in the Roman-occupied territories of Palestine, and subjected to a horrific execution on a Roman Cross – Holland argues, set in motion the greatest revolution in human cultural history the world has ever seen. Indeed, Holland goes so far as to suggest that the ideas conveyed in the New Testament effectively detonated the cumulative wisdom of the ancient world. We are not the benefactors of Greek and Roman civilisation, as many historians have asserted, but of Christendom.

Accordingly, Holland lays out the evidence for this startling conclusion, exploring how the early Christians followed the example of their Lord and Savior through great acts of charity, caring for the sick, the orphaned, the poor and the weak, not to mention heroic acts of martyrdom that shocked and horrified the pagans who lived alongside them. Surviving waves of persecution under tyrannical Roman Emperors, the blood of its martyrs sowed the seed of evangelism in the hearts and minds of both slave and free for the cause of Christ. And instead of stamping the new religion out, such heroism only served to swell its ranks across all tiers of society, from the mega-rich to the abject poor.

After Constantine the Great  granted his imprimatur to the Christian religion in the 4th century AD, a golden age of Christian literature blossomed in its wake, including many of the writings of the early Church Fathers – Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, in the western tradition, and Basil of Caesarea, Athanasius of Alexandria and John Chrysostom in the eastern tradition. And after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west in the late 5th century AD, Christian ecclesia become synonymous with centres of learning. On the precipice of the known world, Christian monasteries preserved the knowledge passed down from classical antiquity and would eventually become the seedbeds for the establishment of the first university towns such as Padua, Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge and Madrid, to name but a few.

Holland explores the long ascent of what would emerge to be the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which came nearest to making the Christian religion truly catholic, or universal, but does not shy away from the problems within the Roman See which eventually led to its greatest schism; the Reformation and Protestantism. Holland displays a nuanced understanding of how key individuals of the Reformation such as Martin Luther, fanned the flames of antisemitism by equating Jews with vermin and calling for their extirpation for the rejection and murder of the true Messiah. How could Luther, who was in lockstep with the beating heart of so many ordinary people, turn out to be a hater of the original People of the Book? Are not all human beings made in the image of God? Whatever the reasons, antisemitism remained alive and well in the centuries that followed, as Holland explores in discussing the persecution of Jews by the Spanish Church throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, and culminating with the Nazi regime which ordered the extirpation of millions of Jews in the years leading up to and throughout World War II.

But antisemitism was just one aberration that emerged from what Holland couches more generally as muddled theology. The same could be said to have occurred with the problem of slavery and racism in general. Holland recounts stories about folk who could look you straight in the eye and tell you that their Bible – in both the Old and New Testaments – condoned slavery in its various forms. And yet, while it’s easy to take a few Biblical verses out of context to justify almost anything, most references to bondservants in the Old Testament do not have the same meanings we ascribe to slavery in our own society. Evidence of this is clear enough in Exodus 23:9 when the Lord warns the people of Israel not to oppress the ‘alien’ and the ‘foreigner’ in the land, and that to remember that they too were once under bondage. Furthermore, St. Paul boldly proclaimed that there is neither slave nor free, neither Jew nor Greek – all are one in Christ Jesus. It was with such convictions that prominent Christians such as William Wilberforce and others -curiously not mentioned by Holland – who provided the abolitionists with the political power to end slavery, first across the British Empire, and later in the New World,  especially through the monumental efforts of Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The author revisits racism later in the book in his discussion of the late Nelson Mandela and the thorny issue of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.

Holland also explores the radical effects of science on the Christian faith, particularly the works of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin’s dangerous ideas gave intellectuals who either hated or held the Christian worldview in contempt – Aldous Huxley, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Andrew Carnegie and Adolf Hitler – plenty of ammunition to show that blind, impersonal and implacable forces shaped the origin and development of all life on earth. And man, long held to be a special creation by God – was merely just another evolved animal. One idea united all these men; if nature was red in tooth and claw, where the fittest only survived, surely human societies had a duty to follow suit. Suddenly the centuries old Christian ideals of compassion, sympathy and charity, respecting all individuals as unique creations of the Godhead, were now being portrayed as vice – deluded and ‘pusillanimous’ – and certainly not how an enlightened mankind ought to behave. And yet, all the while, there were (and still are) Christians who came to accept evolution, they do so ignorantly, since the latest scientific advances, which sadly, are not investigated by Holland in this treatise, are now rapidly and firmly demolishing those claims.

The God of the Bible is the God of love. Shouldn’t love always win? Holland looks at some controversial manifestations of ‘love wins,’ including the rise of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in the modern world and the ordination of women clergy. If life-long monogamous relationships are the Christian ideal, Holland asks, what is so immoral about gay marriage? And if the Bible teaches that men and women are equal but different in the eyes of God, who shows no impartiality, why can’t women deliver sermons from the pulpit? Holland shies away from offering his own opinion on these questions but suffice it to say that a close reading of the Bible condemns all homosexual acts as gross violations of God’s plan for human beings. What’s more, such deviant behaviour has a strong destabilising influence on the nuclear family. And, as to the question of women clergy, St. Paul only offers his opinion (in the negative) rather than stating that it is a decree from Sovereign Lord, and thus is open to fresh debate.

Dominion is a book that deserves to be read by a broad cross-section of society, by people of faith and those of none. And while Holland maintains a decidedly agnostic tone throughout, he is certainly sympathetic to and, I suspect, somewhat in awe of the long shadow the Christian worldview has cast over human civilisation; a shadow that shows little sign of abating in the 21st century.

 

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. He also earned a Diploma in Classical Studies from the Open University. His latest historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, demonstrates how the science of astronomy was profoundly influenced by observers fully committed to the Christian faith.

 

De Fideli.

A Short Commentary on the Christian Standard Bible(CSB).

The Christian Standard Bible(CSB) by Holman.

Preamble

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him.
 He is before all things,
and by him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
 and through him to reconcile
everything to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.

                                                                                             Colossians 1:15-20(CSB)

 

At the end of May 2020, I pulled the trigger on a brand-new Bible translation – the Christian Standard Bible – published by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. And owing to the lock-down, I’ve had a chance to read through the majority of the text and would now like to offer my opinions on this fresh, new translation of the Holy Scriptures. If you’re in a hurry, I would heartily recommend this rock-solid translation to you as it offers a unique blend of readability and accuracy that will certainly enrich your walk in the Christian faith. What follows here are some general notes I made of this new translation.They are merely my impressions of the work, so are entirely personal. For more details, please read on.

The Christian Standard Bible(CSB), which was first published in 2017, is a completely updated version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) which was first published back in 2004. Although I have not personally read through the HCSB, I understand that it is a good and well-respected version of the Bible in the English language, but had some peculiarities that are not found in other modern translations. For example, The HCSB used the Hebrew name for God, known as the Tetragrammaton – YHWH or JHVH – articulated to Yahweh, or Jehovah, more often than the more commonly used term, Lord. The CSB, in contrast, uses the word ‘Lord’ throughout the text. If you don’t like this change, best to stick with the older, HCSB, which, I’m reliably informed, will continue to be published by Holman in the coming years.

The second thing that you’ll notice is that the CSB introduces more gender neutral language than the HCSB. This is quite a common move among many modern English Bible translations, where terms like  ‘brethern’ or ‘brothers’ is replaced by ‘brothers and sisters’. That said, the use of such gender neutral terminology is much more subdued in the CSB than in other popular translations such as the NIV 2011 or the NLT. Personally, I don’t mind the inclusion of such changes if it makes the text more friendly and inclusive, but I do understand that its over-use tries too hard to be politically correct and we should never view the Bible in a way that comports with any human-derived political movements. The Bible is just not PC and should always remain above and beyond petty societal concerns.

That said, using the more inclusive phrase, ‘brothers and sisters’ certainly works well in many places when reading through the Biblical narratives but it is noteworthy that the CSB is more respectful in places where this is simply not necessary – unlike the NIV 2011, for example.

Based on the minority texts, the CSB often refers to God as the ‘Lord of Armies,’ which is a legitimate name for the Creator in that one of His attributes as a truly righteous God is wrath(after all, a truly righteous deity must avenge sin). Here the CSB follows the NLT which uses the related attribution of ‘Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’  Technical words like ‘propitiation’ are replaced by more understandable terms like ‘atonement,’ so readers who like to see such age-old terms as these may be a little disappointed with the CSB in that it follows many of the most popular ‘thought for thought’ translations in this regard. Yet, in other ways, it is more traditional. For example, the CSB retains the rather obscure term ‘selah’ throughout the book of Psalms which many modern versions interpret, rightly or wrongly, as ‘interlude.’

The 100-strong team of inter-denominational Bible scholars, linguists, stylists and proofreaders commissioned to work on the CSB project went to great lengths to use the most precise modern language to maximise the intelligibility of the text that is obvious on every page of the translation. As I’ve explained before, Bible translation philosophy falls into two camps; so-called ‘thought for thought’ and ‘word for word.’ The former emphasises the essential thoughts conveyed in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and koine Greek but at the expense of departing somewhat from the precise wording of these foundational texts. The latter philosophy tries very hard to insert an English word corresponding to each Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek word found in the original manuscripts but, as a result, can make the text more wooden or clunky, with the result that the translation can be more difficult to assimilate. What the CSB translation team claim is that they have found a so-called ‘optimal equivalence,’ which they assert, combines the very best of both. And while the same term conveys the impression of being some sort of precisely defined mathematical rule, it’s really just a way of saying that they made a more concerted effort to keep the accuracy as good as possible whilst retaining the overall flow of text.

An example will help illustrate these principles. Consider 2 Samuel 22:23 in three different translations;

“For all His ordinances were before me,
And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. (NASB)

 

I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees.(NLT)

 

Indeed, I let all his ordinances guide me
and have not disregarded his statutes. (CSB)

 

Notice that the highly accurate NASB uses words like ‘ordinances’ and ‘statutes,’ both of which are retained in the CSB, but are replaced by ‘regulations’ and ‘decrees’ in the less literal NLT. However, in departing from the phrase, ‘ all His ordinances were before me,’ you do seem to lose a sense of the ‘majesty of language’ in the CSB that more literal translations retain. That said, I’ll leave it up to you to judge which translation best conveys the essential thoughts of the original writers!

I found the Book of Psalms to be the most difficult to navigate in the CSB, simply because I have a strong grounding in more traditional Bible versions such as the NASB, KJV and NKJV. Every Bible reader comes to his own personal favourite of the Psalms and it doesn’t come easy when the wording is changed significantly in a new Bible translation. Consider the much loved Psalm 23 in the NKJV and CSB respectively:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:1-4(NKJV)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
 Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

Psalm 23:1-4(CSB)

For me, the poetic virtues of this time-honoured Davidic psalm are somewhat subdued in the CSB rendering, making it less engaging and exciting to read. Yet, if I were a beginning Bible reader, I don’t think I’d have any problem with the CSB translation!

 You see, it’s all down to personal taste!

Did the CSB translation committee achieve their goals? I think so!

I would consider the CSB to be more literal than the NIV but less than the NKJV, more smoothly reading than the ESV, but less so than the NLT.

Now, I would like to say a few words about the particular CSB Bible I purchased and why I absolutely love it!

Consider the two Bibles shown below, both published by Holman; on the left is the NKJV and on the right is the CSB.

The Holman NKJV(left) and the CSB(right).

Both Bibles retail for about £20 UK, have a lovely faux leather cover, with the same simple embossed cross. Both have a good, Smyth-sewn binding, gold-gilded page edges and possess a single satin ribbon marker. But now, have a look at the differences in the paper used and the text.

Both the NKJV(left) and the CSB are line-matched, but the text is slightly larger and has less bleed through in the CSB.

Though the NKJV is a 2013 printing, I think you’ll agree that the CSB has a larger font size and has less ghosting than the former. The paper used on the CSB also seems to be of slightly higher quality than the earlier NKJV edition.  Another great feature of the CSB is its neat thumb indices which make finding the right book of the Bible a lot easier and quicker to access a given book and chapter;

The books of the Bible are easier to access courtesy of these neat thumb indices on the CSB Bible. Check out the gorgeous red satin ribbon marker!

The lovely, large print on the Holman CSB makes the text very easy to read, even without eye glasses, yet is still small and light enough to take along with you anywhere!

I would thoroughly recommend these Holman Bibles(CSB or otherwise) to anyone as they offer exceptional quality for a very reasonable price. No doubt, I’ll be checking out more from their new range in the future!

God bless you all and thanks for reading!

Erratum: I came across one printing error in the CSB, which occurs in Zechariah 2:5( see below) page 1264 of the text. However it is correctly presented in the online text. See here.

The word ”fire’ is misprinted ‘fRre’ in Zechariah 2:5

 

 

Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. If you like his work, please consider supporting him by buying one of his books.

Thank you!

De Fideli.

Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy: Still Going from Strength to Strength!

Celebrating the best of visual astronomical history over four centuries.

Last Updated July 15 2020

Well, since its launch in November 2018, my new book, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, has now received 25,000 downloads!

A Big Thank You! to all who have supported my work over the years, despite some personal setbacks. 

Latest review form The Observatory Vol 120 (February 2020) reproduced, with permission, here:

Chronicling The Golden Age of Astronomy consists of a preface, acknowledgements, and a table of contents followed by 41 chapters in roughly historical order, and concludes with an appendix and index. This book contains such a wealth of information there is not enough room in this review to comment on everything in detail.
I shall only cover some of the most significant highlights. There are very few
typographical errors, and even though a multitude of diverse topics are covered
they are presented in a very readable style, the transition from one subject to
another flowing smoothly. It should be on everyone’s shelf and provide many
evenings of education and entertainment.
The preface should be read first because it explains the author’s aims.
The first chapter describes Thomas Harriot, the first British telescopist and
a contemporary of both Galileo and Hans Lippershey. Sadly, Lippershey is
not mentioned anywhere in the text. The idea of the telescope spread quickly
through Europe and many people caught on to the technique of its construction.
History grants credit to Hans Lippershey (of the Netherlands) and Galileo
because they were the first to publish the most detailed description of its
design, and especially Galileo who documented his astronomical observations
in detail. Simon Marius of Germany also constructed a telescope and published
his observations, though after Galileo. Galileo openly condemned Marius.
Apparently Galileo had a caustic personality and was antagonistic to several
high church officials. This no doubt contributed to his being brought to trial.
The story of these early inventors (except for Lippershey) and observers is well
described in the first three chapters. Chapter 5, describing the development of
speculum mirrors, tells of more obscure telescope builders and observers and
deserves a careful read. Chapter 7 covers the extensive observations of Thomas
Jefferson in more detail than many of the large number of biographies published
about him. It does not, however, mention Benjamin Banneker, the first black
American astronomer, whom Jefferson hired to do surveying work.
In Chapter 8, which runs to 39 detailed pages, the author goes extensively
into the Herschel dynasty of William, John, and Caroline in a manner that holds
your attention fast and gives you the impression that you are on the scaffold of
William’s great telescopes. Amazingly this writer learned that William Herschel
met the great scientist James Watt, but Watt’s name is not mentioned in the
index. Chapter 9 describes how the Earl of Rosse at Parsonstown followed
Herschel’s exploits and after several years of struggle was able to construct a
72-inch reflector with two interchangeable mirrors. Speculum tarnishes rather
quickly and has to be re-polished. Two mirrors reduce the downtime of the
instrument. The later invention of silver or aluminium on glass eliminated this
problem. Despite the low reflectivity of speculum the large diameter of the
mirror permitted the spiral structure of nearby galaxies to be identified.The 72-
inch remained the largest telescope in the world for many years and prominent
astronomers of the day like George Biddell Airy, Otto Struve, Sir John Herschel,
James Nasmyth, and William Lassell, among others, visited.
In my 60-year-plus pursuit of astronomical literature I attended many events
and casually met several of the people mentioned in this book. Most of them
grew old and passed into history. One, however, became a friend. I ran across
a classified advertisement in an astronomical publication about some lunar
journals for sale. The advertiser was Tom Cave, manufacturer of Cave Astrola
Telescopes and a well-known lunar and planetary observer. I phoned him and
he invited me to pick them up at his home in Long Beach, California. When I
arrived we started to talk about our mutual interest. I listened to his stories far
into the evening.Tom knew everybody that was anybody in astronomy. I wound
up spending many evenings for the next few years listening to his stories until
shortly before his death in 2003. If I had thought to take a tape recorder his
stories would be priceless. If anyone deserves a biography it is Tom Cave.

The other prominent person in this book I had more than a passing
acquaintance with was John Dobson. Dobson was the father of modern sidewalk
astronomy and the inventor of his namesake the Dobsonian telescope, a design
that made it easy to transport and operate a relatively large amateur instrument,
usually eight to twelve inches aperture or larger. His design could have made
him millions but he never patented it. He was not money-orientated. Several
manufacturers cashed in and produced and sold thousands. They dominate
most star parties today. I met John through Gerard Pardeilian who had spent
many years learning how to grind, polish, and figure telescope mirrors. He
ran the weekly Saturday night star party at the Lawrence Hall of Science in
Berkeley, California. I volunteered during the 1970s to assist operating the
telescopes. Gerard, although like many in the optical industry not professionally
educated, had become a master optician and worked at the prestigious Tinsley
Laboratories and later became a master optician at the Lick Observatory optical
shop in Santa Cruz, California. He helped design and construct a massive
spectrograph for the Mt. Palomar 200-inch telescope. On page 628 it states
that the corner of Broderick and Jackson Streets was Dobson’s favourite locale
in San Francisco. The reason was that the sidewalk astronomers were either
renting or given use of a large house at 1600 Baker St. a few blocks away. They
stored and constructed their telescopes in that building and could easily dollie
them to the corner of Broderick, which undoubtedly was in the shade of a
large building.When John had to move I went over with some other people. He
kindly presented me with several boxes of journals and several surplus eyepieces and prisms. Page 629 states that a light bulb was used to test their telescopes.
Gerard informed me that they actually used the reflection from a street light on
a telephone pole insulator a mile away. It acted just like a point source as a star
would. It was then possible to figure their mirrors on cloudy nights.
A detailed reading of some chapters will demonstrate how expert observers
using relatively small apertures could obtain amazing results, far beyond what
most observers today would think possible. This is one of the finest books on the
history of visual astronomy I have ever read. Virtually every sentence conveys a
bit of history, and it is remarkably illustrated with sharp photographs. I can only
suggest that every reader obtain a copy. The writing is excellent. The 653 pages
of text are too short to contain everything of the rich history of 400 years of
observing. Observers and constructors, such as Jack Marling the filter expert, Al
Nagler of eyepiece fame, Charles F. Capen the Mars observer, comet hunters
like Lewis A. Swift, William Robert Brooks, and John Tebbutt among others,
either glossed over or neglected, should be covered in a following volume.
Continue your story Neil English!

Leonard Matula, The Observatory, Vol. 140 (1274), February, 2020

 

A review by Dr. Guillermo Gonzales( Professional Astronomer) and co-author of Privileged Planet with Jay Richards. Posted with the Permission of TouchStone Magazine.

Stargazers’ Log

Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy: A History of Visual Observing from Harriot to Moore
by Neil English

Springer, 2018
(665 pages, $219.99, hardcover)

Reviewed by Guillermo Gonzalez

When I was asked to review Neil English’s new book on the history of visual telescopic observations, I jumped at the opportunity. Before I became a professional astronomer, I spent many nights (and some days) observing the heavens with my 8-inch f/7 Newtonian reflector in my homemade, backyard, roll-off-roof observatory in the suburbs of Miami, Florida. When I look through the eyepiece of a telescope to observe a planet, the moon, or a deep-space object, I feel I am making an intimate connection with the great observers of years past. And I can share in their joy in reading God’s great book not written with words and freely accessible to all with normal vision.

Unfortunately, Chronicling is far from free. Only a relatively few individuals with a strong interest in science history and telescopic observation will want to hand over $200+ for a copy. I would think that school libraries with a substantial science section are the most likely purchasers.

English is eminently qualified to write this book, having been a regular contributor to the British amateur astronomy magazine Astronomy Now for 25 years. Evidence of this can be glimpsed in some of the book’s 41 chapters, wherein he employs his extensive background knowledge to bring helpful insights to bear on historical questions. For example, in 1611, at a meeting with members of the Collegium Romanum, Galileo had the members look through his telescope. Some claimed they could see nothing through the telescope. English notes that this is likely because Galileo’s telescope had a very narrow field of view and required placing the eye just right to see through it (20).

The chapters in Chronicling are arranged roughly chronologically, but each is self-contained. Each is about an astronomer, a telescope, an important published work, or an astronomical phenomenon. Though together they are an eclectic mix, the emphasis in each chapter is almost always on history, often in the form of a biography. The main exception is the chapter on Walter Scott Houston’s “Deep Sky Wonders.” English also interweaves astrophysical concepts throughout, and he even throws in a few equations. At times, a chapter might resemble a college-level introductory textbook on astronomy.

Still, the book is an easy read and includes many illustrations. English has a gift for presenting history in an engaging way. He makes all sorts of connections between the subject of a given chapter and that person’s contemporaries.

Men of Faith

Why would a reader of Touchstone be interested in this book? I can give several reasons, some of which are obvious. For instance, there’s the “Galileo Affair.” English writes that “the mythologized view of Galileo standing for truth and reason versus religion and superstition of the Roman Catholic Church is not at all accurate” (20). Historians of science know what science popularizers don’t, and English has clearly read the former’s books (which he lists at the end of the chapter). His lengthy chapter on Galileo is an excellent summary of modern scholarship.

Those interested in topics related to science and faith will not be disappointed. From the very first chapter, English does not shy away from discussing the religious beliefs of the telescopists. For instance, Thomas Harriot actually turned his telescope towards the heavens before Galileo did. But how many atheist–narrated TV documentaries on astronomy would also mention that Harriot translated the Lord’s Prayer into the Algonquin language? (8).

In fact, most of the telescopists of the Golden Age of Astronomy were Christians. A number were Jesuit priests, such as Christoph Scheiner (Chapter 1) and Angelo Secchi, the “father of modern astrophysics” (Chapter 22). Several were “clerical astronomers”: William Dawes (Chapter 14), Thomas Webb (Chapter 15), and Theodore Philips (Chapter 30). Of Webb, English writes,

Despite the growing power of scientific naturalism with the later Victorian society, Webb couched everything, with firmness and gentleness, in terms of the Biblical God he believed in. Seen in this light, his astronomical writings, and his devotion to exploring the wonders of Creation with his telescopes, were more like prayers than anything else.

As if it even has to be said (and sadly it does), the evidence is clear that having a strong Christian faith does not hinder a person from being a successful scientist. On the contrary, the great works of many of the telescopists English describes are testimonies to the motivating influence of their faith.

To the believer, this should not come as a surprise. More than other aspects of the Creation, the starry heavens seem to evoke from us a sense of the divine. The Psalmist wrote,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1–4)

Kepler voiced eloquently what other great astronomers must have believed, that he saw himself as a kind of “priest of God” at the pulpit, reading the “book of nature” as an act of worship, to “think God’s thoughts after Him.”

A Rare Sneak Past the Censors

What did catch me off guard were some of English’s comments on Darwinism. For instance, when commenting on Percival Lowell’s ideas about life on Mars, English writes, “To begin with, scientists were gloriously unaware just how complex even the simplest forms of cellular life were during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . Lowell, like Darwin, thought the cell to be merely composed of blobs of protoplasm” (386). Later, English comments thus on Lowell’s beliefs about life beyond Earth: “Many scientists anticipate that life will be commonplace in the galaxy, but this is based on Darwinian reasoning. However, there are many scientists who now doubt the Darwinian paradigm and do not expect life to be commonplace, as has been widely believed in the past” (397). English is qualified to comment on Darwinism, as he has a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

I agree with English’s stance on Darwinism, but what surprised me was finding his comment in a book published by Springer. The editor must have been asleep at the keyboard! It also is interesting that English lists Hugh Ross’s book, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home (Baker, 2016), in the sources to the Percival Lowell chapter. He lists another of Ross’s books in the sources to the chapter on Clyde Tombaugh (Chapter 32). We are in a sad state when the censorship of certain scientific ideas in the public square has become so common that we feel we must jump up and cheer when someone boldly sneaks a few “forbidden” thoughts past the censors.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in amateur and professional telescopic astronomy, the history of science, and the relations between science and faith. 

 

British Astronomical Association(BAA) Review by Archivist, John Chuter

 

Cloudy Nights Review

 

Stargazer’s Lounge Review

 

Endorsements:

“This is an excellent book and will complement Ashbrook’s Astronomical Scrapbook and therefore have wide appeal to both amateur and professional astronomers.”
Wayne Orchiston, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Southern Queensland.

 

New Citation here

 

To Be Continued……………………….

 

De Fideli.

Bible Review: Tree of Life Version(TLV) Thinline Edition.

The ornate cover of the TLV Thinline edition.

Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for a firstborn.  In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, mourning like Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. 

Zechariah 12:10-11

 

Title: Holy Scriptures: Tree of Life Version

Publisher: Baker Books

ISBN: 978-0-8010-1921-0

1216 pages

Single satin ribbon marker

Gold gilded page edges

Price: £16.10 (UK)

 

The Bible is God’s love letter to humanity. Some 40 authors, writing independently of each other over centuries and millennia, under divine inspiration, composed its 66 books that form a highly coherent narrative which speaks of God’s desire to tabernacle with humanity, to live among us and guide our thoughts and actions. It has the power to transform lives for the supreme good and, until fairly recently, its moral teachings formed the cornerstone of western civilisation.

Today, we are blessed to have many excellent translations of Holy Scripture to suit most everyone’s needs, and as an avid student of the Bible, I count it as a great blessing and source of comfort to be able to read the words of our Creator in the various thought-for-thought and word-for-word translations now available. That said, some versions of the Bible are more interesting than others. And this new Tree of Life Version(TLV) is of particular note. What makes it stand out from the crowd is its introduction of key Hebrew words that emphasise the authentic Jewish origin of the Biblical narrative.

First published in 2011, the TLV was the brain child of Daniah Greenberg, a gentile lady who betrothed a messianic Jew ( who also accept Jesus as their Messiah), and who came to recognise the need for a good Bible translation that re-introduced some Hebrew words into Scripture, so as to remind Christians that we share a rich tradition with the Jewish community; after all, there is no denying that their God is our God too! Greenberg, who now serves as President of the Messianic Jewish Bible Society, commissioned a small team of 32 Jewish Bible scholars to produce a brand-new translation of the Holy Scriptures. This review will take a close look at the Thinline version of the TLV, a smaller, more portable rendition of the larger giant print edition, which I commented on in an earlier blog.

One would think that the task would merely involve taking an existing Bible version and replace some key words with their Hebrew equivalent. But Greenberg had an altogether more ambitious goal: to get the scholars to re-structure the sentences from the traditional Greek format and rewrite them in the distinctive cadence of the Hebrew language. And it is this achievement that renders the TLV so distinctive and powerful.

Most modern English Bibles have greatly diluted the Jewish accent of the original Scriptures. But the fact remains that Jesus was a Jew; his name is not Jesus but Yeshua. His mother was Miriam and not Mary. Jesus’ half brothers were Judah and Jacob, not Jude and James. Indeed, many of the modern English translations have all but purged much of the original Hebrew context of the Scriptures which has no doubt contributed to replacement theology or supersessionism – the erroneous notion that the Church has replaced Israel. Yet, a careful study of the entire Bible clearly reveals that God has not at all finished with Israel. On the contrary, the final events in human history will make Israel and the City of the Great King – Jerusalem – of central importance at the closing of the age.

That’s why I feel it’s important for Bible believing Christians to try to re-connect with some of the original Hebrew terminology, or at least their English transliterations. And that’s where the TLV really shines. God the Father is referred to as Adonai or Elohim. The Holy Spirit is Ruach ha-Kodesh. The sabbath is Shabbat and the saints, Kedoshim. These re-introduced terms greatly enrich the Biblical narrative and present an altogether refreshing change from the norm that I believe many avid ‘Bibliophiles’ will appreciate.

The TLV also departs from the traditional way in which the individual books of the Bible are presented, adopting instead the traditional Jewish rubric. The Torah(Law) is presented first, just like a regular Bible – covering the five books attributed to Moses;  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This is followed by the Neviim(Prophets); from Joshua right through to Malachi. After these the TLV presents the Ketuvim(The Writings) featuring the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles. So it’s the Christian Old Testament, but with books presented in a different order to its conventional modern equivalent. The New Testament order of books is however identical to any regular Bible. In ‘shuffling’ the Biblical deck, as it were, the TLV offers readers a new and exciting way to study and assimilate the word of God, to both strengthen and deepen your faith.

To my mind, the TLV steers a middle of the road path between translations that are highly literal( so-called word-for-word) and those that follow the principle of dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) but is also respectful of other highly thought of translations such as the King James Version. For example, the TLV maintains classic phrases lost to many modern translations such as Behold and Selah (which is thought to represent an interlude or pause for thought) found in the Psalms. Another change the reader will notice is the absence of the word baptism, which implies infant baptism, which was most likely not practised by the earliest followers of Yeshua and indeed only appears as a controversial topic in the third century AD  (see Tertullian’s c 206 AD, de baptismo, ch. xviii). The TLV re-introduces the proper terminology here; Immersion. Thus John the Baptist becomes John the Immerser, etc. This is a more accurate description of how the earliest believers – all of whom had come of age – symbolically affirmed their dedication to the Christian faith and so feels more natural and less contrived than sprinkling luke warm water on the head of an infant who is not cognisant of the significance of the event.

Unlike many popular, thought-for-thought translations, such as the NIV and NLT, the TLV maintains a very conservative line on keeping accuracy a priority. For example, consider Romans 1:16 in the NIV, which dispenses with the word ‘Greek,’ replacing it with ‘Gentile’:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Romans 1:16(NIV)

The TLV maintains greater accuracy like the more literal, word-for-word translations available(e.g. the KJV, NKJV, NASB & ESV):

For I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts—to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16 (TLV)

The reader can thus be assured that such close attention to linguistic details is strongly adhered to throughout the TLV, ensuring that the Bible reader is getting a highly accurate rendering of the Holy Scriptures.

Notable Features of the Thinline Edition of the TLV

The soft faux leather covering and Smyth-sewn binding makes the TLV open flat on the table.

The thinline TLV measures 5.5 inches wide, 8.5 inches long and just 1 inch thick. The font is clear, approximately 9-point sized, and is line matched to minimise ghosting.

The thinline TLV has a beautifully designed spine:

The decorative spine of the thinline TLV Bible.

 

The TLV text doesn’t have an overwhelming number of Hebrew words, so you’ll rapidly learn those words and phrases. But just in case you get bogged down, there is a nice little glossary at the back where you can quickly look up the meaning of any word that you’re unfamiliar with.

The TLV has a small glossary at the back which you can consult if you’ve forgotten the meaning of any Hebrew phrase you come across.

Like the Giant Print edition, the Thinline TLV also contains a number of Hebrew prayers and blessings, the Lords Prayer and the Aaronic Benediction. These can all be found after the Scriptures are presented. This is a wonderful Bible for devotional study at home or to take along to church with you.

The beautiful gold gilding on the page edges of the TLV.

 

Well, I hope you will understand why the TLV has become one of my favourite Bible translations for both accuracy and poetic beauty. These are difficult times to be sure but they are also exciting because we can see world events aligning just like the prophets of old and Yeshua, whose testimony is the very spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10) foretold.

Neil English is working on a brand new book on Newtonian reflectors. If you like his work and wish to support him in your own small way, why not consider buying one of his books? Thank you and God bless you!

 

De Fideli. 

“The Valley of Vision:” a Brief Commentary.

“The Valley of Vision;” a Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Arthur Bennett(ed.)

I’m new to books of prayer. For many years, I never really saw the point of them. I mean, why would one benefit from reciting or quietly reading the prayers written down by others? Shouldn’t one earnestly seek God with one’s own words or thoughts? Wouldn’t it be the case that using the collected spiritual thoughts of others is merely cheating? It was reasoning along this line that held me back from using anything other than the Bible to seek inspirational material for an active prayer life. I”ve never really been that keen on reading the works of other Christian authors for fear that I might be led astray by false doctrines and distortions of the true message of the Gospel. Goodness knows how many books published in recent times have apparently run roughshod over the true message of hope contained in the pages of the Holy Book.

So, it was with some trepidation that I decided to bite the bullet and order a copy of a little prayer book called, The Valley of Vision, compiled by the late Reverend Arthur Bennett(1915-1994), an English Christian evangelist, who dedicated his life to shepherding a flock of fellow Christians in the various places he settled during his long and fruitful life.

A Brief Biography

Arthur was born on May 15 1915, in the South Yorkshire town of Rochester, as the First World War raged across Europe. The family had moved a few times in search of a higher standard of living, spending some time in Cudworth before finally settling in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. The son of a barber, Arthur left school at the age of 14 where he took up a job as a “lather boy” in his father’s establishment. It was around this time that Arthur joined the local Salvation Army and one day, so his biographers inform us, while he was was walking though the citadel, he heard the sound of singing and people giving praise to God in the town hall. He entered and was welcomed by the congregation. The event stirred him and that same evening he resolved to give his life to Christ.

During his late teens, Bennett joined the Church of England and travelled to London to train as an evangelist, working among the poor of the city. By the time he reached his early twenties, Arthur was assigned to a number of villages spread across East Anglia, where he would travel from place to place in a horse-drawn cart. While assigned to the village of Elmsett, Suffolk, he met the love of his life, Margarette Jones, who was also a Bible teacher, and the couple were married in Margarette’s home town at Carmarthenshire, South Wales, on August 26, 1942.  By then, Arthur had almost completed his studies at Bristol’s Clifton Theological College, shortly after which he was ordained as a minister in the Chuch of England. He accepted his first post as curate at Woodhouse, Huddersfield, where the couple remained until 1949, when he was then appointed Vicar of Christ Church, Ware, Hertfordshire. And in 1956, Bennet, his wife and five children moved to St. Paul’s Church, at St. Albans, Hertfordshire, where they lived for the next eight years.  In the mid 1960s, Bennett accepted an invitation to shepherd a few parishes in the catchment area of Ware, Hertfordshire, where he settled into 17 years of Bible teaching and preaching. After 39 years of active ministry, Bennet retired to Clapham, Bedfordshire, and after a short illness passed away in 1994, where he was laid to rest in the Churchyard of Little Munden, Hertfordshire. His wife, Margarette, survived him a few more years before breathing her last in 1997.

Interest Piqued in Puritan Spirituality

From his early youth, Bennett cultivated a keen interest in Church history, and in particular, the early Puritan movement, which began as an ecclesia within the Church of England in the late 16th century. Bennett was drawn to the simple spirituality of Puritan thinking, studying the available archives of their literature which had done much to disseminate the Good News far beyond the shores of England, but especially so in Colonial North America. Drawing on his diligent studies conducted throughout his career, Bennett set himself the task of compiling a collection of prayers from the founding fathers of Puritan spirituality, dating from the closing years of the 16th century right up to the late 19th century. Although he authored several important books on similar themes, Arthur Bennett is best known for his little book of Puritan prayer, The Valley of Vision, which was first published in 1975 by The Banner of Truth Trust.

At first sales of the work were slow, culminating with about 20,000 copies of The Valley Of Vision sold by the time Bennett passed away in 1994, but in the time since, the estimated number of copies of the work in the hands of Christians rose rapidly to over 350,000 copies distrubted around the world.  I have a strong preference for the printed word. My copy is the small, bonded leather edition representing the 18th re-print as of 2018 (405 pages, £19 UK) You can also get a sense of the kind of spiritual exercises in the book by having a look at the first 14 pages which is presented in PDF format here.

Contributors & Content

As explained in the preface to the work, Bennett drew on an eclectic mix of prayers and devotions of some of the more prominent members of the Puritan movement dating mostly from the 16th through 18th centuries, which include:

  • Thomas Shepard (1605-1649)
  • Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
  • Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)
  • John Bunyan (1628-1688)
  • Isaac Watts(1674-1748)

 

  • Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)
  • William Romaine (1714-1795)
  • William Williams [of Pontycelyn] (1717-1791)
  • David Brainerd (1718-1747)
  • Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It also includes a small number of prayers composed by those attracted to Puritan spirituality in the 19th century including:
  • Christmas Evans (1766-1838)
  • William Jay (1769-1853)
  • Henry Law (1797-1884)
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), widely considered to be the last of the great Puritans.

 

The opening prayer, called The Valley Of Vision, was written by Bennett himself, the title of which was inspired by a reading of Isaiah 22( KJV emphasis);

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.

All of the prayers derived from the Puritan writers are approximately the same length as Bennett’s opening devotion, and for convenience are divided up into very useful sub-sections so that the reader can concentrate on different themes, which include:

1. Father, Son and Holy Spirit

2. Redemption and Reconcilaition

3. Penitance and Deprecation

4. Needs and Devotions

5. Holy Aspirations

6. Approach to God

7.Gifts of Grace

8. Service and Ministry

9. Valediction

10. A Week’s Shared Prayers

Even a cursory reading of the book will show that all the Puritan authors were deeply committed to the Scriptures, with no turning to the right or to the left, as it were. These were holy men, who considered all of creation sacred, and who poured out their innermost thoughts to their Creator, witholding nothing. In my mind’s eye, I see those prayers billowing upwards, headlong toward the mercy seat of God, where the Scriptures inform us that they are collected in vials(Revelation 5:8).

In all, some 196 prayers are presented, but Bennett does not reveal the individual authors of those prayers.

I have many favourites to draw on. Here’s an excerpt from Section I; Father Son and Holy Spirit; from a prayer entitled: Man’s Great End:

Lord of All Being,

There is one thing that deserves my greatest care,

that calls forth my ardent desires,

That is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made-

to glorify thee who hast given me being,

and to do all the good I can for my fellow men;

Verily, life is not worth having

if it be not improved for this noble purpose.

Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of Mankind!

Most men seem to live for themselves,

without much or any regard for thy glory,

or for the good of others;

They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue

the riches, honours, pleasures of this life,

as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment,

could make their immortal souls happy;

But alas, what false delusive dreams are these!

pp 22

Some of the prayers brought an instant smile to my face. How about this opener(under Sins) for efficiency?

Merciful Lord,

Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,

all the sins of my life,

sins of early, middle, and advanced years,

of omission and commission….. pp 158

 

Say no more eh? That’s right! Our God forgives all sins; past, present and future.

Others are altogether more sonorous. Take this excerpt, taken from a prayer entitled, Union with Christ;

O Father,

Thou hast made man for the glory of thyself,

and when not an instrument of that glory,

he is a thing of nought;

No sin is greater than the sin of unbelief,

for if union with Christ is the greatest good,

unbelief is the greatest sin.. pp 36

Unbelief is portrayed as sin, and not only that; it is ” the greatest sin.” And where might one find support for that position in the Scriptures? Well, for a start, how about the tract from Hebrews:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Unbelief is rebellion, anarchy of the heart, a conscious decision to reject the authority of our Creator over our lives. Hebrews 3 reminds us:

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;  while it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.  For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.  But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:12-19

So, simply put, those without faith will not enter His rest.

So much for Universalism!

The bonded leather edition is printed on high quality paper with little bleed-through. The pages have a lovely gold gilding and a single black ribbon marker. Each prayer only takes just a couple of minutes to read.

There are many eclectic topics discussed in the prayers chosen by Bennett. One prayer I especially liked is found in the Service and Ministry section and gives thanks to the Lord for giving us His precious Word. Called the Minister’s Bible, here’s an excerpt:

O God of Truth,

I thank thee for the holy Scriptures,

their precepts, promises, directions, light,

In them do I learn more of Christ,

be enabled to retain his truth,

and have grace to follow it.

Help me to lift up the gates of my soul that he may come in

and show me himself when I search the Scriptures,

for I have no lines to fathom its depths,

no wings to soar to its heights.

By his aid may I be enabled to explore all its truths,

love them with all my heart,

embrace them with all my power, engraft them into my life. pp 346

In this ephemeral world we live in, with its endless distractions and technological marvels, reading the Bible every day has become as important to me as eating, exercising and washing. It has become a constant comfort to read and re-read in the quiet of the morning and in the evening; to meditate on its precepts and absorb its spiritual wisdom that is older than nature herself.

Many of the Puritan authors demonstrate an acute awareness of sin, and the utter inadequacy of trying to achieve salvation by one’s own efforts(Ephesians 2:8-9). You can sense a great desire of many of the contributors to go home, to be eternally re-united with their Creator in Paradise.  In the Valediction section, for example, we read this prayer, entitled Earth And Heaven;

O Lord,

I live here as a fish in a vessel of water,

only enough to keep me alive,

but in heaven I shall swim in the ocean.

Here I have a little air in me to keep me breathing,

but there I shall have sweet and fresh gales;

Here I have a beam of sun to lighten my darkness,

a warm ray to keep me from freezing;

yonder I shall live in light and warmth forever.

My natural desires are corrupt and misguided,

and it is thy mercy to destroy them;

My spiritual longings are of thy planting,

and thou wilt water and increase them;

Quicken my hunger and thirst after the realm above  pp 370

 

The Valley of Vision is a great resource for those who have committed themselves to a Christian path through this present evil age. Every day, we edge closer to our eternal home(Hebrews 13:14), where we will serve the Lord with purity of heart.  And though I was sceptical about whether any prayer book would do anything to enrich my prayer life, I must admit to have been badly mistaken. There is so much richness in the pages of this little classic prayer book, treasures that can transform the inner groanings of the soul into beautiful, deep and expressive worship.

And that’s why I would unhesitatingly recommend it to the faithful.

Natural companions.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

De Fideli.

Ten Things True Christians Should Never Compromise Over.

Person Hands on Holy Bible

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-13

 

  1. Defending the Doctrine of Creation: The Bible makes it very clear that all life on Earth was created by God. The existence of living things is thus part of the general revelation outlined by St. Paul in Romans chapter 1. As we continue to probe the mysteries of life, we discover that it is vastly more complex and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined; an endless regress established by the Living God. An overwhelming body of evidence is now available for any reasonable person to critically appraise, which clearly shows that Darwinian evolution is not only demonstrably false but is, in the broadest sense of the term, an evil ideology. Once you believe that you’re an evolved animal, you start behaving like one and start treating other human beings like animals. Claiming that humans, or any other life forms evolved is not only delusional, it is also blasphemy. I would personally question any clergyman that honours or capitulates to the “monkey religion.” Best to stay well clear of it.
  2. Defending the Rights of the Unborn: Human life begins at conception; that is what modern science has established and what the Bible consistently teaches. Killing a human life in utero, apart from a few exceptional medical circumstances, is murder, plain and simple.
  3. Defending the Traditional Family: Both the Old and New Testaments affirm God’s desire for humans to maintain strong, traditional family units. Contrary to what you may have heard in recent months, there only two genders (the other 98 are aberrations of sick, delusional minds). Sex was created by God to be enjoyed only within marriage and only between a man and a woman. God condemns all homosexual acts, declaring them to be “abominations,” or in some other translations, “detestable acts.” The LGBT juggernaut has many characteristics in common with the Nazi movement of the early 1930s; bullying society to accept it as “good” and “normal”, when it is actually neither. And this is not a matter of personal choice – these are God’s morals, not our own. The campaign for deviant sex wishes to destroy what God intended for humans. Christians should never succumb to pressure to normalise what God clearly considers evil and/or depraved.
  4. Rejecting Universalism: The notion that all religions lead to God is commonly believed in our era, even by some who profess themselves to be Christian.  But that is not what the Bible teaches. Christ plainly stated that there is only one way to God and that He is “the door.” Christian doctrine divides; it is exclusive and uncompromising. It was intended that way!
  5. Defending the Sanctity of Human Life: The Bible teaches that all humans are made in God’s image and likeness and thus have great intrinsic value. It condemns all kinds of racism and the exploitation of one people group by another(including human trafficking and slavery). Replacement theology, the notion that the Church has replaced Israel, is not only un-Biblical, it also fans the flames of antisemitism that is so prevalent in our societies today.
  6. The Inerrancy of Scripture: Christians should hold the Bible as their gold standard. Its timeless wisdom shows us how to live, what to accept and what to reject. It is not to be taken out of context and twisted to suit a particular agenda. Regular reading of the words of Scripture keeps you focused on what is important and what is not, even if wider society does not follow in the way. Just because society deems something as good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right in God’s eyes. We are called to test the spirits to see whether they are or are not from God, and we are required to distance ourselves from any teacher that preaches a false gospel.
  7. The Importance of Bible Prophecy: Many so-called ‘liberal’ Christians pay no attention to Bible prophecy. That is a grave mistake, as about 25 per cent of the Bible deals with prophecy. For example, all of the prophecies concerning Christ’s birth, ministry, triumphal entry into Jerusalem and suffering at the hands of Roman overlords were predicted with 100 per cent accuracy centuries before His birth, and Christ Himself fulfilled a whole string of other prophecies during his missionary years. Ignoring Bible prophecy is like trying to ride a bicycle without wheels. God clearly intends us to know some of the details of the future so that we can watch for the signs of His second coming. Ignoring such prophecies may well catch you off guard.
  8. Man’s Fallen Nature: The Bible teaches that humans were originally created to live harmoniously with God eternally, but after the fall in the Garden of Eden, man’s nature always goes from bad to worse without God being in the driving seat. This is counter to what humanists(their manifesto holds that we evolved and so are nothing more than smart animals) believe. When mankind turns its back on God, the invariable result is moral decay and ever increasing depravity. That’s why we live in a world that is clearly going from bad to worse and that trend is destined to continue until the Sovereign Lord pulls the plug.
  9. The Divinity of Christ The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the second member of the trinity(Father, Son & Holy Spirit). During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated his equality with God the Father by His absolute submission to God’s will, as well as through His miracles and moral teachings. Liberal scholars want us to unhinge the person of Christ from any divine claim. We must constantly resist any suggestions that Christ was merely a good man or just a good teacher. God gave one third of Himself to humanity in the personage of Jesus Christ. He is to be worshipped and revered for all eternity.
  10. The Importance of Sharing your Faith: Jesus taught us to share our faith and to  pronounce the good news of His coming to the ends of the earth. Recall the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25 (and echoed in Luke 19), where Jesus told of the foolish steward who received a talent from his master, but instead of investing it to make more, buried it in the ground, where it remained until his disapproving master returned. There is no such thing as having a ‘quiet faith.’ We are required to actively share our faith with others when any opportunity presents itself. Don’t bury the talent the Lord has given you. Do something with it! Win souls for Christ!

 

Neil English is the author of a large historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, showcasing how the Christian faith was never a hindrance and was actually instrumental to the development of astronomical science.

 

De Fideli.

 

A Commentary on Two Biblical Paraphrases: ‘The Living Bible’ & ‘The Message.’

Two popular Biblical Paraphrases; the ‘Living Bible’ & ‘The Message.’

Therefore, I, the Lord God of Israel, declare that although I promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi could always be my priests, it is ridiculous to think that what you are doing can continue. I will honor only those who honor me, and I will despise those who despise me.

1 Samuel 2:30 (TLB).

 

We live in exceptionally enlightening times. Advances in scientific knowledge are now toppling Darwinism as an ideology which underpins much of the world views of secular humanism and has become the dominant ‘religion’ of the west. Influential characters like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, Steven Pinker and Jerry Coyne have often quipped that Darwin enabled them to be “intellectually fulfilled atheists.” Now that Darwinism is emerging as an elaborate fraud, or an intolerant secular religion, wouldn’t it be more accurate to describe their plight as ‘scientifically deluded bufoonery?’

But it cuts deeper still, much deeper. Darwinism has informed large swathes of human knowledge beyond the basic biological sciences, including the ‘soft’ sciences of psychology and sociology, which in turn have inspired a whole raft of ‘mind-body-spirit’ books written by gurus who have taken advantage of a scientifically naieve readership. And, let us not forget that the same “monkey religion” has formed the basis of a panoply of New Age ideas under the broad umbrella of “Cosmic or Psychic Evolution.” What is more, pantheism, which is the foundation of many eastern religions, has also found Darwinism to be a natural bed fellow, not to mention a raft of UFO religions and all the rest of it. Even the scientific quest for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence – itself a religion in many ways – has failed miserably because of the acceptance of Darwinism among its brethern. Worse still, many Christian denominations have been bullied into accepting Darwinian evolution as a ‘scientific fact,’ and in so doing has forced some Christian and Jewish theologians to formulate the theological mumbo jumbo that is ‘theistic evolution’, where the Creator is reduced to being a bumbling idiot, blissfully unaware and even unable to know what sort of lifeforms would eventually emerge to seek Him out!

But that is not what a plain reading of Scripture teaches.

I walked away from Catholicism because of these(and other) sonorous developments, and I’m also aware that many so-called ‘reformed’ Protestant denominations are similarly deceived. Faced with these embarrassing developments, it’s no small wonder that traditional Christianity, that is, Biblically based Christianity,  remains a vibrant, intellectually robust and growing world movement that is now attracting more and more people back into its fold, because of its solid historicity, common-sense wisdom, as well as its strong correlation with objective truth.

For these reasons, there are compelling motivations to introduce the Biblical allegory to a new generation of people who have ultimately found their ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ spirituality to be, well, ‘ a few sandwiches short of a picnic,’ as the old adage goes, empty or meaningless, who have never heard the true Biblical message, nor properly considered its truth claims. This includes a huge body of so-called ‘nominal Christians’, who apparently believe that morals evolve too.

Yep, yes siree.

They’ll happily attend Church on Sunday, vote for abortion on Monday, gay marriage on Tuesday and proudly wave an LGBTQ rainbow flag in your face on Wednesday. Claiming to act in the name of ‘tolerance, peace and love,’ they’ve turned Jesus into ‘Swampy,’ a tree-hugging hippy, which is idolatory, blissfully unaware that what they are actually doing is inviting His wrath.

That’s what the Bible plainly teaches. Have you not read that God’s morals are unchanging? And just like living things, do you not understand that the statutes of the Living God (one of His Biblical titles) have not evolved either?

For I am the Lord—I do not change.

Malachi 3:6 (TLB)

In a reaction to these worrying global trends, there has been a proliferation of new Bible versions that have popped into existence over the last few decades, which have actively moved away from the terse and often archaic language of yesteryear, and which have gone to great lengths to keep its themes relevant to a 21st century audience, but without twisting its doctrines.

In this blog, I would like to briefly discuss two such versions; The Living Bible and The Message, both of which were written by Godly men, driven by an over-arching belief that the Judeo-Christian world view is not only true but can transform and enrich human life more than any other holy book or life philosophy.

The Living Bible(TLB) was first published in 1971 by Kenneth N. Taylor(1917-2005) by Tyndale House Publishers. It is a paraphrase of the Bible, based predominantly on the text of the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV). In his own words, Taylor explained his motivations for making this paraphrase:

The children were one of the chief inspirations for producing the Living Bible. Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding the King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Version, which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders—they didn’t know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time. So I did, and read the chapter to the family that evening with exciting results—they knew the answers to all the questions I asked!

Taylor was not a Biblical scholar though, and so did not understand Hebrew or Greek. That being said, he did apparently submit earlier drafts of this work to a team of Biblical scholars prior to its publication. The TLB enjoyed enormous success, especially among the evangelical community, endorsed as it was by Dr. Billy Graha(who distributed copies  to folk during his famous Crusades) and other great Bible teachers of the late 20th century. Indeed, in 1972-3, the TLB was the best-selling title in America! Soon a Catholic version was produced, with an imprimatur by the Pontiff, John Paul II. By the mid-1990s, it is estimated that some 40 million copies had been sold, translated into 100 languages throughout the world. Clearly, there was an appetite for God’s word written simply and effectively for an adoring readership. It also formed the basis of a proper thought-for-thought translation of the Bible, called the New Living Translation(NLT), which I reviewed here. I am reliably informed that the NLT is one of the most popular Bible translations available in the English language today.

I suspect my own copy of the TLB is much like many other people; a lovely green soft-padded, hardback cover adorned with a Celtic Cross:

The iconic cover of the hard-backed TLB with its emblematic Celtic Cross.

The large print edition first appeared in 1979 and my own version was one from the 16th printing of 2014:

The easy-to-read large print double column layout of the TLB.

The language is simple and easy to understand, so even a child can assimilate it. Consider the well-loved Psalm 19:

Psalm 19

19 The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. 3-4 Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom[a] going to his wedding,* or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race! The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.

7-8 God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. God’s laws are pure, eternal, just.[b] 10 They are more desirable than gold. They are sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. 11 For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them.

12 But how can I ever know what sins are lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 And keep me from deliberate wrongs; help me to stop doing them. Only then can I be free of guilt and innocent of some great crime.

14 May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.

 

As you can see, the TLB comes with some footnotes and cross-references, just like a regular reference Bible.

The problem with paraphrases is that they can import the author’s ideas concerning what a tract of Scripture means, which may add or detract from the intended meaning of the original Biblical authors. And that includes gravitating towards particular theological positions. For example, Taylor appears to entertain a pre-millenial point of view, that is, the prophesised millenium of blessedness as outlined in the Book of Revelation will occur immediately after Christ returns to Earth. This is quite clear from certain passages in the TLB. Consider this tract from Isaiah:

In the last days Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord will become the world’s greatest attraction,[a] and people from many lands will flow there to worship the Lord.

Isaiah 2:2 (TLB)

Comparing this to the NASB, a highly literal version of the Bible, we read:

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established [a]as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.

Isaiah 2:2 (NASB).

Notice how Taylor included “Jerusalem” and “Temple” although these do not appear in the original Hebrew.

This is all well and good if the reader is entertaining a pre-millenial position but it might prove problematic to those who do not hold, or develop, other views.

Another issue is that errors creep in which can be a source of confusion to the reader. Consider this passage from the TLB from Romans;

These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death.

Romans 15:4 (TLB)

The problem here is that Christ’s death and resurrection had already done away with the deadly effects of sin, pedicated upon faith.

In other places, Taylor uses wordings that would alarm quite a few readers. For example,

You illegitimate bastard,[a] you!” they shouted. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out.

John 9:34

Highly literal Bibles render the same text in a less extreme way:

They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they [a]cast him out.

John 9:34(NKJV)

Some will find these renderings offensive. They don’t bother me however, as in a real life situation, in the heat of the moment, as it were, an angry mob would certainly not phrase it in the way the NKJV does! I see this as a case of the author adding realism to the narrative rather than deliberately setting out to annoy the reader.

So, how does The Message fair? The brainchild of the American pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, his motivations for writing a version of the Bible in contemporary English language are best explained in the preface to the work:

While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat

As a qualified pastor, Peterson would have been reasonably familiar with the original Hebrew and Greek languages underpinning the Old and New testaments, respectively. Taking about a decade to compile, Peterson also subjected the work to the trained eyes of a small committee of Old and New Testament scholars, the names of whom are found in the introduction to the work.The Message first appeared in 2002 in its complete form.

Title page of ‘The Message.’

If the TLB is a loose paraphrase, then The Message is very loose in comparison. Consider this passage from Genesis 1:

1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
        And light appeared.
    God saw that light was good
        and separated light from dark.
    God named the light Day,
        he named the dark Night.
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day One.

6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
        separate water from water!”
    God made sky.
    He separated the water under sky
        from the water above sky.
    And there it was:
        he named sky the Heavens;
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day Two.

9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
        Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
    Land, appear!”
        And there it was.
    God named the land Earth.
        He named the pooled water Ocean.
    God saw that it was good.

11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
        of seed-bearing plants,
    Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
        And there it was.
    Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
        all varieties,
    And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
        God saw that it was good.
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day Three.

14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out!
Shine in Heaven’s sky!
Separate Day from Night.
Mark seasons and days and years,
Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”
And there it was.

                                                                                                       Genesis 1:1-15

Or consider Psalm 23:4 in The Message;

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

Psalm 23:4(MSG)

Death Valley? Where? In California(just west o’ Vegas ken)? Whacky!

 

In other places, Peterson’s Message appears to water down the convicting words of Scripture. Consider 1 Corinthians chapter 6 in a good literal translation of the Bible;

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NASB)

 

Now take a look at what the Message has to say:

Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11(MSG)

It’s not quite as explicit is it? Indeed, it appears quite vague in comparison to the NASB wouldn’t you think? This is not meant to villify Peterson’s Message but only to highlight that with paraphrases you lose accuracy, specifics and the like.

So both the TLB and The Message, despite being quite brilliant in places, also create confusion here and there. That is why it is very important that you do not use such literature as your primary Bible. To establish doctrine, you need to stick close to the letter of the law, as it were. Both these paraphrases are good commentaries, nothing more, nothing less.

I do have a tendency to prefer the TLB overThe Message though. This is an entirely personal choice. My reasons for preferring the former over the latter stem from its slightly more conservative presentation of the Biblical narrative. There is a case for mantaining the historical setting of the Bible. It was written in a different age to our own. This doesn’t mean it no longer has value to us today; far from it, its moral values never change, but it is simply a fact that these stories were forged in antiquity and that is where they should stay- for the most part anyway. The Message, for me, is over done, reads too much like a novel, has no cross references or footnotes that one normally expects to see in a ‘real’ Bible. I don’t like Peterson’s use of the word ‘Master‘ to represent Jesus either. It makes Him out to be like some kind of Jedi Knight.  The Living Bible(TLB) is more conservative in many ways. For example, it uses the name Jehovah quite often to denote the Godhead. I like that name. And it’s entirely legitimate.

In the end though, the world is a better place because of these paraphrased overviews of the greatest story ever told. No doubt they will help bring people to Christ and that’s the most important thing of all.

Use them but don’t abuse them!

 

Neil English has written a 660 page historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, showing how extraordinary individuals often used ordinary equipment to glean new insights into the nature of the heavens.

 

De Fideli.