Life Essentials Study Bible Review

Life Essentials Study Bible - HCSB Book Cover Life Essentials Study Bible - HCSB
Study Bible

B&H Publishing were nice enough to send me a review copy of the Life Essentials Study Bible. Now, I had already owned one--bought it myself, a hard copy. But again, they were nice enough to send me an updated copy of the Bonded Leather edition for review.

Just a little insight into my fleshly nature... I was a bit bummed when my free Bible showed up. I know... I know... You don't have to preach to me.

I was bummed because I thought I was receiving the blue/tan leather-like Leather-Touch binding. (I really like those, by the way, when I can't afford genuine leather.) But they sent bonded leather, which I have never been a fan of. Bonded leather is most often more like plastic than the minute leather fibers being bonded by the plastic.

But bummed or not, the disappointment didn't last long. It's a quality finish, and the bonded leather is remarkably more leather-like than any bonded leather I've ever owned. If you're suspicious of bonded leather, go to a book store and give this one a feel. I think you'll be surprised, and I think you'll find this a good alternative to more expensive genuine leather.

Now on to the content...

Buy this Bible. Buy it and use it.  It's a good translation. It's a great and accessible study Bible.

Unlike most study Bibles, it doesn't have verse by verse commentary, whether interspersed or in the footer of the Bible. Instead, it breaks the entire Bible text (from Genesis to Revelation) down and gives Life Essential Principles based on the text. The pertinent verses in the text are highlighted in blue, and a small article gives the principle, with application.

I find that the principles are solid, scriptural, indexed, and applicable. To make it better, each article/principle has a code that you can scan with your smart phone that will take you out to a multi-minute video that expounds the principle and text.

It really is great. Note: I haven't read/watched every principle, so I'm not ready to put my entire reputation behind a blind blanket endorsement, but what I've seen has been quality.

Look up Gene Getz's credentials for yourself and make your own conclusions.

In conclusion: It's a great Bible. It's quality in both materials and contents--which is no surprise coming from B&H. It will be applicable, studious, and the video may make it more accessible to many than other study Bibles (i.e. ESV Study Bible--I love mine, but it's a lot to gnaw on!).

Buy it. I would buy this particular one again if I B&H hadn't sent it to me.



Bible Review: HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide

HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide Book Cover HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide
Holman Bible Staff
B&H Publishers
September 1, 2014

A great translation, wrapped in a quality, smith-sewn leather cowhide.

A word of transparency to start… This Bible was presented to me by the publishers, free of charge, as a review copy. They did not ask for a good review, only an honest one–which it will be.

Those who know me know that I’m a Bible collector. It’s become a bit of an inside joke in our family. We’ve literally had to buy more bookshelves to house my extensive library of books, many of which are various Bibles. But ‘collector’ is a misnomer. They get used. They get marked up. They get worn, bent, crinkled, creased and cross-referenced from use. Each Bible has a specific purpose. Some of them are journaling Bibles with wide margins, so that I can mark them up and journal as I study. Some of them are various study Bibles, with commentary built in. Some are devotional Bibles. Others were found at a reduced price at a used book store and were just too pretty to leave there, sitting lonely on the shelf. (Hey, I’m a sucker for a leather binding; sue me.) It’s this latter category that are generally given away as encouragement to others to get into the Word and allow it to transform them.

This Bible will not be given away. It will definitely become my main Bible for both daily reading, carrying with me to church and Bible studies, as well as teaching from on Sunday mornings. Let’s discuss why–as well as a few nits to pick about it.

(1) It’s beautiful.

The photo doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve already admitted that I’m a sucker for a nice leather bound Bible, and this is definitely a nice leather bound Bible. The cowhide is soft and supple. B&H has always done well with leather bindings, and I’ve found that they use quality materials in their covers. I have the HCSB Minister’s Bible in black leather binding. This one is softer and prettier.

It bends easily in the hand without being so malleable that it becomes a hindrance. It’s just firm enough that it sits well in one hand to stand and read from, as I do every week at church.

The edges are standard gold. The indexes are easily accessed, but not intruding. The OT books are indexed in black, while the NT books are indexed in red–which makes them easily identifiable.

(OK… I know where the books of the Bible are, but if you have never taught–i.e. public speaking–you don’t know the horror of your mind going blank in front of expectant faces for no other reason than the fact that you’re in front of expectant faces…)

A small nit to pick, per the indexes… I wonder at the durability of the pages at the point of index. The indexed are cut out of each page as curved rectangles, as opposed to the oblong circular cut-outs in other indexed Bibles I’ve seen and owned. I actually like the visual aspect of the rectangles better, but as my wife thumbed through the Bible last night, I noticed that the stark edges of the rectangular indexes could tend to tears and folds more-so than curved indexes. But that’s a small gripe and just a suspicion. I’ll be interested if it actually presents a problem with extended use.

The nicest indexing I’ve seen on a Bible.

(2) Durability

Despite the suspicion mentioned above, I expect this Bible to wear well. The leather is hardy and well-bound. But it also appears to be smith-sewn. In other words, the pages aren’t just glued into the binding, they’re sewn in. My Minister’s Bible is smith-sewn, and it’s proven very durable. If you like the leather binding on this Bible, you should expect it to last.


(3) Readability

As the name implies, the print is large. The pages are a bright white, but aren’t shiny, so the contrast is very good. I can read it well in both bright lighting and not-so-bright. I’m not always the biggest fan of red-letter editions though I like idea of being able to easily spot the words of Christ. The reason is that red lettering can often hurt contrast and make it harder to read them. I like the red lettering in this Bible because it’s bold and legible–almost maroon as opposed to red.

Easy to read. Note the less than literal translation in Psalm 1. This would worry me more if not for the excellent footnoting (photo below).

I really like the font used. Really. Although I can imagine traditionalists hating it. I’m not sure of the font, but it’s not the traditional ‘Biblical’ type font. It is contemporary, clean, and in my opinion, actually easier to read.

I mentioned in my HCSB translation overview that the translation is well footnoted. The footnotes in this edition are easy to read, without becoming intruding on the page.

For the serious Bible student, the footnotes retain the importance of the original. Without them, one would miss the progression implied in walk, stand, sit…

A special note on readability… They decided to put the Book/Chapter/Page Numbers on the bottom of the page. I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s some printsetting science behind it that I don’t know about, but it just seems weird. It doesn’t seem to be any harder to find them when I am flipping for a specific book and verse. I just have to ‘flip’ the bottom corners instead of the top. It’s just odd after 35 years of Bible-reading.

I’m sure I’ll deal with it and it will become second nature.

The pages are thick enough to feel substantial, but still thin enough to allow minor bleed-through from the printing on the opposite side. It doesn’t severely affect readability, but I would have sacrificed a little of the “thinline” of the Bible for a little thicker paper.

(4) Size

Whichever Bible you prefer, this is what yours should look like… Open in front of you. ūüôā

It’s a very good size for a personal and teaching Bible. Having been known to carry large study Bibles around with me, this thing is a dream.

Final review:

It’s a great translation. It’s a great Bible that does everything it’s designed to do very well. It is worth the list price and I highly recommend it to someone looking for a trustworthy, modern English Bible. It’s great for everyday use in both devotional reading and studying.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) translation…

I posted last week about the need to pick one translation of the Bible to teach with, and thought this would be a good time to do so, in accordance with the need to get a large print Bible for teaching purposes. I polled the congregation to get an idea as to what most people use when they follow along with me, and got mixed results. But also playing largely in the decision was my thoughts on the best translation for both study and public reading¬†purposes (Note, I’ve been using HCSB all along for sermon prep, along with several other translations.).¬†I started this post as an actual Bible review for my new teaching Bible (coming soon), but thought the translation talk would bloat that review, since it’ll be a review of an¬†actual Bible and not the HCSB translation itself. So, here’s my thoughts on the HCSB and why I decided to return to it for public teaching…

(1) It’s a translation.

That may seem like a bit of needless or redundant information, but it’s pertinent. Almost all of the new ‘translations’ in the past 30 years or so¬†have been revision of older (some quality) translations. The NKJV, ESV, NRSV, NLT while great translation which I highly respect and actually use for both study and devotional reading, are all revisions–not new translations.

Now, there is nothing wrong with revisions. There are good points to a revision, but a new translation that uses the latest in discoveries per manuscripts, ancient languages, ancient cultures, etc, is a good thing if the translators use proper translation principles. The HCSB does, as we’ll discuss.

(2) It’s a trustworthy translation.

The translation philosophy was to be as literal as possible, while expressing the thoughts and intents of the author in a way that we can best understand them. In other words, it’s not a paraphrase. The translators tried to be as literal as possible, but they made allowances for such things as literal word order, and translated cultural idioms (which would have been lost on us) into phrases that get the point across.

To be honest, I’ve always been a little conflicted about the two translation philosophies. Is it better to translate literally what they wrote, and leave interpretation to the reader? One would think so. Especially if the reader has the technical knowledge to correctly interpret. (But how many do? How many know that the phrase “I gave you whiteness of teeth”, in OT Israel, was a bad thing? How many know that it’s a description of starvation?)

Or is it best to translate something into a less literal format that is more comprehensible to the reader? ¬†I’m conflicted, except for the fact that I’m realizing that the purpose of language is to get the thought across in such a way that the reader can comprehend. I may use technical language to a fellow System’s Analyst and non-technical language to my wife, who just recently broke down and accepted a smart phone. Either is appropriate, and either is inappropriate, depending on who the audience is, and whether they can understand what I’m saying. That’s what I’ve come to.

I think the HCSB, of the translations available to us today, does the best job of walking the line of literal but understandable. It’s made only better by the fact that it is better ‘footnoted’ than any translation I have ever come across. If they make a decision between different manuscript evidences, they give alternates in the footnote. If they make a decision to not translate something literally, they offer a footnote offering the literal translation.

So… It’s trustworthy, yet easy to read. It’s perfect for my study and teaching Bible.

For more detail than you probably want on translation philosophy, go here.

(3) As mentioned above, it’s easy to read.

The language is concise and natural, which lends itself well to public reading. This is a big deal for me. As mentioned in my other post, there are a couple of decisions that have made it a bit harder at times to read aloud–like the use of “Messiah” when the traditions in my brain are expecting “Christ”. But in researching their motives in making such changes, it makes sense, I’ll deal with it, and I can defend their decisions if anyone ever asks me about it. It’s not a deal-breaker.

(4) I had gotten lots of folks in our congregation hooked on the HCSB, then quit teaching from it for a while.

I have no good reason for not using it on Sunday mornings. I have a lot of good reasons to use it. I have always loved it. And I have to look people that I love in the face every week. ¬†(OK… This wasn’t really the big reason, but it looks good on the blog.)

So, that was the translation decision, if not a full translation review.