Monday, June 14, 2010

Pulpit Review: A Mosaic of Christianity

Mosaic Holy Bible (New Living Translation). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale/Credo Communications, 2009. 340 + 1330 Pages. Hardcover. $29.99. (Other editions available.) (LHP)

I'll be honest. I am not a fan of The Living Bible. I thought the original TLB showed the paraphraser's theolgical biases too clearly. Also, I'm not a big fan of paraphrases in general. Nor do I love most study Bibles.

This Mosaic Holy Bible utilizes the New Living Translation, new in 1996 and updated in 2004 and 2007. It has been around awhile. While I generally favor translations that are essentially literal, I have used the NLT (slightly modified) in sermons while I retold a narrative. I'm currently listening to an audio version of the NLT in my Ford Fusion. This review will focus on the unique contents of this Mosaic edition, rather than the NLT. 

The mosaic that the editors are building is one that shows a common confession of the Biblical Christ through the ages. This is most clearly seen in the Tesserae, p. 333ff, especially the chronological section on pages 339-340. One one hand, I love the concept. One the other, I ask why Martin Luther is quoted once for Epiphany 4 and Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted for Lent 2, Pentecost 11, and Pentecost 16. Not all the theologians or works would agree with one another. And, not all theologians are created equal. I suppose this is an example of catholicity meeting trendiness meeting ecumenism.

You may have noted dates belonging to the calendar of the Church year so far in this review. That is another good part of this edition. Pages M8 through M340 are a devotional built into this Bible edition. Turn to Psalm 22 and a side margin note leads the reader to M117 and a Passion Week devotion. One could read the Scriptures and cover the devotions in a topical way. Or, one could learn to follow Jesus according to the contours of the historic Christian Church Year (Complete with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.) and be led into the Scriptures that way. I commend the publisher for introducing the larger Church Year to a Christian population that is largely unfamiliar with it! 

I am very pleased with the intentionality of the publisher and editors with regard to artistic design. Durability may be a concern with the hardcover edition. Mine is already showing signs of wear (white showing through at stress points, creaky glue).

A liturgical Christian book reviewer noted how there is a valiant effort to introduce Christians to part of their heritage. The Apostles' Creed is printed on the back of my hardcover edition. Again, this is not something in regular use by some who typically considers themself a "born again" modern American Evangelical Christian. Thank you, Tyndale!

I was perhaps most disappointed by the inclusion of trendy emergent writers of the current century. Their larger theologies (or lack thereof) are sometimes out of place with the mosaic the editors are building (e.g., 301, 82, et al). In addition, I was particularly displeased with the "God as Nourishment" devotion (320ff) for Pentecost 27.

This idea for an edition of the Bible has great merit. It won't be my primary Bible text, but will serve as an unique reference. I would like to see a similar effort for other major translations from this and other publishers that portrays a clearer, more uniform vision of Christian theology, faith, life, and practice by having more unanimity among the writers cited.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.