Thursday, October 1

Holy Bible: Mosaic -- a review

It's fairly easy to see why the folks at Tyndale House Publishers are so proud of the Holy Bible: Mosaic, which was released on September 22nd. Here is what I like about it:

1. The concept is intriguing. This is not a study Bible or a devotional Bible -- at least as they've been previously published. It is a Bible coupled with a mosaic of weekly meditations which are built around the church year.

2. The mosaic of meditations and the Bible are separate. There is no confusion. This is really two books under one cover. There are even two separate page numbering systems.

3. The design and layout is masterful. There is good use of white space and color making the presentation eclectic without being busy. They've got to win some kind of award for this!

4. The global and historical art work reinforces the catholicity of the content. It's not clip art filler.

5. The breadth of tradition from which the meditations and the quotes are drawn is broadly Christian.

6. The Mosaic approach is built around the church year -- an ancient spiritual formation tool that many contemporary evangelicals have overlooked. The Mosaic "system" overlaps somewhat with the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings -- sometimes. However, the annually recurring weekly themes in Mosaic are more akin to the older lectionaries than the RCL. (Until Vatican II most lectionaries used a one year cycle and the readings were shorter than the current RCL, which is built on an elaborate three year system).

Maybe it's time to come up with a new common church year lectionary that is more focused and simpler in approach than the RCL. The Mosaic pattern could be the discussion starter. (If you unfamiliar with the church year and lectionary you might find that the Mosaic Bible opens new neural paths.)

The weekly themes in Mosaic are not developed in depth but there is enough to get the creative juices flowing. Some of the themes are expressed with unconventional titles-- overacheivement, authenticity, God in community...

7. The Mosaic pattern is helpful -- dealing with common street-level issues not academic theology. This is not to say that it is shallow or pedantic.

8. The translation is a winner. A solid dynamic equivalence translation (Bible translation which emphasizes conveying the ideas of the passage more strongly than the original wording or word order) speaks convincingly in our post-Christian context. The New Living Translation, which is used in the Holy Bible: Mosaic, is uniquely clear and faithful in conveying the meaning and sense of the original writers. The second edition (2007) seems to be an improvement over the already solid first edition (1996).

9. The extra study tools add value. There is a decent dictionary/concordance, eight good maps in the back, center column cross referencing, and brief introductory material for each book of the Bible.

10. They avoided putting the "words of Christ" in red -- removing an unnecessary layer of editorial commentary and making the text itself more readable.

11. It's reasonably priced -- less than $20 for the hardback edition on Amazon.

12. I like the feel of the paper -- especially in the Mosaic section -- yet, the book itself isn't heavy.

13. There is a Mosaic user's guide that can get you started -- even if you don't fully understand why this approach is valuable.

14. There are cross references in the biblical text that point the reader to related Mosaic meditations. IOW, if you are reading the biblical text you will encounter side column references to the related material in the Mosaic section. This means you can access the Mosaic material directly or in conjunction with Bible reading.

I think it is obvious that I like the Holy Bible: Mosaic. It exceeded my expectations. There are, however, a few minor nit-picky things that I might do to improve the next edition:

1. At the risk of sounding concerned about political correctness, there need to be more non-American contemporary writers -- and more contemporary women. Based on the quotes and meditations in Mosaic you might get the sense that the hub of contemporary spirituality is the US -- and that most of the devout people in the world are men.

2. The contemporary version of the Apostles' Creed on the back cover of the hardback edition (and M-167 inside) is not a standard contemporary text. While not all churches use it, the version produced by the English Language Liturgical Consultation is the most common contemporary version and would be more appropriate.

3. I'd move the "kingdom of God" theme from the third week of Epiphany to the end of the post-Pentecost season -- where in older lectionaries it was positioned to lead the church into Advent.

That's it at this point. I'm impressed. And I'm looking forward to having the rolling Mosaic blog tour visiting here on November 11th. I'll be doing some Q & A with Tim Beals, the executive editor of Mosaic AND I'll be giving away a copy of Holy Bible: Mosaic.
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