Thinking Out Loud

June 21, 2012

A Bible for Today in the Spirit of the ’70s

My instructions that Sunday morning were clear. Look for a man with a long beard, he has a case of the new Bible everyone’s talking about. It turned out there was also another guy in what was Canada’s only megachurch running copies through an underground economy.

The Bible was Reach Out. It was a New Testament using a new translation, The Living Bible. I’d seen Living Letters and Living Epistles on my parents’ bookshelf, but this was a youth edition with over a hundred pictures and graphics. A Bible that was cool. Who would have thought? (I later received a copy of Get Smart, an equally youth-targeted version of Proverbs; more on that here.)

My Reach Out was well read. At a Christian music festival in Pennsylvania, I obtained a couple of bumper stickers and used them to keep the book intact. Here was a Bible that talked like I talked, and looked like other books I would read. And I did read, discovering that when the text is flowing and easy to follow, one of Paul’s epistles only takes five minutes; a gospel might be read in 20 minutes. The book that had intimidated me for years was suddenly accessible.

Later, a full edition with both Old and New Testaments was released as The Way; and now, in 2012, The Way returns in the same spirit, with sidebar stories and black and white pictures. Spearheaded by Mark Oestreicher, the goal of this particular labor of love was to capture the spirit of the original but with new Bible book introductions, new sidebar stories, and of course, substituting the NLT for the Living Bible.

(I should say at this point that the publisher, Tyndale, has kept the original Living Bible in print. They even added a second anniversary edition last year, effectively doubling the number of formats available.)

In a world where Bible publishers have gone overboard adding color pages, The Way is very counter-cultural in black and white. I wasn’t sure how one approaches reviewing a Bible, so I jumped into Leviticus. (Rob Bell would be proud.) I enjoyed the intro, which is empathetic to non-Bible-readers.

The list of contributors to this is not exactly a Who’s Who of Christian writers, though you might recognize a few names like Luke MacDonald, Matt Maher, Austin Gutwein, Charlie Peacock and Dan Kimball. For the most part, these are younger writers. (Christian blogosphere types will also recognize UK photographer Jonny Baker.)

There are many features in this single column NLT including smart phone QR codes [sample]; but probably its greatest distinctive is a selection of “laments” that runs throughout set in white on black.

“These are the questions we’re all afraid to ask God, and the complaints we might hesitate to voice to him. The truth is, God desires our honest doubts, questions and complaints. After all, the writers of the Bible regularly lament, crying out to God and questioning him about injustices, pains and problems.

The paper is thin and sometimes the print is small, because there’s a lot packed into the nearly 1600 pages; but overall, I think this is probably the best of all the NLT editions to give to someone under 30, even if they have not yet crossed the line of faith. I was given a paperback; it’s also available in hardcover and imitation leather.

Watch the promotional video

Dave Wainscott remembers the original The Way cover

A copy of The Way was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin, a Canadian company representing key U.S. Christian publishers for promotion and publicity.

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3 Comments »

  1. For my fifteenth birthday, the best present I received was from my grandparents. It was the Living Bible. This was a day when the primary translation in every evangelical church was the beloved KJV. I did not dislike the KJV, but every time I opened it I saw Shakespeare in my head.
    The Living Bible did just that. It made the word of God come alive for me at a time in my life when I was searching and asking alot of questions. It initiated a hunger for the Word which eventually would lead me into pastoral ministry. Any grandparent looking to bless thier teenage grandchild with a gift that will trully change thier lives should strongly consider the WAY.

    Comment by ralph juthman — June 21, 2012 @ 8:48 am

  2. One thing I left out of this review is that in the introduction to John’s gospel, it actually quotes from The Message, a “competing” Bible translation. I thought that was rather significant. And equally cool.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 21, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  3. […] In a review of a new NLT edition that contains a section of laments, I quoted the authors: […]

    Pingback by Self-Deprecating Worship Music | Christianity 201 — April 20, 2013 @ 5:38 pm


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