Gift ideas: Open fresh eyes to Bible study in 2012

Happy holidays!
We are helping you find spiritually uplifting gifts that will light up the holidays for your loved ones.
Earlier: We recommended a true-crime drama, a guide to finding contentment & an unusual prayer book.
Great video: We’ve found a terrific BBC sampler, an Ed Asner classic & Tree of Life, too.
For Children of All Ages: Fold out Hanukkah, circle the globe & enjoy spiritual wisdom of animals.
Bible Study with Fresh Eyes: We’ve got a trio of new and innovative Bible-study resources.


We reported earlier on the Common English Bible—a landmark in translation by a diverse team of scholars mainly drawn from Protestant denominations. The involvement of grasroots groups nationwide in reading early drafts of the CEB was a major factor in ensuring that this is, indeed, very readable. You may want to jump back and enjoy our interview with CEB coordinator Paul Franklyn. About these grassroots groups, Paul says: “We even organized one reading group in a rest home for older adults. But several of the reading groups were on college campuses. There was one high-school-age youth group in Nashville.” Another innovation by the CEB team was a creative rethinking of Bible-study supplements. So, near the top of our holiday shopping list for anyone who enjoys Bible study is the very reasonably priced Common English Bible Map Guide: Explore the Lands of the Old and New Testaments, which you can order from Amazon by clicking on this link or the Map Guide cover, shown at right. Two reasons this is a wonderful choice: The maps are big and easy to read and the CEB team turned to the world’s most popular map makers: the National Geographic Society.


Just because the Bible Map Guide is bigger than Bible readers might expect, doesn’t mean that the Common English Bible team decided to burden Bible readers with a back-breaking Bible dictionary. On the contrary—The Common English Bible Dictionary is made to tuck into your pocket. Just how handy is this dictionary? For example, in our ReadTheSpirit offices, we’ve got a great big NIV Bible dictionary that stands about 10 inches tall and weighs in at 3 pounds. And that’s drawing our comparison with a reasonably sized Bible dictionary. Others, including the multi-volume New Interpreters Bible Dictionary are even bigger! In contrast, the new CEB dictionary is just 7.4 inches tall and only 1 pound. It’s easy to tuck into a purse or tote bag, when heading to a Sunday-school class or simply enjoying a little personal Bible study during a break in a busy day. Considering its small size, we were surprised to find the clear black type is printed on thick, easy-to-turn pages. So, if you’re a Bible reader who gets annoyed with the onion-skin feel of some Bible editions, you’ll love this Bible dictionary. Even older Bible readers with fading dexterity in their fingertips can easily flip these pages. Most importantly, the CEB offers the entire Bible, including what Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha, and this Bible Dictionary includes entries that relate to the Apocrypha. Of course, in-depth Bible research still takes Bible readers deeper into resources like the New Interpreters, but this sturdy 447-page CEB dictionary will answer lots of questions in lots of places.


Among the millions of Bible readers in the U.S., studies show that most of us own multiple translations of the Bible. While students of the Bible always are striving for accuracy, we all enjoy distinctive voices in these English translations. That’s why Eugene Peterson is so popular with his Message version of the Bible. Long before Peterson, though, there were other English translators whose Bibles remain in any well-stocked collection of Bibles for everyday inspiration. Among these notable single-voice versions are James Moffatt’s 1913 New Testament and, of course, the 1958 J.B. Philips New Testament that still is quoted by a number of popular Christian writers and speakers. In our ReadTheSpirit interview with N.T. “Tom” Wright, the former Bishop of Durham modestly claims that his new translation is likely to be popular for a single generation. Why undertake such a huge project for a relatively brief era of readership? Wright says: “We have the freedom to read and constantly reshape the way we translate these texts. We need to keep nudging people toward new ideas for serving God’s Kingdom in each new era. This is a dynamic that comes right out of Jesus’ teaching.” Among Wright’s many recent books, The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation is a great choice for holiday gift giving.

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Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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