Book Review: The 19 Questions to Kindle a Wesleyan Spirit, Carolyn Moore

If you have been to the executive clergy session at a United Methodist Annual Conference, you have heard the bishop ask every person who has been approved for ordination as a deacon or elder a series of questions. Sometimes, the examination seems to be a mere formality, a final technical hurdle on the way to the ordination service. At other times, the examination provides the opportunity for the bishop to elaborate on the ways that she or he sees these questions as of particular relevance in our current moment. There are even times when the clergy themselves laugh or groan when some of the questions are asked.

These nineteen questions are found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church in paragraphs 330.5.d and 336. A footnote in paragraph 336 provides some background: “These are the questions that every Methodist preacher from the beginning has been required to answer upon becoming a full member of an annual conference. These questions were formulated by John Wesley and have been little changed throughout the years.” Here are the questions:

1. Have you faith in Christ?
2. Are you going on to perfection?
3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
7. Will you keep them?
8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
10. Will you preach and maintain them?
11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
13. Will you support and maintain them?
14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
15. Will you visit from house to house?
16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
19. Will you observe the following directions?
a. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary.
b. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

To be ordained as a United Methodist deacon or elder, you must answer each of these questions in front of all of the clergy in the annual conference you are joining. The expected answer for each question, except the 18th, is “Yes” or, even better, “Yes, by the grace of God.” (The expected answer to the 18th, is “No!”)

If every ordained United Methodist pastor has had to answer these questions at some point, would it not be wise to spend some time thinking about what they mean? Why would Wesley ask these nineteen questions instead of nineteen other questions to ordinands? What do they mean? Why should we ask these questions today? Unfortunately, they have not received much attention in United Methodism. Maybe this is because some of these questions are embarrassing to contemporary sensibilities?

Carolyn Moore offers The United Methodist Church a gift and an invitation to further conversation in her book, The 19 Questions to Kindle a Wesleyan Spirit (2018). The organization of the book is straightforward and accessible. A chapter is dedicated to a brief reflection on each of the questions.

Moore invites us to explore these questions with greater attentiveness, care, and presence of heart and mind. She exhorts us to be honest and have integrity throughout the ordination process, noting that in our current “social climate” it can be easy “to embrace dishonesty for the sake of fulfilling our own agenda” (20).

As I read the book, I found myself leaning in and yearning for a more substantive and theological conversation about Methodism. As I read, I wanted to gather around these questions with other Methodists. Moore often said something with a perceptive and piercing turn of phrase that made me stop reading and imagine what the implications would be for the people called Methodists. To give but one example: “If you want your kids to know Jesus, you can’t outsource it” (82). She also asks us some hard questions, like, “What if theological integrity means a smaller tent” (59)?

There were also a few times I wanted to know more about her take on a particular question. When, for example, Moore writes, “Wesley’s second question [“Are you going on to perfection?”] is not whether we have reached it or even if we can” (18). I agree with her on the first and want to know more about what she means by the second part. Despite wanting to know more, I was very encouraged to see a United Methodist leader take a difficult question like this so seriously and invite us to wrestle with it in hopes of being able to say “Yes, by the grace of God” with conviction. The seriousness with which Moore takes each of the nineteen historical questions is the major strength of the book. She avoids the temptation to offer cheap shortcuts or tone down the high expectations that are evident in some of these questions.

This is a book that United Methodists need to be reading and wrestling with right now. I think one of the major reasons for the historical questions was to protect the unity of Methodism in its early years. Wesley was constantly looking for ways to press the people who were connected to him that unity involved a commitment to a particular set of beliefs (doctrine) and a particular set of practices (discipline) – all to the end of spreading scriptural holiness. I hope Moore’s book is the beginning of more sustained engagement with basic questions of identity, belief, practice, and how these relate to meaningful unity for any people called Methodists.

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Cambridge Wide Margin Bible: An Ideal Companion to the Pitt Minion

Since I started reading about high quality Bibles, I wondered if I would be able to bring myself to write in one. I regularly tell myself that these are not museum pieces, they are Bibles and are meant to be used. When I carry one of these Bibles, I try to use common sense to take care of it. But I also don’t do anything that would create disincentives to reading it. This is the reason I don’t carry them in their original boxes. I want to be able to unzip my bag and pull it out and read it like any other book. But writing in a Bible changes it forever. Would I ever be able to bring myself to commit to really using the Bible to the point that I would write in it?

The Cambridge Wide Margin Bible put that question to rest.

Cover

The NIV Cambridge Wide Margin is only available in calf split leather at the moment, which is the lowest quality leather cover that Cambridge makes. The cover is much nicer than any generic “genuine leather” or “bonded leather” cover I’ve previously owned. There is no contest. However, I also like it much less than any goatskin, calfskin, or cowhide cover that I have. The calf split cover feels functional to me. It is sturdy and gives confidence that it will protect the pages between the covers. The tradeoff is that the calf split feels tougher and less supple than higher quality covers. I suspect that the NIV Wide Margin is only available in calf split due to sales projections. Part of my hope in reviews like these is to encourage readers who prefer the NRSV and NIV to invest in these translations so that they receive the same kind of support as the KJV, NASB, and ESV.

By way of comparison, Cambridge’s ESV Wide Margin Bible is available in goatskin in addition to the calf split. I have an ESV Wide Margin in goatskin (on the left in the photo above). When comparing calfskin to goatskin I am often conflicted. They are both fantastic and different enough that I find myself going back and forth between which one I prefer. There is no contest, however, between the calf split and the goatskin. The goatskin is far superior. There is also a significant difference in price (the list price of the goatskin is $80 more than the calf split).

Layout

The layout is where things get really interesting! The Cambridge Wide Margin has the identical layout to the Pitt Minion within the same translation (see my review of the Pitt Minion here). This means that if you own an NIV Pitt Minion and an NIV Wide Margin, the exact same words are on every page. This has the benefit of helping with remembering Scripture when you read and study, as you can move from one volume to the other and you are reading the same passage in the exact same place on the same page. The benefit, of course, is that the Pitt Minion is much smaller and more portable, so it is ideal for carrying with you when you are on the go. The Wide Margin is ideal for more in-depth Bible Study at home.

More than the Pitt Minion

As is obvious from the name, the Wide Margin is quite a bit larger than the Pitt Minion. The decrease in portability brings the benefits of larger text, the most expansive concordance I’ve seen in an NIV reference Bible, and room to write in the Bible.

The text is not only larger, the paper also seems better than the paper in the Pitt Minion. To my eye, the paper in the Wide Margin seems to be a bit opaquer than the Pitt Minion and it seems to have more of a matte finish. Appropriately, the paper in the Wide Margin is made to be written on, while the Pitt Minion prioritizes portability.

One of the biggest surprises for me in the NIV Wide Margin was when I looked at the stats in the concordance. The Schuyler Quentel and Pitt Minion NIV concordances each have 2,474 word entries and more than 10,000 Scripture references. The Wide Margin has 4,795 word entries with nearly 36,000 Scripture references. That is a dramatic increase and makes the NIV Wide Margin the best concordance I know of in any comparable Bible. (The NIV Wide Margin even shines in comparison to the ESV Wide Margin, which has 2,700 word entries and more than 14,500 Scripture references.)

Above all else, the Wide Margin is designed for you to engage Scripture by writing in the Bible. The purpose of the wide margins themselves is to have space to write summaries, insights, questions, etc. from your engagement with Scripture. After the concordance, the Bible also has a blank two column alphabetical index and 32 double column lined pages. This part of the Bible can be used to add additional reference material or anything else you would like to add.

Conclusion

I really like the combination of the Pitt Minion and the Wide Margin Bible. If the NIV is your preferred translation and you want a reference Bible that is designed to help you study the Bible by using the Bible to interpret itself (rather than external commentary like a Study Bible), the NIV Wide Margin is the best option currently on the market. If I had to choose between the Wide Margin and the Pitt Minion, I would choose the Pitt Minion because of its versatility, size, and availability of a goatskin cover.

However, after using both Bibles so much for the past month, I can’t imagine not having them both. The Wide Margin is an ideal complement to the Pitt Minion and a wonderful way to study Scripture in greater depth and engagement. I love having two Bibles of very different sizes that have the same pagination and typographical style. These Bibles are made to be used and to last. The Wide Margin is ideal for deep engagement and interaction with Scripture and is the best NIV reference Bible I have seen.

Cambridge generously provided the NIV and ESV Wide Margin Bibles for review. I was not required to give a positive review of this Bible, only an honest one.

Cambridge Pitt Minion: The Bible I Take Everywhere

When I began to wade into the world of fine Bibles, the first Bible I decided to purchase was the Cambridge Pitt Minion. I was intrigued by the compact size of the Pitt Minion and the litany of adoring reviews. I decided to make the purchase because the goatskin NIV Pitt Minion was 50% off the list price on Amazon.com. (In case you’re interested, it still is.) At $80, it isn’t exactly economical, but it was a great discount on an exceptionally made Bible. I have no regrets about making this purchase and would not hesitate to buy this Bible again for the same amount of money. Here is why:

Cover

As far as I can recall, I had never seen or touched a goatskin Bible before my Pitt Minion arrived. The more I read about these Bibles online, the more I wanted to get my hands on a goatskin Bible. Now that I have spent hours with half a dozen goatskin Bibles, this cover is one of my favorites. The cover is paste-off, which is typically considered less durable than edge-lined covers. However, it also means that it does not have the tab that I’ve written about before and that I continue to find vexing. Out of the box, the Pitt Minion cover was a bit stiffer than I had anticipated that it would be. But it has broken in exquisitely! After reading a review from J. Mark Bertrand, I decided to give the cover all it could handle. Every time I pick it up, I roll the Bible up like a newspaper two times, so that each cover is rolled up on the inside. The boards have broken in wonderfully and the cover seems to me to have become more supple and flexible the more I use it. I would not change a single thing about the cover of this Bible. It gets better with use.

The binding is also exceptional. I have read it described as springing open. That seems a bit overstated to me. However, the Bible easily lays flat at either Genesis 1 or the maps at the back. This Bible is not only made with an attention to detail, it is also made to be read. As with any Bible of this quality, the pages are smyth-sewn.

Layout

The Pitt Minion is most famous because of its layout. It is widely considered to be the ideal two column layout for a compact Bible. While I am not an expert in design, I have been amazed at how readable this Bible is given the small font size.

The font is 6.75/7 Lexicon No. 1 A, which is small. The size of the font is the only concern I have with recommending this Bible. If you cannot comfortably read smaller print, then this Bible is not the one for you (and you should rule out all compact Bibles). Having said that, a comment I’ve frequently seen people make after spending time with this Bible is that it reads as if the font were bigger than it really is.

The text is set in a double-column layout. The references are between the two columns and are set off by a solid line on each side. Notes from the translators are in the footer, as are any references that could not fit in the center column. The text is also set in paragraphs, which I greatly prefer to verse by verse layouts. While I do generally prefer single-column layouts, I love reading this Bible and the two columns have not been an issue for me.

There is one change I would like to see in the layout. I would like each Book to start on a new page. I understand the reasons for not doing this, but I would gladly accept the additional thickness of the Bible for the elegance in layout and reading experience that would be gained.

Other Features

One of the things that most surprised me about the Pitt Minion is that it has the same size concordance as the Schuyler Quentel, a much larger Bible (for comparison the photo above features the Quentel and Pitt Minion together). Fitting a 2,474 word entry concordance with more than 10,000 Scripture references in this small of a Bible feels like a magic trick of some kind. If this wasn’t enough, the concordance looks to me to be the same size as the text itself, which makes it easier to read than the concordance in the much larger Quentel.

The Pitt Minion also has 15 color maps. From the variety of Cambridge Bibles I’ve seen, these maps are the same across the variety of Cambridge Bibles. This Bible also has two ribbons that are a really nice red. There is also a blank presentation page at the front of the Bible.

Conclusion

If you want a highly portable reference Bible, the Cambridge Pitt Minion is in a class by itself. I have carried mine in my backpack on several trips and it has held up beautifully. I have intentionally not packed it in the box it came in when I travel because I want to remove any obstacle to reading it. I had some concern that the Bible would get damaged if I treated it as I would any other book. I found a slight scratch in the art-gilded page edges during one trip. But I don’t view these Bibles as museum pieces. One of the reasons they are worth buying is because of the durability of the materials that are used and the quality of the construction. The more I have used this Bible, the more I like it.

John Wesley’s Advice to the People Called Methodists (Part IV)

This essay has reminded me how difficult Wesley is to read well, especially when groups with quite different perspectives seek to use Wesley as warrant for their position. The challenge of letting Wesley speak for himself is especially visible in his final words of advice. Nevertheless, I think Wesley is an essential conversation partner, particularly as United Methodism wrestles with the extent of agreement that is necessary to maintain unity.

If you are just joining the conversation, this is the final post in a four-part series on an essay John Wesley wrote in 1745, “Advice to the People Called Methodists.” These posts are designed to be read together. I hope you will check out the first, second, and third posts!

Image from Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Wesley’s fourth word of advice for the people called Methodists was “Keep in the very path wherein you now tread. Be true to your principles. Never rest again in the dead formality of religion. Pursue with your might inward and outward holiness, a steady imitation of him you worship, a still increasing resemblance of his imitable perfections, his justice, mercy, and truth.”

Wesley urged Methodists to avoid superstition and bigotry. He defined superstition as placing “religion in doing what God hath not enjoined, or abstaining from what he hath not forbidden.” Bigotry was defined as “confining our affection to our own party, sect, or opinion.” Wesley also wanted Methodists to “stand fast in obedient faith” and “avoid enthusiasm” (expecting to encounter God without using the means of grace).

Wesley continued by encouraging Methodists to “be true also to your principles touching opinions, and the externals of religion.” Here, Wesley once again pressed Methodists to know who they are and hold fast to their identity without condemning anyone “for not thinking as you think.” Methodists should do all that they can to persuade others, but they should never try to force someone to think like them. “If love will not compel him to come in,” Wesley wrote, “leave him to God, the Judge of all.”

After encouraging Methodists to be generous towards others regarding “opinions, and the externals of religion,” he warned them that they should not expect that “others will deal thus with you.” He wrote:

Some will endeavour to fright you out of your principles, some to shame you into a more popular religion, to laugh and rally you out of your singularity. But from none of these will you be in so great danger as from those who assault you with quite different weapons – with softness, good nature, and earnest professions of (perhaps real) goodwill. Here you are equally concerned to avoid the very appearance of anger, contempt, or unkindness, and to hold fast the whole truth of God, both in principle and in practice.

This indeed will be interpreted as unkindness. Your former acquaintance will look upon this, that you will not sin or trifle with them, as a plain proof of your coldness toward them; and this burden you must be content to bear. But labour to avoid all real unkindness, all disobliging words, or harshness of speech, all shyness or strangeness of behaviour. Speak to them with all the tenderness and love, and behave with all the sweetness and courtesy you can, taking care not to give any needless offence, to neighbour or stranger, friend or enemy.

Wesley concluded the essay with a final piece of advice and a prayer. His final piece of advice was: “Perhaps on this very account I might advise you, fifthly, Not to talk much of what you suffer, ‘of the persecution you endured at such a time, and the wickedness of your persecutors.” Instead of talking about what Methodists suffer at the hands of others, he exhorts them to pray for them.

He concluded by himself praying for Methodists:

I have now only to commend you to the care of him who hath all power in heaven and in earth; beseeching him that in every circumstance of life you may stand ‘firm as the beaten anvil to the stroke’; desiring nothing on earth, accounting all things but dung and dross, that you may win Christ, and always remembering, ‘It is the part of a good champion to be flayed alive, and to conquer!’”

Wesley wrote “Advice to the People Called Methodists” in a context where Methodism was under tremendous pressure. (For more information on the serious internal and external pressures Methodists faced in the first half of the 1740s, I highly recommend Richard P. Heitzenrater’s Wesley and the People Called Methodists.) In a time when my own denomination is in a crucible, it is helpful to know what was important to Wesley in the midst of the pressures he was facing.

In controversy, Wesley worked to be as precise as he could be about who a Methodist was. The question of identity was one that Wesley came back to again and again throughout his leadership of this new movement. He was not interested in maintaining something for its own sake. The details of belief and practice were of immediate concern to Wesley.

I think this is the part of our own history that may be most often misunderstood by denominational leaders. It is common in our current crisis to hear bishops and other key leaders appeal to the importance of unity in the midst of disagreement about marriage and human sexuality. Appeals to unity are often grounded in Wesley’s “Catholic Spirit,” or quotes like the ones found in this essay. Indeed, Wesley regularly called for Methodists to show tolerance and charity towards those with whom they disagreed. He insisted that Methodists should not anathematize Christians due to disputes related to nonessentials.

Does this mean that we can assume Wesley would advise us today to agree to disagree on the matters that presently divide us? Would he passionately exhort us to focus on what unites us and work to find ways to remain externally united?

The best way I can think of to frame this is in the form of a question: With whom were Methodists disagreeing?

If Methodists disagree with Catholics, Baptists, Eastern Orthodox, or any other Christians, then Wesley is rightly used to call us to charity and to go as far as we can to see the best in these other groups of Christians and work as much as we can with them.

If Methodists disagree among themselves, then Wesley is rightly used to call us to clarity about the inevitably concrete focus on holiness of heart and life. Wesley repeatedly called Methodists to “be true to your principles.” He exhorted them to do this regardless of how those outside of Methodism reacted to these principles. And, to his credit, Wesley was honest that the most likely result of clinging to their principles would be some form of suffering and rejection.

Wesley’s own history shows that he did indeed divide from others due persistent and ongoing disagreement about matters of faith and practice (which he would have put in the category of nonessentials or opinions). Wesley divided from both the Fetter Lane Society and from George Whitefield for these reasons. And both divisions were very difficult for Wesley, damaging relationships that were deeply important to him.

“Catholic Spirit” and other similar statements were not intended to be a guide for dealing with disagreements with Methodism. Methodists had clear positions on all manner of opinions. And Wesley expected Methodists who were in connection with him to hold fast to their doctrine and discipline.

Wesley has been misused for so long by so many that it is very difficult to read him well here. While Wesley presses Methodists to love those with whom they disagree, that is not the same thing as encouraging a broadening of perspective or a watering down of concrete moral and ethical commitments. Contemporary United Methodists too often incorrectly include loving those with whom we disagree with compromise on beliefs and practices. Wesley cannot be used to support such a position. He can be used (and should be!) to remind us that it is essential that we do all we can to love and respect those who do hold such a position.

Wesley’s “Advice to the People Called Methodists” is a relentless call to know who God has called them to be and to be faithful to it. Within that understanding, Methodists are exhorted to treat non-methodists with love and affection.

This essay has reminded me that, for Wesley, the power of Methodism comes from its detailed commitment to a particular way of life in order to pursue holiness of heart and life. Methodists always pursue holiness together expecting growth in holiness to occur in the context of intimate and vulnerable community. For Wesley, the concrete details of practical holiness are simply indispensable because they, by the grace of God, provide the thrust for the very mission of Methodism.

John Wesley’s Advice to the People Called Methodists (Part III)

“Do not imagine you can avoid giving offence.”

These direct words were Wesley’s second piece of advice to “the people called Methodists.” But why would Wesley tell the fledgling Methodists that it would be impossible to avoid giving offence?

“Your very name renders this impossible.”

“And as much as offense as you give by your name, you will give still more by your principles.”

Wesley is surprisingly frank that Methodists who know who they are and are faithful to who God has called them to be will inevitably give offence. (For Wesley’s definition of a Methodist see the first post in this series. The second post emphasized the importance of Methodists knowing who they are.) In case his audience was unclear how Methodists might give offence, Wesley offered a litany of ways Methodism would offend:

Image from Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

You will give offence to the bigots for opinions, modes of worship, and ordinances, by laying no more stress upon them; to the bigots against them, by laying so much; to men of form, by insisting so frequently and strongly on the inward power of religion; to moral men (so called) by declaring the absolute necessity of faith in order to acceptance with God. To men of reason you will give offence by talking of inspiration and receiving the Holy Ghost; to drunkards, sabbath-breakers, common swearers, and other open sinners, by refraining from their company, as well as by that disapprobation of their behaviour which you will often be obliged to express. And indeed your life must give them continual offence; your sobriety is grievously offensive to a drunkard; your serious conversation is equally intolerable to a gay impertinent; and, in general, that ‘you are grown so precise and singular, so monstrously strict, beyond all sense and reason, that you scruple so many harmless things, and fancy you are obliged to do so many others which you need not,’cannot but be an offence to abundance of people, your friends and relations in particular.

Some of the 18th century turns of phrase above may obscure Wesley’s meaning for contemporary readers. The conclusion to his “litany of offence” is pretty straightforward: “Either therefore you must consent to give up your principles, or your fond hope of pleasing men.”

I’m not sure I could come up with a piece of advice from the founder of Methodism that would cut harder against the grain of contemporary Methodist sensibilities, at least in my part of The United Methodist Church. Here is what I understand Wesley to be saying: Being who you are will be offensive to others. You can either strive to please them or you can be true to who God has called you to be and save your own souls and, God willing, theirs as well.

In order to try to be as clear as I can, let me say that I do not think that Wesley is saying that Methodists are to strive to offend others. He was telling Methodists that being who they were, for the reasons mentioned in the extended quote above, would inevitably offend others. The purpose of Methodism is not to offend. But, Methodists determined pursuit of holiness of heart and life will inevitably offend those who are not pursuing holiness of heart and life.

Wesley describes the result of all of this offence:

“You cannot but expect that the offence continually arising from such a variety of provocations will gradually ripen into hatred, malice, and all other unkind tempers…. The consequence, humanly speaking, must be that, together with your reputation, you will lose, first, the love of your friends, relations, and acquaintance, even those who once loved you the most tenderly; then your business… your health, liberty, and life.”

Wesley was exaggerating, right? I would guess that is the instinctive reaction many would have to this quote. The rhetoric just seems so inflated. But was he?

Historians know that Wesley himself experienced tremendous strain in relationships with family and friends due to the “principles” of Methodism. He was also regularly told after preaching in Church of England parishes that he would not be invited to preach there again. Wesley also experienced the wrath, violence, and unpredictability of mobs on more than one occasion in the years immediately before writing this essay. William Seward actually died of stoning by an angry mob in 1740, five years before Wesley wrote this.

When Wesley told Methodists not to imagine that they could avoid giving offence that would cost them dearly in terms of relationships, employment, and even their physical health, he meant it.

Wesley’s next piece of advice is one of the passages in this essay that I just keep coming back to again and again. I’ll let it speak for itself:

What further advice can be given to a person in such a situation? I can but advise you, thirdly: Consider deeply with yourself, Is the God whom I serve able to deliver me? I am not able to deliver myself out of these difficulties; much less am I able to bear them. I know not how to give up my reputation, my friends, my substance, my liberty, my life. Can God give me to rejoice in doing this? And may I depend on him that he will? Are the hairs of my head all numbered? And does he never fail them that trust in him? Weigh this thoroughly; and if you can trust God with your all, then go on, in the power of his might.

I stopped reading several times as I read Wesley’s second and third pieces of advice. “Do not imagine you can avoid giving offence.” “Consider deeply with yourself, Is the God whom I serve able to deliver me?” I stopped because the advice seemed so obvious and true. At the same time, these simple exhortations are so counter to how I experience my own United Methodist Church today. I cannot imagine a key leader of Methodism saying what Wesley says in this advice. I also believe it desperately needs to be said for our time and our place. This is how I see Wesley’s advice applying to us today:

Methodists, if you are centered in your identity and if you are true to who God has called you to be, people will not like you. People will be offended by what you believe and by how you live your life. That is ok. Make no mistake, being disliked, even despised is hard. That is one reason it is essential for you to unite together to watch over one another in love. But the purpose of Methodism was never meant to be winning the approval of a world that does not believe. The purpose of Methodism has been and, as long as the Holy Spirit is in the building, will be spreading scriptural holiness. When Methodism is faithful to that purpose, the once offended are often converted to faith in Jesus Christ and the peculiar and particular principles of this people so strangely raised up by God.

The next piece of advice is most important of all. Do not trust yourself. Do not seek to discover a confidence in yourself that you have what it takes. These are dead ends. When your faith begins to cost you, really cost you: Do you trust God? Are the promises of the gospel still true? Or as Wesley beautifully puts it, “Does he never fail them that trust in him?”

I am preaching to myself here. God brings me back to the basics over and over again. “Do you trust me? Do you believe that I am good and that I love you?” I need to hear and receive Wesley’s advice. I need to trust God every moment of every day. I desperately want to see United Methodism renewed. I want United Methodism to be what Wesley intended. But I don’t have what it takes to renew Methodism. Neither do you. But there is one who is able: Jesus Christ the risen Lord. I am thirsting for a revival of God’s Spirit that brings back to life a Methodism dependent on and desperate for intimate connection to the triune God.

The Westminster Reference Bible: An Extensive Reference Bible at an Excellent Value

In my exploration of the world of high quality Bibles, one of the most intriguing finds has been the Bibles produced by Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS). I first came across TBS on evangelicalbible.com, which describes TBS Bibles as “an affordable alternative to Schuyler, Cambridge or Allan.” And, indeed, the Westminster Reference Bible (KJV) is a great alternative to these Bibles, particularly if cost is the major concern.

The Westminster Reference Bible is an extensive reference Bible that is very reasonably priced for a Bible printed and bound by Jongbloead in the Netherlands with a soft and luxurious Meriva calfskin cover.

Cover

The Westminster Reference Bible is available in hardback or Meriva calfskin covers. The Bible reviewed here is calfskin and it is a wonderful! It is a paste-off binding, which means it does not have the hinge I’ve talked about in the last few reviews I’ve done. There is a cardboard insert in paste-off bindings. I was told by the folks at TBS that the insert in the Westminster Reference Bible is intentionally stiff in order to keep the entire text visible when the Bible is held in one hand. The stiffness of the cover is not a detraction for me, it is still flexible and I would guess will only become more so with use. I really like the grain and feel of this calfskin. As I was holding this Bible, I kept feeling astonished that you can buy a Bible with this quality cover for this price.

Layout

The Westminster Reference Bible is a double-column layout. One of the things that distinguishes it from other double-column Bibles is that there is no line or division between the two columns. A double-column Bible typically has a center column between the two columns of text where the cross references are located. The Westminster Reference Bible has such an extensive collection of references, that the references are placed on either side of the Scriptures (to the left of the left column and to the right of the right column). This makes reading the text easier if one is not needing or wanting to follow the cross references. It also makes tracking the references easier because they are located right next to the relevant verse. (When the references are in the center column, the top half of the column contains references for the left column and the bottom half contains references for the right column.)

In a Bible with the amount of reference material within the pages of the Bible that this Bible has, the layout is going to involve tradeoffs and will unavoidably feel a bit cramped. The Westminster Reference Bible is, in my opinion, the best possible layout with this exhaustive of a reference Bible. It is not nearly as enjoyable to read, however, as a single column reference Bible like the Cambridge Clarion (see my review of the Clarion here) or the Schuyler Quentel, which is double column, but places the references in the footer (see my review of the Quentel here). One realistic change I would like to see would be a paragraph layout, rather than a verse layout.

References, References, References!

Having said all of this, to critique the Westminster Reference Bible’s layout, especially in comparison to a Bible like the Clarion, would be an adventure in missing the point. The Westminster Reference Bible is a reference Bible on steroids. This is one of the places where the Bible really stands out. There are more than 200,000 references. The Bible contains the cross-references from John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (1778) as well as references from the Concord Bible. The margins also include definitions of unfamiliar words and notes from the translators. It is the best Bible you can buy that is not a Study Bible, but as close as you can get without inserting commentary that is independent of the text. This Bible helps you study the Bible by helping you see how passages are connected to each other and inform each other. The Westminster Reference Bible does this exceptionally well.

The Translators to the Reader

One of the highlights of the time I’ve spent researching and learning about Bibles over the past several months has been learning more about the Authorized Version, or King James Version (KJV). In the world of fine Bibles, the KJV is one of the most popular translations. One of the reasons is due to the influence of the KJV on English literature and the English language in general.

The most interesting thing I learned (and one of those things I felt like I should have already known) was that the King James Version has not only a note from the translators to King James, but also a note from the translators addressing the reader. I believe that these notes should always be published as a part of a particular translation, and they almost always are in recent publications. Editions of the KJV, however, often omit these notes. This is unfortunate, as they are particularly important given the insistence by some that the King James Version is the only inspired version of the Bible in English. The notes from the original translators of the KJV themselves refute this argument.

Thankfully, the Westminster Reference Bible includes these notes. To whet your appetite, here is one of the key passages from the note from “The Translators to the Reader”:

“We do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession… containeth the very Word of God, nay, is the Word of God.”

Other Features

The Bible is printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, which is currently one of the very best printers in the world. The quality of the printing is consistent throughout the Bible. The binding is sewn, which is consistent with fine Bibles. A sewn binding is more durable and also allows the Bible to open flat at any page, which this Bible does effortlessly. The Bible also has four ribbons (two black and two red).

Conclusion

To my mind, there are two major selling points of the Westminster Reference Bible. First, and foremost is the value. I do not think there is a comparable sewn calfskin Bible of this quality at anywhere close to this price. The Bible retails for $80 and, as of this writing, is available on Amazon.com for $58.06. The second major selling point is the extensive cross-reference system of the Westminster Reference Bible, which contains more references than any of the previous Bibles I’ve reviewed.

I would love to see Bibles of this quality and value available in other translations! If you are looking for a KJV high quality reference Bible at an excellent value, I would highly recommend this Bible.

The folks at Trinitarian Bible Society generously provided this Bible for review. I was not required to give a positive review of this Bible, only an honest one.

John Wesley’s Advice to the People Called Methodists (Part II)

Do you know who you are, Methodists?

I wonder if that would be one of John Wesley’s first questions for contemporary Methodists. It was a driving concern for him throughout his leadership of Methodism in its beginnings. Over and over again, Wesley defined, described, and reiterated what he did and did not mean by a Methodist. Wesley really wanted Methodists to know who they are!

Image from Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself reading Wesley’s essay “Advice to the People Called Methodists.” I initially read the essay because I was curious to revisit the advice he gave to Methodism in its first decade.

The previous post summarized Wesley’s extensive definition of a Methodist in this essay. Here is my summary of Wesley’s definition of a Methodist from that post:

A Methodist is someone who pursues holiness of heart and life with zeal and laser-like focus. A Methodist believes that holiness requires avoiding all sin. A Methodist believes that holiness requires concrete expressions of love for others, whether they are easy to love or not. Finally, a Methodist believes that holiness requires Christian community because fellowship and accountability are essential for avoiding sin and growing in love for God and others.

While the title “Advice to the People Called Methodists” suggests that Wesley’s focus was advising Methodists, more than half of the essay was spent simply defining and clarifying what Wesley meant by a Methodist. Indeed, Wesley’s first words of advice really continued to refine what was (and was not) meant by a Methodist.

I believe Wesley’s purpose in writing this essay could be described like this: “Methodists, know who you are!”

Wesley’s first word of advice was: “Consider, with deep and frequent attention, the peculiar circumstances wherein you stand.”

This first piece of advice provides twenty-first century readers a helpful reminder that Wesley wrote this advice in a particular time and place. That Wesley was writing to a particular context is obvious from the content of the first piece of advice itself. Wesley reminds Methodists that “you are a new people.” Wesley used this to reinforce the core of his definition of a Methodist:

Your principles are new, in this respect, that there is no other set of people among us (and possibly not in the Christian world) who hold them all in the same degree and connexion; who so strenuously and continually insist on the absolute necessity of universal holiness both in heart and life; of a peaceful, joyous love of God; of a supernatural evidence of things not seen; of an inward witness that we are the children of God; and of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in order to any good thought or word or work.

Wesley provides further precision to this new people by speculating that “perhaps there is no other set of people (at least not visibly united together) who lay so much, and yet no more stress than you do, on rectitude of opinions, on outward modes of worship, and the use of those ordinances which you acknowledge to be of God.”

This part of Wesley’s advice is essentially a condensed form of Wesley’s well-known (and typically misunderstood) sermon “Catholic Spirit.” Wesley urged Methodists to be generous towards those who are not a part of this particular “people called Methodists.” He was not suggesting that “opinions, outward modes of worship, and ordinances” are irrelevant and a matter where Methodists themselves can agree to disagree.

Wesley’s emphasis on the novelty of Methodists “strictness of life” may be the most jarring part of his first piece of advice. Wesley described a commitment to a way of life that was distinctly unfashionable:

I mean, your making it a rule to abstain from fashionable diversions, from reading plays, romances, or books of humour, from singing innocent songs, or talking in a merry, gay, diverting manner; your plainness of dress; your manner of dealing in trade; your exactness in observing the Lord’s day; your scrupulosity as to things that have not paid custom; your total abstinence from spirituous liquors (unless in cases of extreme necessity); your rule ‘not to mention the fault of an absent person, in particular, of ministers, or of those in authority’, may justly be termed new.

To go back to the beginning of this post: Wesley’s first piece of advice is interesting because it is more of a continued description of what makes a Methodist a Methodist. Wesley is urging Methodists: Know who you are. Be true to who you are.

At this stage I can hear one of my seminary professors: So what? Is there anything that we can glean from Wesley’s definition of a Methodist and his initial advice? Does this have anything to say to Methodists today?

I think it does!

First, Wesley reminds us that context matters. In 1745, Methodists found themselves in a “peculiar circumstance.” Wesley realized that God was doing a new thing and he was determined to do all that he could to support it. This essay can serve as a helpful call to think more deeply about our “peculiar circumstance.” What is God up to in our midst? What is the Spirit doing? How can we best cooperate with the ongoing movement of God to seek and save the lost? How can we best cooperate with the ongoing movement of God to reconcile and heal creation?

Second, in order to answer the previous questions faithfully, Wesley reminds of our fundamental need to know who we are. We cannot be faithful to who God has called us to be if we are not clear about who God has called us to be. Perhaps the real crisis facing Methodism today is a basic identity crisis.

I continue to be convinced that before Methodism can move forward from the various places it seems to be stuck, we must first remember why we were created by the Holy Spirit in the first place. We need to know our own history. We need to return to our calling as a distinct people. If Wesley was right that Methodism was raised up by God, then, it will only continue to have life and vitality as long as it continues to be led by God.

Wesley discussed what may be the major challenge to following God in his second word of advice. This challenge to faithfulness, as well as the solution, is the focus of the next post in this series.

John Wesley’s Advice to the People Called Methodists (Part I)

What is a Methodist, really? How do you know if you are one? Is it someone who is a member of a denomination that has the word Methodist in the name? Or, is a Methodist something other than a member of a denomination?

In a time when Wesley continues to have deep resonance across the spectrum of United Methodism, as well as other Wesleyan/Methodist traditions, it is worth taking a careful look at the way Wesley defined “Methodists,” as well as the advice he gave to this group of people towards the movement’s beginning.

In 1745, when Methodism was still very new on the scene, John Wesley wrote a short essay “Advice to the People Called Methodists” defining what he meant by “Methodists” and offering his advice to the people who met that definition.

Image from Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Wesley began the essay by acknowledging “it may be needful to specify whom I mean by this ambiguous term, since it would be lost labour to speak to Methodists, so called, without first describing those to whom I speak.”

Wesley then wrote a seven-paragraph definition of what he meant by “Methodists.” And he packed a lot into these paragraphs! So, how did Wesley define a Methodist in this essay? (Click here to read this essay online, though there are some inaccuracies with the transcription. For example, the title is incorrect and the first paragraph is missing.)

We should not be surprised that Wesley’s definition of a Methodist began with “holiness of heart and life.” This was the heartbeat of Methodism throughout Wesley’s life. For Wesley, holiness of heart and life consisted of “conformity in all things to the revealed will of God.” Being conformed to God’s will had internal and external aspects. A Methodist is one whose life is conforming to God’s life so that they not only act as God would act in their place, but they think and feel as God would think and feel in their place. Methodists pursue this conformity. Methodists are not typically conformed in an instant to the will of God in all things. Rather, Methodists are being conformed inwardly and outwardly to the will of God.

This should be jarring to us. Wesley is saying here that Methodists are committed to becoming like God. When Wesley talked about Methodists pursuing holiness of heart and life, he meant it. He expected conformity to the will of God in all things to be the primary passion and motivation of a Methodist.

Wesley fleshed out the Methodist understanding of holiness by emphasizing the ways in which a Methodist is one who becomes like God in imitating God’s justice, mercy, and truth. The goal for a Methodist is for “universal love” to increasingly fill “the heart and govern the life.”

Much of the rest of Wesley’s definition emphasized that holiness is not a work that we do in or for ourselves. Wesley stripped away any merit or pretention to works righteousness. “Love of humankind cannot spring but from the love of God.” And this love of God comes solely by faith – a “supernatural evidence (or conviction) of things not seen.” This faith is a certainty, a bold trust and confidence that God the Father has forgiven my sins and reconciled me, through the work of Jesus Christ, to God’s favor. Faith itself is not a work that we do. It is a work that the Holy Spirit does in us. Methodists, Wesley was adamant, believe that there is nothing good in us except what is “produced by the almighty power of God, by the inspiration or influence of the Holy Ghost.”

After laying all of this ground work, he concluded with three big “Ifs.”

If you continually and constantly seek to know, love, become like, and obey “the great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”…

If you “abstain from all evil, and labour, as you have opportunity, to do good to all men, friends or enemies”…

If you join together “to encourage and help each other in thus working out your salvation, and for that end watch over one another in love”…

Then and only then, “you are they whom I mean by Methodists.”

Notice that his definition builds on itself. A Methodist must meet every part of the definition, not only some parts of it.

Here is my attempt to put Wesley’s definition in my own words: A Methodist is someone who pursues holiness of heart and life with zeal and laser-like focus. A Methodist believes that holiness requires avoiding all sin. A Methodist believes that holiness requires concrete expressions of love for others, whether they are easy to love or not. Finally, a Methodist believes that holiness requires Christian community because fellowship and accountability are essential for avoiding sin and growing in love for God and others.

The obvious question, it seems to me, is: Would John Wesley recognize us as Methodists? Perhaps this definition is most helpful as an aspiration, an encouragement to seek the Lord on where we have room to grow and take a step in faith. The challenge is that in Wesley’s understanding of a Methodist it is something of an all or nothing proposition. If one is not in a small group where everyone is “watching over one another in love,” for example, Wesley would not expect to see progress in avoiding sin or growing in love for our neighbor.

I see the Holy Spirit at work, and by the power of the Spirit, I’m meeting more and more Methodists all the time!

After being as clear as he could be about what he meant by a Methodist, Wesley then offered these particular (and peculiar!) people five pieces of advice. This advice to the people called Methodists will be the focus of the next post.

Cambridge Clarion Reference Edition NASB: A Remarkably Versatile Bible

My interest in fine Bibles started because a handful of friends, unrelated to each other, wrote about or showed me in person a calfskin or goatskin Bible they had recently bought. The Cambridge Clarion was the first goatskin Bible that came onto my radar. This was fitting, as the Cambridge Clarion is a legend in the world of single-column fine Bibles. (For one example of the initial impression the initial Clarion made, read this post.)

In my first round of research, the Cambridge Clarion was the Bible I was most interested in buying. Before my interest in Bibles developed into a full-blown blog post series, I was leaning towards buying one Bible: the Cambridge Clarion NIV. Of all the Bibles I’ve received over the past month or two, this is the Bible I was the most excited to see in person. The Clarion is available in the following translations: ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, and NKJV. This review is of the NASB in black goatskin.

Size

As far as size, the Cambridge Clarion is the most unique Bible I’ve seen. It is much more compact than other Bibles I’ve written about here. It is also noticeably thick, given the height and width of the book. The best way to get an idea of what the Cambridge Clarion is like is to image a thick mass market paperback novel, and then add about an inch of width to the page dimensions. If you like the experience of holding and reading a thick paperback book, this Bible is for you.

Layout


The popularity of the Cambridge Clarion is largely due to its layout. The single column setting is extremely well done. The font size is 8.75, but reviewers commonly describe the text as feeling like it reads larger than that. I find it to be comfortable and easy to read. The layout is so beautiful that I almost forget that this is not just a reader’s Bible. The Clarion is a reference edition that has extensive cross-references throughout. The ability to put references in the margin, instead of a center column, is my favorite aspect of a single column reference Bible. In the single column layout, the references are less of a distraction in reading, but still available when needed.

Cover

The Cambridge Clarion NASB is available in three editions: brown calfskin, black goatskin, and black calf split. The goatskin on my copy is tighter and less grainy than other goatskin Bibles I have. This is my least favorite goatskin of the Bibles I’ve reviewed. Don’t misunderstand me. This is a great leather cover. If this was the only Bible of this kind I had, I would be delighted to own it.

I like the simple elegance of the text on the spine and the lack of text on the front cover. The spine also has faux bands or ribbing. I like the added texture that these give, though I would prefer actual raised bands, like the Cambridge NRSV Reference Edition has. This is an edge-lined Bible, which means it has a hinge. (For a detailed discussion of my frustrations with hinges, and an exceptional hinge, see this post.) I would describe the hinge on the Clarion as slightly above average. It is better than some I’ve seen, but not in the same league as the Cambridge NRSV Reference Edition I reviewed.

Other Thoughts

I really like the art gilt (red-under gold) page edges on Cambridge Bibles. I’ve seen the red described as salmon. It is lighter. And I think it is gorgeous. The only problem with art gilt pages is that they seem to be the most susceptible to damage. My Clarion already has some damage. And I have no idea how it happened. While I would never damage the gilt intentionally, I’m not overly concerned about it. My goal is to read and use this Bible. Protecting the Bible will always be a secondary priority to reading and using it.

One last minor quibble: My first impression was that there needed to be more room for the text in the gutter (where the pages come together). The more that I read this Bible, the less I notice or think about this. I also realize something has to give with the host of factors that go into designing a Bible. I would certainly not want the font to be any smaller, or the spacing between lines to be any tighter, for example. I have also found that this is significantly offset if you roll one part of the Bible back around the other part. And the limp flexible cover makes this easy to do.

Conclusion

The Cambridge Clarion is one of the most versatile Bibles that is currently available. The elegant design and layout makes reading this Bible quite similar to the multi-volume reader’s editions that are increasing in popularity. However, this is a one-volume Bible that also contains the study aids of references, text notes, and concordance. The compact size of the Bible also means that you can take it anywhere with you, without sacrificing readability. The Clarion packs all of this between the covers of a fine Bible that is elegantly and expertly crafted. The Clarion combines a single column layout with a fine binding in a reference edition that is both portable and readable. I have not seen any other Bible that is this versatile.

If you are seriously considering buying a Cambridge Clarion Bible, you can often find them significantly discounted on amazon and evangelicalbible.com. For example, the black goatskin reviewed here was 47% off list price on amazon.com when this post was published.

Cambridge generously provided a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.

Cambridge NRSV Reference Edition: An Exceptional Cover #Bibles

When I first started learning about fine Bibles, Cambridge quickly rose to the top of the list of publishers that I wanted to get to know better. And based on the Cambridge Bibles I’ve looked at, they have yet to disappoint. Cambridge just about has the market cornered on fine editions of the NRSV at the moment. This is good news for fans of the NRSV as Cambridge has done a great job with their newest editions. Cambridge has a new NRSV reference Bible available in three options: a burgundy goatskin binding with apocrypha, a brown cowhide binding without apocrypha, and a black French Morocco leather without apocrypha. The brown Cowhide NRSV Reference Bible is the subject of this review.

Better than Goatskin?!

Goatskin is the gold standard for Bible covers. I have now had the opportunity to handle many different goatskin covers. And I have liked every single one. I was close to deciding there was no need to consider anything else. And then I got my hands on this Bible. It is not goatskin. And it is amazing! The leather is ridiculously soft and supple. I really like the color of the leather and the way the grain changes when you bend it one way or another. I am also a fan of the interior leather lining which is black and has an attractive grain.

The Bible is edge-lined, which means that the cover has maximum flexibility. I even think the writing on the front cover works nicely, though I typically prefer a blank cover. I also think the amount of text on the spine is exactly right. And I love the raised bands on the spine, which are the most elegantly executed of any Bible I’ve seen so far. To my surprise, this is hands down my favorite cover of all of the Bibles I currently have. And it isn’t close.

The Hinge

This Bible completely addressed the concerns I have had about the hinge on edge-lined covers. To explain this concern I need to first give a bit of background information.

There are two main ways that the book block (the pages of the book itself) is attached to the cover. Paste-off covers have thicker pages at the end, where the last page is pasted to the cover itself. The cover is attached to the book block by glue with a board of varying thickness between the leather cover and the book block itself, which makes the cover less floppy and flexible. Paste-off book bindings are generally less expensive.

Edge-lined covers attach the cover directly to the book block without gluing anything to the cover itself. This is accomplished by a tab that is part of the inside cover that is inserted and glued into two thick pages at the front and back of the text block. If this does not quite make sense, check out this excellent post, which has very helpful pictures.

The tab that is inserted into the text block is often referred to as a hinge. The hinge is what has perplexed and frustrated me. The hinge is often extremely stiff. With the pages glued together, it can extend far enough toward the edge of the page that it mitigates the floppiness of the cover. Let me put it this way: Edge-lined covers are usually two pieces of leather sewn or glued together. They are marvelously limp and flexible. You can roll them up and they spring right back into place. One practical thing that a flexible cover makes possible is one handed reading. You can roll the front cover back around the book and roll the pages with it and read the book with one hand and not damage to the binding. This flexibility is one of the functional things that really differentiates this quality of Bible from bonded leather or genuine leather paste-off Bibles.

So what is the problem? The hinge is often so stiff and inflexible that for an inch or two you cannot move the pages around the hinge itself. In effect, the hinge of edge-lined Bibles makes the pages less flexible than the cover, exactly the opposite of what you’d expect in a reading experience. You can roll the cover right around the back of the book. But you cannot roll the pages back with the cover because of the rigidity of the hinge. All of this had left me feeling some ambivalence about whether edge-lined covers were really all that much better than paste-off covers.

And then I encountered the perfect hinge.

The Cambridge NRSV has the best hinge I have ever seen. The hinge succeeds in providing a durable attachment of the book block to the leather cover, without making the text less flexible than the book. (See photos above.) I do not have any other edge-lined Bible where the pages conform nearly as closely to the cover as they do with this Bible. This may not seem like a big deal, but after handling multiple edge-lined Bibles, the hinge has been a consistent disappointment to me. It has often felt like a mitigation of the primary advantage of the floppy covers you get on edge-lined Bibles. This Bible makes the hinge a non-issue for me.

The Rest

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The paper feels a bit thicker and more opaque than other similar Bibles. I found the text to be readable, though it is certainly not a large print Bible. The layout is double column and the cross references are in the center column. The use of small dots to divide the cross references from the text is attractive and more subtle than solid lines would be. I recently said that ribbons weren’t a factor in considering Bibles. After writing those words, I was surprised to find how much I loved the width and color of the ribbons in this Bible. I was also surprised to find myself wishing there were three ribbons instead of two.

Aside from adding a ribbon, there were two things I would change if I could and one that I was unsure whether I would change or not. First, I would add room in the gutter. The text feels a little cramped to me in the middle of the book. Second, I would number the entire book consecutively. The page numbers start over in the New Testament and in the back matter. I think this is probably more of a feature that is typical of the NRSV than Cambridge, as neither of my other Cambridge Bibles restart page numbering.

This Bible comes with a glossary instead of a concordance, which means that each entry has a short description or definition followed by a few references. I could not find concrete information on the number of Scripture references in the glossary, but I suspect that there are less references in the glossary than there would be in a concordance. On the one hand, I think I would prefer the most exhaustive concordance possible in a one-volume reference Bible. On the other hand, of all the reference Bibles I have acquired, this glossary is a unique feature and I can imagine being surprised at how much I use it.

Conclusion

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One of the most interesting things to me about the time I’ve spent on high quality Bibles has been learning how varying the support is for different translations. If I had had to guess at the outset which translations would have the widest array of options, I’m pretty sure I would have guessed that the NRSV would be in the top two. In reality, the NRSV is one of the least supported translations in “fine” editions. This has been a surprise because the NRSV is the most popular Bible in mainline theological education and many mainline churches. If the NRSV is your favorite translation, you should give serious consideration to purchasing this Bible. You will not only get a great Bible, you will be investing in the translation itself and encouraging publishers to make this translation more available in a wider range of editions. After the time I have spent with the cowhide Cambridge NRSV Reference Edition, I am confident it will last and you will be glad you bought it. It is a great Bible with an exceptional cover.

Cambridge generously provided a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.