Bible Review—CSB Reader’s Bible

CSB Reader’s Bible
Holman Bible Publishers, 2017
B&H | Amazon | CBD

I’ll admit it—sometimes I have a hard time reading the bible. The issue, in a nutshell, is that my brain suffers a constant barrage of inquiries that leap from the text, which sometimes makes it difficult to finish an entire section. Now, that’s not to say I don’t or can’t read the bible beyond a few sentences at a time, only that it takes a little longer than it might otherwise. Another component that hinders my reading, which I’ve mentioned in other reviews, is the layout/print design of a book. Nothing will deter me from a book faster than bad design—inside and out (cover art is important). Though I’ve never worked in the publishing industry per se, and speak strictly as a consumer of books, I was an editor for one my school’s main publications (in my previous position). I didn’t really have any input on the design side of production, but I worked with those who did, so I can appreciate the amount of time and energy that goes into producing a book that is visually appealing.

So, I said all of that to note that a book’s design is important to me. Bible publishers, I would assume, have a difficult task in preparing bibles for print. With the amount of text alone, preparing a bible proof must be a tedious endeavor, especially with so many publishers churning out study bibles the size of car batteries! While these are certainly helpful works (NIV Zondervan Study Bible and Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible), there are times when I just want a text that is unencumbered by cross references, marginal notes, photos, articles, etc. Thankfully, a number of bible publishers produced a number of excellent volumes designed around this very concept—the reader’s bible. As the title indicates, this review is for the CSB Reader’s Bible, published by Holman Bible Publishers, and let me say, this is a splendid work! When it comes to reading a text, the fewer distractions on the page the better, and this is the driving principle behind these reader’s bibles.

To begin, I want to mention the exterior, which is an important feature of a good reader’s bible (or book in general), particularly because the presumption is a reader’s bible will be used regularly, thus it needs a support structure that will withstand constant use. The version I received is gray cloth over boards, which is should be suitable for years of use before beginning to weaken noticeably. It also comes with a slipcover made from the same material, so any wear that comes from lying on a surface will be lessened. So, the outside is subtle and minimalist in its design—no complaints here. The binding is Symth-sewn, which adds to its durability, and as you might expect, the first and last pages needed little coaxing to stay flat when opened thanks to the boards and binding.

The inside, however, is the true appeal of this volume. This bible is as bare bones as it gets—no indexes, no concordance—just text. There are a few color maps at the very back and the requisite front matter (copyright, title page, contents), but otherwise there is only the text. As for the text, it’s printed on white paper, presumably to provide a suitable background for maximum contrast with the black font. Speaking of the font, it’s a traditional serif font—Bible Serif (produced by 2k/Denmark)—and is excellent for reading. While I do like sans serif fonts, I generally prefer traditional serifs for reading, and this one looks great. The 9.75-point type is also a suitable size. Holman opted for a single-column layout, which I think is the obvious way to go. It allows for larger type, which makes for easier reading. The text is formatted in traditional paragraph style with poetic and other non-prose sections set apart in a block-quote setup. Each new section is marked with a drop cap in a nice shade of blue (as are the book names in the footer and chapter titles) and the absence of versification—a defining feature of a reader’s bible—are a recipe for success. Though the absence of verses requires an adjustment for some, it’s one of the features I like best.

Though the only other reader’s bibles I own are the UBS reader and the Zondervan reader and can’t really compare these with English readers, I can say that the CSB Reader’s Bible is superb in every aspect. While perhaps not as glorious as the Bibliotheca reader that came out last year, it easily stands as a great work all its own.



Book Review—Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-biblical Antiquity

Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity, Complete in One Volume, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson

Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

A couple of years ago, the good folks at Hendrickson published a multi-volume work entitled Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-biblical Antiquity (hereafter DDL), volume two of which I reviewed here. After what seems to be a warm reception of the series, Hendrickson published the previously separate volumes in a one-volume edition, a decision I (for one) am glad they made. Having reviewed only one of the previous volumes, I couldn’t speak for the whole series (though I’m sure each one had its strong and weak points). However, this all-in-one edition has allowed me to read through a broader selection of topics (even though each volume covered numerous topics) with a slightly better sense of the contents.

Given my own proclivities towards background studies, this series was a welcome one. Indeed, I felt it would be a welcome addition to the already burgeoning body of literature available. However, this particular work fills a niche that is part of the world of backgrounds, but still deserves its own treatment. As editor Edwin Yamauchi notes, “the Bible, as received, recounts events in the lives of individuals, tribes, and nations…” (emphasis mine; xii). It is this aspect of background studies that has recently grabbed my attention and this volume provides a wealth of information on various aspects of every-day life, many of which receive only scant attention in other comparable works.

As I noted in my previous review, the primary way in which this series differs from others is its focus—on the daily life of the peoples of antiquity. So, while matters that are pertinent to the bigger picture of the biblical story may still show up, they are only addressed as sub points, so to speak. In other words, they are only mentioned as connections to the primary socio-cultural feature the article is about. However, these matters of connection to larger themes of the biblical story are by comparison minimal and quite brief. There are no lengthy discussions of religion, temples, sacrifice, etc. If such issues do show up, it’s only minimally. And I would also like to note that the length of discussion for many topics is somewhat related to the relevance of that topic to the various contexts in which it relates to the biblical text (these contexts will be mentioned below). For example, the article on milk and milk products (1193–1207) offers but a single paragraph about milk and milk products in the NT. Why? Because the term “milk” (γάλα) simply doesn’t occur that frequently and most of the uses are figurative in some way.

The articles are written by experts in their fields but are written in very accessible prose so that the reader might receive the maximum benefit. Each topic is discussed in overarching contexts—scriptural (Old and New Testaments), which is followed by the cultural (Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian)—thus providing the reader with a wider range of backgrounds against which to understand that particular issue. Within each of these sections there is brief discussion relevant to other sub-contexts, e.g., political, socio-economic, religious, etc. For example, in the section on barbers and beards (sure to appeal to the hipsters among us!), Marvin Wilson discusses the matter in the above-mentioned larger contexts (scriptural and cultural), but conveys how haircuts and beard cutting/shaving were important socially and religiously, information that is not always obvious when reading texts, especially in isolation from these assumed contexts.

While each topic is addressed at generally similar lengths, some obviously will be shorter/longer than others. And for those who wish to read beyond the DDL, each article concludes with a substantive up-to-date bibliography.

One feature that I appreciate in this volume is the fact that the authors took the time to include, at least, parenthetical references to the ancient works they cite. It seems a given that any work that like should require its contributors to do this, but there are surely occasions in which editorial constraints prevent the inclusion of copious references and notes. While there are no notes to speak of here, the reader does have references to primary sources, the consistency of which is dependent on the particular contributor. Also, the references, likely due to the aforementioned restrictions, are not numerous, but do provide a starting point of sorts.

More technical series (ABD, IVP’S black dictionaries) offer insight into all aspects of the biblical world, particularly those issues that were more pervasive socially, e.g., imperial cult, agriculture, religious praxis, etc. The DDL, however, places the focus on aspects of life that were perhaps not central to the texts that reflected the culture. Ed Yamauchi, who both edited and contributed to this series, cites the issue of abortion as but one example of a practice that was pervasive in the ancient Mediterranean, yet is not addressed in the Bible (1). This particular volume covers such matters as dentistry and teeth, doors and keys, food consumption, heating and lighting, and horses, along with a number of other aspects of daily like that are perhaps more expected. As Yamauchi correctly points out, the authors of the Bible took for granted what was well known to themselves and their audience, thus they had no need to provide all the requisite background information to understand what they were reporting (1). As such, we must comb the sources of the ancient world in order to understand their world and thus better understand the context of the Bible. However, outside of academia, most readers of the bible have neither the resources nor the skills to mine the depths of ancient sources, so works like DDL demonstrate their ultimate value.

There is really nothing to dislike about this series, save for the use of transliterated terms from the languages of the sources cited and otherwise noted. This negligible element aside, the DDL is a solid work, one that will benefit both scholars and non-academics alike. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that no, it is improbable that anyone reading these volumes won’t find something they disagree with. However, this volume is well researched and lucidly written, so even in disagreement readers will learn with great benefit. Will this volume replace others? No, and it isn’t meant to—it’s a supplement to previous works that will greatly aid in the study of the world of the Bible.




Biblical Studies Carnival

Well, here it is—the Biblical Studies Carnival for August 2017! This is my first time to host the revered BSC, so I hope you enjoy yourself so immensely that you’ll sign up to host your yourself. If you’d like to host a carnival, you can email Phil Long at or send him a DM on Twitter @plong42. No one has signed up thus far, so prime real estate is still available! I’m pretty sure if you sign up, you’ll receive something invaluable, such as the esteem and praise of your peers, a boost in blog traffic, maybe even a puppy, or if you’re Jim West, a cat.

Upcoming Biblical Studies Carnivals

If you have links you’d like to see included in future carnvivals, send the links to the hosts below.

Hebrew Bible/Hebrew
Carly Crouch writes about the ethics of war in ancient Israel and Assyria here.

In light of the 2017 solar eclipse, Claude Mariottini writes about solar eclipses in the OT here.

William Ross shares some recently discovered correspondence from H. B. Swete here.

LXX scholar Anneli Aejmelaeus shares her experience of being a female scholar in a male-dominant field.

Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha
Phil Long continues his series on apocrypha and pseudepigrapha with posts on Jubilees (why Jubilees was written, the law in Jubilees, story in expansions), The Life of Adam and Eve, The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve, and Joseph and Aseneth (including how Joseph got his wife).

New Testament/Greek
James Tauber continues his jaunt through Greek morphology with part 10 here. Parts 11, 12, 13, 14, . He also has a Greek vocab site that you might enjoy. Check it out here.

Listen to Chris Heilig’s interview with N. T. Wright here.

Read Charles Isbell’s article on Paul and Judaism here.

Should you read Revelation? Of course! And Ian Paul provides a few reasons why here.

Check out the slides from Rachel and Mike Aubrey’s presentation for the Tyndale House Greek Prepositions Workshop here.

James Snapp points out a few “cracks” in the NA28 here and here.

Everyone’s favorite Aussie Mike Bird shares his 12 theses (=major themes) of the catholic epistles here and does so without damaging any church doors.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has recently digitized ten Gospels manuscripts from the National Library of Greece. Read about it here.

Brant Pitre discusses the problem of the Lord’s Supper here.

Larry Hurtado discusses the issue of Galatians and the Jerusalem collection here.

Michael Heiser briefly discusses geography and hell here.

Listen to an interview with Doug Campbell here.

Craig Keener briefly discusses the difficult Matt 23:38–39 here.

Brian small adds more articles to his ever-expanding pool of Hebrews studies.

Phil Long discusses Paul’s Jewish heritage here.

Read the interesting series of articles over at Mosaic concerning the alleged corruption of the discipline of biblical studies. Joshua Berman begins the conversation and, in turn, Jon Levensen, David Carr, Craig Bartholomew, and Benjamin Sommer offer responses. Marc Brettler weighs in as does Michael Kok here and here. Joshua Berman offers the final word.

Eerdmans authors share their tips on writing here.

PhD students face many hardships in the course of their studies, one of which is maintaining good mental health.

Bruce J. Malina passed away on August 17. May he rest in peace.

In case you’re still wondering about those lead codices, read a comprehensive report here.

Read about the discovery of Hittite bullae here.

Read John Meade’s thoughts on the relationship of manuscripts and the canonization of texts here.

Practice your academic German by reading an excerpt of text with translation of Torsten Jantsch’s Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks here.

Keep up your Latin with daily lessons at LatinPerDiem!

Jim West alerts us to Bultmann’s proclivities for correspondence here!

James Tauber has a visualization of Greek letter bigram frequencies here.

Book Reviews and Reflections/Thoughts
The ever-erudite Mike Aubrey provides readers with a supplement to his three-part review of Stan Porter’s Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015). For some context, read parts 1, 2, and 3.

Larry Hurtado offers some thoughts on Paul Fredriksen’s new book Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle here.

Pete Enns reflects on Marten Hengel’s classic Crucifixion here.


Jim West lets us know about a series of OT study guides from Bloomsbury here.

Some guy wants to trade a book here.

Check out the forthcoming Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible from Hendrickson.

Will Brown reviews The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions here.

Phil Long reviews Jon Laansma and Randall Gauthier’s The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs here.

Get a free e-book from de Gruyter here. It’s Writing Matters: Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. by Berti, Irene / Bolle, Katharina / Opdenhoff, Fanny / Stroth, Fabian.

August Releases

Mahlon Smith writes about the SBL GNT app (for Android) here.

Get Die Bible—Einheitsübersetzung 2017 for your iPhone here.

If you’re an academic and/or student, get the Logos 7 engine for free here.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your jaunt through this month’s carnival. Hopefully, everyone was kind to you and you found something that made the stop worthwhile. Blessings to you!

Jewish Beliefs regarding Resurrection

I’m of the persuasion that while some Jews of the Second Temple period, perhaps many, believed in the concept/idea of resurrection, I’m not convinced that it was a conviction or in some way integral to their theology and beliefs. Paul, a first-century Jew, had convictions about resurrection, but I’d like to think he was more of an anomaly than the norm. I’m currently reading two recent releases that may ultimately convince me otherwise: Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism: 200 BCE–CE 200 by C. D. Elledge (Oxford, 2017) and Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle by Paula Fredriksen (Yale, 2017). While Fredriksen’s book focuses on Paul and the gentile mission more generally, the issue of resurrection seems to pop up throughout. Clearly Elledge’s book is focused on the idea of Jewish beliefs and resurrection, so we’ll see if he can persuade me that beliefs about resurrection were more prevalent and important than I’m willing to concede at this point.

What do you think?

Book Swap?

I recently wound up with a second copy of Richard Deibert’s Second Corinthians and Paul’s Gospel of Human Mortality: How Paul’s Experience of Death Authorizes His Apostolic Authority in Corinth (WUNT 2, 430; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016). Clearly I don’t need two copies of it, so I’d like to give the extra copy to a deserving soul. This happened once before and instead of just giving it away, I exchanged my extra for another book, and that worked out well. So, I’d like to do the same this time around.

If you’re interested in a free copy of this volume, let me know what title you’d be willing to trade for it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be comparable in value (though that would be ideal), but something close would be preferable. I’ve had my eye on Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide (Sogno, Storin, and Watts, eds.; University of California Press, 2016), so anyone willing to offer this one for Deibert’s would jump to the front of the line, so to speak!

Comment below if you’re interested!


Wisdom from Ancient Greece

This poem by Babrius (first or second century CE) seems fitting for all generations.

War and His Bride

The gods were getting married, and when each was paired off,
War drew the last lot and came after everyone.
He married Hubris, who was the only one left.
He loved her excessively, they say,
and he still follows her everywhere she goes.

So may Hubris never come upon nations or
cities of men, smiling upon the people,
since War will come immediately after her.[1]

Θεῶν γαμούντων, ὡς ἕκαστος ἐζεύχθη, ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι Πόλεμος ἐσχάτῳ παρῆν κλήρῳ. Ὕβριν δὲ γήμας, ἣν μόνην κατειλήφει, ταύτης περισσῶς, ὡς λέγουσιν, ἠράσθη, ἕπεται δ᾿ ἔτ᾿ αὐτῇ πανταχοῦ βαδιζούσῃ.

Μήτ᾿ οὖν ποτ᾿ ἔθνη, μὴ πόληας ἀνθρώπων Ὕβρις <γ᾿> ἐπέλθοι, προσγελῶσα τοῖς δήμοις, ἐπεὶ μετ᾿ αὐτὴν Πόλεμος εὐθέως ἥξει.[2]


[1] Translation from Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, eds., Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2016), 61–62.

[2] Greek text from Babrius and Phaedrus: Fables, trans. Ben Edwing Perry, Loeb Classical Library 436 (Cambride, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), 86.



Book Review—Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation

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Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation
Edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet

Hackett | Amazon

Many thanks to the kind folks at Hackett for this review copy!

Classical mythology—is there a more fascinating and entertaining body of literature? That was a rhetorical question, but there is an enduring fascination with the stories and myths of antiquity, both from academic and popular-level perspectives. From childhood, I can remember watching really bad adaptions of classical accounts of Hercules, Medusa, Jason and the Argonauts, and simply being enthralled by what I saw (though it was pretty terrible production wise!). That fascination has followed me well into adulthood as I am continually intrigued by the tales of old, particularly those of ancient Greece and Rome. This is partly due to my research interests and my years of doctoral work have allowed me opportunities to delve into the myths of old and see what insights they might yield for understanding biblical texts and concepts. When I saw that Hackett was releasing a second edition of their Anthology of Classical Myth, I was delighted. I had consulted this volume before for research purposes, but I really wanted to get a copy just to enjoy reading. Naturally, reading of this sort, for me, is done (at present anyway) with an eye toward information relevant to my dissertation, so my desire for the volume was greater than usual.

All that to say, this is indeed a splendid volume! Last year I read Carolina López-Ruiz’s (ed.) Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths in Translation and thoroughly enjoyed it. This volume, edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, functions in much the same way—it’s a collection of popular myths primarily from Greek and Roman sources, though there are selections from other Mesopotamian cultures, classic creation accounts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, the Hittite Song of Emergence, and the biblical book of Genesis (most of the primeval history, chapters 1–9). Also included are appendixes that are chock full of fascinating texts gleaned from Linear B sources, papyri, and inscriptions (appendix four is where the ANE myths listed above are included).

When putting a volume like this together, one has to wonder what principles guide the process by which the included accounts are selected. The editors state from the outset that many of the entries were chosen because “they provide an overview of important details about major myths or mythical figures” (xxv). Readers will indeed encounter some of these important writers/thinkers from antiquity—Aeschylus, Apollodorus, Homer, Plato, Euripides, Hesiod, Ovid, Lucian—and a host of others whose stories have not only kindled the fires of imagination of their own times, but whose legacies have left an indelible impression on the landscape of Western civilization. Additionally, the editors have chosen material that would “complement or fill gaps in the standard textbooks” that are frequently used in introductory courses on classical mythology (xxiv).

The editors have also provided useful preliminary discussions in the front matter—brief essays on ancient approaches to myth, e.g., philosophical, rationalizing, and allegory, as well as myth and religion, and gender (xxvii–xxx). There are several maps of the ancient Mediterranean, illustrations of the Greeks’ conception of the world (including a sketch of the underworld based on Vergil’s account in Aeneid 6), a genealogical tree of the Greek gods, and a timeline depicting when the included authors penned their works (those whose dates of origin are uncertain are noted as such). From this point, the remainder of the book is dedicated to the titular material—the myths of ancient Greece and Rome.

Entries are arranged alphabetically by author, not chronologically as I expected. While I would prefer a chronological arrangement, I certainly understand the reasoning in arranging alphabetically—it’s simply easier to navigate. Each entry provides the name of the author, the date range during which that author wrote, the language in which he wrote, and a brief overview of the author himself and of the work that follows. Naturally, some entries are much longer than others, e.g., the first entry is an excerpt from Aelian’s Historical Miscellany, which is only three pages, whereas the entry for Apollodorus spans sixty. This is primarily due to the extent to which each author’s works have bearing on myth/mythology, so someone like Apollodorus would naturally take up more space (the same is true for Hesiod and the Homeric hymns). I would also say that while I am certainly no classicist and do not have (at present) facility in non-Hellenistic Greek, I can say that these translations are wonderfully readable maintain the air of classical writing—it feels ancient and modern simultaneously.

As noted earlier, this volume boasts a substantial series of indexes—150 pages of additional information. The first four indexes cover sources that have been discovered in more recent memory—Linear B sources, inscriptions, papyri, and near Eastern myth.[1] There are also indexes that cover names and transliterations (since Latin names often differ from their Greek counterparts, e.g., Heracles/Hercules, Odysses/Ulysses, Zeus/Jupiter, etc.), and index/glossary that lists the major authors, characters, and works found in the volume.

As one whose interest in classical mythology is both academic/research related and purely for the enjoyment of reading ancient stories, this book really satisfies both perspectives. I can imagine if I were a professor teaching classical mythology to uninitiated students, this would be required reading. Not only does it cover a broad spectrum of classical works, but it does so in a manner that is accessible for readers of varying levels of interest and knowledge—I highly recommend it!

Αυτω η δοξα

[1] While myths of the near Eastern world have long been known through discovery, the editors here refer to the dramatic change in the way these myths were understood based on the work of deciphering discoveries from “cities, monuments, and texts from…Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Anatolia (Turkey), Persia (Iran), and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan)” from the mid-nineteenth century and on (437).