The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible in Antique Mahogany Goatskin

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The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible is an ideal choice for the traditionalist who acknowledges that the language has changed over the past four hundred years.

I forget sometimes how difficult the language of the KJV can be. The Mardersteig New Testament was open on my library stand, and I pointed it out to a visitor, who promptly skimmed the page and declared, “That’s tough to read.” My foray into Bible design began many years ago with the hope that good typography and layout could make the archaic Authorized Version more accessible, and there are few editions in my collection that better exemplify the principles of classic design than the Mardersteig. Still, there’s a limit to what design can do. Some things are always going to be challenging. In the case of the KJV, which remains the Bible to most English speakers, certainly the translation that has shaped our idea of what Scripture is meant to sound like, the challenge is worth it.

The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible takes a different approach to the problem of comprehension, sticking with pre-20th century design but incorporating features like archaic word lists and guides to thees and thous to make the job a little easier for modern day traditionalists. This is an edition of the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Westminster Bible, printed and bound to exceptional standards by Jongbloed in the Netherlands. Make no mistake: it’s for the old school KJV enthusiasts out there. While it concedes the evolution of language and the need for legibility make it necessary to define now-misleading words and employ modern typography, the spirit of this edition is pure eighteenth century.

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The styling of the KJV Schuyler Reference Bible hearkens back to the pre-Quentel range, with its embossed cross and gilt HOLY BIBLE. The antique mahogany goatskin, while technically dark brown, teeters on the brink of mid-brown. My review copy’s cover is delightfully grainy and tactile.

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This spread illustrates the main features: two narrow text columns with references in the inner and outer margins, verse-by-verse formatting with pilchrows to denote the beginning of a new paragraph, chapter summaries, and running headers. An old style reference Bible from the eighteenth century with modern typography.

The rich feature set of the TBS Westminster Bible combines the greatest hits of the design tradition behind the classic KJV: two narrow columns of text with references to the side, chapter summaries (from 1773, with archaic words updated) that help you navigate the verse-by-verse text, running headers that orient you as you flip through the pages, and the words supplied by the translators for sense are set off in italics. The cross references are largely drawn from John Brown’s 1778 Self-Interpreting Bible, supplemented by references from the Concord Bible. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.” Cross references facilitate the task of comparing related passages.

Some pitfalls of the old school reference Bible are present here: for example, the narrow justified columns require addition space between the words, sometimes stretching them noticeably. Verse-by-verse layout, while it makes individual lines quicker to find, subtly re-contextualizes them as well, changing the way we read. Verse and prose get the same visual treatment, so there’s no way to tell at a glance if you’re flipping through the epistles or the psalms. One lovely instance of the TBS Westminster Bible improving on the old ways without abandoning them is the decision to include a pronunciation guide in the back matter, rather than breaking up hard words syllable-by-accented-syllable in the text.

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Confused about the meaning of ‘morrow’? Check the side column notes and you’ll find it’s an archaic way of saying ‘morning.’ The TBS Westminster Bible defines many archaic words, denoting them in the text with an asterisk, though it still recommends that readers equip themselves with a good English dictionary.

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You’re not just committing to the KJV, you’re committing to seventeenth century English usage, which is why this guide to the grammar of thees and thous is so appreciated. Don’t skip the front matter describing the TBS Westminster Bible’s apparatus. It’s a concise and helpful guide.

Another feature I always appreciate in a modern edition of the King James Bible is the inclusion of the preface “The Translators to the Reader,” which explains the motives behind the then-new translation and the manner in which it was accomplished, answering traditionalist objections of the day to what was, after all, a government-sanctioned effort to replace the beloved but monarch-unfriendly Geneva Bible. The erudition of the translators shines. You cannot read this preface without realizing how differently they viewed their work than some of the translation’s modern ‘defenders’ do. This is important, I think, because we have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The KJV is hard to read — in some places, very hard, especially if you’re not accustomed to early literary styles — which is bad enough, but then some of its loudest adherents give the impression you wouldn’t want to read it even if you could. Hearing from the translators themselves makes a big difference. It might help you appreciate why people like me, who gladly recommend modern translations for their advantages, remain appalled by the thought that the KJV will be forgotten by the church, though never the world.

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Every edition of the KJV should include the preface “The Translators to the Reader,” which explains the philosophy behind the translation and, as a secondary benefit, cuts off a lot of modern misconceptions about the KJV at the knees.

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The trade-off of theses old school verse-by-verse formats: actual verse (i.e., poetry) is indistinguishable from the prose. The psalms look the same as the epistles.

If you’re publishing the King James Version today, you face a few challenges other translations don’t have to contend with. No, I’m not talking about the seventeenth century language. I mean the fact that this translation has been in print for centuries, which means you’re competing quality-wise with vintage editions that remain readily available and often use better paper and feature better bindings than what is typical now. One way to distinguish yourself is to offer something vintage editions lack. The Cambridge Clarion KJV, for example, is a classic reference edition with a major twist: readable single-column, paragraphed text. If I were introducing a new reader to the Authorized Version, the Clarion would be a far more accessible choice than a vintage KJV, which is most likely going to be an old school reference edition designed for looking things up rather than immersive reading.

The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible offers a different appeal. Yes, it’s aimed at the traditionalist who wants his verse-by-verse text and his chapter summaries and his cross references. But he also wants the help with archaism, and appreciates a larger, clearer typeset on quality paper with a modern limp binding. The font size is 9.6 pt. and the paper is Schuyler’s stand-by 32gsm. The Jongbloed binding is limp and quite beautiful — really, the best of old and new. It’s an unapologetic self-study tool designed for digging deep into the text without the aid of additional books or software, or anyone else’s interpretative notes.

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The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible stays open, but thanks to the stiff hinges at the spine, it doesn’t open flat.

The Jongbloed hinge I wrote about in my piece on the Crossway Heirloom Single Column Legacy is an issue here, too, preventing the Bible from laying perfectly flat. As with the Heirloom, though, the book block is weighty enough that, with some use, the problem becomes less pronounced. Another aesthetic miscue is the black lining, which doesn’t really go with the brown cover. My beloved Pitt Minion had the same problem, which used to be ubiquitous when color came back to the world of Bible covers. Now it’s standard for the lining to match or compliment the outer cover; I’m not sure what happened here.

Otherwise everything’s as you would expect: glorious. The lovely art-gilt page edges, four thick ribbons to mark your place: in pale gold, brown, forest green, and purple. The 32gsm paper is a good compromise between opacity and thickness, especially when the line-matching is on (though it isn’t always in my review copy). Schuyler has done a great job, as always, in rendering the TBS Westminster Bible in as high quality an edition as possible. The results speak for themselves.

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The stiff hinge keeping this Bible from opening flat is a common feature of Jongbloed bindings, and really stands out in contrast to the limpness of the cover.

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The cover is leather-lined, which is good, but the black lining doesn’t look right with a brown cover.

The Antique Mahogany cover pictured here is being replaced by the Brown Marble cover familiar from the Schuyler NKJV, which shows a bit more color variation depending on the light. The photo below illustrates the difference if you compare the Antique Mahogany (top) to the Brown Marble (second from top). Personally, I prefer the Brown Marble because I’m a sucker for that subtle ripple effect. The casual observer might not be able to tell much difference between the two. Both shades are on the lighter end of the dark brown spectrum, not quite in the realm of mid-browns like the calfskin Clarions, but certainly brighter than the chocolate goatskins from R. L. Allan, and the deep brown of the new Crossway Heirloom Single Column Legacy.

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Dark brown, but just barely. The antique mahogany (top) is similar to the Schuyler NKJV’s brown (second), lighter than the chocolate brown of the Allan 53R Longprimer (middle), the original Schuyler ESV (second from bottom), and the Jongbloed-bound Crossway Heirloom Legacy (bottom).

This edition has been a strong seller for Schuyler — no wonder the Antique Mahogany editions are all gone! — which goes to show that there’s a huge market out there for traditionalist KJVs with updated typography. That description doesn’t really go far enough to capture the Westminster Bible, though. When you read through the front matter and use this edition for awhile, it begins to feel like an attempt to preserve an older way of seeing and using Scripture. For many fans of the translation, the late 18th century is really the apotheosis. The final form of the text is arrived at, and the apparatus is more or less perfected. Despite its thoughtful refinements, this is essentially the Bible as you might have experienced it at the height of the Enlightenment. Whereas an edition like the Clarion makes the translation more accessible by making it more readable, more like the books we’re accustomed to spending time with, the Westminster could be seen as an effort to make the reference KJV of yesteryear as accessible as possible without changing its essential form. If you’re worried about losing not just the KJV but the older way of making use of it, a Bible like this speaks to you on a very deep level.

Schuyler offers the Bible in a variety of colors ranging in price from $185-$195. You can discover all the options and order a KJV Schuyler Reference Bible of your own by visiting our friends at EvangelicalBible.com.

45 Comments on “The KJV Schuyler Reference Bible in Antique Mahogany Goatskin

  1. That setting, with the double columns with references to left and right, reminds me of the Thompson Chain References from days of yore. Those columns look like they have 30-35 characters per line, which is awful skinny. That would be a problem with all the modern translations. It’s less of a problem with the KJV, though, because the KJV sets the entirety of the Bible in prose. As a result, you don’t have 20 widows on every page of Psalms. Widows are the nemesis of fluid reading. Also, I don’t find that a verse-by-verse Bible reads much less smoothly than a paragraphed Bible. I haven’t seen one of these in person, but it’s probably a better reader than it looks.

    • If you’re accustomed to it, then it’s not surprising you don’t find verse-by-verse settings less readable — just as people unaccustomed to paragraphed text in Scripture will complain that it’s less readable. Most barriers introduced by design can be overcome (at least to an extent) by familiarity. Subjective experience varies, of course. But there is an objective sense in which it’s possible to say that text visually divided into verses reads differently than text in sentences, paragraphs, etc.

      • Abstractly, I agree with you. I’ve used paragraphed Bibles as my primary readers since 2008 or so. In verse-by-verse layouts, I look at all of those full-size verse numbers and hard returns at the end of verses, and I say, “That HAS to read worse.” However, my actual experience in reading from various settings hasn’t borne that out. I’ve often been surprised, both by what settings work for me in reading and what settings don’t.

        I think it’s a characters-per-line thing. In verse-by-verse Bibles, most verses don’t end in widows. As a result, I can transition pretty smoothly from verse to verse. I am bothered, though, by abundant widows in OT poetry, as well as by the inconsistent spacing in narrow, justified columns.

  2. Just a great review and very honest about the negatives as well! A critique of the goatskin quality, pattern, and feel would have been a plus. Subjective yes but your views would be welcome (and rejected by some of course). My only criticism of this TBS book block is the print should have been bolder like their Concord was.

    • Well, as I noted, my copy is nice and grainy. The cover is limp but because of its thickness feels substantial.

      The print impression looks strong and even to me. Do you mean you would have preferred a bolder type? I’m not a fan, as I’ve mentioned before, of using tall, thin type — an effort to preserve readability while fitting more characters on the line — but it didn’t bother me so much here, perhaps because of the narrow columns.

      • Yes Mark I mean bolder print. One of the great things about the TBS Concord was it’s bold print. The Schuyler KJV text is very elegant, but lighter. Not my preference. This is a great Bible however.

        • I think, Paul, you are referring to the older “hot press” font, found before the digital age. The Oxford and Cambridge settings–Longprimer, Clarendon, Cameo, Concord, exhibit this. Not sure if I’m correct on this? I long for the same thing, and can be disappointed at the new settings. I tend to stick with the Cambridge Large Print, the Local Church Bible Publishers 180 (the Cambridge Large Print with a nicer wrapper) and the Cameos for travel for this reason–nice, bold, dark print! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Westminster is not an easy reader. I have the hardcover and am glad I didn’t pay more than $30.00 for this. The Schuylers are priced as in the “Bible for life” category but unless you have super-eyesight you will not be using this past your fifties.

  3. I had been holding out for the KJV Quentel. I wonder how many of these features, especially assistance regarding the archaic language, will make it into the Quentel?

  4. Hi Mark. Awesome review. I’ve used the Schuyler KJV for a while and I agree with Paul – as sharp and clean as the font is, it needs to be bolder. It’s a great reader, but for preaching I like to leave the Bible laying on the pulpit and glance down at it to read. Lighter text makes this difficult for me. The Longprimer is much better for this. I love the definitions in the margins. I wish this was standard for KJV’s.

    • So do I. During my long gone university days, I remember wishing my KJV had the same kind of critical notes as my copy of Chaucer, designed to help modern readers with the language. Maybe the desire to deny that there is a substantial barrier for modern readers has slowed the adoption of such helps, but if the TBS is doing it, perhaps others will follow suit. (There have been attempts before — the Defined KJV, for example — but for my taste they never seem to go far enough.)

  5. Mark, I’m puzzled. Your Antique Mahogany copy has “Holy Bible” on the front cover. The evangelicalbible.com website does not show “Holy Bible” on the covers of any color except the black, where you have a choice. Did they send you a special copy, or is there something missing on their website?

    • That’s a good question, but someone from Evangelical Bible will have to answer it. My copy came right out of inventory (I was there when it happened), so it’s not special. My guess is that (a) either the originals had the imprinting and newer runs don’t, or (b) the photos representing the colors aren’t of this edition.

  6. As nice as this edition looks like I’m not sure about the text. In one of the last three-monthly bulletins of the Trinitarian Bible Society they announced to change the KJV text in all their new settings without noticing the reader. They want to remove certain texts in italics, they want to update punctuation and –if I remember correctly– they want to add some changes by a scholar named David Norton. Since I don’t want to check an expensive newly bought KJV if it really is a KJV, I now shy away from TBS Westminster and Windsor editions and stay with the old Concorde. It would be a shame to throw away a nice goatskin bible because of a fake KJV text, besides the loss of much hard earned money. BTW: Two letters written to the TBS and asking if the Westminster is already the “new and updated KJV text” left unanswered.

    • I think you may be mistaken KJVJohn. Back issues of the “Quarterly Record” are here: http://www.tbsbibles.org/quarterly-record and there is no mention of removing italics or using David Norton’s edition. (Cambridge, however, has moved ahead in using David Norton’s edition in its New Cambridge Paragraph Bible editions.) The TBS Westminster edition appears to be a faithful rendition of the 1769 Oxford text of the KJV, which is the version used by most KJV bibles today.

      I wonder if you might be conflating the TBS Westiminster edition with some other editions, such as the Norton Critical Edition of the English Bible, the American Bible Society’s 400th anniversary edition of the KJV, the Penguin English Bible, or the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. (I believe that all of these projects have merit, but perhaps now is not time or place to argue the point.)

      I own a copy of the KJV Schuyler Reference (in Navy Blue). While it is nice, I think that an even better bargain is the TBS leather edition itself, which is sold for $65 (at EvangelicanBible.com) and has quite elegant binding and an excellent printblock (versus $190 for the KJV Schuyler Reference). It has a nice sewn calfskin leather binding, comes in a nice storage box, has four ribbons, and has an elegant exterior design.

      Deepershopping.com offers the hardcover for $16.80, which is a great deal.

      Finally, I was a little disappointed that Mark’s review only mentioned some of the features of the book.

      Besides the chapter headings, original translation notes, and cross-references, the volume also has archaic words marked with a brief modern equivalent in the margin.

      In the TBS edition, there are five appendices:

      1. Six pages of “Tables of Weights and Measures”
      2. Fifteen pages of “A List of Words and Proper names with their Pronunciations”
      3. Five pages of “Daily Reading Plan”
      4. One hundred and thirty pages of “Concordance”
      * Thirty pages (fifteen sheets) of blank paper for notes
      5. Eight pages of maps (which are only so-so, unfortunately)

      I think that the TBS Westminster edition — even in the $65 calfskin leather version — will likely delight most KJV fans.

  7. A beautiful Bible. But to say that the KJV is tough to read. I find that bizarre. The majority of my Christian life I read modern translations, NIV, NASB, among others. Two years ago I started reading the KJV and it instantly became my main translation! So, I cannot see how it’s a tough read. I’m no scholar, far from it. I’m a musician. I have absolutely no problems with the KJV. It also has me memorize verses more easily. Just my thoughts…..

    • My thoughts exactly, but I bought this version anyway, from the imperfect bin. I can’t tell what was wrong..and am really into this KJV with several members of a Bible study that has met for 20 years, and is now just discovering the richness of seventeenth century vocabulary precision. If you have limited means, scouring the shelves of thrift shops and Salvation Army stores will yield treasures. A friend found several KJV, ONE, A LARGE PRINT edition that saves him changing glasses minute to minute, in a nice leather binding. $3.00. They were all $3.00. Can you imagine what believers in Tyndale’s day would have paid for such a treasure? Their lives, in many cases.

      • I like to use a mix of translations, and I’ve encouraged my people (I’m a pastor) to recognize the KJV’s use of “ye” and other precisions to see the plural used, especially when discussing the church in Paul’s epistles.
        On the other hand, I am deeply puzzled by the inconsistent way “hesed” was translated, especially in the Psalms. I recognize that it is a word that’s impossible to capture with just one English word, but switching between words within the space of one Psalm, for instance Ps 107, makes it impossible without original language helps, to recognize that it is the same Hebrew word translated “goodness” throughout the body of the Psalm and “loving kindness” in the benediction.
        Just my thoughts..

    • You should read In Awe of Thy Word by Gail Riplinger. Or at least watch a youtube speech. She has a lot to say about the musical quality of the KJV and the way it aids memorization. It was apparantley quite intentional on the part of the translators.

    • I agree with you 100%. The KJV average reading level is much lower than all new translations. The KJV flows much easier. The English language was at its peak when the 1611 was translated and has since been on a down spiral. In fact at the time of translation people no longer spoke like the language in the KJV but was used for purpose of proper definition understanding and ease of reading. A 10 minute lesson of some thees, thous, eths, etc. will bring any unlearned person up to par with the language of the KJV. It is a far superior text written for the average person. The fact is with the pit that the English language has fallen into it makes it almost impossible to make an accurate translation, so much has been lost in meaning and understanding. The KJV puts the cookies on the bottom shelf so to speak unlike the new translations. Anyone who degrades the KJV doenst know what they are talking about.

  8. I personally like the black on brown on the inside lining. I actually had my Leonards rebound KJV like that. Brown goatskin with black interior.

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  10. Three months ago, I was pleased to discover that TBS offices were about an hour drive from where I live so i bought the TBS Westminster Reference Bible with black calfskin leather. it is a very beautiful bible and have fallen for the KJV. The amount of references on the sides is amazing and I have done a lot of scripture upon scripture studies. I find the pronunciation appendix a little unnecessary to include in the bible as I never use it. I am somewhat a little dissappointed with the layout of the Concordance as I find it hard to read line after line in paragraph like fashion. I still prefer the list structure style of a concordance which is easier on the eyes. In general, I am very happy with the TBS Westminster Reference, the leather is beautiful, really love the smell of leather! Sniff Sniff! It would be interesting to know how the KJV Schuyler Reference compares to the TBS Westminster Bible, what is the layout of the concordance?

  11. Mark, as always your reviews are insightful, informative, and incredibly enjoyable. I have a hardback Westminster Reference Bible (TBS) and find that I am using it more and more as time goes on. Personally, I would appreciate a slightly bolder print as my eyesight is not as keen as it once was.

    My reason for this reply is that, while I understand your love of paragraph format Bibles, I find them an annoyance. I have a Cambridge Concord (Goatskin) KJV Wide Margin as well as a Cambridge NKJV (Goatskin) Wide Margin. I prefer using the NKJV at times, however I find the paragraph format inconvenient. To me the verse format allows me to make notes immediately adjacent to the verse rather that somewhere “near” it. Also, I have a tendency to make illustrations (drawings) that capture my thoughts, etc., regarding a verse and the paragraph format makes it difficult to associate the drawing with the verse in question.

    Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.

  12. Wonderful review. This bible is #1 on my wish list. The References are most appealing to me. I may settle for the TBS Westminster. The 9.6 is generous but I hope to see TBS offer this in a Large Print in the future, perhaps a 10.5 font.

  13. I know this has nothing to do with the above post, but I was wondering if by chance you had felt the Joyce Meyers bibles? It comes in bonded leather or imitation leather online and I don’t know which to choose. Thank you. Sorry for the off topic question.

    • You’ve got a bigger problem than Bible design if you’re listening to Joyce Meyer.

  14. I love this website and it’s reviews. Has it been halted? I haven’t seen any new content in a long time. Mark must be busy with a new book.

    • The blog is alive and well, with new content in the works. These quiet periods are, unfortunately, one of the hallmarks of BDB, and you’re right: I am busy with a new novel. Look for new posts shortly!

  15. Interesting that you’ve never done a review on one of the classics–the Cambridge Concord. It has returned as my daily reader. Perhaps in the future. Thanks for all your work.

  16. Just received my Firebrick Red KJV Schuyler Bible. It is indeed a beautiful Bible with outstanding craftsmanship! I love the many references, which I think is the best way to learn the Bible.
    I had previously purchased the less expensive TBS Westminster reference Bible, and thought I would prefer the elegant cover on the Schuyler. However, I am very disappointed in the way this Bible does not lay open flat, except in the middle. Except for the soft cover, I prefer the TBS edition. The Schuyler will probably last a long time, as I will not be using it very much. Maybe it will loosen up and lay more flat with use. Seems like the publishers could have done better on an otherwise beautiful Bible.

  17. Thanks for your wonderful reviews, and thanks to all who post comments.

    If I had unlimited funds and storage space, I’d certainly have to own one of these Bibles! My only KJV is my white zippered Bible from my childhood–a treasure. I own only one (Allan in NKJV), but all these premium-bound Bibles at EB are a wonderful discovery.

  18. Great review as always. I’m planning on buying one like yesterday, I just have one question in Joshua 19:2 is it “and” or “or” Sheba? Thanks in advance.

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  21. Is this the Same Text Block as the TBS Westminster Reference Bible? It looks the same to me. Jongbloed prints both. If you go to Psalm 123 are they the same on the page for both? Are the side References the identical?

  22. Well, here a year later, the reduced price and beautiful purple binding were too much for me to resist. I received my copy this week, and it is just an absolutely elegant edition of the King James! I really like this Bible a lot. I grew up on the KJV and still think it’s the most beautiful literature in the world, in addition to being God’s word. Doesn’t everyone need a nice edition of this classic?

    The purple is a lovely, deep shade, and the binding is. as usual, wonderful. The print size is fairly large and dark throughout, and I love the smaller size of the volume–I wish the Quentels were nearer this size! I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet, but so far the four-column layout doesn’t bother me. Like others, I appreciate the definitions of words that have changed in meaning. The paper and line matching are spot on. No problem with the hinge on this current edition; it lay almost flat immediately. And the printing and logo on the spine are smaller. I’m very pleased with this edition in every way and feel blessed to have it. I’m going to have to spend more time revisiting this translation now.

    Fred, I don’t have a copy of the edition you mentioned, sorry. John, I suppose you have your own copy by now, but this edition has “or,” as do most of the other translations I have.

  23. How can one tell the difference between the first and second generation of this Classic Reference Bible?

  24. I set aside my Cambridge Clarion, and purchased the Schuyler Reference Bible in KJV.
    I like the paper, the text, the font, the construction, and the readability of the format, and while I was impressed with the new source of references my impression after using them is that they (because there are so many) tend to be interpretive. The letters, numbers and asterisks in the text are easily ignored in the reading but I always enjoyed the translators alternate renderings. Now, I find them crowded, and while I appreciate an occasional old English word update these are becoming tedious. The chapter summaries are worthless unless I am casting back for something obscure in the OT, then it gets a nod. The positives are there, so I shall soldier on and see how this volume settles out.

    • Egads. This was a year ago,
      I gave that Bible to a friend.

      • LOL. So you really didn’t like it that much, or more likely you have a beloved friend. And perhaps you were getting a Clarion call. Very generous in any case.

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