Category Archives: Bibles

Under The Sea Holy Bible and Giveaway

undertheseaIn a sea (heh) of Bibles, the Under The Sea Holy Bible is a nice addition to the kid’s section of Bibles.  It’s in an easy to read format designed to help children connect with Biblical concepts.

Under The Sea Holy Bible
March 2016

Bright colors and sparkly glitter adorn the cover of this Bible, meant for children.   This is not an ordinary children’s Bible, in that it is the full text from Genesis to Revelation.  Many children’s Bibles are abbreviated stories highlighting the “heroes” of the Old Testament or focusing solely on Christ’s miracles in the New Testament.

This Bible is also written in the New International Reader’s Version.  A foreword discussing this NIrV version mentions that it is an extension of traditional NIV.  Its purpose is to make reading (and understanding) the Bible easier for children, adults learning to read, first time Bible readers, readers whose first language is not English, and those who have trouble understanding what they read.

A cursory glance of verses with which I’m familiar shows the meaning of the verse is virtually unchanged by adapting it from KJV.  The foreword also mentions that the translators worked to reference the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament as they worked to create the NIrV in an effort to maintain the integrity of this translation.

The remainder of the Bible is just that:  NIrV of the full Bible text.  There is also a dictionary and an index of “Great Bible Stories.”  These two sections could be greatly improved.  The dictionary is only 5 pages long, and the Great Bible Stories section is a list of 92 common Bible stories.  Both of these could be very much extended for referencing.  This would allow the Bible to work for children as they age.

This Bible also has a few inserts related to important concepts:  prayer, the 10 Commandments, love, and important children in the Bible to name a few.  Here’s where I would also like to see an expansion.  There are only 3 of these inserts in the whole Bible.  The last one is the ABC’s of becoming a Christian.   The Bible would appeal much more to children if there were more of these relevant passages included throughout the Under The Sea Holy Bible.

All in all, this is a very nice starter Bible for children.  It has the basics needed for a 3rd or 4th grader.   As a child gets older and begins to explore more, it is a Bible that would need to be replaced with one that has more expansive passages and explanations about concepts throughout.


Want a copy of your own?  I have partnered with Fly By Promotions to provide this review AND a chance for you to have a copy of your own!  Just leave a comment below telling me what Bible verse is your favorite to share with children.  I’ll draw a winner on April11th!  The winner will get his/her own copy of the Under The Sea Holy Bible.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at She currently spends her days wrangling her 3rd grade science nerd and toddler aged busy body. You can visit her world of randomness at, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible

ESVElegant. Helpful. Wooden.

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible
November 2015

This is a beautiful Bible. The text inside is tight, sharp black text with gold headings and highlights. Devotions take up a page (and if there is left over room it is left blank, making it obvious that this is not a part of the Bible.) Each devotion ends with directions to the next. The devotions are excellent as well. Each is theologically sound (from the evangelical perspective.) None that I read were overly simplistic in content or wording and none were overly positive, self focused either. Well done in my opinion.

According to Crossway, the publishers of the English Standard Version (ESV), this translation is “word for word” rather than “thought for thought” (like the NIV), which the translators of the ESV believe relies more on the interpretation of the scholars, thus making it less “essentially literal” than the ESV. There is no way, however, to translate idiom, cultural syntax and grammar without the interpreters having to be relied upon. Have you ever heard a joke from another country? If someone who was a native speaker and who also understood English had to interpret it for you then you understand that all translations – if they are to actually convey what the original writers meant – will have to have interpreters of thought as well as words.

An example 2 Peter 3:10-11 (the random passage/ verse of the day):

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. (NIV)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (ESV)

While essentially the same words, the interpretation of the NIV correctly conveys the point of the passage: that judgment is coming and when it does how you lived will be judged. So you should be living holy and godly lives. The ESV is less clear in the resolution or focus of the passage (how we should live), in my opinion.

All that to say that the ESV, in my opinion, is a little too wooden literal and isn’t as good a translation as the NIV for those who want to read the Bible and understand it easily. But it isn’t a bad translation at all. The evangelical scholars involved did a good job in translation based on their criteria.

Win A Copy: Propeller Consulting is providing an opportunity to win a copy for yourself! Simply make a comment here or on Facebook to be entered. One entry per family. Winners cannot have won another Propeller/ FlyBy contest within the last 30 days. will select the winner by random drawing to be fulfilled by FlyBy. We are not liable for lost or damaged products. This contest will end December 4.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

CEB Deep Blue Kid’s Bible

CEBDeepBlueColorful. Engaging. Themed.

CEB Deep Blue Kid’s Bible
Common English Bible
August 2015

There are a lot of things to like about this children’s Bible. It is full color throughout, has a cast of helpful cartoon characters that pop up from time to time in normal reading and is themed so that all the helpful tools fit together in a nice package. The Sailboat talks about character traits, the Umbrella talks through emotions during tough times, the Lighthouse talks about the basics of faith, and the Life Preserver helps with tough to understand passages.

There are other helpful tools as well like devotions, trivia, memory verses and my favorite, Bet You Can! where the young reader is challenged to read a passage in a short amount of time. This mimics some of the homework that readers in third through fifth grade do. There is also a checklist of memory verses that the young reader can start with, including page numbers, to help build up their Biblical knowledge. There is a lot of great stuff for young readers to really dive in.

A note about the Common English Bible: readers of the NIV or especially the NKJV/ KJV will likely be surprised by some of the changes that the CEB makes. Like other newer “modern” translations, the CEB attempts to make the Word readable and understandable for those who speak modern, American English. If a reader has grown up in a church tradition they are likely to remember certain phrases, names, verses or passages in the translation that they came from. Phrases you’re used to like “In the beginning God created…” are changed to “When God began to create…” (Gen 1:1-2). Angels are called “the Lord’s messenger” which is actually the correct way to say that. “Happy” is exchanged for “Blessed” in the beatitudes likely because people don’t normally say “blessed.” Scribes are now “legal experts,” which is also accurate. These are all easy to understand and digest.

Some will struggle with other changes like “repent” becomes “change hearts and lives” (Mark 6:12). The biggest issue I’ve read about is the change from “Son of Man” to “The Human One.” Neither title make much sense without studying them in light of Scripture, but people are used to Son of Man. If this is an issue for you then go with the NIV.

In my opinion, I would have preferred the benefits of the Deep Blue tools and resources to be added to an NIV Bible than the CEB because I prefer that translation. However, the CEB is accurate and readable and with these tools for kids I think it’s very well made and worthy of recommendation.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

Growing in Faith, Hope, and Love NIV Bible for Teen Girls

teengirlsbibleHelpful. Insightful. Perfect for her.

Growing in Faith, Hope, and Love NIV Bible for Teen Girls
October 2015

When reviewing a Bible I think it’s important to differentiate between the content of the Bible translation and the additional content added to make it specific. The NIV is one of the most trusted and most scholarly translations available and has been for several decades. What I’m reviewing today is the additional content added specifically for teen girls and whether or not I believe it adds value. The short answer is yes.

Another short answer on why I think this version is value added: I’ve never seen my 12 year old daughter get into a Bible as much as she has been with this. There are a dozen book marks and after only about 3 weeks she’s made this book look very well used. We both love the full pink pages with excepts from books called Growing in Faith Hope Love, which are short devotionals based on passages in the book that is being read. For instance, my daughter has book marked “You Are Enough” from Jeremiah 33:3 where she read about how, like the Prodigal, so-called friends may abandon you but we shouldn’t accept the lie that they left because we weren’t enough. God says you are valuable. You are enough. (The passage is from a Zondervan book The Bare Naked Truth by Bekah Hamrick Martin (2013).)

I also like the memory verses that are highlighted in the text (like Psalm 139:16) and the chapter start pages that answer important questions like when it happened who was in the book, key passages and a quick overview. NOTE: the dates are taken from majority late dating standards, which many scholars may not agree with. For instance, Revelation shows A.D. 90 as the date it was written when many scholars believe, like I do, that Revelation could not have been written prior to A.D. 70. Whatever. It’s still a great resource and most of the dates aren’t make-or-break issues anyway.

Any Bible that actually grabs the attention of the intended audience and gets them reading is a winner in my opinion. This book does it for my daughter and so I’m sold.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

The Biggest Story by DeYoung and Clark

biggestBeautiful. Connected. Clear.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Written by Kevin DeYoung
Illustrated by Don Clark
August 2015

Don Clark does an amazing job illustrating this children’s story book of the big picture of redemption. His artwork is angular, colorful and full of allusions about deeper things than the words express. The bold colors are vivid and hold the attention of children very well.

Kevin DeYoung isn’t known for his children’s books or even topics that would be safe for children. (The last book I read of his was What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? published in April 2015, for example.) Reformed and a prominent voice at the Gospel Coalition, I was taken aback by the way he so minimalizes and then stretches the Gospel in a way that children can fully understand.

I am a teacher and preacher myself and also have been blessed to teach Kindergarten children for most of the last decade so I know first hand the simple but clear way that the huge truths of the Bible have to be expressed to children. This isn’t the end of their studies. DeYoung doesn’t have to go into the Trinity, explain sacrifice and atonement or justification, or even spend much time at all on sanctification or eschatology. A simple, “We haven’t seen the end of the story -not yet. We live in the beginning of the end of the story… we know it’s not the end because we haven’t made it back to the garden” (p 120) fully expresses the hope of eternity without systematic theology. And kids love this because they get it. We follow the first Adam or the second Adam (p 129) makes sense. It plants seeds for us, other teachers and their own studies to grow over the years.

This is a fantastic book. An amazing, beautiful, poignant, simple, clear and deep book. And it’s for every Christian tradition. What an accomplishment by DeYoung. I highly recommend it.

Congratulations to Jessica B. of Smyrna, TN for winning a copy of this book!

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Lumo Project: John

With the popularity of so-called Biblical movies this year is so very refreshing to see a movie that actually issues the Bible as its source. The Lumo Project’s The Gospel of John is narrated with the exact text of the Gospel of John in the versions: NIV (David Harwood), KJV (Brian Cox) and in Spanish via the Reina-Valera 1960 Version (unknown). Visually all three narrations are over the same film.

The actors chosen are a revelation – they look like they should. This is not a European looking cast. Actors have missing teeth, come in all sizes and shades of brown. Even Jesus looks like he should, solving a problem that troubles so many Bible films.

It is also set in a very realistic Palestine. The settings from markets to outskirts are very respectful of the actual text.

johnThere are some well done connections to the other Gospels as well. John doesn’t have the first communion, for instance, but the filmmakers add it in during the last supper while Jesus is talking. The Lumo Project will ultimately show all four Gospels in the same way and based on this film will be doing some tying together of them to show the consistency without hiding the differences.

Not everything is perfect, however. As a teacher in my church I am sensitive of and cringe when I see condescension to tradition show up, like the wise men in the manger. There are some casting decisions like Jesus’ brothers looking older than him that I also wondered about. And when Jesus does miracles he acts like it drains him, which is in contrast to his diety. My thoughts are below about this and other situations.

The biggest gap was in how the crucifixion was depicted. Mel Gibson ruined every future movie that will try to demonstrate the anguish of Jesus and this movie pales in comparison. It also fails to show Jesus’ anguish. The actor who did such a good job elsewhere really disappoints on the cross. Very tame.

Theses are minor quibbles compared to the ridiculous films that have come out so far this year. 2014 is the year of the missed opportunity when it comes to showing off the actual Bible. Be it films that take Bible stories and reimagine them in their creator’s own unbiblical image (Noah), or just start and stay extra biblical (Heaven is For Real), or disappoint because of substandard writing (God’s Not Dead.) And dont forget Christian Bale as Moses. But this film is exactly what we needed. A strong retelling of the Gospel that treats its watchers as adults and doesn’t shy away from trusting the source material.

imageI’m very impressed and looking forward to the other films. When it comes out on Netflix give it a shot. Fans of the Bible will undoubtedly love it.

The Lumo Project presents The Gospel of John – coming soon to Netflix. I was given advance screening for review purposes by the production company and FlyBy Promotions. Live blog thoughts below:

Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament

truthlifeFans of the RSV and Catholics take heed: this is the audio Bible for you!

Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament
November 2010

I’m a fan of any Bible or audio Bible that helps people read and understand the Word. The recording is done with “70 actors including international stars: Neal McDonough as “Jesus,” Julia Ormond as “Mary, Mother of God,” Blair Underwood as “Mark,” Stacy Keach as “John,” Michael York as “Luke,” Brian Cox as “The Voice of God,” Sean Astin as “Matthew,” Kristen Bell as “Mary Magdalene, ” Malcolm McDowell as “Caiaphas,” and John Rhys-Davies as the Narrator.”

The production value is outstanding. The score is well done and the actors do a great job. My only problem – and this is because perhaps I’m not a Catholic and I don’t enjoy hearding thee and thou – is the transaltion. But I recognize that this product is specifically for Christians who enjoy more archaic translations so it does a very good job of meeting those needs. For me, I had a hard time listening to the language as I had to almost interpret some of what I was hearing instead of simply hearing it.

Overall, this is a top notch audio Bible and it should be on your radar.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Brick Bible by Brendan Powell Smith

coverIt seems like publishers don’t need much of a reason to print new Bibles with even the slightest deviation of theme. The Men’s Bible, NIV Men’s Devotional Bible, MANual: the Bible for Men, Every Man’s Bible NIV, Every Man’s Bible NLT, Every Man’s Bible (NIV or NLT): Deluxe Explorer’s Edition, Quiet Strength Bible: Men’s Bible Study – those are all real and they are only the very first page of “Men’s Bibles” on Amazon. When will we see something truly different? Enter Brendan Powell Smith and The Brick Bible. But is it a Bible?

The Brick Bible: The Complete Set
By Brendan Powell Smith
Skyhorse Publishing
October 2013

CainandableIn this version, which collects both the Old and New Testaments, the artist/writer of the Brick Bible Brendan Powell Smith created and shot over 2000 different scenes from the Bible’s main stories. It is clear from the start that these are not photos for children. The violence, sexuality and nudity that exists in the Bible is on naked display in the depictions. (Brendan Powell Smith did create some children’s books that avoid some of the messier elements, like Jonah, Daniel, Noah’s Ark, the Christmas Story and such.)

The fact that every scene pictured is built, one brick at a time, is the real joy and accomplishment of this book. It is pure genius! Even seeing how Brendan Powell Smith overcomes issues like height (Saul has a 2×1 white square as his robe then 1×1 flat yellow rounds for legs to make him taller than everyone else, for instance), or outstretched arms (he has connected arms out of socket sideways to have them straight out), are very clever. Further effects with focus and perspective make almost every picture an achievement in itself.

Tdavidhe Old and New Testament have most of their major stories and some minor ones that seem to fit Brendan Powell Smith’s design (see below). You will see a ton of New Testament space spent on Jesus and Revelation, with little time spent on the Epistles, which makes sense since they aren’t visual stories but didactic letters. Understanding the difference in the type of literature of the Bible helps understand why he would or wouldn’t have photos. But in some cases, where there are visual portrayals of certain kinds of literature, specifically apocalyptic, the scenes are very literally envisioned. And in other situations that require interpretation skills, the author relies on English 21st century understanding of words rather than what the words meant originally.

JonathanThe violence and nudity that really help to bring even more distinction to this version of the Bible. So often these are glossed over. Stories about David taking out Goliath, for instance, usually ends with the stone killing Goliath. We gloss over the fact that David then chopped off Goliath’s head like a trophy. When stories in the Bible tell of murder and war, the Brick Bible takes, what looks a lot like, “glee” in telling them in gory, clear red brick building glory. While this is jarring at times it also makes real some of the parts of the Bible that we skip past when reading.

HeavenWhile I enjoyed the honesty in the violence, I didn’t enjoy some of the commentary in the pictures. At times the fact that this is satire is very clear and real. Picture and headings says more about Brendan Powell Smith’s opinions on the subjects he is depicting than allowing proper Biblical interpretation to take place. Instead of exegesis, many times there is simply a very wooden literal reading of the English which is infused with the current meanings and interpretations. For instance, there is no evidence and it is not implied in the original languages or in 2500 to 3000 years of orthodox belief that Jonathan loved David in an erotic way. But in the depictions of their interactions it is clearly set up as a homosexual relationship. Hearts floating above Jonathan’s head – like a teenager with a crush – and when David greeted Jonathan with a kiss it is on the lips rather than what the Bible is saying. Jonathan did love David and pledged his life to him. And in that culture a kiss in greeting was much more akin to what we see in foreign films – a sign of respect. Not an erotic thing. Likewise, headings titled “Genocide” instead of “Judgment” also clearly show Brendan Powell Smith’s wooden literal and bias.

lastsupperI have a ton of respect for what Brendan Powell Smith has done here with Legos and art. I’ve read that he is an atheist and I think that bias comes out in ways that will offend sincere believers – many prospective buyers and readers may be turned off by his choices in what to include and how to irreverantly depict them. Interestingly, in reviewing Brendan Powell Smith’s online site ( you will find some pictures online were redacted or cropped from the published books. I noticed this with scenes that I was concerned with above, where commentary steps the story a little further from orthodox acceptance. If he or the publisher were aware of the possibility of offense and so removed from publication certain scenes it seems like they should have considered what scenes should perhaps have been removed from both. After all, the primary audience of a book about the Bible should be Christians who love creativity and art and also God. But with a focus on satire, and by allowing his bias to color what he selected to depict in such an overt way, it overshadows evertything else and we end up losing some of the primary audience for the much, much smaller satire audience. I’m not sure that was very wise.

JesusEven with the satirical commentary, this is a genius book. It is not Christians who may be offended by visual depictions of some of the seedier stories in the Bible or who may be offended by the way that the author treats a reverant subject in such an irreverant way at times. It is also not for children. But it is for art loving people who enjoy creativity and brilliant photography. It is also for lovers of Lego and the amazing things that toy/tool allows us to do with it. With all my concerns listed I would stistill recommend it to those audiences for this amazing achievement.

To answer the question posed at the start of this review: this is not a Bible. It is a work of art. As long as we think of it like this we may be more inclined to enjoy it for what it is rather than what we believers would want it to be.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Candle Bedtime Bible by Williamson and Tappin

candleIf you read to your kids at bedtime you know that reading from the Bible can be hit or miss. What would really help would be short, bite sized Bible stories that start and end in a set time and are appropriate for your kids. This is that book.

Candle Bedtime Bible
Written by Karen Williamson
Illustrated by Christine Tappin
October 2013

This “Bible” is set up in stories that are supposed to be read in 3, 5, or 10 minutes each. There is a directory of the stories included and it is a snap to get right to the story you want. Each story is clearly labeled for length as well. There are over 40 stories from the Bible and all the stories are easy to understand with direct references. The illustrations are very well done.

But not everything is rosy. First, unless you are a speed reader or reading without engaging your kids there is no way you finish these stories in the time frame allotted. It is more like 6, 10, and 20 minute stories. It’s not a big deal but the idea was to get in and out in a set time. If you expect to get through a 3 minute Bible story you will be disappointed (and, really, should you be done with a story in 3 minutes?) Besides, this time expectation doesn’t include discussion time, which is necessary.

Second, everyone is peach colored. I know that some modern Jews have light skin but that is because they were European immigrants. Historical Middle Eastern people have more olive or light brown skin. Is it so bad that we let our children see that Jesus was light brown?

This is a nice bedtime Bible story collection with a couple issues. Still worth your time though.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Modern Life Study Bible NKJV

the-modern-life-study-bibleI’m not a fan of the King James Version. It is based on outdated scholarship, uses words that aren’t commonly understood by modern readers, and has become a sort of idol to many who hold to it as the only “Authorized Version” substituting in that definition the authorizer of the version, King James, with God, basically making this translation the equivalent of the original autographs.

The Modern Life Study Bible
Thomas Nelson
January 2014

I recognize that there are a lot of people who feel the same way about the KJV so, without spending an inordinate amount of time on the topic, the good news is that the New King James Version is much, much better. It uses the most current scholarship, changes the “thee” and “thy” to modern equivalents, and helps overcome the incorrect belief that any modern translation is equal to the autographs. That said – and I think it must be said for many modern readers – this NKJV is a translation that is worth having for those who prefer complete equivalence translations. If you don’t know what that means, then simply put: this is a very good translation that is true to the Biblical texts and a good option for those who appreciate the formal beauty of the original KJV.

As to this version, it has quickly become my favorite NKJV. First, it’s really well made. The hardback version has a slipcover that is solidly backed by lamination and is a coarse woven paper that feels nice and is tough to tear. The insides are full color – and color is on every page – and very easy to read on slightly thicker than normal paper. Unlike many Bibles this paper is hard to see through.

As to the “study” part, this Bible also brings quite a bit to the table in terms of additional content.

• Understanding the Bible – thousands of maps, illustrations, diagrams, charts, etc similar to most study Bibles.
• Applying the Bible – one page life studies of sixty-six historic followers of God that aim to show how we can make a difference in our modern world.
• Thinking Independently – articles without clear forced answers allowing the reader to think through theological issues.
• Themes Highlighted – community, work, government, economics, ethics, ethnicity, the church, laity (that’s us), the family, the city, witness and missions, knowing and serving God, personal growth and development, and the environment.

I found the additional content to be insightful and on par with what you would expect to find in other study Bibles. It isn’t all footnotes like many of the common study Bibles (think NIV Study Bible by Zondervan). Instead the insights and additional info is in full color inserts on each page. If you want to read around them you can, but most likely you’ll find yourself reading about the passages in more depth.

At the end, you’ll find a full topical index, weights and measures, an index of all the great person profiles, an index of locations in the Bible, and a huge Themes to Study section where the highlighted themes can be searched by passage.

This is an excellent study Bible and the best NKJV that I’ve ever read. Very well made all around and definitely worth your closer inspection.

Scott Asher is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.