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Mosaic Bible

One of my followers on twitter, Keith Williams, recently sent me a tweet that a new Bible, the Mosaic Bible, was coming out. Keith is the editor of this Bible.

As soon as it became available I ordered my copy of the Mosaic Bible (it has not yet arrived – hence, clearly, this post is a preview, not a review). I have a good collection of translations, I have studied Hebrew and Koine Greek for my theology degree, and I have a number of study and devotional Bibles. I think the Mosaic Bible will be an interesting, and I hope at times useful, addition to my collection.

The Mosaic Bible (and the adjective refers, possibly surprisingly, certainly confusingly, not to Moses but to a composite picture) is a two column edition of the Living Bible Translation with minimal study tools. In the front of this Bible is a clearly separate section with images, quotes, reading suggestions, reflections, and space for notes linked to the church year. . Another of my followers tweeted me that I am quoted a couple of times and this website referenced in this Bible (some other bloggers received a free review copy – I’m not complaining that I didn’t – does that make my preview and possible future review less biased? 🙂 Or does my being quoted and referenced lead to bias…?)

Try Mosaic Online Now

We are promised excellent contemporary and historical writings chosen from Christians across the globe such as St. Augustine, Charles Wesley, and Henri Nouwen (and, apparently, Bosco Peters!). There are icons in the margins of the text to indicate which Scripture passages are linked to which writings. There is attractive full-colour art from contemporary and historical artists. I will be interested to see the Greek and Hebrew word studies resources in the back.

Liturgical Year

The liturgical year in the Mosaic Bible assigns some readings and a theme to each of 53 weeks in the year. Weeks are assigned in a fairly normal manner from Advent to Pentecost. But in contemporary lectionaries (RCL; 3 Year Lectionary) from Pentecost to Advent (about half the year) readings are not assigned by “Sunday’s after Pentecost” as in the Mosaic Bible, but by the Sunday’s date (closest to an assigned date). This means there may generally be no correlation between readings suggested in the Mosaic Bible and readings read in a majority of the world’s churches for that Sunday for half the year. Furthermore, these contemporary lectionaries (RCL; 3 Year Lectionary) do not work to or from a “theme” but, especially for the half year I am referring to, provide a smorgasbord of readings to nourish the faithful. Finally, contemporary lectionaries provide a three year cycle. The Mosaic Bible only provides a one year cycle – hence, the chances that the readings of the Mosaic Bible are the same as in church would only about one in six!

I do not understand, however, why the official site states “This is the 20th week of Pentecost (“Creativity”), pg m278“. Sunday September 27 was the 17th Sunday after Pentecost. That was “Proper 21” in BCP (TEC USA) organisation of the lectionary – so until I have my hands on the actual Bible, I will have to wait and see how this all pans out – but for those of you holding the book, or looking to purchase it in a shop – these might be some of the questions you could be asking. This may be a way that those who have never experienced the Judaio-Christian discipline of lectionary and church year get a taster for it – but it may also be a major leap from this to contemporary practice in these areas. For those familiar with the contemporary lectionary this may feel very Lectionary Lite.

What we in the liturgical, lectionary tradition could find seriously useful is a Bible which indicated when a particular text is read in church within the text such as is done in The Orthodox Study Bible or differently in The CTS New Catholic Bible A reverse lectionary in the Bible.

New Living Translation

The Living Bible was published in 1971. It was a paraphrase of the American Standard Version of 1901 by Kenneth Taylor. It became highly popular in the early 70s. In 1996 a revision, this time based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts, was published as as the New Living Translation. A complete reworking of this translation, still with the same title, but now called the “second edition” was published in 2004. Even further revisions were made in 2007 – but not only has the title New Living Translation been retained, but this later revision is still, extremely confusingly, called the “second edition”. The “second edition” in the Mosaic Bible excludes the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books of the Bible (so cannot be seen to be the Bible for over half of the world’s Christians). Some quick checks of some important translation texts would get a reasonable but not excellent score from me. Isaiah 7:14 has the translation of the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Masoretic in the text (which they state is being used). There is a footnote indicating the alternative – but not as in other (nearby) footnotes where there is honesty about which is the Hebrew and which is the Greek. Verses on atonement have not been skewed through a particular theory of atonement. This is worth comparing with the NIV and ESV. My own standard, after the original texts, is the NRSV – keeping a good eye on its footnotes. (I must acknowledge a natural innate prejudice against our English-language tendency to keep multiplying translations; I question whom it profits, whom it glorifies; I question the motivation and the slanting; a handful of different translations following different methodology and for different purposes might be justified, but in English we are well beyond handsandfeetful!)


In this preview I suggest if you have a number of Bibles and are looking for one that has a different devotional approach, consider seriously adding this to your collection. If, however, you are looking for the ONE Bible that will be your primary Bible for study and devotion – then I think that might be a good topic for a future blog post. Meanwhile I enthusiastically look forward to my (non-free, non-review, LOL) copy arriving.

Follow Mosaic Bible on twitter; Mosaic Bible Facebook page

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6 thoughts on “Mosaic Bible”

  1. Jonathan Streeter

    I like “The Message” Bible because, while not a true “translation”, it captures the energy and the spirit in ACCESSIBLE language. (The is particularly helpful for the old testament). Its language can at times be startling, which is not a bad thing.

    Of course, as a good Episcopalian, my *STUDY* Bible is the Oxford Annotated edition of the NRSV.


  2. Jonathan, particularly in preparing a sermon I regularly read The Message to get, as you say, a startling re-look at a sometimes too familiar passage. Sometimes I get a “whoa the original can’t possibly say that” and return to the original to find that Peterson has actually reworked the original very well into our context. I find Eugene Peterson’s writings generally very helpful.

  3. Bosco,

    Thanks for the lengthy preview! I wonder how long the review is going to be!

    Here is an equally lengthy comment responding to the questions raised in your section on the Liturgical Year, specifically why we are saying it is the 20th week of Pentecost (jump to the end for a shorter answer):

    One of the hurdles I had in getting this project approved was integrating the church year at all; I initially proposed three related Bibles using the same concept, each one strictly following years A, B, and C of the RCL with the lectionary readings. But the publishers didn’t want to take the risk of creating three Bibles, though they did approve a single Bible product using the basic idea. There was also some concern about using the church year due to the fact that a large number of Christians in the United States are completely unfamiliar with it or even hostile towards it. So I had to come up with a way to integrate the church year in a single volume, in a way that would be useful to people who are already practicing the church year and yet accessible to those who have had little or no exposure to it. My compromise was to draw from multiple lectionary sources, stay away from giving hard dates in the print edition, and give enough flexibility in the structure to help people use it with minimal confusion. In the end, I made the decision to err on the side of helping the uninitiated at the expense of strict accuracy.

    So I created 53 weeks of content, following the church calendar that begins 11/29/09 (with 5 weeks between Epiphany Sunday and the beginning of Lent). This way, users who buy the Bible and begin at Advent 1 this year will be able to go straight through without having to think about the variables associated with a moving Easter in the Gregorian calendar, at least for this year. Continuing on with that idea, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for these people to use the Bible from the time they get it in their hands, so I just started at 11/29/09 as Advent 1 and counted backwards from there, assigning “Pentecost 28” to 11/22/09, “Pentecost 27” to 11/15/09, etc.

    I know this isn’t ideal for those, like you, who actually live the church year in community with your church and denomination. But then again, if I had used the RCL strictly, those who use BCP, an Orthodox calendar, or some other lectionary source would have been in the same position. Looking back, I might have done some things differently, but I do think the end product can still be useful for anyone regardless of the way their church interacts (or doesn’t) with the church calendar.

    Short answer: I just counted backwards from the beginning of Advent so users could go all the way to the end (Pentecost 28) before starting back over at the beginning.

  4. Thanks Keith for your helpful explanation which is what I suspected was going on & hinted at in my preview. “counting backwards from Advent” is one way to think of the contemporary three year lectionary system – you and I understand this – many might not 🙂 In reality, we agree, it is not the “20th Week of Pentecost” – last Sunday was actually the 17th after the Day of Pentecost. TEC, hence, uses “Proper Sundays” – last Sunday was Proper 21 defined as “The Sunday closest to September 28”. In NZ & RCs & others use “Sundays in Ordinary Time” with last Sunday being the 26th defined as the “Sunday between 25 September and 1 October”. I understand it is too late to alter your system. I also understand the compromises you made and by doing so you will make a far greater connection with the ecumenically shared lectionary than my lowest estimate above. Your comment that many Christians are “unfamiliar with [lectionary and church year] or even hostile towards it” is sad. It is a dislocation with our Jewish heritage and our own Christian tradition. In my recent letionary series I challenged my many readers to come up with a better way – no one has been able to meet that challenge. Thanks for all your work in this Keith.

  5. Our evangelical church here in Southern California switched to the English Standard Version a couple of years ago, purchasing new pew Bibles and giving out copies to visitors. I like it for its readability and its historicity. You may read more about it at http://www.esv.org which also has a search engine. Their study Bible is also excellent and is used by both pastors in our church.

    But what makes the ESV even better is that they have no published a version including the deutero-canonical books. This addition persuaded our Anglican priest to purchase and use the ESV for his preaching and Morning and Evening Prayer readings. I sincerely hope that a study Bible will be published including the deutero-canonical books.

    Our Anglican priest is trying to start a movement in which conservative Anglican churches using the 1928 BCP may revise a new prayer book without the “innovations” of the 1979 but using the ESV. As much as I love the Great Bible version for the Psalter, I’d love to read the Propers in the ESV.

    Just a little food for thought. I do love the ESV. The Message is nice, too, but I prefer the accuracy of the ESV myself.

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