Review: Bibliotheca New Testament

I recently received an invitation from #speakeasy to review the Bibliotheca New Testament, and I gladly accepted because I was already familiar with the project. When the project first launched on Kickstarter several years ago, I ordered a full set as gift for a family member. But, of course, I spent some time with the books before wrapping them. When I was done, I regretted not ordering a second set for myself.

The books are of the highest physical quality: handmade and a pleasure to hold. The binding lays flat without any worry of damage, the paper is crisp, and the printing is clear. As an older low-vision reader, I find the font and its size appropriate and comfortable to follow.

I teach in the Bible field at a Christian seminary, so I own quite a few Bibles (my wife says, “too many,” but that is just not possible). I have study Bibles, Bibles in Hebrew, Bibles in Greek, Bibles in more English translations than I can recall, and Bibles in half a dozen other modern languages. I have Bibles for different purposes or use in different locations: at my desk, in the classroom, in the pulpit, while travelling, etc. The Bibliotheca New Testament is a welcome addition to my collection as a “reading Bible.”

I would be nervous about travelling with it, even though the book is so well made; but the layout is nearly perfect. More and more I prefer and seek out single-column Bibles to accommodate my vision needs. That alone make the Bibliotheca New Testament a great Bible for quiet, distraction free immersion into the biblical text. I will admit, as a teacher and aspiring scholar, the paragraph layout without chapter and verse numbers is a challenge at first. I am constantly wondering about cross-references, textual issues, etc. And this is precisely why I need a version like this at times. Those features, while important for certain tasks, can indeed hinder me from experiencing the Bible story as such.

Over the years, I have tried a few “reader’s editions.” The earliest printings of The Message dropped the distracting features but left me wanting more—or even cringing at times—as that version is really a paraphrase rather than a translation. Since then, I have been reluctant to purchase any of the other “readers editions” and instead opted for “text-only” Bibles that retain chapter and verse notation, making them adequate for teaching or preaching.

The Bibliotheca New Testament uses The American Literary Version, described on the Bibliotheca website as

“a fresh update—reviewed and approved by scholars—of The American Standard Version of 1901.

While archaic language has been modernized (thou to you, doth to does, etc.), the exceptional accuracy and literary quality of the base translation have been carefully preserved.”

It is important to note that this is not a new translation. Instead, the editors have meticulously reviewed and edited an existing translation in the lineage of the Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version. While designating any translation as “literal” is problematic, there is certain “literary” quality to it. The KJV translators, out of reverence for the original languages, strive to render ever word into English and retain the rhythms of those texts. This results in the poetic language of the KJV so beloved for generations. The editors of the ALV succeed in updating that language while retaining the beauty of its cadence. My only critique is that the revision did not produce a more inclusive version (e.g., the use of the archaic “brethren” when it is clear from context that the author is addressing a group of both men and women).

Notwithstanding, the editors of The Bibliotheca New Testament have achieved something wonderful. I will treasure my copy and soon hope to acquire the full set. I recommend The Bibliotheca New Testament to anyone looking for a fresh experience of that sacred text.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Palm Sunday

by Matthew B. Harper

Psalm 22:1 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Throughout all of Jesus’ travels, through all of his earthly ministry, Jesus often went away to be alone to pray; but not so on this night. On this night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus kept his friends close. I believe it was in this garden, on this night, when our salvation was truly forged. Jesus pleads with God, he begs to avoid the horror of the crucifixion, and then he follows God’s will.

When I was preparing to come to prison I too surrounded myself with friends. We are together and talked. They helped me pack up some of my belongings for long-term storage, and I gave much away to them. The morning before I went away a group of friends came over to my house and our rector celebrated communion with us. Before leaving, my Love and I held each other close, and then I left. I went to prison with my head up, but it was only by the strength of my faith and my friends that I was able to do so. And when I broke down in fear, pain, and regret many times in the next few years, it was those friends that have given me strength, and taught me how to be a better man.

We are not meant to walk this journey through the world on our own. God has given us a great gift in the presence of each other, and we should draw strength from that. Even in the depth of his pain our Lord turned to us, lowly mortals, for companionship and comfort. Can we do any less?

So if it is listening when someone is in distress, holding someone when they cry, or simply standing beside someone when tragedy strikes, be there when you are needed.

Almighty God and everlasting God, who sent thy Son our Savior to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross: mercifully grant that we may both follow in the example of His patience, and also be partakers of His resurrection, Amen” BCP168

Lectionary: Epiphany 4B


Matthew B. Harper

A Sermon for Epiphany 4B

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
1st Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

Sometimes I think that perhaps life is simply safer and easier in prison than out. Life in here can be difficult, painful, and violent, but there is a clarity and honesty to it. The outside world, one I’ve only seen on TV and in glossy magazines for 20 years now, seems to be consumed with acrimony and judgment. Rather than bringing us closer together, new technology is just documenting how we are splitting ourselves into tribes, and casting our anger at others. We are a world in need of a savior.

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Sermon: The Longest Night

prison-bars-with-candle(EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is a sermon for December 21st, the longest night of the year. On this night many churches have a “Longest Night” service for those who are struggling to find joy this Christmas, often due to grief. This sermon was shared at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Richmond Virginia, in 2017.)

“The Longest Night”

A Sermon by Matthew B. Harper

The longest night of the year. A time when darkness comes early and stays late, when night feels unexpected and interminable. Tonight we gather to acknowledge that darkness, and to dwell in it quietly; we know it exists, and it’s okay that it does. “Merry Christmas” may not feel all that ‘Merry,’ but it is Christmas and we know the light of dawn is just over the horizon.
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“Virgil Brigman is back on the air”

Our friend Matthew Harper reflects on a recent thirty-day stint in solitary confinement.

Grace and Peace to you all.

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado, I spent the last thirty days in segregation. Someone had been urging our band to do the Humble Pie song “Thirty Days in the Hole,” but we put it off. I guess I should have played the song. Instead I did the thirty days.
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Lectionary: Easter 2A

by AMN

1 Peter 1:3-9

What is your message?

This should be the time of year that we should reflect and reevaluate our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We have just finished celebrating the event that our faith hinges on: the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. I see and hear preachers push prosperity-heavy ministries and say that if one is not living a prosperous lifestyle, then you’re not worshiping the Creator the right way. I’m sorry, that’s a bunch of bologna folks. Continue reading

Lectionary: Good Friday

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Keith Wiglusz

Scripture affirms to us that Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. He himself felt weakness while on earth to pay the ultimate penalty for the sins of the whole world past, present and future. He was sinless and at the time the only one who had brought back anyone from death. Now He was faced with doing the Father’s will and dying. I met a man who claimed he was locked up wrongly for a crime. Out of curiosity I asked if he had ever done that same crime any other time and not been caught. He actually bragged he had. The fact that Jesus committed no sin really sunk in my mind after that revelation.

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Maundy Thursday

This was our Maundy Thursday post last year.

Prison Lectionary

by Matthew B. Harper

Luke 22:26 – The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.

It has been said that humility is the one virtue that once you think you have it, you don’t.

All of us suffer from a preoccupation with ourselves; we are prone to arrogance, to pride, to ego-centrism. And in our arrogance we lessen the very humanity of other people. What few of us stop to think about is that if we are first, it means we are forcing others to be last.

And you cannot conquer arrogance your pride by fighting it head on. The first reaction to such an endeavor is to always say “man, I’m beating this pride!” and there you go, taking pride in not being proud!

The path of Jesus was never to pretend to be less than he was, it was to…

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Lectionary: Maundy Thursday

by Terrance “Lil Bear” Plummer

Exodus 12:1-14


This is the instructional video that God gave to Moses and Aaron to give to those He calls His own (the congregation of Israel). These are the things that needed to be done to gain their freedom. As with Israel, God is often giving us instructions for our lives, things to be done, to set us free from the thing or persons that have us enslaved. When God hears our cry, we must be ready to move out to the places God wants to take us. Continue reading