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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books inspired by the Bible reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Between Hell and Hope," Feb. 12, 2011

Havah: The Story of Eve

What would it be like to be Eve? What was her life like before the fall? What could have prompted her to taste the fruit? In this novel, Tosca Lee sets out to explore these questions, and the resulting novel is a slow but provocative rendering of what our fallen minds can't really grasp. She portrays the serpent as beautiful and cunning, praising Eve and slyly winning her confidence: "Do you not believe the One has made you the most lovely and gifted of creatures?" When Adam and Eve wake up after eating the fruit, all has changed: "For the first time since my creation, I could not discern his thoughts." She depicts a fallen world characterized by Adam and Eve's alienation from each other, from creation, and from God.

Naomi and Her Daughters

Walter Wangerin reimagines Naomi's story and the period of the Judges in this evocative, sometimes brutal novel. Naomi is pictured as a healer and a singer of the songs of Israel-after the fashion of Deborah or Miriam. A wastrel tanner in their village has a daughter who becomes like a daughter to Naomi and Elimilech. Wangerin ties together several tales from Judges, showing how Naomi descended from a state of blessed, fruitful abundance to her dry and bitter widowhood, before being restored again to life through her daughter-in-law Ruth. Wangerin's Naomi lives and breathes on a raw and gritty stage, with God remaining always faithful-although she doesn't always see it.

Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011

Campbell's brief history of the KJV, written to mark the 400th anniversary of the translation's publication, explains how James I liked the idea of a new translation: He saw it as a way to displace the popular Geneva Bible, which he viewed as anti-monarchical, and cement the king's role as the head of the church. The new Bible was to be a revision of the Bishops' Bible, but it also borrowed from previous English translations, including Tyndale's, Coverdale's, Matthew's, Whitchurch's (also called The Great Bible), and Geneva. Even at the time of its writing, the KJV would have seemed to its readers to be "slightly formal and slightly archaic." As one of the translators wrote, "We desire that the Scripture . . . may be understood even of the very vulgar."

Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language

Crystal set out to discover the truth or falsity of the claim about the King James Version that "no book has had greater influence on the English language." He searched the KJV for idiomatic phrases still in use today but in ways unconnected to their biblical usage, and with the help of Google discovered 257 different phrases such as "fuel to the fire" and "feet of clay." Although we attribute those phrases to the KJV, many of them first appeared in earlier English translations (the Geneva Bible had the most parallels). Crystal concluded that the "linguistic fingerprints" of these earlier translations are found all over the KJV, but "there can be little doubt that this 'authorized' translation did more than any other to fix these expressions in the mind of the English-speaking public."

Spotlight

Parents and teachers interested in having their children read the Bible might want to investigate the Illustrated Bible published by Neely Press. It comes in two translations, the International Children's Bible and the New American Standard Bible. Unlike Bible story books, each portion of Scripture contains the complete biblical text accompanied by classic cartoon illustrations. When someone is speaking, the illustration shows a word bubble coming from the speaker. Scripture portions can also be read online. The website (freeillustratedbible.com) has posted 14 free stories, including Jonah's story, the Gospel of John, and David and Goliath.

An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton is truly a rollicking book of thanks, with exuberant illustrations that perfectly complement the playful text: "And thank you thank you ocean deep, and desert dry, and mountain steep." Sadly-but parents can readily compensate for this-the book itself is devoted to thanking the creation in all its wonderful diversity. By itself the book would not teach children to lift up their eyes to thank the Creator.

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