Review: C.S. Lewis Bible

After a year or so of debating it in my mind, I finally broke down and purchased The C.S. Lewis Bible (leather-bound edition).  When the project first came out, I thought "Ugh...Surely, not another niche Bible...Well, at least it's C.S. Lewis this time..."  Despite my potential misgivings about this "niche Bible", I often found myself thumbing through it in bookstores as I prepared for upcoming sermons and on more than one occasion I discovered a wonderful quote or nugget of wisdom that I wanted to share with my congregation. 

What can I say about the C.S. Lewis Bible?  Well first of all, this is a devotional Bible and NOT a Study Bible.  A great many pages have no notes at all, whereas a good Study Bible will have notes on most every page, nor are there introductions to the various Biblical books.  The quotations from Lewis generally give spiritual insight or helpful questions for reflection and are keyed to specific passages of Scripture, but (unlike a Study Bible) do not give much information about the original writers or historical contexts of the various books of the Bible.  

The quotes from Lewis are either small "quote boxes" inserted into the text (in a different color and font) with a single thought from Lewis, or they are longer excerpts from his works generally at the top or bottom of a page.  The selections are brimming over with spiritual insight and (so far), they really have been the sort of quotations that send me back to the Biblical text itself, pondering its depths, rather than simply leaving me admiring Lewis.  While Lewis is only one thinker, which is a potential drawback (see below), one strength of his work is his deep familiarity with the larger tradition that had come before him.  His own ideas are filled with the thoughts of older saints and teachers.

There are a couple of complete essays about Lewis and reading the Bible with Lewis at the beginning of the text, plus a short essay on reading the Bible from Lewis himself at the end.  These are all quite thought-provoking and give a sense of the intent of the editors in putting together this project.

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is one of the very few translations that has been approved for use by Catholic, and Protestant, and Orthodox churches.  It follows in the great King James and Revised Standard translation stream (that Lewis himself used) and preserves at least some of the literary quality of those venerable previous translations.  

The leather-bound edition is very handsome, and the page layouts, even the fonts are also quite pleasing to the eye.  The beauty of the presentation itself is, I believe, something Lewis himself would have appreciated about this project. 

Always nice to have in any Bible, I would say.

As with any study Bible or devotional Bible, we know that the notes on the text are something far less than the Word of God.  It is perhaps especially important to be aware of that in cases (like this one) where all the notes represent the perspective of a single man: Lewis has his own theological idiosyncrasies and oddities as well as brilliant insights.  Still, if you are interested in this Bible at all, you probably (like me) are quite eager to get more from Mr. Lewis (and there is quite a bit to be had here in an easily accessible format).   

Though Lewis did acknowledge the need for modern Bible translations, I cannot help but agree with some critics who have suggested that Lewis himself would not be a particularly enthusiastic fan of the NRSV.  As a literary scholar he was very sensitive about the use of language and the layers of meaning contained in a single word or phrase.  This is why I expect he would have found some of the NRSV's non-traditional wording (especially with some prophetic passages as well as with the sometimes clumsy attempts to "gender-neutralize"  pronouns) along with the translators' occasionally odd or counter-intuitive word choices to be a bit off-putting.  Though it is for the most part a solid translation (and one that I use frequently), at times one gets the feeling that the NRSV translators were going out of their way to differentiate themselves from the KJV and RSV wording, and when this occurs it almost always results in a weaker or less elegant translation. 

No maps:
Yeah, what is up with that?

On the whole I am very happy with this Bible which has indeed exceeded my expectations.  I expect this will be my "go to" Bible for devotional reading for a long time to come.  I would give it a 4.5 or perhaps even 5 out of 5 stars if I was giving a numerical rating, and would certainly recommend it to others.

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