Book Reviews

The Prayer Bible

A Modern Translation

Elmer Towns and Roy B. Zuck Shippensburg, PA 2014-09-16

Elmer Towns is one of the co-founders of Liberty University. During Towns’s academic career, he gave theological lectures and seminars at seminaries and colleges worldwide, holding visiting professorship rank in five seminaries and receiving six honorary doctoral degrees. He has published over 2,000 reference and popular articles. Roy Zuck served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary for twenty-three years, from 1973 to 1996. Soon after beginning his teaching career at DTS, he was asked to be the senior editor of the seminary’s theological journal, Bibliotheca Sacra, where he served until his death in 2013. He authored over 30 books, and numerous articles on biblical issues. Basic Bible Interpretation, which he wrote, and Bible Knowledge Commentary, which he edited, are classic volumes, undergoing a number of reprints.

Elmer Towns and Roy Zuck collaborated in producing a modern translation of the Scriptures as well as a tool for praying through the Scriptures. Towns translated the New Testament and the poetic books, while Zuck translated the rest of the Old Testament. Four guidelines were adhered to in producing this translation. First, the translators “bought their theological orientation to their work” (p. 7). Both men hold to verbal inspiration and the inerrancy of every word in the original languages of Scripture. Second, they felt the need to “interpret the Scriptures following a historical and biblical background and the context in which the Scriptures were written. It is a commitment to a literal meaning in the mind of the author” (p. 7). Third, attention is given to each and every word. Recognizing that words may have multiple meanings, Towns and Zuck followed the adage, “When the plain sense of Scriptures makes common sense, seek no other sense: therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning” (p. 8, quoting David L. Cooper, Messiah: His Historical Appearance [Los Angeles, CA: Biblical Research Society, 1958], 19). “The fourth guideline was to relate prayer to passages so that the reader did more than read the Bible to himself. Rather, the reader was to pray each passage to God as he read the Scriptures” (p. 8). The result is a translation that is interesting and easy to follow.

The layout of the Bible starts with the key word, key verse, and theme of each book. The reader then is immediately introduced to the text. As the text is read, suggestions for prayer are inserted by number, title, and cross-reference. For example: “Lord, in the beginning You created the heavens and earth, {93 Creation-Inspired Worship. Ps. 19:1, 2} but You had not yet formed the earth into its final form, it was void” (p. 11).

The  number “93” in the above quote is a reference to “Principles of Prayer” collected at the end of the Bible, pp. 1813–1919. That prayer reads, “We worship God for the wonderful universe He created, and for the evidences of His sustaining power in His universe. We are careful not to worship the creation, but God, the Creator who is vastly superior to His creation. We worship God for His power, wisdom, and artistic beauty that created the universe. Since the creation extends far beyond our comprehension, so our worship of God the Creator must go far beyond our human limitation.” It then directs the reader to a link, “Recognizing God’s Creative Power-Prayer” (p. 1888). In addition, the Bible has prayers inserted at points within the chapters of the various books where the reader can stop, pray, then continue on with the reading.

The Prayer Bible: A Modern Translation is exactly what it claims to be. It is a modern translation of the Bible full of prayers that relate to the passage being read, as well as a Bible full of interconnected subjects on prayer. This Bible is recommend for those wanting a devotional approach to the reading of Scripture as well as a way of praying through the Bible.

A few suggestions would be helpful for the next edition. There is no explanation as to how to use the Bible. It would be helpful to know what the numbers mean; where the prayers are found; how to relate and link one prayer with another; and why and how the full prayers are inserted into the chapters. These and other minor explanations would be most useful to the reader. Otherwise, The Prayer Bible accomplishes its objectives of being both a Bible that insists on prayer and a modern translation that is faithful to the original languages.

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