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Responses to Negative Reviews of My Christian Books on Amazon

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

 Most of the reviews of my Christian books on Amazon are positive. But there are a few negative reviews. Amazon used to have a system where readers and authors could respond to reviews of books on its website. When they did, I had responded to those negative reviews. But now that Amazon has removed that ability, I am using this two-part article to respond to those negative reviews.

 

Notes:

      There are usually more ratings than there are reviews, as often people will rate a book but not write a review. The ratings are from one to five stars.

      I consider a four- or five-stars rating to be a positive rating, while a one- or two-stars rating to be a negative rating. A three-star rating would be neutral, neither positive nor negative. I will comment on both the negative and neutral reviews in this two-part article, but not on the positive reviews.

      I will move through my books in the reverse order in which the are listed at Books and eBooks by the Director, starting at the bottom and moving to the top. In this way, I more or less will cover the books in the order in which they were written. But that does not include the various volumes associated with my translation of the Bible. Chronologically, they would be about in the middle of this list. But I list them at the top of that page, since they are the most important of my books. But I will cover them last in this two-part article and not quite in order.

      Pictures of me with all of these books can be found at: Me and My Books: 2000-2021.

      The subtitles/ book titles are links to the Preview page for that book on my Christian Darkness to Light website. These pages are linked to from the preceding page. Links to the page(s) on which the book is found on Amazon is included in the following text. These are advertising links, for which I receive a commission if an item is purchased through one of them.

      Finally, this two-part article was written the first couple of weeks after I had surgery to correct two rotator cuff tears and a biceps subluxation (see Rotator Cuff Injury on my fitness website). As a result, my left arm was in a sling, and I was typing one-handed. Therefore, please excuse me if there are more typos than usual.

 

New World Translation: A Reliable Bible Version?

 

      This first of my books to be discussed is actually just a booklet. It was first published in 2001, with an updated edition in 2016. The paperback is just 78 pages, while the Kindle version is just 149 KB. There are 32 reviews on Amazon, with a 3.7-star rating average.

      The second half of the title indicates the purpose of the book, to answer the question of if the New World Translation (NWT) is a reliable Bible version or not. The blurb at the top of the Preview page reads:

 

      The NWT is the Bible of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This review evaluates the NWT by looking at select passages from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The standards I use are the same standards that I use in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. Simply put, does the translation faithfully and accurately render the Greek text into English?

 

      The longer description on the Preview page and on Amazon then reads:

 

      The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WT). This is the organization that Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to. But how reliable is this Bible version?

      Much has been written about the NWT in regards to passages dealing with the deity of Christ. So rather than going over that much worn ground, this review will instead evaluate the NWT by looking at select passages from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

      The verses will be quoted first from the NWT, then from the word-for-word translation in the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT). Since the NWT claims to be a literal version, it will be seen how close it follows its own interlinear reading. And then the passage will be quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV) and from this reviewer’s own Analytical-Literal Translation: Third Edition (ALT3).

      The standards I will use here are the same standards that I use in evaluating over thirty versions of the Bible in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. Simply put, does the translation faithfully and accurately render the Greek text into English?

      More specifically, are words translated correctly? Are words left untranslated? Are words added without any indication that they have been added? Are the grammatical forms of words altered? Are phrases paraphrased rather than translated? How readable is the text? And how reliable is the Greek text being translated?

 

      Then after the preceding on the Preview page is the Table of Contents, which clearly shows this little booklet contains just verses from the Book of Ephesians. Then are Excerpts from the booklet. They explain the purpose of the booklet, then present the evaluation of three passages from Ephesians.

      On Amazon, along with the preceding description, is their “Look Inside” applet. It enables potential readers to read select pages from the book.

      Finally, the cost of this booklet on Amazon is just $1.25 for the Kindle version and $4.50 for the paperback.

      Between the description and these available sample passages, I thought it was very clear that what this little booklet does is to evaluate select verses from the NWT from just one book of the Bible, the Book of Ephesians. It is not the full text of the NWT itself. In fact, with being so short, how could it be? An entire Bible is far more than 78 pages long and generally costs far more than a buck to four bucks.

      However, I was flabbergasted when in 2010 someone posted a “one-star” review complaining this little booklet did not contain the entire text of the NWT. I didn’t think much of it, in that I did not know how much more I could make it clear that the booklet evaluated select verses from the NWT from just one book of the Bible and was not the entire text of the NWT. As such, I saw no reason to alter anything. Moreover, with that one negative review, I figured that would be a warning to anyone else that this booklet did not contain the entire NWT text. But there are now ten such reviews, all complaining about the same thing.

      It took me a while to figure out what was happening. But my best guess is that all of these negative reviews were posted by JWs. Since they could not respond to the content of this booklet, they latched onto this complaint as a way to justify a 1-2 star review, just to bring down the average for the number of review stars for this booklet, in order to discourage people from purchasing it.

      The reason a JW cannot respond to the contents of this booklet is doing so would require knowing Greek, yet I have never met a JW who does so. The reason is simple—people who know Greek would see what an unreliable translation the NWT is and would never become a JW. Think about it. How could you trust an organization for your spiritual guidance knowing that it completely botched and, in some cases, purposely mistranslated its translation of the Bible?

      I must emphasize, not a single negative review actually addresses the content of this booklet. All ten are based on this misunderstanding, or more likely, this purposeful misrepresenting of this booklet in order to have a way to criticize it.

      Those who correctly understood what they are buying, which again, I make every effort to enable them to do so, give it 4-5 stars. As such, even with those bogus negative reviews, this booklet still has that 3.7-star average rating.

 

Differences Between Bible Versions

 

      Having mentioned my book Differences Between Bible Versions in the previous discussion, it would be good to look at the negative reviews of it next. On Amazon, there are three pages for this book, one for the Kindle edition of the Third Edition, one for the paperback of the Third Edition, and one for the paperback of the Second Edition.

      To look at the reviews of the Second Edition first, there are eleven reviews with a 4.5-star average. That is because all of the reviews are positive, each giving the book four or five stars, except for one. It is a three-star review. However, the first sentence of that review reads, “I have not read this particular book.”

      I have no idea why anyone would continue to read a review that begins in such a fashion, but 18 people rate the review as “Helpful.” I guess what is helpful is this review is a response to another review, but that review appears to be no longer available. But apparently, it argued that Mark 16:9-20 should not be included in the text of Mark, while this reviewer and my book argue that it should. I guess those who find this review helpful do so because they agree with that evaluation.

      Given that this review agrees with my book on the one point he addresses, it is misleading for him to give the book three stars. I guess he used a neutral rating to reflect he never actually read the book.

      Amazon now has a marker of “Verified Purchase” for items reviewed on its website. This marker tells the potential consumer that the person reviewing the item actually purchased it from Amazon. In this way, customers know for certain that the reviewer actually bought the item. Of course, it is possible someone bought an item elsewhere but is reviewing it on Amazon. I in fact encourage readers to do so at the end of my more recent books, to review the book on Amazon and wherever the reader purchased it. That is because, even if someone plans to purchase something elsewhere, Amazon is the go-to palace for reviews on a product.

      However, I think Amazon should only include those “Verified Purchase” reviews in its star average. That would keep those who have not actually used a product or read a book from having their reviews counted in the average.

      That said, there are four reviews of the paperback version of the Third Edition of this book with a 4.5-star average. All four give it a four- or five-star review, so there are no negative reviews to comment upon.

      The Kindle version of the Third Edition has 16 ratings with a 4.2-star average. All give the book four or five stars, except for two reviews that give it a three-star rating.

      The main critical point of the earliest three-star review is, “I don't feel it is a book for beginning seekers.” That is true, if by “seekers” the reviewer means people who are not Christians but who are “seeking” what belief system to follow. The book is not designed for such a person and does not claim to be. As such, the criticism is rather meaningless. The description clearly indicates this book is designed for the person confused by the myriad of Bible versions available and who wants to understand the reasons for the differences between them.

      The second 3-star review is rather long. The reviewer has two main criticisms. They are summed up in his second paragraph:

 

      Where he flunks is in two areas. The first is that he is busy promoting his own books to a fault. The second it his promotion of his belief in Calvinism also called Reformed Theology he should have presented an unbiased view.

 

      The rest of the review is then a criticism of Calvinism, with little relevance to this book.

      To respond to this second criticism first, yes I do mention Calvinist theology in passing in a couple of places, but by way of illustrating how the way one word is translated can affect the meaning of a verse in a significant way that can impact the theological implication of the verse. But I do not discuss Calvinism in at any length. In fact, the reviewer probably does more so in his review than I do in my entire book.

      As for his first criticism, in the text of this book, I mention four of my other books. They are:

 

Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament

Companion Volume to the Analytical-Literal Translation

Scripture Workbook: Second Edition

God-given Food Eating Plan

 

      Given that this book compares different versions of the Bible, of course I would mention my own translation of the Bible, though at this time, it was only of the New Testament. My translation of the Old Testament would come later. But as it was, I mention my translation of the NT by way of an example of a “literal” translation method. As such, I do mention it quite a bit, as it is my preferred translation method, for reasons explained in the book.

      My Companion Volume to the Analytical-Literal Translation is mentioned twice. Both are to indicate charts in that book that lists textual variants mentioned in this book.

      The other two books are mentioned once each, each time by way of saying an issue that is raised by a quoted Bible verse is addressed is addressed at length in that book.

      To me, it makes sense for me to let readers know when I address an issue in more detail elsewhere that is only touched on in the current book. But I guess that is too much self-promotion for some.

      Otherwise, Appendix Two of this book lists and gives a short description of all of my books. I include such an appendix in all of my books, as it is normal for authors to list their other books in each of their books, either in an introductory page or at the end of the book. That is done because of course authors want readers who like the book they are reading to know about and possibly purchased their other books. Not to do so would be rather foolhardy.

      The paperback edition of the Third Edition has four reviews with a 4.4-star average. Only three reviews are available, one with five stars and the other two with four stars, so I have nothing to comment upon.

 

The Bible and Sexual Relationships Issues

 

      This book is more of a booklet, being only 140 pages long in the paperback version. It was written at a time in my life when I was not doing well physically, emotionally, or spiritually. As a result, I rushed through it and did not cover the important topics raised in anywhere the depth they deserved. Therefore, I would rate this as my worst book. Even the title was stupid. As such, in a way, I am glad it barely sold and there are no ratings or reviews of it on Amazon.

      I wrote two articles as I was coming out of this physical, emotional, and spiritual funk, one for my Christian website and one for my Fitness for One and All website. See Steps to Being Emotionally and Spiritually Uplifted  and Regaining Muscular Bodyweight and Strength.

 

Scripture Workbook: First Edition

 

      We now come to what has been by far my best-selling book, the First Edition of my Scripture Workbook. In a away, that is a bit frustrating, as this was my first book. That means, it does not mention any of my other books. As just discussed, of course authors want readers who like the book they are reading to know about and possibly purchase their other books. But readers of this book would not know I have written dozens of books since it.

      In any case, there is one page on Amazon for both the paperback and Kindle versions. There are 239 ratings with a 4.4-star average. The breakdown is: 5-star: 67%, 4-star: 16%, 3-star: 7%, 2-star: 5%, 1-star 4%. That means, 84% are positive while just 9% are negative.

      Looking at the 3-star reviews first, there are four such reviews. The first states, “The book could provide more studies on more subject matters that cover singles, marriage, helping disciples, leadership, praise and worship.”

      This is where this being my first book becomes important. I address these issues later in other books. Most notably in the Second Edition of this book. I will address that edition shortly. But here, I will say it is frustrating most people are still buying this First Edition rather than the Second Edition. The latter provides many more studies.

      Otherwise, my two-volume set God’s Sex Plan addresses in depth the issues of singles and marriage the reviewer mentions. But sadly, sales of it have been dismal, as I will discuss later. But here, notice what I just did. I mentioned other books that address topics in depth that are just mentioned in passing here, the very thing I was criticized for doing in the previous discussion. I’ll let the reader decide if that was inappropriate or not.

      The next three-star review states, “It is not what I was expecting at all. Seems to be geared for young people and not the general public of all ages.” This comment confused me, as I would say this book is not for kids. Having to look up a bunch of verses would probably be quite boring for a younger person.

      The other two 3-star reviews are quite short: “Quite helpful” and “its ok.” I would think a book that is “quite helpful” should garner at least four-stars, while “its ok” is exactly what 3-stars reflects.

      There are 11 two-star reviews. The first just says, “No comment.” The rest of the 2-star reviews are also rather short and are mostly critical of the format of the book. This takes us back to my attempt to provide readers with sufficient information to understand the nature of each of my books.

      Again, on the Preview page on my website for each book is a shorter and longer description, a Table of Contents, and Book Excerpts. On Amazon is the longer description and the “Look Inside” feature. Checking these resources should let readers know what each of my books is like.

      In this case, those resources show this book is basically a collection of Bible verse references collected together by topic. It is then up to the reader to look up each verse and decide for yourself if it supports the topic at hand.

      These sources also show this book does not include spaces to be filled in by the reader, as some reviewers said they expected. Although, I did try to design the paperback with larger margins than is normal for a book, so that the reader would have space to add their own references or comments.

      But I did find one comment particularly interesting, “I didn’t find it useful. I gave it to a young man in our youth group who has been called to preach. He absolutely loves it for reference.” The subtitle for this book is, “For Personal Bible Study and Teaching the Bible.” Therefore, this comment shows this book does exactly what it was designed to do.

      The final two-star review is by far the longest. It is a long diatribe about being graceful to people who disagree with you. But it has little relevance too my book, as I do not in any way disparage people I disagree with. I just present the reasons for my positions and why I disagree with their positions.

      There are six one-star reviews. The first again complains about the format of the book. The next says, “It’s opinionated and not biblically sound!” Yes, this book is “opinionated” in that I do take a position on the subjects presented. Thus, for instance, I believe the Bible teaches God is in one sense “one” but in a different sense “three” (the doctrine of the Trinity). I then present hundreds of Bible verse references that support this “three-in-oneness” nature of God.

      As for “not biblically sound” that is the whole point of the multitude of Bible references for each topic. Look them up and decide for yourself if the position I present is biblically sound or not. But I notice this reviewer does not give even a single example of where I am not biblically sound.

      This point can be seen in what the next reviewer says, “If you want to research or rather verify just what the author has already proscribed, then this might just be the book for you.” That is exactly the point of the book. Research the topic by checking the Scripture references provided.

      It should also be noted, on most controversial subjects, I also list verses that are often cited by those who disagree with my position. Though I explain why I think they are misusing the verse, again, the reader can decide who is correct by looking up and considering each verse for yourself.

      The next one-star review says simply, “Adequate.” I would think that would be a 3-star attitude towards the book.

      The next reviewer complains, “I thought this workbook would include the entire bible because it says Teaching the Bible not Teaching some of the Bible.” This takes us back to the negative reviews of my booklet on the NWT. I don’t know how I could have been clearer in the resources about the book that it is not a Bible per se,

      The final one-star review has the sentence, “It clearly has nothing to do to Catholicism either.” There is no mention of “Catholicism” in any of the resources about the book, so it does not claim to be such. Though, there is for the Second Edition that I will get to shortly.

 

Scripture Workbook: Edition 1.1

 

      I actually published this book after the Second Edition, but it is more logical to address it first. The purpose of this edition was simple—to correct typographical errors in the First Edition. I did that with the Second Edition, but since most people were still purchasing the First Edition even after the Second Edition was available, I wanted to have a version of it that corrected those errors.

      Otherwise, this Edition 1.1 is identical to the First Edition, except I was able to add an appendix listing my other books that were available by this later date, as discussed previously. Thus, if for some reason you think the First Edition is to be preferred to the Second, then get this edition for the correction of errors.

      That said, on Amazon there are three ratings for this edition, all five-stars, for of course a five-star average, so I have nothing to comment upon.

 

Scripture Workbook: Second Edition

 

      I spent a year working on this Second Edition of my Scripture Workbook. I originally published it in two-volumes. Volume One was on “Essentials of ‘the Faith.’” Volume Two covered, “Controversial Theologies, Cultic Doctrines, and Ethics.”

      In between working on these two volumes, I wrote my book Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting: A Comprehensive Guide to the World's Strongest Sport. That book took me just three months to write, as it was mostly just out of my head based my own experience of many years of powerlifting. But each of these volumes took me six months to complete, as a lot of research was involved.

      After Volume Two was published, I combined the two-volumes together and ceased to promote the individual volumes.

      Given the amount of time I spent on this combined volume, I have been quite disappointed that most people still purchase the First Edition. That is also disappointing, as this book greatly expands on the first one. I state in the introductory pages:

 

      For this Second Edition, all of the studies have been reviewed and expanded. The number of studies have been almost doubled, so there is even more material for the student of the Bible to study….

      SWB1 consisted of 22 Scripture Studies, covering 205 pages, while this new edition contains 40 Scripture Studies and 505 pages.

 

      That said, on Amazon, there are just three ratings and two reviews of this Second Edition with a 2.9-star average. The lone negative, a one-star review, states simply, “No!” while the other available review is five-stars. But I do want to quote it, as it emphasizes what I just explained about the difference between this Second Edition versus the first, “This book has a lot of information it. I was amazed at all the subjects it covered.”

      One of the new subjects covered in this edition is “Catholicism vs. Protestantism.” That was in response to the reviewer complaining I didn’t address that topic in the First Edition. Although, he probably would still not be pleased, as I think he meant by that a pro-Catholic perspective, while the two studies in this volume on this subject refute unique Catholic doctrines.

 

The LORD Has It Under Control

 

      The subtitle for this book is, “What the Bible Teaches About the Sovereignty of God.” It was written after I had come out of the physical, emotional, and spiritual funk mentioned previously. As such, it has a very upbeat tone to it and is probably my most personal book. In it, I relate many personal anecdotes of how I could see God sovereignly working in my life to illustrate the Biblical principles and doctrines presented in this book. It took me over six months to write this book.

      However, sadly, the sales of this book have been dismal. Maybe the sheer size of it scares some people off, 660 pages. In retrospective, maybe I should have done what I did for the next books, separate it into two volumes, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. But as it is, there are no reviews or even ratings for it on Amazon. That truly saddens me, as I would have really liked to know what people think of this book.

 

God’s Sex Plan

Volume One

What the Old Testament Teaches About Human Sexuality

 

Volume Two

What the New Testament Teaches About Human Sexuality

 

      I will address these books together, as they are a two-volume set. They were my replacement for the aforementioned book The Bible and Sexual Relationships Issues. With these volumes, I gave the important topics addressed the coverage they warrant. That is how I ended up with two volumes, to correct the shoddy job I did previously.

      However, the situation for both volumes is the same. Like my Scripture Workbook: Second Edition, sales of both volumes have been dismal, much to my great disappointment. Also like that book, I spent six months working on each volume, for a full year of my life devoted to this set. But unlike my Scripture Workbook: Second Edition, I kept this as a two-volume set even after Volume Two was published, as each volume is about 400 pages, and an 800 page book would just be too long.

      That said, on Amazon, there are two ratings for Volume One and just one for Volume Two. All three are five-star ratings, so of course both volumes have a five-star average. However, there are no actual reviews. That is rather frustrating, as a positive review is a better selling point than just a positive rating.

       I can only guess the three people who rated these books did not want to write a review, as it would require admitting they agree with my very unpopular positions in these books. In them, I declare “God’s sex plan” is one woman and one man together for a lifetime, while all sexual relationships outside of a male-female lifelong marriage are outside of God’s will. I also declare there are only two sexes, male and female, and to want to change from one to the other is a symptom of underlying psychological disorders.

      In a way, I wish there were negative reviews of these books. Controversy about these books might have generated publicity and much greater sales. But then, such recognition might have led Amazon to remove these books from its website, as it has done to other books promoting biblical and scientific but unpopular opinions on such subjects. Then again, Amazon could still remove these books, so get them while you can if you want books promoting a biblical view of human sexuality.

 

Part Two of this article will be posted after it appears in the next issue of FitTips for One and All.

 

The above article was posted on this website September 2, 2021.

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