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Responses to Negative Reviews of My Christian Books on Amazon
By Gary F, Zeolla
This two-part article is continued from Responses to Negative Reviews of My Christian Books on Amazon: Part One.
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?
A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the Old Testament
A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the New Testament
The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament Apocrypha
Each volume in this set is over 400 pages long; so altogether, there are over 1,200 pages. It took me over a year to finish this three-volume set. I spent that amount of time and detail on these books, as I believe the overall subject covered is vital to understand for both Christians and non-Christians alike.
I say that, as I have received many questions over the thirty years of my ministry on this subject from both Christians and non-Christians. The Christians often ask about this subject by way of being challenged by non-Christians with claims of the “wrong” books being in the Bible or books being omitted from the Bible that should be in it. Those latter claims are often accompanied by elaborate conspiracy theories about early Church politics, power struggles, and the like. Non-Christians have also raised these same claims to me directly.
Christians will also ask about this issue by way of wondering why there are more books in Catholic Bibles than are found in Protestant Bibles.
All of these questions and claims and many more are addressed in this three-volume set. And those reading it would attain the seminary equivalent of classes on “Old Testament Introduction” and “New Testament Introduction,” such as I took when I attended Denver Seminary back in 1988-90.
I had high hopes for this set, not just for individual sales but for Bible colleges or seminaries to pick them up for such classes. But sadly again, that has not happened. Maybe that is because of the extensive nature of these books.
But then, they actually pale in size in comparison to the book I used for my New Testament Introduction class at Denver Seminary. The book was New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie. It is 1,161 pages. And that is just for the New Testament (NT). For the Old Testament (OT) class, we used A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason Archer. It is 512 pages. Thus, that is a total of 1,673 pages. In addition, each of these books cost $39.99 on Amazon; so together, they would set you back almost $80 bucks. And they are only available in hardback format.
Meanwhile, my three-volume set is available in hardback, paperback, and Kindle format, as are most of my books. The Kindles are just $3.99 each, so you could get the entire set for less than twelve bucks, a mere fraction of the cost for the preceding books.
With the dearth of sales, there is just one rating and review for Volume One on Amazon. But it is a five-star rating. The review states simply, “Great, Thanks.” But there are no ratings or reviews for Volume Two or Volume Three.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament
The abbreviation for my translation of the NT is ALT. There have been three editions. I distinguish the three editions by using ALT1, ALT2, and ALT3 for the successive editions. There are separate pages on Amazon for each edition, so I will move through them in order,
For ALT1, there are five ratings, with a 3.9-star average. There are also five reviews: two 5-stars, one 4-stars, one 3-stars, and one 2-stars. I will comment on the latter two.
The 3-stars review is titled “Knowing God.” It seems to be in response to a review that is no longer available. The reviewer starts by saying, “I prefer the KJV for personal reasons.” That is probably why he didn’t actually purchase the ALT. At least, his review is not marked, “Verified Purchase.” As such, as best as I can tell, he does not actually refer to the ALT in his review. He instead gets into a discussion about grace versus works, even mentioning R.C. Sproul, who had nothing to do with my translation.
The 2-stars review is titled “Another liberal modern interpretation of the NT.” Let me first say, this is the only time I have ever been accused of being liberal in a theological sense. I say that, as the main thrust of the reviewer is his disagreement with my rendering of two verses. The first is the last word of Luke 1:48. For context, I will quote verses 46-48.
46And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit expressed great happiness because of [or, exalts in] God my Savior. 48For He looked with care upon the humble state of His female-bondservant. For listen! From now on all generations will consider me to be fortunate.
The reviewer is upset about my use of “fortunate” rather than the more traditional “blessed.” He says that degrades Mary’s role as the “Theotokos” (“Mother of God”). He also states, “The Virgin is the New Eve, the one who gave birth to the New Adam. To dismiss her as ‘fortunate’ instead of Blessed is bordering on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by Whom Mary conceived the Incarnate Logos.”
It is apparent the reviewer is coming from a Catholic perspective of the role of Mary in the incarnation, though that might be an Orthodox Catholic rather than Roman Catholic given what he says later. He also claims, “Zeolla wrote to me that he did not think Mary deserved to give birth to God the Word. “
I doubt I wrote any such thing, though given this review is from 2005, it is hard for me to say for sure. But I will say, for my full attitude towards Mary and her role in then incarnation, see Scripture Study #26 “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” in my Scripture Workbook: Second Edition (there I go again referring to another of my books when writing about a different book.).
But here, the important question is not what is one’s theology about Mary but what does the Greek word mean? The reviewer claims, “The majority of Lexica gives ‘Blessed’ as first translation when adjective.”
The lexicons I primarily use are the ones found on the BibleWorks program (now defunct, but I still use it). They give the following definitions of the Greek word:
Friberg, Analytical Greek Lexicon:
[Fri] makari,zw fut. makariw/; as an evaluation of someone as happy because of favorable circumstances regard as happy, think of as blessed, consider fortunate (LU 1.48)
Gingrich, Greek NT Lexicon (GIN)
makari,zw call or consider blessed, happy, fortunate Lk 1:48; Js 5:11.* [pg 121]
Danker, Greek NT Lexicon (DAN)
makari,zw [maka,rioj] ‘consider favored’, bless, pronounce fortunate Lk 1:48; Js 5:11.
It can be seen that the reviewer is correct in that “blessed” is given first in each of these lexicons, but “fortunate” is given in each as well, with Luke 1:48 specifically cited das an example. Therefore, either is a legitimate translation. But is there a difference? Below are the definitions of the words from Meriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Definition of blessed
a: held in reverence: VENERATED
the blessed saints
b: honored in worship: HALLOWED
the blessed Trinity
a blessed visitation
2: of or enjoying happiness
specifically, Christianity: enjoying the bliss of heaven —used as a title for a beatified person
the blessed Virgin Mary
3: bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune
a blessed event
4—used as an intensive
never had one blessed minute of instruction
Definition of fortunate
1: bringing some good thing not foreseen as certain: AUSPICIOUS
made a fortunate investment
2: receiving some unexpected good
How fortunate we are to get such a nice room!
If there is a difference between the two words depends on which meaning of “blessed” you compare with “fortunate.” If definition 3 is considered, they are synonymous. But if 1 or 2 is used, then blessed has more of a “religious” component.
The latter could be appropriate in this context, if one has a “high” view of Mary and think she should be “held in reverence” or even “honored in worship.” That exalted view of Mary is what the Catholic reviewer wants. But that view does not fit in with other occurrences of the Greek word in the NT. In its verbal form, as it is found in Luke 1:48, it only occurs one other time in the NT, in James 5:11:
Indeed, we consider the ones enduring to be fortunate. You* heard of the patient endurance of Job and the outcome [brought about by the] Lord; observe that He is very compassionate and merciful (ALT3).
Here, James is clearly not saying Job is to be venerated or worshipped. He could be saying he is “enjoying the bliss of heaven” though that would be covered by “receiving some unexpected good” in the definition of fortunate.
In its noun form, the Greek word occurs 50 times in the NT, most notably in the Beatitudes as recorded in Luke 6:20-22:
20And having lifted up His eyes to His disciples, He said: “Fortunate [are] the poor, because yours* is the kingdom of God. 21Fortunate [are] the ones hungering now, because you* will be filled. Fortunate [are] the ones weeping now, because you* will laugh. 22Fortunate are you* when people hate you*, and when they exclude you* and insult [or, denounce] [you*] and cast out [fig., scorn] your* name as evil because of the Son of Humanity (ALT3).
It can be seen Jesus declares a variety of people to be “fortunate.” If I used “blessed,” here, it most certainly would be in the sense of 3 above as synonymous with fortunate. In no way would Jesus be saying these people should be venerated or worshipped.
One principle I used in translating the ALT was to try to be as consistent as possible in rendering the same Greek word or word form with the same English word or form. That cannot always be done, as some words have more than one meaning. The correct meaning in a given occurrence is determined by context.
Here, the only reason to render the Greek word differently in Luke 1:48 than in James 5:11 or in Luke 6:20-22 is one’s preconceived theology about Mary. Linguistically, there is no reason for a different rendering in the three contexts.
But to indicate the different possible renderings, in Luke 1:45, just three verses before the verse in question, I include the following notation, “fortunate [or, blessed, and throughout book].” Maybe I should have included the alternative in every occurrence, but that would get tedious, especially in passages like Luke 6:20-22 and the parallel in Mathew 5:3-10.
That is the very criticism I make about the Amplified Bible in my Differences Between Bible Versions book, so I wanted to avoid it for my translation. But I will say, I would be open to changing the main translation to “blessed” and the alternative to “fortunate.” That is something I have to think about if I ever publish a new edition of the ALT: NT.
The second verse the reviewer complains about is John 1:1. He says my rendering indicates a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity. Let me start my response by first quoting the entirety of John 1:1 from the ALT. That is important, as the reviewer only quotes one part of it.
In [the] beginning was the Word [fig., the Expression of [Divine] Logic], and the Word was with [fig., in communion with] God, and the Word was God [fig., was as to His essence Deity] (ALT3).
The reviewer is upset about the bracketed part, “in communion with.” He says that makes it sound like the Word (Jesus) is a separate god from the Father to the point that he says I am promoting tritheism. But in saying that, he is ignoring the final phrase and my bracketed rendering of, “was as to His essence Deity.” A unity of essence but distinction of Persons is exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity asserts.
As Article 3 of my ministry’s Confession of Faith asserts, “Within the one Being or essence of God, there eternally exists three distinct yet equal Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”
As for the reason for my bracketed renderings, that would get even more complicated and tedious than the preceding discussion on Luke 1:48. But I don’t need to go into details here, as I do so in my book Companion Volume to the ALT that I will discuss shortly.
But I will say here, those bracketed readings are exactly how my Greek teachers at seminary said the phrases could be rendered, if you were going to use a more expansive translation. Having researched it out. I agreed with them, hence my use of those renderings. That research is included in the Companion Volume.
For that matter, I discuss my use of “fortunate” rather than “blessed” in that book as well, so I could have just referred the reader to it rather than the preceding discussion. But I wanted to give the reader an idea of the work, study, and decisions that need to be made when translating the Bible. The type of word study I just did for that Greek word needs to be done for every word in the Bible.
That is why translating the Bible is such a lengthy and tedious endeavor. But such effort needs to be done, since, as just seen, some people can get very upset the over the rendering of just one word, especially when it steps on a person’s preconceived theological perspective.
Moving on to the page for ALT2, there are four ratings with a 4.0-star average. There are also four reviews, two 5-stars, one 4-stars, and one 3-stars. I will consider the 3-stars review.
It is titled, “Not your typical new testament.” It begins by saying, “This is not a typical new testament. It is one man’s translation from a Greek edition of the new testament that was put together by two men.”
Yes, the ALT is a one-man translation, me. I address the advantages and disadvantages to a one-person translation versus a group translation in the Companion Volume. And yes, just two men worked on the Greek Majority Text the ALT is based on, Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont.
However, just one man put together the original Textus Receptus, Desiderius Erasmus, while just five men worked on the UBS Greek text and ten men on the Nestle-Aland Greek text, the two Critical Texts. If differing number of people make a Greek text more reliable would depend on many factors, including their qualifications and overarching philosophies to start with. It is the latter that draws me to the Majority Text, as discussed in my Bible versions book.
The reviewer then compares the ALT to the Amplified Bible. That is a legitimate comparison, as my ALT is patterned somewhat after it. However, the Amplified Bible is based on the Critical Text and follows a dynamic equivalence translation method in its unamplified parts, while the ALT is based on the Majority Text and follows a literal translation method in the unbracketed parts. These terms are explained in my Bible versions book, along with in the Companion Volume to the ALT.
The review then correctly overviews the nature of the literal translation method of the ALT and the nature of the hardcopy version.
He ends by repeating about it being a one-man translation based on a Greek text by two men. Those points seem to be his only criticisms of the ALT and why he only gave it just three stars.
Moving on to the page for ALT3, there are 36 ratings with a 4.7-star average. The breakdown is: 5-star: 84%, 4-star: 12%, 3-star: 0%, 2 star: 0%. 1-star: 4%. Thus, 96% of the ratings are positive while just 4% are negative.
There is just one negative review, a 1-star review. It is titled, “there is a TYPO!” The typo is in Matthew 8:20, It should read, “And Jesus says to him, ‘The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Humanity does not have [any]where He should lay His head.’” However, I omitted the “not,” so it read, “does have.” Yes, that was a significant mistake. But I caught it before this review was posted. I corrected it and submitted the corrected text, but it didn’t make it through the pipeline before the reviewer purchased her copy.
When Amazon still allowed comments on reviews, several reviewers defended me by saying mistakes happen, and she shouldn’t have given my translation one star due to one typo. Someone even pointed out that once an edition of the KJV was published that omitted the “not” in the Seventh Commandment, so it read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Several volumes were distributed before the mistake was discovered. The remaining volumes were destroyed. But a few survived. They’re very valuable now, so if you have a very old copy of the KJV, check it. It could be worth a lot of money. But I doubt the same would be the case with the few copies of the ALT that were sold before this mistake was corrected.
Companion Volume to the ALT
I mention this book in the preceding comments. As the name implies, it is a companion to the ALT. It’s main purpose is to explain the unique renderings to be found in the ALT. But along the way, it explains the basics of Greek grammar.
The page on Amazon includes both the paperback and Kindle versions. There are six ratings with a 4.6-star average. There are three 5-star reviews and one 3-star review. The latter says he only took a bit of Greek and said the book was over his head. That saddens me a bit, as I tried to write this book in as simple of a manner as possible, understandable even for those who do not know any Greek. But I guess it is still a bit too difficult for some, though I have had others who do not know Greek tell me they did found this book helpful.
Complete Concordance to the Analytical-Literal Translation
When ALT1 was published back in 2000, this volume made sense. A concordance had long been a basic Bible study tool. However, with Bible apps now readily available, which make word searches very easy, a concordance really is not needed anymore.
That is probably why this is my lowest rated book on Amazon, with a 2.0-star average rating from three ratings. There are two reviews, both 1-star. One is titled “A Total Waste” and the other, “Not very useful.” I actually agree with those comments.
Only get this book if for some strange reason you’re unable to use a Bible app, and only get a hardcopy format, as it is even less useful in the Kindle format, as both reviews indicate. But if you do get the paperback or hardback, get it from Lulu Publishing by following the preceding links, as they are much less expensive there than on Amazon.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Devotional Version
The main difference between ALTD and ALT3 is that in the ALTD the “analytical” information is footnoted, while in ALT3 such information is included within brackets within the text. The latter makes the information readily available, but it makes the text awkward to read and to quote from. By putting this information in footnotes, ALTD is a much easier to read and to quote from version.
The Amazon page for the ALTD has seven ratings with a 4.7-star average. There are three 5-star reviews and three 4-star reviews. With no negative or even neutral reviews, I have nothing to comment upon. But I will say, the ALTD would be a little better in the hardcopy than in Kindle format, as the footnotes are more easily accessible. For the Kindle, I would recommend ALT3.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the Apostolic Fathers
Volume Seven of the ALT
This volume contains the writings of Church leaders of the late first to early second centuries (c. 80-150 AD). Some of these books were seriously considered for inclusion in the canon of the New Testament. They were ultimately rejected for the canon, for reasons I explain in Volume Three of my Why These Books? set that was discussed previously. However, all of these books were popular in the early centuries of the Church. They provide insight into the mindset of the early Church immediately after the apostles and give background to the New Testament.
This volume is subtitled “Volume Seven of the ALT” as there are four volumes for the Old Testament, one for the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books, the New Testament is volume six, then this book is volume seven. As indicated, the books in this volume are not inspired like the NT and OT books are, but they do make for interesting reading.
Unfortunately, there are no ratings or reviews of this volume on Amazon, so I have nothing to comment upon.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament
Volume One: The Torah
Volume Two: The Historical Books
Volume Three: The Poetic Books
Volume Four: The Prophetic Books
I will cover these four books together, as together they contain my translation of the 39 canonical (inspired) books of the OT. There are separate pages on Amazon for each volume. Each of those pages list both the paperback and Kindle versions of each volume.
The page for Volume One on Amazon has 13 ratings with a 4.7-star average. There are five 5-stars reviews and two 4-stars reviews. Since there are no negative or neutral reviews, I again have nothing to comment upon. But I will say, I am very pleased about the universal positive reviews of this volume, as I put a lot of work into it, as the five books (The Torah) it contains are foundational to the rest of the Bible and to both the Jewish and Christian faiths.
The page for Volume Two has eight ratings with a 4.8-star average. There are three 5-stars reviews.
The page for Volume Three has ten ratings with again a 4.8-star rating.
The page for Volume Four also has ten ratings with a 4.8-star rating.
To comment, I am again very pleased about the universal positive reception of all four volumes of my translation of the OT. I spent about three years translating these volumes, and it looks like that time was well spent. But still, I would be even more pleased if sales were brisker.
Part of the problem in that regard is having to split the OT into four volumes due to page limitations in the method I am currently publishing my books. It would take a major publisher to pick up my ALT for it to be published in one volume. But I just do not see that happening anytime soon.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament
Volume Five: The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books
I include this volume as Volume Five of my translation of the OT, but there is great dispute as to if these books should be included in the OT or not. That dispute is covered in depth in Volume One of my Why These Books? set. In this volume, I only indicate that dispute in the Preface, without coming to a resolution on it. My suggestion is simply to read these books and decide for yourself if you think they are inspired or not.
That said, on Amazon, there are six ratings, all with a 5.0-star rating. That of course means there is a 5.0-star average and all of the reviews are 5-stars. There are three of them. Again. the only thing I am displeased about is sales of this and the other volumes in the ALT have not been brisker. Maybe someday.
Overall, I am very pleased with the ratings for my Christian books. The relatively few negative reviews mostly reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose or format of a particular book or a theological disagreement. As such, there is little I would change about the nature of my books.
What I wish I could change would be the number of sales of my books. Not only do I need the money; but, as indicated in this two-part article, a lot of time and effort went into writing most every one of my books. It is disheartening to pour my heart and soul into a book and to have few read it. But it is heartening that most all of the few who do read my books find them beneficial. For that I thank the LORD for the writing abilities He graced me with.
But still, the paucity of sales of my most recent Christian books, as indicated in Part One, is why I haven’t written another one in over 3-1/2 years. I instead switched to writing politics books.
Note: The links to my books on Amazon are advertising links, for which I receive a commission if an item is purchased through one of them.
Responses to Negative Reviews of My Christian Books on Amazon: Part Two. Copyright © 2021 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was posted on this website November 1, 2021.
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