Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Live NRSV Catholic Youth Bible

On sale this coming August 28th, HarperOne will be publishing it's own Catholic youth Bible. Perhaps trying to cut into the St. Mary's Press Catholic Youth Bible market, the Live Youth Bible: Catholic Edition tries to blend a number of unique features, that are found in similar youth Bibles produced for Protestant youth:

Most youth Bibles are just teen versions of adult Bibles. LIVE takes an all-new, teen-centered approach. Art, photos, and other creative forms of self-expression by teens for teens, are packed into this Bible as a launching point to drive teens into the Bible.

The LIVE Bible includes:
- Student art, photography and poetry, an interactive tie-in Web site, challenging sidebars that encourage teens to think deeper about scripture while sparking creativity, "Try This" features that encourage teens to live out their faith, and quotes and profiles of famous people of faith.

- Creative space to express their thoughts, feelings, or questions by writing right on the pages, with room to doodle, paste pictures, and more

- An invitation to join the community online where they can post their art, writing, and insights into how God is working in their lives.

- Two-color interior

- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Catholic Edition text

- Imprimatur

Without actually seeing this, I do appreciate the publishers goal of getting Catholic teens more engaged with the text itself, through the encouragement of writing in the text. I know when I started to read the Bible regularly that was something I was a bit hesitant to do. But now, either at the high school or leading adult Bible studies, I always encourage people to engage the text in that way. So, I am very interested in seeing how this product works. I also like the fact that there is an online component to this youth Bible. I think trying to combine the reading of Scripture with the digital age is an ongoing work in progress. All in all, I find this edition very intriguing and look forward to being able to hold one in my hands.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

CSS Bible

As reported elsewhere, Catholic Scripture Study International and Saint Benedict Press are collaborating on an enhanced edition of the RSV-CE. Due out in Fall 2010, this edition will include apologetics material as well as other helpful supplements. For more info, you can check out their recent announcement here.

(Thank you to Sharon and Keith for the heads up on this.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RSV-CE vs. RSV-2CE: Psalm 85

Back in December I devoted a series of posts looking at the differences between the old RSV-CE and the Ignatius RSV-2CE. In these posts, I was not concerned so much about the elimination of the archaic language, which is both substantial and helpful to the modern Bible reader, but rather the various undocumented changes to the actual translation. In most cases, I found that the updated RSV-2CE was correct in making the adjustments it did, and really the only case which I found somewhat unnecessary was the use of "chalice" instead of "cup". Of course, this whole process of spotting the differences between the two would have been helped by a little more specific information from Ignatius Press, but nothing, as far as I know, has ever been released. The only real help, besides actually reading both editions side by side, came with the publication of the Emmaus Press Catholic Bible Concordance, which contained a section at the back noting the differences. As noted, the changes were significant. I have always wondered how the changes in the RSV-2CE matched up with the changes found in the other recent update of the original RSV, the English Standard Version. Perhaps we will never know.

This brings me to this post, which came about through my reading of Psalm 85 last night with my wife. We are still using the fine book Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians as a nightly devotional, which I highly recommend. While reading through it, which uses the original RSV-CE as it's base text, I noticed that there are a few translational choices that were made, outside of the elimination of the archaic language. So I have decided to show the original RSV-CE below, with the main translational differences in the RSV-2CE found in bold where appropriate:

Psalm 85
LORD, thou wast favorable to thy land;
thou didst restore the fortunes (captives) of Jacob.
Thou didst forgive the iniquity of thy people;
thou didst pardon all their sin. [Selah]
Thou didst withdraw all thy wrath;
thou didst turn from thy hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away thy indignation toward us!
Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?
Wilt thou prolong thy anger to all generations?
Wilt thou not revive us again,
that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Show us thy steadfast (merciful) love, O LORD,
and grant us thy salvation.

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love (Mercy) and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky (heaven).
Yea, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and make his footsteps a way.

Some comparisons to consider:
1) NRSV: Remains identical in the points highlighted above with original RSV
2) ESV: Remains identical in the points highlighted above with the original RSV
3) Douay-Rheims: The changes made to the RSV-2CE match the Douay-Rheims
4) NJB: Uses "captives" instead of "fortunes", as well as "heaven" instead of "sky"

Again the conclusion that we can make is that the RSV-2CE sides with the Douay-Rheims in most cases. It would be helpful, at some point, to have a complete chart of these changes. So far, the reasoning behind the changes have only been hinted at a year and a half back when Fr. Fessio commented on this blog. While not being specific, his response at least gives us the rationale for what went on between Ignatius Press and the Vatican. I hope to show some more instances of the differences between the two as I spot them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: The Navarre Bible New Testament

The Navarre Bible does not need a lengthy introduction. Developed by the faculty at the University of Navarre in Spain, this commentary series has become a standard for those seeking to understand the Scriptures from the heart of the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following Dei Verbum, says: "Read the Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (CCC 113)."

This is the primary aim of this Bible series produced by the University of Navarre. Over the years, the Navarre Bible has come in multiple editions, ranging from individual volumes to collected and compact editions. Utilizing the original RSV-CE translation, along with the Nova Vulgata, these volumes have proven to be popular and helpful to many Bible students. The American publisher of this series is Scepter Publishers, known for their connection to Opus Dei and St. Josemaria Escriva, as well as their many other helpful books which focus on daily spiritual growth.

Recently, Scepter Publishers released The Navarre Bible: New Testament, which is a wonderful combination of physical beauty and helpful spiritual commentary. First things first, let's take a look at the book itself. (If you are interested in seeing some sample pages, please check out the sample pages on the Scepter site here.) If you remember back to my review of the ICSBNT, I mentioned that it was quite large. Well, The Navarre Bible: New Testament is even bigger! At a size of 7 x 10 inches, it is massive in both size and weight. However, do not let that discourage you, since it is full of substantial commentary and introductory essays which will only help you to appreciate the need for its size. This hardback edition is very sturdy, while easily opening up flat on a desk or in your lap. Included with this edition is a helpful ribbon, which should be standard on all Bible, but I digress. Just holding The Navarre Bible: New Testament, one can instantly appreciate the care that was given to producing this volume.

The real jewel of this volume is the page layout. It should be instantly familiar to anyone who has used the Navarre series before, or to a lesser extent the Jerusalem/New Jerusalem Bibles. Using the always elusive single-column format, which is so rare in most English Catholic Bibles translations, the text is enjoyable to read and enhanced by the use of red to mark not only the paragraph headings and chapter numberings, but also the side scripture cross-references. I find that the red and black go very well together. In addition, the cream colored paper is thick enough to avoid too much bleed-through and there are sizable 1 inch margins for those who wish to include their own annotations. The RSV-CE text is separated from the commentary by the Nova Vulgata, which should prove to be helpful to anyone looking to sharpen their Latin skills. As mentioned earlier, cross-references are plentiful, and consigned to the sides of each page. The overall look is very sharp and truly delightful to read from. Again, this is something that I would like to see other Catholic Bible publishers attempt, most notably the RSV-2CE, NAB, and NRSV.

Of course, the main reason anyone would purchase The Navarre Bible: New Testament is for the book intros and commentary. As I noted at the top, the Navarre commentary series focuses on reading the Bible with the heart and mind of the Church. Therefore, while you will not see much in the area of historical-critical notes, the real focus is on the writings of the Church Fathers, Councils, the Saints and Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You will find quotations from the letters of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch all the way to Pope Benedict's Spe Salvi, published in 2007. So it truly covers the whole of Christian history, principally in the West. Included in the front of the book are some black and white maps, as well as helpful essays on the New Testament's Place in the Bible, an Introduction to the New Testament, an Introduction to the Gospels, and Dating the Life of Jesus Christ. Placed within the New Testament, itself, are additional introductions to Paul's letters and the Catholic letters. The Navarre Bible: New Testament concludes with a subject index and a list of all the sources used in the volume. Each Biblical book, along with commentary, includes a fairly lengthly introduction as well.

I can easily see how this volume could be used in tandem with a commentary series like the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible or the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. I recently was leading a Bible study on Acts 15, and while I was preparing for the meeting I felt that I needed something a little more to tie everything together. So, I looked into my copy of The Navarre Bible: New Testament and found just what I was looking for. Helping to summarize the events of the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, there was a helpful quote from Melchor Cano, a Spanish theologian of the 16th century which really summed up importance of this council. I ended up quoting directly from the text, which I think went over really well with the audience.

Overall, I give The Navarre Bible: New Testament high marks! Obviously, for some, the size may be an issue. This, much like the ICSBNT, is not one that you will be carrying around with you everywhere you go. I think I have mentioned on this blog before my hopes that someday the entire Navarre series could come in a single volume, much like the format of the Jerusalem Bible. While that may be a bit difficult to pull off, it may be worth the effort. The Jerusalem and New Jerusalem Bibles are able to cram quite a bit of commentary into their one volume standard editions. Also, while it is certainly worth it, it is expensive, coming in at around $80.00. This may hold some people off from buying it, which would be a shame. Other small quibbles would be the use of the older RSV-CE and the use of black and white maps, but these are certainly not major issues in my mind. Ultimately, this is a great study tool which, combined with some of the other recently published Catholic Bible study materials, will enhance every Catholics understanding of the Bible, thus leading them closer to the Sacred Heart of the Word made flesh.

**Many thanks to Scepter for providing me with a review copy**

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Happy, Belated, Fathers Day!

A profound thank you to our Heavenly Father, as well as our earthly fathers!

(Was without power over the weekend, thus the late post!)

Jesus of Nazareth: Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of Jesus of Nazareth focuses on the temptations of Jesus, which occur immediately after his baptism in the Jordan. As Pope Benedict points out: "At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill out lives ( 28)." Am I the only one who thinks he is right on here? I know in my own journey that there have been plenty of times when I push God off as secondary, rather being occupied by other matters. Often these other matters, which I perceive to be important at the time, are simply not all that urgent after all. Ultimately, no matter what the temptation is, the question is whether or not we believe God is real? God is the issue (29).

The first temptation, which concerns bread, challenges Jesus to justify his claim of being the "Son of God." This is a constant theme in the Gospels, where Jesus is always having to "prove himself" to others. In a world where hunger remains an ever-present horror for many, does the Messiah have to feed everyone to prove who he is (31)? It is a legitimate question, right? The Pope agrees that it is a legitimate question, however, following the Gospels he points out that everything needs to be done in "the proper context and the proper order (32)." In the Gospels Christ feeds the people primarily in two ways, both in the multiplication of the loaves and in the Eucharist. These two are essential, in their proper order. Quoting from Jesuit Alfred Delp, executed under the Nazi regime, who wrote: "Bread is important, freedom is important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration (33)." Any attempt, then, to divorce the spiritual and material is bound to fail. Once again, this is very Incarnational. The Pope uses the example of the aid offered to developing countries from the West, which has been "purely technical and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God (33)." This version of "aid" by the West has not really given bread, but rather "stones in place of bread (33)." Even if the West denies it, the issue remains God. Thus any goodness of the human heart can "ultimately come only from the One who is goodness, who is the Good itself (34)." One can see connections to his encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

Looking very briefly at the second temptation, the Devil proves to be a great Scripture scholar and theologian! Satan sites Scripture in order "to lure Jesus into his trap (34)." Benedict sites the Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev, who in his short story "The Antichrist", has the Antichrist receive an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tubingen. The point Benedict tries to make is not to reject Biblical scholarship, remember what he said about the historical-critical method in the foreword, but rather to remind Biblical scholars of their great responsibility in what they do. In the end, "the fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist (35)." Yet, Jesus is not persuaded by the devil's exegetical prowess, but rather trusts in the Father. Jesus did not tempt His Father, he trusted Him. Again, I can think of the many instances in my own life where God was not asking me to do something I couldn't, but rather to simply trust in his providence.

The third temptation focuses on "what sort of action is expected of a Savior of the world (42)." What is true power? Is it the power of the world or the power of the cross? The Church must always be aware of that important distinction, for there have been times when she has perhaps sought after the worldly sort of power. Pope Benedict alludes to this temptation when he remarks that "the Christian empire or the secular power of the papacy is no longer a temptation today (42)." For Pope Benedict, true power is accepting our daily cross. The power of this world is an illusion, which fades. Those who trust in earthly power or "claim to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands (44)."

Finally, the chapter ends with the question: "What did Jesus actually bring?" From a quick glance at the world today, it is clear that he did not end hunger or bring about world peace. So, what was the point? The answer is that Jesus brought God (44). God who we can now see face to face. "Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little (44)."

Thursday, June 17, 2010


FYI: If you have yet to purchase the new Ignatius study Bible, all three formats are on sale at for 20% off the list price.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jesus of Nazareth: Chapter 1

Let's now continue our discussion of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth with a look at chapter 1: The Baptism of Jesus. (Please keep in mind that I do not intend these posts to be exhaustive, analytical reviews of each chapter, but rather my refections on particular points and themes that Pope Benedict writes about in each.)
Early on in chapter 1, Pope Benedict focuses on the baptism account found in Luke. He reminds us that Luke's emphasis on the historical backdrop of Jesus' baptism, no less his entire ministry, is an essential character of the Gospel account. As we recall one of the main points of the book's foreword, Pope Benedict reminds us that Christianity is a religion based in history. Therefore, it is important that when we read about Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, we see it as occurring during the height of the Roman Empire. As the Pope states: "The wider history of the world, represented by the Roman Empire, forms the backdrop (11)." Jesus begins his ministry at a particular place, in a particular period of history. As he says: "We are not meant to regard Jesus' activity as taking place in some sort of 'anytime,' which can mean always or never. It is a precisely datable historical event having the full weight that real historical happenings have; like them, too, it happens only once; it is contemporary with all times, but not in the way that a timeless myth would be (11)." Because of this, we can see the Divine irony that when the Son of God was born in lowly Bethlehem, the first and greatest of Rome's emperors, Augustus was seated upon his palatial throne in Rome. So, too, is the case 33 years later when Jesus is baptized by John in the muddy waters of the Jordan, Tiberius reigns as emperor of the known world (west of Mesopotamia) along the River Tiber. As the Pope points out: "The emperor and Jesus represent two different orders of reality (11)." And while these two different orders do not necessarily have to meet in direct conflict, it would not be too far away in history that the emperors would claim divinity as a title, which would force the issue with believing Christians.
A little later in the chapter, the Pope turns to John the Baptist, whose message announces that "Great things are about to unfold (15)." Finally, a prophet has arisen in Israel and many went out to meet and be baptised by him. The Pope goes on to emphasise the character of John's baptism, which is a call to "leave behind the sinful life one has led until now (15)." Jesus arrives on the scene, and in the words of Pope Benedict: "He blends into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the Jordan (16)." How often have I not reflected on that reality? Sometimes I am tempted to read the Bible through the lens of the Jesus movies I have seen in the past. In my poorly formed mind, Jesus approaches John for baptism almost as if he is parting the crowd gathered around just to get to John. Basically, this points to the reality that Jesus doesn't try to skip ahead in line! Instead, Jesus remains in the crowd and waits his turn, so to speak. So it isn't simply that Jesus shows his solidarity with humanity only when the actual baptism occurs, but the fact that he waits with them! Hmmm...... This brings to mind occasions when I have stood in line to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Being in the community of believers, who are at the time preparing to confess their sins, is a visible sign of that solidarity which binds us as the Body of Christ.
A final thought I would like to bring up is Pope Benedict's third aspect of the baptism scene which he describes on page 23. Here, for the first time, we read about the encounter of all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity forms, in a sense, the bookends to the Gospels, particularly that of Matthew. In chapter 3 of the Gospel according to Matthew we find the baptism of John and in chapter 28 there is the great commission of Jesus, where the Apostles are called to "go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." The first one prefigures the next, which brings about the indwelling of the Trinity into the person's soul. I remember a class I took at the seminary which dealt with the Trinity. One of the books we read was Rahner's The Trinity. In it, he proposed the question as to whether a proper understanding of the Trinity mattered anymore to contemporary society. His answer was yes. Clearly for Matthew, as well as Pope Benedict, the answer is also a resounding Yes!
Of course there is a whole lot I left out of this post, but feel free to comment on anything found in chapter 1.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jesus of Nazareth: Foreword

Pope Benedict begins his book Jesus of Nazareth with some thoughts on the historical-critical method. The past century has produced numerous reconstructions of the figure of Jesus, however, they have ultimately only achieved an "obscured and blurred" image of him (xii). This has been the result of an increased skepticism by the exegete, combined with an ever-continuing attempt to 'discover' layer after layer of traditions in the Gospel. The Pope quotes from the German Catholic exegete Rudolf Schnackenburg, who ends his last great work by saying: "'the effort of scientific exegesis to examine these traditions and trace them back to what is historically credible' draws us 'into a continual discussion of tradition and redaction history that never comes to rest (xiii).'" This tendency, Pope Benedict will try to avoid in this book. As he lays out his method for the book, he anchors his understanding of Jesus "in light of his communion with the Father, which is the true center of his personality; without it, we cannot understand him at all (xiv)." That is his basis for this work, from which the use of all important exegetical tools flow from.

For the Pope, the tools of the exegetical trade, like the historical-critical method, must be guided by that understanding of the relationship between Father and Son. Yet, it would be a mistake to accuse the Pope of dismissing the important advancements in Biblical scholarship over the past century. He clearly accepts and encourages the use of modern exegetical methods. As the Pope says twice: "The historical-critical method, let me repeat, is an indispensable tool (xvi)." It is important to remember that Pope Benedict is an academic at heart, who embraces the Church's teachings in such documents as Divino Afflante Spiritu, Dei Verbum, and obviously The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. The historical method, thus, is an essential help in discovering the foundations on which Biblical faith stands. For Christianity is not a faith based on symbolic "suprahistorical truths", but rather is centered in history. Christian faith is Incarnational, because God himself has become flesh and dwelt among us.

Yet, there are limits to the historical-critical method. While it attempts to understand the past, it cannot, by its very nature, bring the Biblical world to the present. It can only treat the words found in the Sacred Text as merely a human word, and not as an Eternal Word (xvi-xvii). It, therefore, cannot see the unity of the Scriptures as a whole. For Pope Benedict, the key is then to utilize the historical-critical method where it is most useful, but to recognize that to come to the fullest meaning of the Scripture, other ways of reading the text must be included.

The Pope says: "The aim of this exegesis is to read the individual texts within the totality of the one Scripture, which then sheds light on all the individual texts (xviii)." This means reading the Scriptures in the spirit in which it was written, and recognizing the content and unity of the Scriptures as a whole (canonical exegesis). Of course, this methodology is in union with what is set forth in Dei Verbum, so that should not be a surprise. Going forth, then, the Pope will use both the historical-critical method in cooperation with canonical exegesis. In this way, one can recognize that while the Gospels present a many-layered approach to answering the question of who Jesus is, there still remains a deep harmony which unites them (xxiii).

One of the more charming moments in this short foreword to the book comes near end. He concludes his foreword by stating: "It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magesterium, but solely an expression of my personal search 'for the face of the Lord'. Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding (xviii-xviv)." As he has clearly set forth his modus operandi for this work, perhaps we too can agree with this request from the Pope as we proceed.

I think that is enough to start us off. While there are a few other things I could cover, I don't want to do a complete review of each section, in hopes that discussion can be encouraged on both the issues I have covered, as well as those which remain uncovered in each section.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading: Jesus of Nazareth

Yes, let's do this. As we await the publication of the English edition of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth II let's spend a little time over the next few weeks reviewing the first volume. We'll start with the foreword, which is not to be skipped since it sets the table for the rest of book. I will try and post some talking points for the foreword and subsequent chapters in order to stimulate discussion. Let us then, along with the Pope, search "for the face of the Lord."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Additional Shot of Knox

A reader requested an additional photo of the Knox Bible, showing a closer view of a full page. This is a photo from Job 6-7, which shows the verse numbering is on the side, as well as a sample of the notes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Knox Holy Bible

I was very surprised (and happy) to come across a near mint edition of Monsignor Knox's Holy Bible translation from the Latin (in light of the Hebrew and Greek originals). It is the complete hardcover edition, with ribbon marker, maps, and a family record section. This edition was published by Sheed & Ward, Inc back in the early 50's.

I know that Baronius Press will eventually be coming out with a new edition of the Knox Bible, but I must say that this is the best condition one I have found. Needless to say, I am very excited to be adding it to my Bible collection. This edition still has the occasional commentary notes, as well as some cross-references found at the bottom of each page.

So, maybe I could sell/raffle-off one of my older hardcover edition?

For more info on the Knox translation, you can check out the always "reliable" wikipedia site or read a little bit of the Knox New Testament for yourself.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

CCSS: Matthew

Just in time for the liturgical year 2011, which is year A for the Sunday Gospel readings, Baker Academic will be publishing the fifth volume of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series on The Gospel of Matthew in December. This volume will be co-authored by Curtis Mitch, known for his work on the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, and Edward Sri, known for his publications with Emmaus Road.
As the description indicates:
This engaging commentary on the Gospel of Matthew is the fifth of seventeen volumes in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (CCSS), which will cover the entire New Testament. This volume, like each in the series, relates Scripture to life, is faithfully Catholic, and is supplemented by features designed to help readers understand the Bible more deeply and use it more effectively in teaching, preaching, evangelization, and other forms of ministry. The Gospel of Matthew is an ideal resource for those preaching or teaching on the Sunday Gospel readings from Matthew for the liturgical
year beginning in 2010.
Of course, for more information about the entire Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, you can go here.
(I hope to post a review of Dr. Williamson's commentary on Ephesians in the coming days.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ICSB: Genesis Due in October

I spotted a post on the Catholic Answers Forums that showed the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Genesis volume would be released on October 30. That is good news for those of us that hope to see this project completed by the end of this decade. One hopes they will combine a number of the OT books into a single volume, like all of the historical books, once they get past the Torah. Yeah, I know...patience...patience....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament Review

Is it big? Yes! Has it taken almost 10 years to complete? Yes! Do a lot of Catholics, unless they read Catholic Bible blogs, have no idea that it has now been published? Yes! But is it good and worth the wait? Absolutely yes!

I have spent a number of hours over this past weekend perusing through the long-awaited Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament (ICSBNT). (The edition I am reviewing is the hardback one.) Simply put, it is fantastic and a great tool for Catholics. Over the past year or so, we have been blessed with an increase in the amount and quality of Bible related material and study tools, most notable are The Catholic Bible Dictionary, The Catholic Bible Concordance, The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, and now the completed ICSBNT. These are truly good days for Catholics to enhance their love of Scripture, which is certainly one of the main areas of focus for our current Holy Father. There really is no excuse for Catholics to not be engaged in regular Bible study, whether individually or in a group. The tools are out there!

While in many ways the ICSBNT is only a collection of the individual volumes that Ignatius Press has been producing since 2000, it is so much more. As has been noted on a number of sites, the ICSBNT is a fairly thick volume. (Matt, over at Absolutely No Spin, has some fine pictures which illustrate that point.) This isn't to say that it is as large as the Navarre Bible- New Testament Expanded Edition. However, the text is quite large and easy to read, while not technically being large print. Rather, the size of the actual volume, itself, makes the text very easy to read. In addition to it's size, the ICSBNT is printed on thick, non-glossy, paper. Again, this was a major issue I had with the original edition of the RSV-2CE, which has recently been changed. If you are looking for wide margins, the verdict is that they are OK. This is certainly not a wide-margin study Bible, like the original NAB Catholic Study Bible was, but there is still plenty of space for individual notations.

The true worth of this volume is in the amount of study notes, the 28 in-text charts and maps, the 62 word studies, and the 23 topical essays that are included. (There is also a new 9-page introduction to the Gospels, authored by Curtis Mitch co-author of the ICSBNT along with Scott Hahn, which clearly explains all the important issues related to the Gospels, most notably the relationship among the synoptics.) The annotations remain focused on not only historical info, but the helpful "icon annotation" system which singles out passages that relate to: 1) "content and unity" of the Scriptures; 2) Tradition and Magesterium (with plentiful references to the CCC); and 3) "Analogy of the faith". (See CCC 112-114 for the reasoning behind this special annotation system.) For the most part, however, there are no differences in content between this and what was found in the original single volumes. Yet, to have the study material collected in one volume makes cross-referencing the information much easier.

For me, the topical essays prove to be the most welcome feature of this study Bible. There are both timely placed, as well as substantial and fair in their presentation. For example, on pages 514-515 there is a topical essay on the issue of "Who is Babylon?" in the Book of Revelation. Is Babylon Rome or Jerusalem? Both sides of the issue are given fair treatment, as oppose to most study Bibles that simply state one or the other as fact. In the end, the essay concludes with a recognition that both sides have considerable evidence supporting each, and perhaps that the answer to this question may reflect both possible interpretations. In addition to this essay, there are additional essays that focus on important issues like The Census of Quirinius and Mary as the Ark of the Covenant.

If the ICSBNT had simply been a collection of all the NT volumes into one book, it would have been already a fine volume, but there is more to this. Perhaps one of the most surprising, yet welcome additions to this volume is the inclusion of almost 200 pages of study aids that are found at the back. While most of this section is devoted to the very sizable concise concordance, which totals some 167 pages, there are indexes which cover the parables, metaphors, and miracles of Jesus found in the Gospels, an index of Catholic doctrines found in Scripture, an index to all the charts, in-text maps, topical essays, and word studies found within the ICSBNT, and finally a new set of New Testament maps commissioned by Ignatius Press. I would just like to mention the Index of Doctrines, since is a welcome addition to this volume. It reminds me of the old St. Joseph NAB edition I own, which contained a similar feature. Both are quite valuable, but the ICSBNT version is far better organized and covers more timely issues. I can see this section being helpful to not only those looking to defend their faith or engage in apologetics, but also for those Catholics who are either new to the Church or who have recently come home.
All in all, this an outstanding study Bible. Are there additional things I would have liked to see in it? Sure, what comes to mind is an index to the weekly/Sunday readings, a couple Bible ribbons, and a copy of Dei Verbum, but these are only minor quibbles. Also, one hopes that the Old Testament volumes come out at a much quicker pace than the New Testament ones. Let's not make this project another 10 year odyssey. Let me also say that I would really like to see Ignatius Press publicize this more. How about a website devoted to this project? While it is great to see the RSV-2CE and ICSBNT in not only Catholic bookstores, but also businesses like Barnes and Noble and Borders, how about a little more publicity. It's a great resource, why not give it the promotion that it deserves!
In conclusion, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament is a great resource that every Catholic should pick up. Oh, and by the way, these volumes are very reasonably priced. I purchased my hardback edition for $21.09 at, but the paperback is even cheaper. (One can also purchase the leather edition, which is due out sometime in June.) In a weekly audience dedicated to St. Jerome back in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said: "It is important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the word of God, given to us in sacred Scripture." I hope the ICSBNT proves to be an important tool in helping many Catholics make first and lifelong contact with the Triune God.