Friday, May 31, 2013

The Feast of the Visitation

"In the days that followed, Mary rose up and went with all haste to a town of Juda, in the hill country where Zachary dwelt; and there entering in she gave Elizabeth greeting. No sooner had Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, than the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost; so that she cried out with a loud voice, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. How have I deserved to be thus visited by the mother of my Lord? Why, as soon as ever the voice of thy greeting sounded in my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed art thou for thy believing; the message that was brought to thee from the Lord shall have fulfilment.

And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit has found joy in God, who is my Saviour, because he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid. Behold, from this day forward all generations will count me blessed; because he who is mighty, he whose name is holy, has wrought for me his wonders. He has mercy upon those who fear him, from generation to generation; he has done valiantly with the strength of his arm, driving the proud astray in the conceit of their hearts; he has put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has protected his servant Israel, keeping his merciful design in remembrance, according to the promise which he made to our forefathers, Abraham and his posterity for evermore."
-Luke 1:39-55 (Knox)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

7 Questions: Dr. Steven Smith

Dr. Steven Smith is an author, speaker, and Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  His most recent book, The Word of the Lord: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study, is probably the best primer that I have seen on the subject.  It incorporates all the most recent magisterial documents, including Verbum Domini.  He recently spoke at our Catholic Biblical School of Michigan closing banquet, focusing on the topic of seeing God "face to face" in the Old Testament, by figures like Jacob and Moses, as merely a foreshadowing of its ultimate fulfillment as revealed in the New Testament, most notably in St. John's Gospel.  (I am so very happy that I am not teaching our class on the Gospel of John next year, Dr. Smith has set the bar exceedingly high!)  Dr. Smith was also a recent guest on EWTN's The Journey Home and has a number of comprehensive audio Bible studies for sale, including a 15 part study on the Gospel of John and an 18 part study on the Biblical roots of the Rosary.  If anyone wants a discounted set (about 20 less) and signed, they can contact Dr. Smith directly by email at This discount will last through this week only!

1) First off, thank you for taking the time to answer the following questions.  I wanted to start off with a question about your personal involvement with Sacred Scripture. How has Scripture played an important role in your prayer life?  Has it always been that way?
While I grew up in a loving Catholic family, as a teen and later a young adult, sadly my own faith grew faint.  By 18-20 years old, I barely attended Sunday Mass, didn't pray or even think about God much.  There seemed to be so many "exciting" things: college, dating, "stuff," etc. 

It was not until some evangelicals in college asked me if I was "saved" that I began to again ponder matters of faith.  By the grace of God, I began reading John's Gospel - and saw afresh Jesus and His love for me.  I experienced a profound inner peace and joy and (re-)committed myself to God.

However, because of my own lack of awareness of the "fullness of truth" (i.e. in the Catholic Church), I understood my experience as being "born again" by asking Jesus into my heart. So, I saw all of this a "personal relationship" of salvation in Jesus. Scripture was paramount - and everything else paled in comparison.

I knew I need "a church" but had no idea how to "select" one.  After a short stint in a non-denominational (Brethren) church, I found my way to Willow Creek Community Church, a so-called "seeker" church, a mega-church, in the NW suburbs of Chicago (where I was raised).

Later, in the late 1990s, after a number of years of spiritual growth and increasing leadership at "Willow" I felt God was calling me to be a pastor there. I enrolled in a Masters program at Wheaton College (Billy Graham also attended the "evangelical Harvard).  However, in my graduate studies in theology, I began reading the Church fathers, and soon found myself at odds with the "Acts 2" church of Willow Creek (it was founded by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - not by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek!)

I returned to the Catholic Church joyfully in 2000, and have never looked back! 

2) You are a revert to the faith from Evangelical Protestantism.  How, if at all, has your reading of the Bible changed since becoming Catholic?
I would say that my prayer to see the whole of Scripture has absolutely, positively been realized by returning to the Catholic faith. All of my hopes and desires to "really know" the Bible have come to fruition - when I began to study it with a "Catholic ethos"-- and pray  it in the context of the Sacred Liturgy. 

This is not to say "I didn't see Jesus" in my evangelical days of Scripture study. No -- I did!  But now, looking back, I see the fruits of study, and the gifts of many, various "mentors" and god teachers in my evangelical circles (at Willow, at Wheaton, and elsewhere) were in many ways blessings and provisions from God. The Holy Spirit used these evangelical experiences to draw me closer to His Son, and closer to the Church. In all sincerity I can say that I love evangelicals, I love their devotion and passion for: God, Scripture, personal prayer, discipleship, evangelism, and for worship & praise.  God used these gifts in my life - stirring up His devotion in me, all the while drawing me closer and closer to "the fullness of the faith."

3) OSV recently published a book you wrote entitled "The Word of The Lord: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study".  What are your hopes for this book and what would say is the main message it is trying to get across to the reader?
Well, they're many!  Mainly, I suppose it is that "everyday Catholics" would have a reliable resource to study Scripture in a way that is helpful, clear, and ... robustly Catholic.  I'm saddened when I hear older Catholics say things like, "I was told not to study the Bible on my own." Sad, but perhaps true in an older generation.(We can dispute that this was ever Catholic teaching ... but if some in the Church, perhaps out of fear, so instructed folks, well. this is unfortunate.)

Today, I think are problems are different. One issue is that many Catholics are really asleep in their spiritual lives. Pope Francis recently warned about being "lukewarm Catholics."  I agree with his assessment. It goes beyond Scripture, obviously, but with such folks, our mission is to proclaim Jesus, to gently challenge them to take steps of faith, and to pray that Mary would awaken these sleeping souls, stirring in them a love for Christ!

However, a second problem, a different problem, is Catholics who DO want to study Scripture, but are confused / baffled / lost as to how to do so. Some simply don't do anything - which is sad. Some look to "historical-critical" approaches, which CAN be helpful, but can also, in many instances, overwhelm folks with its technical details, losing the "forest for the trees."  But more alarming still are Catholics whose faith is actually diminished by skeptical scholars, scholars like Bart Ehrman, for example.  Such skeptical approaches is very costly to the spiiritual life!  Some Catholics persever and, on their own, may find a Protestant /evangelical resource that does help - but often, however, such resources present the same limitation as I experience in my evangelical days: the "whole truth" is obscured. So, for example, you can find a good resource on John's Gospel, but miss the sacramental depth of meaning throughout the Gospel! Or, someome reads Revelation from such a perspective, as is immersed in frantic prophecies or misguided interpretations that promise a "secret rapture" or some such thing.

For all these reasons, I wanted to develop a Catholic guide to Scripture study.  This book is rooted in a "Catholic sensibility" and in Sacred Tradition, and I pray, will help many Catholics to study the Word of God, from the heart of the Church. 

4) I really appreciate chapter 3 in your book, where you discuss Principle 2: God's Word is Revealed in History.  In particular I found your walk through of the history of the Church's interaction with the historical-critical method to be very helpful.  Pope Emeritus Benedict has certainly been the model in how one utilizes the historical-critical method while affirming the supernatural and God's intervention in history (237)."  Do you see a greater awareness among Catholic biblical scholars of the need to balance both of these? 
I think there is good reason for hope, yes. But there's much more work to be done.  For example, in many universities, the study of gospels begins with false assumptions. Assumptions like, we don't know and can't know "who wrote the Four Gospels."  In place of the apostolic eyewitnesses are the so-called "communities" of the gospels ("Matthean community" etc.)  Such H-C approaches look at the Gospels as more about the communities to whom the gospels were written than about Jesus and the apostles!  So, for example, when Luke talks about "care for the poor" it's not so much that Jesus taught this, but that the "later community" struggled with a kind of "equality" and "compassion." So, over decades of redaction, the community placed these words on the lips of Jesus, so that those who were in need of this message who have reason to heed the text: Jesus said it.

This may seem like a lesser issue for some, i.e. whether Jesus "really said this or that" ... but I don't believe it is. Now - clearly, we as Catholics do believe in the apostolic eyewitness of the gospels.  We don't have to resort to a kind of "Catholic fundamentalism" which strips from the Evangelists a reasonable ability to select, arrange, and present "what Jesus really said" in His public ministry.  The Catechism itself reminds us, as does Dei Verbum that the human authors, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, were "real authors" (see CCC 126, DV 11-12).

A Catholic approach, of course, affirms that the prophets and apostles were "real authors" - under the inspiration of the "ultimate author," the Holy Spirit.  The "apostolic eyewitness" of the Evangelists is a gamechanger!  Everything we read in the gospels cannot, with the "individual eyewitness" of, for example, John Son of Zebedee, be set aside as "later developments of the Christian community!  No -- we can really trust them to teach us the truth about what Jesus really said and really did.  So to answer your question, I believe that after decades of skepticism, more biblical scholars are beginning to see that such skepticism does not square with the historical fact, nor is it helpful in such a critical way.

5) Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a noticeable
increase in the amount of quality  Bible materials, bible study programs, and biblical schools for Catholics.  We still have a long way to go, particularly in comparison with our Protestant brethren.  Nevertheless, where do you see the greatest growth in Catholic Biblical literacy?  What can Catholics learn from our Protestant brethren in this regard?

I think having the "big story" of the bible is important. I devote two entire chapters of the 13-ch. book to explain the whole story of the OT - and how it is fulfilled in Jesus. 

6) In Appendix C of your book you provide a list of resources for further study.  You mention Biblical software first.  Was this intentional?  Do you see Biblical software, like Logos, as major step in Bible study, not only for the scholar but also the lay person?
Yes, I think so.  While its not necessary for every layperson, some motivated students of Scripture may want to take a look at what's available today. For example, Logos Bible Software has "Catholic" packages. For some time, such tools were aimed mainly at Protestants.  Without wanting to pat myself on the back, I and some others really pushed for software companies like Logos to develop truly Catholic packages. Today's Catholic can have access to the Scriptures in multiple translations, along with the Church fathers, magisterial and papal documents, Catholic commentaries - even the Catechism.  Logos has a "Ratzinger' supplement and developing a number of add-on modules that are fantastic. All of these can be "synched" to open to the appropriate places as one studies a given book of Scripture. 

7) Finally, do you have a favorite passage or verse from the Bible?
Great question!  It changes constantly. It's usually whatever I'm studying: as I go deeper, I "see" more of God's love, His mercy, His plan for us.  So, one week it may be Rev. 22 ... the next week, the Book of Tobit or one of the Psalms!  If I'm honest, I have always been very profoundly moved by John's Gospel.  Really any passage of John will plunge us deep - deep into the OT and NT, and deep into the love of God the Father, the divinity and glory of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, Mary, the Eucharist, confession, the sacraments, the Church, Peter, the Cross, the Resurrection, evangelization, truth -- its all there in John!

Incidentally - I just finished a brand new "publication" ... its a 15-CD set called "Jesus, the Glory of God: A Complete Introduction to Saint John's Writings."  I trust that it will be a useful and powerful resource for Catholic Scripture study.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review: The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home

Following upon their successful book The Mass:  The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition, which was a helpful primer going into the implementation of the revised Roman Missal during Advent 2011, Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina have teamed up again for what is certainly its logical sequel.  The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home is a helpful journey through the important elements that make a typical Catholic church, well, Catholic.

If you have read the previous volume from Wuerl and Aquilina you will immediately notice that this new volume has a familiar look and feel to it.  Many of the chapters are concise and to the point, and include helpful photographs that illustrate the particular feature being highlighted.  It seems that every possible liturgical furnishing is examined in this book, from the importance of pews and kneelers to the poor box and ambry.  My favorite line in the book comes on page 19, where the authors write: "Everything we see in a Catholic church is there for a single purpose: to tell a love story.  It is a story as old as the world, and it involves the whole of creation, the vast expanse of history, and every human being who ever lived.  It involves Almighty God, and it involves you."  When I read those two sentences, my only response was a joyful "Yes!"  How beautifully put!  It sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The purpose of this book is to show that a church's art and architecture are there to communicate something that goes beyond its initial appearance.  For example, the chapter that discusses the importance of church doors begins by referring to a moment in some Eastern liturgies when the deacon calls out, "the doors! The doors!"  At that somewhat strange, almost awkward, moment, all those who were non-Christians during ancient times were sent outside the church doors, which were then locked.  For only those who were baptized could "approach the altar for Holy Communion (132)."  While that line remains in some of the Eastern liturgies, the custom of expelling the visitors has ceased.  Yet, as Wuerl and Aquilina point out: "The liturgy preserves the line because it reminds us of the distinction between the Church and the world (132)."

I also found the chapter devoted to the Ambry to be quite informative.  To be honest, I had really not given it much thought in the many years I have been going to church.  I just figured that it was the glass box that we kept the oils in, however, there is much more to it than that.  As most of you know, the ambry is the repository for the three different oils that are blessed at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday and then used in different sacramental rites throughout the year.  The authors then went on to give more clarification to the word ambry: "The word ambry has workaday origins.  It comes from the same Latin word from which we derive the word armory, and that Latin word, armarium, was often used to describe a laborer's toolbox.  The oils and chrisms kept in the ambry are the tools of the Church's trade, so to speak (162)."  That is just fascinating.  It actually made me think back to Ephesians 6 and Paul's call to put on the whole "armor of God" for spiritual warfare.  You can imagine going into a medieval armory and seeing all the major weapons being lined up and ready for use.  In the same way, when you enter a Catholic church, our main weapons against the "principalities and powers" are there too, ready to be used for combat.

As you can see, I found this book a helpful reminder of the important theological reasons behind the way our churches are constructed.  I also really appreciated the historical background that the book provides.  This is a very accessible book, that would make a wonderful gift for someone who is new to the faith or perhaps someone who is beginning to take his/her faith seriously.  You can access the very first chapter of this book here and give it a quick read to see if this is something you might want to purchase.  I recommend that you do!

Thank you to Image Books for providing a review copy

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sunday Knox: Romans 5:1-5

"Once justified, then, on the ground of our faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as it was through him that we have obtained access, by faith, to that grace in which we stand. We are confident in the hope of attaining glory as the sons of God; nay, we are confident even over our afflictions, knowing well that affliction gives rise to endurance, and endurance gives proof of our faith, and a proved faith gives ground for hope. Nor does this hope delude us; the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom we have received."

Knox Footnotes:

  1. Romans 5:1 Some Greek manuscripts have ‘we enjoy’ for ‘let us enjoy’.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

NAB Footnotes:
* [5:111] Popular piety frequently construed reverses and troubles as punishment for sin; cf. Jn 9:2. Paul therefore assures believers that God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ is a declaration of peace. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ displays God’s initiative in certifying humanity for unimpeded access into the divine presence. Reconciliation is God’s gift of pardon to the entire human race. Through faith one benefits personally from this pardon or, in Paul’s term, is justified. The ultimate aim of God is to liberate believers from the pre-Christian self as described in Rom 13. Since this liberation will first find completion in the believer’s resurrection, salvation is described as future in Rom 5:10. Because this fullness of salvation belongs to the future it is called the Christian hope. Paul’s Greek term for hope does not, however, suggest a note of uncertainty, to the effect: “I wonder whether God really means it.” Rather, God’s promise in the gospel fills believers with expectation and anticipation for the climactic gift of unalloyed commitment in the holy Spirit to the performance of the will of God. The persecutions that attend Christian commitment are to teach believers patience and to strengthen this hope, which will not disappoint them because the holy Spirit dwells in their hearts and imbues them with God’s love (Rom 5:5).
* [5:1We have peace: a number of manuscripts, versions, and church Fathers read “Let us have peace”; cf. Rom 14:19.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dominican Sisters on "The American Bible Challenge" Finale Tonight!

Make sure to watch the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist compete for the $100,000 grand prize in The Game Show Network’s “The American Bible Challenge” finale tonight at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

The winner of The American Bible Challenge Fan Favorite contest will be announced during the show, as well, and will receive $10,000 for their team’s charity.

Should they win, the Dominican Sisters will use their winnings from the show to provide for the treatment and care of the aging Sisters in the Order, and to ensure that they are provided for as they advance into retirement.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth

With the election of our new Pope Francis, one can expect that there will continue to be a flood of new books about him being published on a monthly basis for the foreseeable future.  Unlike Benedict XVI, there was barely anything published by or about him in English prior to his election.  So, for those who are interested in getting a book or two about Pope Francis, it is important to be able to discern which book might be for you.  It seems that every major Catholic publisher has a book coming out about Pope Francis, so which one should you get? 

I would always recommend, first off, purchasing one that includes a generous sampling from his own writings.  Don’t simply settle on what other people say about Pope Francis, rather, take the time to read what the man has actually said and written.  However, it is always helpful to have a biography close at hand as well.  There are, of course, many of them to choose from.  In fact, there are more biographies out there about him currently than actual collections of his own writings, but I am sure that will change over time. 

Until then, let me recommend Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth from Saint Benedict Press.  This is a beautiful little book that combines biographical material, full-color photos from before and after his election, and the text of two of his first homilies as Pope.  This book is written by Thomas J. Craughwell, who recently authored the timely Popes Who Resigned.  Craughwell does a wonderful job in providing a concise sketch of Cardinal Bergoglio from his birth up until his election as Pope Francis.  In addition to the biographical and historical information, Craughwell includes numerous supplemental sections concerning  Catholic beliefs, practices, and traditions.  For example, there are short essays on St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola, as well information on the Sistine Chapel and why Popes change their name after election.  The information he provides is neither overwhelming, not is it too little. 

One of the great features of this book is the more than 60 full color photos.  Some of the photos have been seen on television before, including one showing his well-known preference for riding on the bus in Argentina, but there are many others that I hadn’t seen yet, including him leading a Eucharistic procession.     It is also remarkable that they were able to get so many recent photos included as well, including his first meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict and images from the Holy Thursday Mass with the youth of del Marmo detention center. 

Oftentimes, books like this tend to be massive in size, the proto-typical coffee table book.  Coming in at 6.25 x 7.75 and containing 176 pages, Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth is very compact in size and easily portable.  I really love this book.  Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who wrote the foreword, calls this book “a beautiful encounter-in pictures and in words-with Pope Francis.”  I completely agree.  I plan to purchase additional copies of this book to give out to friends and relatives as birthday and Christmas gifts.   The hardcover edition is $22.95, while eBook formats are available as well.

Thank you to Saint Benedict Press for providing me a review copy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Starter Knox Contest Winner

Congrats to Brittany who was randomly chosen as the winner of this contest.  Please send me an email, which you can find on the sidebar, with your name and address.  I'll get the prize out to you this week. Thanks to all those who participated.

George Weigel Quotes from the NAB!

George Weigel's disdain for the New American Bible is well know.  However, in a recent column, he actually opens with a quote from Acts 14, first citing the RSV followed by an endorsement of the NAB's rendering:

As the Revised Standard Version renders the 14th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas remind the proto-Christians of Antioch that it is only “through many tribulations” that we enter the Kingdom of God. The New American Bible translation drives the point home even more sharply: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

The rest of the column entitled "Tribulation compounded by blasphemy" is fantastic and is well worth your time.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Catholic Bible Translation Poll After 5001 Votes

Which Catholic Bible Translation Do You Use?
Selection Votes 
New American Bible 21%1,046 
Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition 29%1,447 
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition 12%609 
New Jerusalem Bible 8%401 
Jerusalem Bible 8%377 
Douay-Rheims 18%880 
Good News Bible 2%115 
Christian Community Bible 3%126

UPDATE! A new poll is up on the right sidebar, so begin voting!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guest Review: New Community Bible

Thank you to Diakonos for this guest review of the NCB.

Timothy asked me to give a little review of the New Community Bible: Catholic Edition (NCBCE) which I just received a few days ago. I want to say that this is a rookie review from an average informed Bible user and not one from someone steeped in the various editions, translations, schools and debates of the Biblical world. I have been using the Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition (34th Edition, 2003, brown leather, zip closure edition). I chose the CCB years ago not for its translation, but because it provided a fair amount of doctrinal notes with a great abundance of pastoral and inspirational commentary. The NCBCE I just obtained is the International edition copyright 2012 as opposed to the First Revised Edition of 2011 and the original Edition of 2008.

The preface to the original Edition states that the NCBCE has the goal of presenting a completely re-writing of the introductions and commentaries for each book of the Bible. I am assuming this means “new” in relation to the Christian Community Bible.  It also states that a fundamental principle was to include in the commentary (annotations, etc.) not only Catholic exegesis and application, but also that from the scriptures of other world religions.  I have not had the NCBCE long enough to discover a lot, but I have already encountered reference to the Quran in the commentary for Matthew 1 concerning the virginal conception of Jesus (in the Quran he is called by the Syro-Arabic name of Isa). And I also read the note to Jn 20:11-18 which makes use of  Hindu comparisons between Mary Magdalene and Jesus to the Indian relationship between a guru and his devotee. The commentary’s style presumes that the reader is familiar with what is being discussed. I would think an “international” edition would take care to be a bit more explanatory.

In comparison to my nice leather CCB, I was disappointed that the NCMCE came in only a basic hardcover edition. One of the things I really liked about my CCB is how it feels in the hand and how it is worthily bound for the sacredness of the book. I am just not a fan of plain hardcover (or especially paperback!) Bibles.  I find that in general it is of average quality as far as paper, ink, bleeding, etc. go. The page layout is an improvement over that of the CCB: each page has three parts – sacred text in upper portion, commentary in lower part and a box or bar containing cross references in between. The title of each book of the Bible is printed in a large (poor quality but distinct) calligraphic font. The actual print is of a very good and clear size (commentary as well) which I appreciate very much as my eyes settle into middle age!  I like that it has two ribbons: one attached in the OT section, the other in the NT, and the black thumb indexing is much easier to see/use than the yellow fine printed ones in the CCB.

The order of the books of the OT is different from that of the CCB and is given as is standard for Catholic editions of the Bible. There are four poor quality black and white maps at the back of the Bible, following a very basic lexicon that reminds me of the Word List found in many editions of the Good News Bible. The artwork is sparse and in some cases obviously “Indian” in style but for me artwork in a Bible isn’t an important component.

Of course I haven’t had enough time to really delve into the translation and commentary yet but I have noticed that the translation is a bit different from its predecessor (or competition) and the commentary is noticeably different in that it is more scholarly and doctrinal than pastoral and homiletic, yet these are not absent from the notes. For a comparison of translation, I looked at Luke’s account of the annunciation.  Both read “Rejoice, full of grace” which I think is a nice happy medium between, “Hail, favored one!” (NABRE), “Hail, full of grace” (RSV-CE), and 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour!’ (NJB), while the commentary states that “rejoice” and   “most favored one” are the best translation of the Greek in keeping with the overall biblical continuity of the phrases. This theme continues in the annunciation narrative in the angel’s words to Mary for while the CCB states that God was looking kindly on Mary, the NCBCE states that ‘God has favored you’ (Lk 1:31).  Mary’s reply of virginity is also a tad nuanced for in the CCB she says ‘How can this be if I am a virgin?’ while in the NCBCE it is ‘How can this be since I am a virgin?’ not a huge difference at all but I somehow like the latter better.  I suppose this would be a good place to mention that the virgin vs. young maiden of Is. 4:17 retains the traditional Catholic rendering in the NCBCE.

Whenever I come across a new edition or version of a Bible there are certain “Catholic” passages I habitually turn to see how the translation and the notes resonate with me. These are Mt. 16:19ff, Lk 1:26ff, Jn 6:22ff, Jn 19:25ff, and Jn 20:19ff.  There are others of course but these few are my quick-search hits. The NCBCE does a great job of translating and an even finer task of providing extensive solid Catholic commentary for Peter the Rock, the Eucharist and Mass, and something not always discussed in notes for Jn 19 – the spiritual motherhood of Our Lady. However I feel that it missed the boat regarding Lk 1:28 and Jn 20:23. No mention of the Immaculate Conception in the notes for Luke nor was there reference to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for John. What makes this a glaring omission for me is that these are two of the extremely few and rare verses of Scripture that actually get a magisterial (not just devotional) interpretation and teaching associated with them.  I found this a bit odd considering the very catechetical Catholic spirit of the commentaries for the passages noted above, but definitely not even close to being a deal-breaker for me.  Here are some excerpts from the above mentioned Jn  note:

While overall I really like the NCBCE and can see it easily becoming my daily Bible and is already a replacement for my CCB…there are a couple things missing for me, but then is anyone ever satisfied with the Bibles they have or those available on the market?
  • First, I would like to have the option to buy it in a nice decent quality binding. Doesn’t need to be leather…I have come to enjoy many of the “faux” covers that feel so soft and great in hand. A different cover option alone would be a great change to match the inside of the NCBCE as it is with the indexing, ribbons and layout.
  • Second, I would like to see the biggest omission rectified: the inclusion of a Lectionary guide so that Catholics can use this for Sunday Mass reflection.  I am always baffled when Catholic bibles from Catholic publishers fail to include Sunday (and even Daily) lectionary guides. These really do not take up that much additional paper and are very helpful.
  • Third, in this Year of Faith and considering the overall impetus of the New Evangelization, I think the inclusion of a simple “doctrinal reference guide” to key Catholic passages would be helpful (and not require much additional space).  Along this line I also enjoy editions that provide a handy short reference to the miracles and parables of Jesus.
  • Lastly, and this is not vital since introductions are not inspired text (but they are very influential) I would like to see a publisher with academic honesty who will provide a balanced view of authorship, date, etc. rather than stating current popular biblical theory as if it was fact. The NCBCE does a decent job of it in some cases and I was most impressed with its treatment of John, not shy about relating the evangelist to the  “disciple whom Jesus loved” as well as to the apostle, and stating that the “Johannine community” is simply an opinion among opinions. I suppose the introductions in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (NT) comes as close as it gets these days to what I am referring to, but I think we all know that it is more likely for the Parousia to occur than for Ignatius to present a complete and user friendly Catholic Study Bible in a translation that transcends the ideology of a particular publishing house.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Knox Starter Kit Contest

Many of you are aware that I have come to really appreciate the Knox Bible translation.  As you know, Baronius Press has done a fantastic job in producing a beautiful, single column edition of the Knox Bible.  I have been so impressed by this edition, that I decided to have it sent off to Leonard's to be rebound in premium goatskin leather.  Perhaps some of you are thinking about purchasing the Baronius Press edition, but are just not sure if you are willing to shell out the $50 for it.  That is certainly understandable.  So, I want to offer a contest to my North American readers that might help at least one of them make a decision.   The winner of this contest will receive both a new edition of Knox's On Englishing the Bible and a paperback edition of The New Testament: Translated by Ronald Knox by Templegate Publishers.  This version of the Knox New Testament is a facsimile reprinting of a Sheed & Ward edition.  It includes the full NT translation, notes, and two line drawn New Testament maps.   The printing is very clear and the Sacred Text is presented in a two-column format.  

So here are the rules:

1) If you have a blog, please advertise this contest on your site. (If you don't, you can still enter the contest.)

2) This contest is only for people who are in the North America.

3) To enter, please put your name in the comment section of this post.  Winner will be drawn randomly.

4) The contest ends on Pentecost Sunday, May 19 @ 11:59 PM EST. I'll announce the winner on Monday morning.  At that time, the winner must contact me, via email, with their address within one week to receive their prize.

5) One entry per person. If you post anonymously, you must leave a name at the end of your comment entry

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Use of Protestant Authors

A recent post here on NT Wright has spurred some interesting discussion about the use of Protestant authors.  So, I thought it would be interesting to see which non-Catholic writers you, my readers, like to use or refer to when doing study or devotions.  This does not necessarily mean that you endorse every aspect of a particular Protestant author's commentary, but perhaps you have been able to find good fruit in the use of some non-Catholic works.  (Of course, one could argue that there are a number of Catholic authors out there that you would need to be as much if not more discerning in how you use them compared to many a Protestant author.)

I'll start us off with a Protestant author that I have been using quite a bit of during the past year.  Many of you, I am sure, are familiar with singer/songwriter Michael Card.  Well, along a successful thirty year career in Christian music, Michael also received his B.A. and M.A. in Biblical Studies studying under Dr. William Lane at Western Kentucky University.  He has composed a number of books over the past decade that find a middle ground between devotional and scholarly.  In particular, I really enjoyed his 2009 book called A Better Freedom: Finding Life as Slaves of Christ which explores the biblical imagery of slavery and how it related to Christian discipleship.  It was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

Recently though, Michael has commenced a new series of books, published by InterVarsity Press, called the Biblical Imagination Series.  The goal of this series is to "Bridge the Gap Between Heart & Mind" when reading the Scriptures.  

As the website puts it: "There is a bridge between the heart and mind: the imagination, the means by which the Spirit begins to undo what was disintegrated by the Fall. When we allow our imaginations to be recaptured by the Holy Spirit, the facts we know in our heads come to life in our hearts. When we hear these words of Jesus something inside us shudders. We wince at the thought of someone - anyone - who has the ability to see and hear, and yet stubbornly refuses to perceive and understand. And, truth be told, our greatest fear is that we might be just that person. But what does biblical imagination look like and ask? How do we apply facts in our heads to aches in our hearts? What is missing in our understanding that leads to a more biblical response to the Spirit of God?"

Each volume, which covers are particular Biblical book, is accompanied by a music album from Michael Card that explores many of the themes that are highlighted in the book.  So far, the available volumes are Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Along with the books and music, Michael also leads conferences devoted to promoting Biblical imagination.  

This past year I used Michael's book on Mark not only for devotions, but I also incorporated a couple of his insights into my Catholic Biblical School of Michigan classes on Mark.  So, I have found his work exceedingly helpful and look forward to diving in to Matthew, which I just downloaded on my Kindle.  Michael's volume on the Gospel of John is due out sometime next year.

Our Amazing Pope

Monday, May 13, 2013

Coming Soon: CEB Study Bible

Due out later this year, the CEB Study Bible will come in a number of different cover options including hardcover, deco-tone, and leather.  It will be available with and without the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals).   
Having looked at a few of the sample pages, the single-column page format looks great and should assist with the overall readability of the volume. You can view a sample of the CEB Study Bible here, which includes the entire Gospel of Mark.
The CEB Study Bible combines the reliability and readability one expects of the Common English Bible translation with notes and other resources to help readers grow in their understanding of and engagement with the Bible. Each biblical book has an introduction that provides an overview of the book and other details like authorship and theme. Extensive study notes throughout the Bible provide information for the reader to understand the text within the larger historical and literary framework of the Bible and give important parallel and background verses. Unique to The CEB Study Bible are 210 sidebar articles for topics that require more discussion than the format of a study note allows. Concordance; 21 full-color maps from National Geographic; five articles from contributing scholars; and other additional in-text maps, charts, and pictures are included. Full color throughout. 

The CEB Study Bible is due out in October

Friday, May 10, 2013

Knox Rebound: Update 1

OK, Leonard's has received my Knox Bible and have provided me with an official estimate for the cost and production time for my Knox Bible rebinding.  So far my communication with Leonard's has been fantastic.  They have kept me updated, almost daily, on the project.    (Although I don't expect that this will be the case for the entire length of the project.)

To give you a little taste of the my interaction with Leonard's so far, I will share with you a recent correspondence that has to do with the leather being used and the issue of imprinting.  The color I chose for the goatskin rebinding, dark brown, happens to be brand new to Leonard's.  As a matter of fact, they don't even have it on their online pricing list yet.  So, Margie emailed me earlier this week to let me know that they were going to experiment with blind imprinting on this new dark brown goatskin, just to make sure it would look right.  Instead of using the standard gold or silver imprinting of "Holy Bible", "Knox Version", and my name, I really like what I have seen with blind imprinting, and so would like to see my Bible personalized with that tooling technique.  As they were experimenting with this new dark brown leather, they kept me up-to-date with the results of this experiment and even sent me photo of it, which you can see above.  I really appreciate the fact that they did this and didn't decide to use my Knox Bible as a guinea pig for this experiment.

In the end, I am quite confident that this rebound Knox Bible is going to look great when its completed.  I look forward to sharing with you any further updates and, of course, the final results.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Have a URL

It has only taken four years, but I purchased a URL for this blog.  While you can still get here through the usual blogger URL, you can know visit via

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

JPII on Listening to the Word

"There is no doubt that this primacy of holiness and prayer is inconceivable without a renewed listening to the word of God. Ever since the Second Vatican Council underlined the pre-eminent role of the word of God in the life of the Church, great progress has certainly been made in devout listening to Sacred Scripture and attentive study of it. Scripture has its rightful place of honour in the public prayer of the Church. Individuals and communities now make extensive use of the Bible, and among lay people there are many who devote themselves to Scripture with the valuable help of theological and biblical studies. But it is above all the work of evangelization and catechesis which is drawing new life from attentiveness to the word of God. Dear brothers and sisters, this development needs to be consolidated and deepened, also by making sure that every family has a Bible. It is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives."  - JPII, Novo Millennio Ineunte 39

NT Wright on the Gospel

Monday, May 6, 2013

Knox Rebound: Goodbye to My Knox Bible

Surely it won't be gone forever, but rather just for a short trip to Leonard's Book Restoration for a bit of a makeover.  For a long time I have been looking for an everyday reading Bible that would meet a number of my personal preferences.  As we all know, for just as there is no perfect translation out there, neither is there a perfect Bible edition.  However, the Knox Bible, published by Baronius Press, comes really close.  The hardbound leather cover is really nice, but possibility to have this Bible bound in premium leather is just too great!

In the end, there are three main reasons why I am having my Knox Bible rebound.  First, I really enjoy reading from the single-column page format, including the absence of paragraph headings found in most Bibles.  As mentioned on the Baronius Press website, the Knox Bible is "set in a single-column format with verse references placed at the side of the text in order to provide a clear and easily readable Bible."  I can't think of any other Bible that I own that I have enjoyed actually reading large portions of Scripture from more than this edition of the Knox Bible.

Secondly, the notes and cross-references provided by Msgr. Knox are helpful, well-placed, and not overbearing.  They provide just enough information, relating both to textual and theological issues, thus making them simply an aid, not a distraction, from reading the Sacred Text.  There are also cross-references which, as you know, are necessary for any Bible I am going to use daily.

Finally, a note about the translation itself.  I mentioned a few posts ago that the Big Three (NAB, RSV, and NRSV) are more similar than different.  I still stand by that statement.  Clearly the Knox Bible is more dynamic than literal, but I have increasingly become more comfortable with it for everyday reading.  I have enjoyed many of his fresh renderings, which depart from the standard construction found in the Big Three.  The biggest issue is the archaic English that pops up from time to time, however, I haven't been as distracted by it as I might have thought.  The New Testament reads really well and some of Knox's renderings I have used in the CBSM classes that I teach. I sort of understand now why there is an attraction to translations like the (New) Jerusalem Bible or New Living Translation.

So, what am I having done with my Knox Bible?  Well, I am going to have it bound in soft-tanned flexible goatskin.  The color of the leather will be a dark brown.  I am going to have three places where there will be blind imprinting: On the spine there will be "Holy Bible" and "Knox Version", while on the bottom right of the cover will be placed my full name.  In addition, I will have three brown ribbons added while the original (red and yellow) ones will be removed.

As the project moves forward, I will continue to blog about my experiences with Leonard's.  I look forward to sharing with you the finished product in the coming weeks.

I would like to thank Margie at Leonard's for putting up with a flurry of emails from me over the past week, as well as Corey, our Catholic Bibles Blog rebinding expert, for consulting with me on this project.  I also would like to really thank my wife for allowing me to do this as well!  :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Knox on Translation

"Words are not coins, dead things whose value can be mathematically computed. You cannot quote an exact English equivalent for a French word, as you might quote an exact English equivalent for a French coin. Words are living things, full of shades of meaning, full of associations; and, what is more, they are apt to change their significance from one generation to the next. The translator who understands his job feels, constantly, like Alice in Wonderland trying to play croquet with flamingoes for mallets and hedgehogs for balls; words are forever eluding his grasp. Think of the delicate differences there are between the shades of meaning in a group of words like “mercy, pity, clemency, pardon,” or a group of words like “fear, terror, awe, reverence, respect,” or a group of words like “glory, honour, fame, praise, credit.” How is it to be expected, on the law of averages, that any such group of words in English has an exactly corresponding group of words in Latin, and another in Greek, so that you can say, for example, doxa always means gloria in Latin, always means “glory” in English? Tsedeq or dikaiosune can mean, when used of a man, innocence, or honesty, or uprightness, or charitableness, or dutifulness, or (very commonly) the fact of being in God’s good books. Used of God, it can mean the justice which punishes the sinner, or, quite as often, the faithfulness which protects the good; it can mean, also, the approval with which God looks upon those who are in his good books. Only a meaningless token-word, like righteousness, can pretend to cover all these meanings. To use such a token-word is to abrogate your duty as a translator. Your duty as a translator is to think up the right expression, though it may have to be a paraphrase, which will give the reader the exact shade of meaning here and here and here." -On Englishing the Bible 7

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review of New Community Bible

Our friend Geoffrey Miller has a review up for the recently released New Community Bible.  Head on over to Austin New Media to check it out!

For additional information about the New Community Bible you can go here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Rebound Catechism

Our friend Corey recently had his full sized edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church rebound.  In many ways, Corey is becoming the rebinding expert of the Catholic world.  You can read all about it at Matt's blog.  He had the Catechism rebound by our friends at Leonard's in their 18th Century Revivalist Style (Softcover Version).  

I think it may be about time to have one of my Bibles rebound.  I will announce which one in the coming days, but until then, what do you think about the new historical style offerings from Leonard's?  I hope to blog about my experiences with Leonard's over the coming weeks as this new rebinding project proceeds.   Can anyone guess which Bible I plan to have rebound?