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Scripture Study Resources for Catholics

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OTHER RESOURCES FOR
ADVANCING IN BIBLE STUDY—2
Once you have a basic understanding of a biblical book, or a part of the Bible, you may be ready for resources that answer more questions, lead you more deeply into the text, or address a particular issue related to the study of the Bible.
On this page, you'll find:
  • A few resources for the gospels and Paul. (NOTE: There are many study helps for the gospels and Paul! I've chosen a few recent books to get you started.)
  • Resources for the Sunday readings in particular.
  • Information about commentaries.
  • Three special resources, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible, The Scripture Source Book for Catholics and The Bible Today.

(See Other Study Resources 1 for more in-depth introductions on the Bible itself, how to read the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and women in the Bible.)


RESOURCES: The Gospels, Paul, and Sunday Readings

Invitation to the Gospels

By Paul J. Achtemeier, Robert Karris, O.F.M., George MacRae, S.J., Daniel Harrington, S.J., and Donald Senior, C.P.

Paulist Press (2002)

Section-by-section commentaries on and introductions to each of the four gospels, written by Catholic biblical scholars who have deep knowledge of their text and good pastoral sense. Offers clear answers to questions of background and theology that readers often have about the gospels. The introductions include themes important for readers today. Each subsection concludes with a study question. Each gospel receives about 100 pages of not-overwhelming commentary.

This book alone could serve a Bible study group or individual for four years of gospel study, spending one year on each gospel, working its way through the gospels section-by-section. Highly recommended.

Meeting St. Luke Today: Understanding the Man,

His Mission, and Message

By Daniel Harrington, S.J. Loyola Press (2009)

This book was produced by a leading Catholic biblical scholar as a resource for studying, reflecting on, and praying the gospel used in Year C of the Sunday readings for Mass (the Sunday lectionary). It includes an introduction to Luke the evangelist; Luke's story, characters, and theological themes; how Luke interpreted the traditions about Jesus that he received; major themes of the gospel; and a great closing section on how to pray Luke using the traditional methods of lectio divina ("holy reading" and Ignatian contemplation. Includes study and reflection questions at the end of each chapter.

Another excellent and up-to-date resource for more in-depth study of a gospel, with very helpful study questions. The combined emphasis on the literary, theological, and spiritual understanding of Luke makes this book very useful for Bible study groups or individuals.

Meeting St. Paul Today: Understanding the Man,

His Mission, and Message

By Daniel Harrington, S.J. Loyola Press (2008)

Written by Fr. Harrington as a resource for the Pauline Year (2008-2009), this book offers an advanced beginner everything he or she needs to better understand this sometimes difficult part of the New Testament. You'll learn about Paul's life, as we know it from his letters and from Acts of the Apostles; the key themes and outline of each of his letters; common questions people have about interpreting Paul today; and what these texts might mean for modern readers. Each chapter concludes with readings and study questions.

An accessible and useful advanced beginner resource for Paul. Dedicate a year to Paul and use this book as your guide, whether in a group or on your own. The second Sunday reading will mean much more to you!

The Cultural World of...[series]

By John J. Pilch Liturgical Press (Jesus: 1995, 1996, 1997;

the Apostles: 2001, 2002, 2003; the Prophets: 2002, 2003, 2004)

Many aspects of 21st-century U.S. culture differ greatly from the first-century Mediterranean culture in which Jesus and the first generation of Christians lived and worked. The biblical writers omit cultural aspects "everyone would have known," which we may not, and we often put our cultural assumptions into the biblical texts. Biblical scholar John Pilch has produced a series of guides keyed to the three-year cycle of the Sunday Mass readings that helps readers better understand these texts in cultural terms. The series includes:

  • The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Sunday (one volume each for Cycle A, Cycle B, and Cycle C) (Gospel reading)
  • The Cultural World of the Apostles: The Second Reading, Sunday by Sunday (one volume each for Cycle A, Cycle B, and Cycle C)
  • The Cultural World of the Prophets: The First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm, Sunday by Sunday (one volume each for Cycle A, Cycle B, and Cycle C)

Concise, easy-to-read, inexpensive guides that illuminate the Sunday readings in surprising ways. An excellent companion to Bible study groups based on the Sunday readings (lectionary). Essential resources for anyone in parish ministry who preaches and teaches the lectionary. Try one!


RESOURCES: Commentaries

A "commentary" resource presents just what its name says: comments on a book of the Bible, perhaps even verse-by-verse. Commentaries typically include an introduction to the book, but a primary use of commentaries is to find information about individual verses or sections.

Commentaries come in various levels, from very basic to very scholarly. They also may include different kinds of material and emphasize different aspects of the text. Some commentaries conclude each section of comments with pastoral reflections. Other commentaries highlight a particular dimension of the biblical text, such as how it works as a story or how it reflects the culture.

A commentary can teach you a lot, but as I hope you've realized from the resources presented in other parts of this web site, many other resources are available to help you with a text before you come to a commentary. In fact, it's possible to develop a fine relationship with Scripture without ever opening a commentary!

Anyone who preaches and teaches Scripture will use some kind of commentary at times. Commentaries can also be very helpful for individuals and groups studying a single book of the Bible: the commentary can answer questions and, best of all, explain puzzles in the text.

Here are two suggestions appropriate for advanced beginner and intermediate students:

The Collegeville Commentary Series

(Old Testament and New Testament)

The New Collegeville Commentary Series

(As of July 2010, full New Testament series and

vol. 1 of Old Testament series available)

(Variety of authors) Liturgical Press

Introductory-level Catholic commentaries, each written by a well respected scholar. Choose the inexpensive individual volumes for specific books of the Bible, which each include the biblical text as well as key comments. Or, get the one-volume collections of the New Testament commentaries (in the New Collegeville and Collegeville series) or the Old Testament commentaries (the Collegeville series).

The best introductory-level commentary available for Catholics. An essential resource for every parish library and Bible study group.

The Westminster Bible Companion Series

(Variety of authors) Westminster John Knox Press

Although not produced by a Catholic publisher, these commentaries are a good next step from the Collegeville/New Collegeville commentaries. They're more comprehensive than those series, but they're also designed to help the average Christian study the Bible, which means they're easy to understand and emphasize the text's significance for today. In a group, one copy would serve the group.

A great "next step" beyond the Collegeville commentaries, both in terms of information and pastoral reflection and insight. Based on the scholarship shared by many Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. I've used many of these commentaries and never been disappointed.


SPECIAL RESOURCES

The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible

By John Pilch Liturgical Press (1999)

As with The Cultural World of ... series (see above), this book teaches readers about the cultural differences between biblical times and our time in a concrete, concise, and well written way. Instead of keying entries to the Sunday lectionary, the author presents his subject by topic. What was a holy man in biblical times? What were the customs associated with death, and their meanings? What was sickness? How did people travel? At what did they work? All the information is related to specific biblical texts.

A fascinating and accesible resource. Every intermediate-level student of the Bible and everyone who preaches and teaches Scripture should have this book. Also an excellent resource for parish libraries.

The Scripture Source Book for Catholics

Harcourt Religion Publishers (2008)

I can't begin to describe the range of information this book contains. As a "source book," it excels at presenting summaries and lists of things we often want to find quickly: Scripture connections for each of the sacraments and the scriptural origins of Catholic devotions and prayers. Yet it also includes a complete annotated list of all the translations of the Bible into English and lets you compare the Lord's Prayer among them all! You'll learn as much about Catholic biblical interpretation as you do about praying with Scripture on your own and as a Church.

Highly recommended for any Catholic who is a "Bible geek" and anyone in parish ministry who needs to answer questions about Scripture quickly. You will learn a lot from this book. Solidly based on modern Church guidance for interpreting the Bible.

The Bible Today (published six times per year)

Liturgical Press

A small publication produced by Catholic biblical scholars who want to share what they know with the average Catholic committed to learning more about Scripture. Each issue offers articles on a theme or book of the Bible (examples: Mary Magdalene, The Passion Story in Luke, Praying the Psalms Today, Leadership in the Bible), with study questions. Regular features such as The Biblical Landscape and What's Biblical About...? (ashes? incense? pastors?), as well as reviews of Bible-related books, add interest and usefulness

An excellent publication for parish ministers who have a special interest with or preach and teach the Bible. A good addition to parish libraries. Intermediate-level Bible students will want to subscribe.

OTHER RESOURCES


1. Many resources are available for the gospels and Paul. Check the catalogues of Catholic publishers.

2. A Bible study can be based on one good resource, supplemented by a basic commentary.

Don't be afraid to "do it yourself." Your parish faith formation staff will be happy to help.

3. Learning about the cultural world of the biblical authors can greatly enhance your understanding of what a text means, and of your own world as well.

4. Commentaries are written at different levels of detail, often with a specific focus. Don't get more than you need in a commentary.

5. Intermediate-level Bible students and those in parish ministry who preach and teach the Bible will want to get a resource on the cultural world of the Bible, as well as The Bible Today magazine.


ACTIVITY 1

Think about what part of the Bible, or what Bible-related topic, you'd like to learn more about in the next few months.

Find a resource to help you. Invite a few people to join you as you learn together.


ACTIVITY 2

Look in your parish library or religious education library for the resources described on the "Other Study Resources" pages.

What do you find? Which of these resources do you think your parish should have? What can you do to help that happen?


ACTIVITY 3

Take some time to browse the catalogues of Catholic publishers to get to know the range of materials they offer in support of all aspects of your Catholic faith.