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Scripture Study Resources for Catholics

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STUDY EDITIONS OF THE BIBLE
A study Bible offers a particular translation of the Bible supplemented by study and reference resources, all in one book. They typically include:
  • Reading guides for each book that are more in-depth than what you'll find in the beginner's guides to the Old Testament and New Testament described in Beginning Bible Study.
  • More extensive footnotes and cross-references, which explain difficult verses and help you make connections across the Bible.
  • Glossaries and concordances to help you understand terms and find verses.
  • Maps and timelines to orient you to the Bible's places and time.
  • Supplementary essays that offer information and perspective about the Bible and its world, how to read the Bible, and the Bible's place in the life of faith communities.

Study Bibles can have a special focus, such as discipleship or archaeology, and more or less detail in the information they provide.

A good study Bible is an excellent and essential all-in-one resource for anyone committed to the advanced beginner or intermediate level of study, or anyone who regularly uses Scripture in parish ministry.

Every parish library should have at least one good study Bible as a supplement for basic editions of the Bible.


RESOURCES: Study Bibles

The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition

(Second Edition)

Oxford University Press (2007) Editor: Jean Marie Hiesberger

An edition of the New American Bible (NAB) translation that's perfect for Catholics who want to begin systematic study of the Bible. Includes easy to understand essays on essential topics such as the Bible in Catholic life, Catholics and fundamentalism, how to read the Bible, and the background of the biblical texts. Reading guides for each book and notes within the text offer great introductions and explanations. Also includes useful study tools such as maps, a concordance, and a glossary, as well as extensive and varied discussion questions. This Bible is a simpler version of the Catholic Study Bible (see below) on which it is partly based.

An excellent Bible for many parish adult faith formation situations, as well as for individual study and reflection. Highly recommended for Catholics who want to get a solid yet not overwhelming introduction to what the Catholic Bible is all about.This may be the only study Bible you ever need.

The Catholic Study Bible: Second Edition

Oxford University Press (2006)

Editors: Donald Senior, C.P. and John J. Collins

Another edition of the New American Bible (NAB) translation that is more of a college edition than The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition (above). A "who's who" of Catholic biblical scholars produced the advanced beginner/intermediate level reading guides for each book and section of the Bible and the supplementary essays on topics such as "The Bible in Catholic Life," Biblical History and Archaeology," "Catholic Interpretation of the Bible," "The Bible in the Lectionary." Includes maps, concordance, helpful glossary, and the daily and Sunday lectionary readings.

Highly recommended for Catholics who want or need a comprehensive Catholic study Bible that's written for a general audience. Some diocesan Bible schools (The Biblical Institute of the Diocese of Joliet and the Chicago Catholic Scripture School) recommend students use this Bible. If you read every introduction and essay, you'll get a great education in the Catholic approach to the Bible.

The New Jerusalem Bible: Standard Edition

Doubleday Religion Publishing Group (1985)

Editor: Henry Wansbrough

An edition of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) translation used in the Roman Catholic liturgy in England. Although not described by the publisher as a study Bible, that's exactly what this Bible is. It includes extensive introductions to the sections of the Bible and to each biblical book. The real treasure of this edition, however, are the comprehensive notes. They often focus on major theological concepts and themes as they're developed across the entire Bible or in sections of the Bible. The notes educate the reader on how different texts of the Bible connect with each other and what the texts say theologically about ideas like holiness, Spirit, and love, and together can lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding of a theme or text. Includes several color maps and indexes of biblical themes and the major footnotes.

Highly recommended for any Catholic with a serious interest in Scripture, for people in parish ministries that use Scripture regularly, or for people who want a fresh translation of the Bible. This edition of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) translation is worth owning as your second Bible, both for the fine and often enlightening translation itself and for the supplemental material. I find it especially helpful with Paul's letters.

The HarperCollins Study Bible: Fully Revised

and Updated (Including Apocryphal and

Deuterocanonical Books)

HarperCollins Publishers (2006) Editor: Harold W. Attridge

An edition of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation, a translation used by both Protestants and Catholics. This Bible compares to The Catholic Study Bible in terms of the scholars who contributed to it (leading Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic scholars) and to the New Jerusalem Bible in terms of the extensiveness of the notes to the texts. Instead of reading guides, the Bible offers good short introductions for each book and includes much useful explanation and connection in the excellent notes. Concise essays such as "Israelite Religion," "The Greco-Roman Context of the New Testament," and "Archaeology and the New Testament" add to essays you'll find in Catholic study Bibles. Places the additional books of the Catholic Old Testament in a separate section, along with the additional books found in Orthodox Bibles. Includes full color maps with an index of place names, concordance, and a helpful list of quotations from the Jewish Scriptures used in the New Testament.

Another highly recommended study Bible. If I were in a Catholic Bible study group, I'd want one person in the group to own this Bible in order to supplement what the Catholic study Bibles offer.

Less Useful Study Bibles

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
(New Testament)

Ignatius Press (2010, from earlier editions of individual books)

An edition of the Revised Standard Version (Second Catholic Edition) translation, this Bible collects individual study guides (still available) for the New Testament books written over the last several years by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. The collected guides are supplemented by maps, a concordance, a glossary, and a helpful index of New Testament texts related to Church teachings, drawn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ignatius Press will begin producing individual study guides for the Old Testament books in fall 2010.

The introductions to the books as well as the study notes are based on and for the most part accept how the early and medieval Church Fathers viewed the origin of the biblical texts and their interpretation of those texts. While a valued part of the Tradition of the Church, both the ways of interpreting the text and the results of interpretation have been greatly supplemented by modern biblical scholarship. This study Bible is a good resource for Catholics who want to learn about part of the tradition of Scripture interpretation in the Church. As such, it's useful as a supplementary study Bible.

As a primary study Bible for modern Catholics, however, this Bible is inadequate. Beginning students will unknowingly learn a fundamentalist approach to Scripture, as texts throughout the Bible are assumed for the most part to be recording historical words and events. They will be incompletely introduced to the Church's illuminating teaching on how the gospels developed in the several decades after the death of Jesus. They will get little understanding of the truly valuable insights available in modern biblical scholarship of all kinds.

With no historical context provided, beginners will absorb and mistakenly accept as the Church's still valid view the anti-Jewish nature of some of the earlier interpretation of Old Testament texts and of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Notes throughout the Bible present the Old Covenant as something that has been revoked and superseded by the New Covenant; the Old Testament texts as only prophesying and prefiguring Jesus the Christ, with little value in themselves; and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as without doubt God's punishment on generations of disloyal Israel, experienced by the Jews of Jesus' time. In their time and place, early Church leaders had their own reasons for such interpretations, but none of these views are held by today's Church.

Recommended only for those who have solid preparation in the modern Catholic approach to Scripture.

The Navarre Bible (in various volumes)

University of Navarre (2000-2010 for individual volumes)

A multi-volume edition of the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) translation covering the entire Bible. Introductions and notes produced by scholars at the University of Navarre (Spain), continuing a project begun by St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. This Bible's notes for the most part consist of reflections on particular texts of Scripture gathered from the writings of early and medieval Church Fathers, the saints, and especially St. Josemaria Escriva.

While useful for learning and connecting with part of the Church's tradition of Scriptural reflection, and certainly inspirational, this Bible's emphasis on the tradition of reflection makes it inadequate as a study Bible for modern Catholics.

Recommended only as a supplementary Bible for reflection, not as a study Bible.

STUDY BIBLES


1. A study Bible is an edition that supplements a particular translation with a variety of study materials.

2. These materials may include reading guides, notes to the text, essays on Bible-related topics, maps, and a concordance.

3. Study Bibles may have a special focus, such as discipleship, and they differ in how much detail they provide.

4. Study Bibles help those who want an all-in-one Bible study resource at an advanced beginner or intermediate level.

5. Every parish library should have a good study Bible, as well as basic editions of the Bible.


ACTIVITY 1

You'll find most of the study Bibles listed here at good general bookstore. Compare them to see the differences for yourself.


ACTIVITY 2

Go to your parish library or your religious education library.

What editions of the Bible do you find?

If your parish has no general study Bible, suggest one (or donate one!) using the list here.


KEEP LEARNING

If you're in a Bible study group, make sure the group has access to at least one of the general study Bibles listed here.

Choose the study Bible that's right for the level of your group.

Use the Bible at every session to help answer your group's questions.