May 31, 2014

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible

While leading round table discussions in one of my favorite Bible study groups, I became familiar with the excellent study materials provided by the Little Rock Bible Study series, edited by Catherine Upchurch. So when I saw she also edited the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible, I immediately requested a review copy, which she graciously sent right away.

For some reason I thought Little Rock might produce all of the supplemental materials in this edition, so I was surprised to discover the extensive footnotes and introductions to each book were the same ones found in the Catholic study Bible from Oxford I reviewed a couple of years ago. However, the more I leafed through the pleasantly smooth, bright white pages of the Little Rock edition, the more I saw unique aspects that encourage Bible study and reading.

First of all, the quality paperback binding allows the book to lay flat, so you’re not constantly trying to keep pages from closing like an elevator door. This especially matters to me when I’m interacting with a Bible, jotting thoughts and notes in the margins, which the cross-referencing columns with lots of white space in this edition nicely allow me to do.

As the first four pages point out, other unique features include quick summaries of each book, author, content, and characters with definitions and descriptions interspersed for clarification and interest. For instance, you'll find helpful "Archaeological insights," "Social justice teachings," "Prayer starters," "Liturgical use of Scripture," "Cultural Connections," and "Photographs."

Interestingly, these features also provided a visually appealing layout. Opening the pages to Matthew 5, for example, lightly colored insets separate helpful mini-comments and definitions from the biblical text. As one note tells us, “The Beatitudes recorded in Matthew have an ageless quality that has fascinated every generation of Christians. The church has variously seen them as signs of the kingdom of God, ideals to be striven after, or unique virtues meant primarily for Jesus’ followers.” So, in #1716, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Beatitudes ‘the heart of Jesus’ preaching’.”

Then, beneath a clear, concise definition of a beatitude, we see a sidebar on “Applying the Beatitudes” that says, “The U.S. bishops noted the importance of the Beatitudes in implementing economic justice for all people in their pastoral letter on the topic,” which the note goes on to quote:

“We write to share our teaching, to raise questions, to challenge one another to live our faith in the world. We write as heirs of the biblical prophets who summon us ‘to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). We write as followers of Jesus who told us in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are the meek… Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness….’ These words challenge us not only as believers but also as consumers, citizens, workers, and owners.” Therefore, “The challenge for us is to discover in our own place and time what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘the salt of the earth’ and what it means to serve ‘the least among us’ and to ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’.”

If one were to prayerfully read every word, every sidebar, every note in this highly recommended edition, perhaps we could begin to meet that challenge, with God's help, individually and as the church Body of Christ alive in the world and empowered in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, poet, writer, lifelong Bible lover, and reviewer

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible, paperback

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