December 8, 2014

College Study Bible for ever

As soon as I received my review copy of the Saint Mary’s Press College Study Bible, published by Saint Mary’s Press and kindly sent to me by Acta Publications, I realized what a treasure this edition is – not only for college students but for all of us who want to understand Bible people, places, times, and concepts. And so, I really really wish my paperback review copy had its pages sewn into a top quality leather binding to hold up under decades of wear. At present that option is not available, but I hope it will be.

Meanwhile, what a find!

To encourage young people to read the Bible, this edition begins with a “Letter to College Students” written BY two college students, Brigitte Smith and Carolyn Olson, who were “part of developing this special edition of the Bible” with college students in mind. However, Bible lovers from teens to all ages of adults will find excellent “footnotes, maps, photographs, charts, articles, background information, and additional tools to help you in your studies.

The study aids also help us to connect Holy Scripture with our own lives. For example, “Articles throughout this Bible discuss many of the contemporary social, personal, and spiritual issues that we face each day. By connecting these very real issues to the Scriptures, the articles help the Bible become more meaningful to us and can have a very direct impact on our lives and the choices we make.”

In the opening article, “The Bible: A Light on Our Path,” readers learn about the 5-step process that brought us the Bible, beginning with the events themselves and ending with the biblical canon, which “claims that this book is inspired by God and therefore faithfully teaches those truths that God wishes to teach us for the sake of our salvation.” And so, “This means that the Church cannot teach something that contradicts the Scriptures. However, the Church can teach a truth that has its roots, but not its full flowering, in the Scriptures, as well as something on which the Scriptures remain silent.”

“Understanding Genres and Literary Forms” and “Understanding the Bible in Its Historical and Cultural Contexts” give us useful tools with other helps discussed in “Reading the Bible: Tools for Understanding.” For example, almost everyone with a television set has seen posters with “John 3:16” without necessarily knowing what that means! This article explains by saying, “To locate a particular passage within the Scriptures, three pieces of information are necessary: the name of the book, the chapter, and the particular verse,” then uses John 3:16 as an example.

Other study aids include introductions to each section of the Bible (Pentateuch, Wisdom, Gospels, etc.) with important background information on each individual book. “The Three-Year Cycle of Sunday Lectionary Readings,” a glossary, excellent maps, and a biblical timeline have been included too.

I especially appreciate line drawings throughout the text to show such items as the Ark of the Covenant as well as colorful inserts of “Biblical Art” and charts on such topics as “The Names of God,” the “Deities of the Ancient Middle East,” the “Wonders, Miracles, and Signs in the Old Testament” and the New. In addition, inserts on the significance of numbers, colors, festivals, and more help us to understand the original intent, which is what each of the study aids aims to do, making this edition highly recommended for adults of all ages who want to embrace more fully God’s Word.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

Saint Mary’s Press College Study Bible, paperback

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