Showing posts with label Acta Publications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Acta Publications. Show all posts

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



November 10, 2014

The Message, Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition

If you want to see your friends and family who have fallen away from the church, non-readers of the Bible, and/or unchurched people get the message, The Message Catholic/Ecumenical Edition gets God’s Word across in an up-to-date, heaven-sent, down-to-earth style.

Not merely a paraphrase, as I’d thought, The Message renders the original languages of the Bible into a contemporary translation by pastor-poet-writer and Bible scholar Eugene H. Peterson. A team of Bible scholars, representing most of the mainline churches, then proofed the text and “ensured that it is accurate as well as faithful to the original languages.”

When I learned that Acta Publications now publishes an edition that includes the deuterocanonical books (aka Apocrypha) translated by Catholic scholar-writer-translator William Griffin, I requested a review copy, which they kindly sent.

Interestingly, my copy arrived right when my discussion group began a study of Revelation – a book that most people, including those of us who are lifelong lovers of the Bible, find difficult. Often, however, the difficulty comes in the approach.

In its Introduction to Revelation, The Message emphasizes the poetic vision John received as he worshiped God on the Lord’s day, giving us this to consider:

“The Bible ends with a flourish: vision and song, doom and deliverance, terror and triumph. The rush of color and sound, image and energy, leaves us reeling. But if we persist through the initial confusion and read on, we begin to pick up the rhythms, realize the connections, and find ourselves enlisted as participants in a multidimensional act of Christian worship.”

As letters to a group of mainland churches on John’s pastoral circuit, “Revelation is not easy reading. Besides being a pastor, John is a poet, fond of metaphor and symbol, image and allusion, passionate in his desire to bring us into the presence of Jesus believing and adoring. But the demands he makes on our intelligence and imagination are well rewarded, for in keeping company with John, our worship of God will almost certainly deepen in urgency and joy.”

Presumably, this Introduction can be found in every edition of The Message since New Testament books are the same, regardless of church affiliation. In every edition of the Bible (Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish), the Torah also remains the same with each of those first five books or Pentateuch including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. However, the books of history, wisdom, and prophecy vary.

For example, the Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition includes such deuterocanonical books as Sirach among the other wisdom books of the Bible, offering such wise sayings as: “Child, look closely at your soul. Examine your life. If you come across something obnoxious, stop doing it,” 37:30.

And, speaking of wisdom, Sirach 38:25 also says, “Wisdom in the life of a scribe comes from quiet time. Writers who down-size their workload upsize their wisdom output.”

In the writings of the prophets, we find the deuterocanonical book of Baruch, placed after Jeremiah and Lamentations since the author might have been Jeremiah's scribe -- or not. Regardless, chapter 5 prophesied the return of the exiles, saying: "Jerusalem, get rid of the dull clothes of grief and put on your best dress, the clothes of glory meant for you from all eternity. Wrap yourself in a lovely layered cloak; pick one from the justice collection. On your head put a crown in honor of the Eternal One." Then, "At the command of God, forests and fragrant woods will spring up to provide shade for the returning pilgrims. God will lead Israel home with joy, lighting the way with the majesty, mercy, and justice only he can command."

In the historical writings, we discover a variety of histories from the deuterocanonical books. For example, The Message Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition includes 1 and 2 Maccabees in the books of history, giving us texts about what went on during the time between testaments.

As the Introduction to 1 Maccabees tells us, somewhere around 167 B.C., “one of the Gentiles who’d won a previous battle against Israel approached a Jewish priest named Mattathias and politely demanded that he sacrifice to Zeus right there on the street in front of everyone. In a calm but firm way, the king’s agent explained the options: Sacrifice to Zeus or die. Overhearing the conversation and judging where the power currently resided, one Jew walked right in front of everyone and began to worship Zeus. Without a second thought but energized by a lifetime of fidelity to God’s word, Mattathias drew his sword and whacked both the gentlemanly agent and the idolatrous Jew to death.” As you might imagine, the story doesn't end there but continues throughout both books of the Maccabees.

From Genesis to Revelation, however, the whole biblical adventure continues in exciting, everyday language that clearly shows the Bible as it's meant to be known: THE message of our ongoing adventure with God.


©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She’s the traditionally published author of 27 books in all genres, including the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden.


The Message, Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition, paperback