January 15, 2016
My title for this review makes a rather bold statement, especially since I’ve reviewed some wonderful editions from various Catholic Bible publishers over the years. As I recall, I recommended each one in earlier posts, which you can read by scrolling through this blog and finding ones that interest you.
However, the title - The Didache Bible - surely did not sound interesting to me! Although the word “didache” labels something as instructive, it’s generally used in the negative sense of getting preachy. If, therefore, someone says, “Your writing is very didactic,” they’re probably not giving you a compliment and might even be saying, “B-o-r-i-n-g!”
So, why do I hold The Didache Bible in such high esteem that I purchased a hardback covered in leather as shown below?
Besides being published in the beloved RSV (Revised Standard Version) text with all of the deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal) books included, this Bible has footnote-commentaries from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which brings you the full Bible and the teachings of the church in one priceless book.
Let’s take, for example, the footnote for Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:”
“This simple statement that initiates the first book of the Old Testament reveals that God is eternal, i.e., his existence transcends time, and all time is eternally present for him. Second, God is omnipotent. Everything that exists originated with him. By his Word, he brought all of creation into existence without the use of pre-existing materials. Finally, God alone is the Creator, and he has authority over all creation. We affirm God as Father and omnipotent Creator when we pray the first lines of both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. (CCC 268, 279-280, 290-295)”
To give you an example from the New Testament, I flipped open the book and saw the short but profound note for Matthew 7:3-5:
“Failure to see our own faults leads invariably to harsh and unfair judgment of others. (CCC 1861)”
Naturally, I had to look up that number in my copy of the CCC, where I read then read again with bold emphasis:
“Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of santifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.”
Deep! So it could take a lifetime to get the full value of this Bible and commentary. If that sounds overwhelming, take heart! The front matter has pages to ease our study and research, for example, by giving us a brief description of each book of the Bible followed by chronologies of the Old Testament and the New.
Other upfront pages list the parables and miracles of Jesus with back pages providing maps, a brief concordance, and a helpful glossary that’s like a mini-dictionary of Bible people, places, objects, and ideas – almost everything we need to know about our Judeo-Christian faith, Jesus Christ, and the Church. All that's left is putting what we read into practice and developing our relationship with our Lord God.
©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and highly ecumenical lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts and peoples.
The Didache Bible, hardback covered with leather
In case you want to explore further, this update of the CCC makes the perfect companion to The Didache Bible:
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paperback
August 21, 2015
Unlike many study Bibles, the Catholic Scripture Study International (CSSI) Bible places its informative charts, maps, and “Faith Facts” in glossy page inserts, rather than footnotes throughout the large print text. This gives you a distraction-free reader edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) – beloved by Catholic and non-Catholic Christians from all denominations.
Published by Saint Benedict Press and distributed by Tan Books, who kindly sent me a review copy, the CSSI Bible includes the deuterocanonical books often referred to as the apocryphal books of the Old Testament.
I purposefully said Old Testament rather than Jewish Bible or Hebrew Testament since these books, initially accepted by Jews and Christians alike, have been excluded from Jewish Bibles because they were in Greek, not Hebrew.
However, modern scholarship and findings near the Dead Sea show that the Pharisee community did not accept the Septuagint or Greek Bible, whereas early Jewish Christians (such as the apostles) did. Therefore, more and more Protestants want a Bible with the Apocrypha, which means “hidden” and which Catholics aptly call “deuterocanonical,” meaning outside the Jewish not Christian canon – books originally included, too, in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
Besides the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, what makes this edition uniquely “Catholic” are those glossy inserts, beginning with a “Catholic Apologetics” list of such topics as “Apostolic Succession” followed by relevant Bible verses .
In addition, you’ll find “Faith Fact” page inserts on topics such as “The Biblical Origins of the Mass,” genuflecting, “Signs and Symbols,” and “Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.”
In the latter, for instance, we learn that “no one taught that the presence of Christ was only symbolic until Ratramnus (d.868) and, more notably, Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088).” However, “The Church firmly rejected the teachings of both.” This belief of receiving Christ Himself through the bread and wine is affirmed by each individual partaker of the Eucharist who then receives the elements with a verbal “amen.”
Any Christian who would like to become better acquainted with the Roman Catholic Church will appreciate this highly recommended edition, which came to me in a nice quality bonded leather as shown below but which Amazon erroneously referred to as imitation leather.
Following each testament, a section of “Explanatory Notes” come in a smaller font than the large print used for the biblical text, but, with ample ink, the two appendixes are clear, readable, and informative. For example, the first note states:
“1:1-2:4a: The aim of this narrative is not to present a scientific picture but to teach religious truth, especially the dependence of all creation on God and its consecration to him through the homage rendered by man, who is the climax of creation. Hence its strong liturgical character and the concluding emphasis on the sabbath. It serves as a prologue to the whole of the Old Testament.”
Regarding that “whole,” I’m delighted to have the deuterocanonical books in the RSV translation as it and the KJV are ones with which I and other Christians from diverse denominations are most familiar, especially when it comes to hymn lyrics and memorization of Bible verses. If I want to follow a 3-year cycle of readings, I can follow the “Calendar of Readings” at the back of the book, but I suspect I’ll be eager to read this poetically beautiful text straight through.
©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, a lifelong student of the Bible, is a freelance and assignment writer, who likes to write Bible-based poems and manuscripts.
Catholic Scripture Study International Bible, RSV, CE, bonded leather (which I confirmed by checking the ISBN number of my review copy with this one advertised on Amazon
November 29, 2014
If you want a Bible dictionary with entries on the names, places, and topics in the deuterocanonical aka apocryphal books, the Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn and published by Doubleday, provides that and more.
When I first saw and ordered the review copy offered for free on the Blogging for Books site, I thought this dictionary might define the rites, rituals, and liturgy of the Catholic Church. Come to find out, others have made this mistake, too, but, as the title clearly states, this is a dictionary on the Catholic Bible. Therefore, the text includes information on Judith, Tobit, the Angel Raphael, and others mentioned in the deuterocanonical / apocryphal books but generally omitted from most Bible dictionaries.
Like any dictionary, religious or otherwise, this one has no need for an index as each topic is already alphabetized for an easy A to Z search. A clear font and spacious leading make the conversational entries easy to read, while clear maps in the back of the book make the movements through biblical places easier to envision. Also, in the back matter the chronologies of kings and historical movements help us to get grounded in what happened, with whom, and when, whereas the entries themselves offer insight into why.
For those insights and other information, we have the extensive research of former Protestant pastor, Scott Hahn, who has become well-known as an author, Christian apologist, and Catholic theologian. To further ensure accuracy in the material, the book has the official Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur of the Church to show freedom from doctrinal or moral errors.
To give you an example of the entries, I turned to a word rarely found in a religious dictionary “purgatory.” The closest entry in most Bible dictionaries might be “purge,” which eliminates or eradicates some type of impurity. To definite “purgatory,” however, the Catholic Bible Dictionary says:
“PURGATORY (Latin, ‘cleansing’ or ‘purifying’) Defined by theologians as the condition of those who died in the state of grace but with lingering attachment to sin. In purgatory these souls are purified for a time before being admitted to the glory and happiness of heaven. In this period of passive suffering, they are purged of unrepented venial sins, satisfy the demands of divine justice for temporal punishment due for sins, and are made ready for the beatific vision."
As the entry goes on to say: "The doctrine of purgatory is found in Scripture but is not fully developed. The two passages most clearly related to it are 2 Macc 12:45 and 1 Cor 3:12-15.”
For another example, let’s look at the entry for Tobit, a book unfamiliar to many Christians:
“TOBIT, BOOK OF The story of two Israelite families whose lives were touched by God in the Assyrian Exile. They were brought together by marriage and the intervention of the angel Raphael. Tobit is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament that is deemed scriptural by Catholics but not by modern Jews or Protestants” – the key word being “modern” as both Jewish and Christian readers originally accepted these books from the Greek Bible or Septuagint.
And, as the entry for “Septuagint” explains:
SEPTUAGINT (Latin septuaginta, ‘seventy’) The most ancient and important translation of the Old Testament into Greek. It was produced between the third and first centuries B.C.,” so Jesus and the Apostles would undoubtedly have been familiar with these books, which came about because “King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt requested a copy of the Jewish Bible to be placed in his famous library at Alexandria 9ca. 250 B.C.) Unable to read Hebrew, the king brought seventy-two scholars from Palestine to Alexandria to make a translation of the Hebrew Torah….”
That desire – to present the Bible in the language of the reader – has led to many translations of Holy Scriptures into English with excellent resources such as this to clarify our understanding and electrify our interest in embracing the Bible as an everyday part of our worship, our faith, and our lives.
©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.
Catholic Bible Dictionary, hardback
October 13, 2012
Christians from all denominations often ask me which Bible is which and why, and I’ve been explaining away – incorrectly! Well, not totally wrongly, but I was under the forgetful impression that any Bible “with Apocrypha” is the same as a “Catholic edition” – not!
With apologies to all, I’ll try to set things straight, confusing though it may be, but important too, so please bear with me.
As I’ve also mentioned over the years (and, yea! – gotten right) – the order of the books in a Bible “with Apocrypha” differ from a “Catholic edition” most noticeably by placement.
Each edition approved for Roman Catholic readers has the “extra books” woven into the “Old Testament” according to category. For example, Tobit and I and II Maccabees go with historical books whereas The Book of Sirach (one of my favorites) wisely goes with Wisdom Books and Baruch goes with the Prophets. However, Bibles labeled “with Apocrypha” typically place the extra books between the Testaments or after Revelation.
That can be confusing if you enjoy interdenominational Bible study groups, as I do, but otherwise, it’s no big deal. Right? Well, at least not until you come to some extra “extra books” with no clue what to do, which is what happened recently to me.
Reading my new copy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha, I ran across books I did not recall ever reading in my Catholic Study Bible or Revised English Bible with Apocrypha or The New Jerusalem Bible. Just to be sure, I double-checked the lists and saw that some of the books “with Apocrypha” are not part of the deuterocanonical books of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church does not consider books labeled “apocryphal” as such since “Apocrypha” means hidden, which those books clearly are not. Rather the Roman Church deemed the “extra books” to be “deuterocanonical” or outside the canon established by Jewish scholars who canonized the Hebrew Scriptures sometime after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D.
When Protestants left the Catholic Church, the Jewish Bible went, too, as the “Old Testament.” In the ecumenical environment we now have, however, most Christians want to see all the books inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, surprise! Most new editions of the Bible “with Apocrypha” have books the Catholic Church never included.
Let me quickly add:
The New Testament (NT) is the same for every Christian.
The NT books are the same; the order is the same, and only the footnotes might differ.
Before I leave you hanging in confusion and despair of knowing, here’s a list of deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal books) included in Bibles approved by the Roman Catholic Church:
Additions to the Book of Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus aka the Wisdom of Jesus aka Sirach
The Letter of Jeremiah
The Additions to the Book of Daniel – Prayer of Azariah (aka Abednego)
Bel and the Dragon
1 and 2 Maccabees
In addition to those “extra books” in the “Old Testament” (OT) of a Catholic Bible, the Greek and Slavonic Bibles include all books above plus:
Prayer of Manasseh
Finally, Slavonic Bibles include:
2 and 3 Esdras
To recap: “with Apocrypha” Bibles include all the “extra books” just listed, which, together, equal the length of the entire New Testament. Therefore, having done my extra reading, I think I’ll focus on the NT, OT books of Wisdom, and the Prophets to see what’s coming next!
© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler reserves all rights to correct her mistakes and be corrected, so if I still got it wrong, feel free to tell me – nicely, of course :)