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