Showing posts with label Saint Mary’s Press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saint Mary’s Press. Show all posts

April 1, 2019

The Catholic Youth Bible

Known for the spiritual depth, insight, and accuracy of their books, Saint Mary’s Press has revised and published a quality paperback of The Catholic Youth Bible and kindly sent me a copy to review.

The visually appealing cover not only encourages us to “Pray It! Study It! Live It!®” the contents and unique features help Christians of all ages to do just that.

Almost immediately, the front matter assures us, “This Bible can change your life!” And how could it not? As the very next page declares:

“God loves you and wants to be in a lifelong friendship with you. The Bible tells the story of God’s love, revealed most perfectly in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Through Christ, God offers you forgiveness, freedom, companionship, and new life. It is a wonderful gift!”

The page goes on to add:

“This Bible is like no other because it belongs to you! So personalize it… make it a reflection of who you are. You will discover countless places to   . Write     .Color     .Draw     . Highlight     . Journal”

The attractive color-washed illustrations and relevant sidebars on the inside pages and colored-on “tabs” to mark various sections of the Bible on the outer edges generate interest and make it easier to find what you want. In addition, a colorful “bookcase” shows “How the Bible is organized,” while introductory pages provide a “Quick Summary” and “Headline Highlights” for each book of God’s Word.

To young readers or novices of any age, all of this might seem like mere academics were it not for the inclusion of such introductory features as “How Is This Relevant to My Life Today?” In Genesis, for example, the text responds to that question with these words:

  • ·       “God has the power to bring order out of chaos.
  • ·         When we fail, God still cares for us.
  • ·         Remaining faithful even when things seem impossible can lead to unexpected blessings.”

Or, if we feel the distance between ourselves and, say, The Book of Numbers, these responses to the relevancy of God’s Word will help to close the gap between the distant past and today:

  • ·         “Patience and trust in God go hand in hand.
  • ·         When things feel overwhelming, we must not give up on God.
  • ·         God’s timing may be different from our timing.”

And, looking into the future with the relevancy of Revelation, we find these encouraging words:

  • ·         “Do not lose hope; evil will ultimately lose.
  • ·         The magnificence of heaven that awaits us is unbelievable.
  • ·         Through all the trials now and at the end of times, Jesus is and will always be there for us.”

In the back matter of the book, other relevant helps include “Core Beliefs,” a glossary, an “Overview of Salvation History,” a “Biblical History Time Line,” and illustrations you can color. In addition, the feature “When I’m Feeling” addresses typically encountered emotions with Bible responses to “Let the word of God guide and support you as you face life’s joys and challenges.”

May God help us to seek and find this guidance throughout our lives!

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer

Order a copy for yourself and the youth in your life, by clicking here: The Catholic Youth Bible.

February 23, 2015

The Bible from Scratch

When Saint Mary’s Press kindly sent me a review copy of the Catholic edition of The Bible from Scratch: A lightning tour from Genesis to Revelation by Simon Jenkins, I could see I was in for a fun read. Some readers might wonder “What’s this?” which is exactly what the opening text addresses, saying:

“The Bible’s characters themselves weren’t shy about using different methods of communication to get across what they had to say. Jeremiah smashed crockery. Ezekiel performed weird, one-man plays. David sang songs. Nathan told a trick story. Jesus talked in pictures.”

In that same spirit of getting people’s attention so they’ll actually listen, the book has youth in mind in this “beginner’s guide to the Good Book, something to help readers start their own explorations in the Bible.” After reading it myself, however, I think that any teen or adult, who doesn’t know their chapters from their verses, would do well to let this lively little book provide a guide.

To give readers an overview of the inspired word of God, one section takes you “Around the Bible in 30 days” and “introduces 30 significant Bible passages that will take you quickly from Genesis to Revelation.”

After that month-long challenge, the “Intro to the Old Testament” encourages Christians to read the whole Bible and not just parts. As the text says, “if we don’t read the Old Testament, then we miss out on a lot. Sticking to the New Testament and ignoring the Old is like walking into a movie when the film is two-thirds of the way through.”

Besides “a great deal of humor, tragedy and some startling encounters with God,” the Old Testament shows us “people arguing with God, wrestling with God, haggling with God, trying to get the best deal from God; people who struggle and will not let go of God – and a God who in turn will not let go of them.”

In addition to touching on interesting stories, poetry, and prophesies in the Bible, the book provides timelines of the Kings of Israel and Judah, quick sketches of Bible characters, brief summaries of each book, and a recap of what went on in the times between the testaments.

Then, the “Intro to the New Testament” defines its four sections as focused on:

 Jesus (Matthew to John)
 The Church (Acts)
 Letters (Romans to Jude)
 The End (Revelation)

With profuse use of cartoon drawings, silly sidebars, and overall good humor, the book presents sense instead of non-sense and gets serious as needed too. In discussing “epistles by apostles,” for example, the text explains that “Most of them were written to fix the big problems facing the young churches. The letters are full of details about real people and situations – and yet they also speak to us today.” Written by "people on the move," the letters (aka epistles) continue to help us:

 combat wrong ideas (Galatians, Colossians)
 tackle crises in the churches (1 & 2 Corinthians)
 explain important teaching (Romans, Hebrews)
 encourage Christians under pressure (1 Peter)
 make a personal appeal (Philemon, 3 John)

As “The End” comes, the author emphasizes the “classy ending” in the “cast of (literally) thousands, choirs of saints and angels, a pitched battle between the forces of light and darkness, a smoldering lake of fire for the wicked and paradise regained for the righteous.” More important than all that, “the Bible begins and ends with God and with the promise that the human story, despite its chapters of suffering and despair, will have the ultimate happy ending.”

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

The Bible from Scratch: A lightning tour from Genesis to Revelation, Catholic Edition, paperback

February 12, 2015

Resources from Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christian publishers

What a blessing to receive review copies of a variety of Bible resources! Three Christian publishers sent new releases for me to review without knowing I would have one from a Protestant book publisher, one from a Catholic book publisher, and one from an Evangelical press at the same time – an ecumenical delight!

First, Saint Mary’s Press kindly sent a review copy of Living in Christ: The Bible, The Living Word of God by Robert Rabe, Editor Steven McGlaun, and a publishing team, who obtained church approval as shown by the nihil obstat and imprimatur.

This sturdy paperback with slick photos and an eye-appealing layout offers an excellent resource for Christians from most denominational backgrounds. However, avid Bible readers might be confused by the Section 1 title “Revelation” since this does not refer to the book of Revelation but rather the revelation God gave biblical authors. More importantly, that opening title addresses God’s revelation of Himself through creation, love, Holy Scripture, salvation history, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Section 2 briefly overviews how the Bible came to us in many literary forms, from poetry and prophecy to parables, making this all-time best-seller a masterpiece of literature. The Bible has far more than literary genius, though, as “The Old Testament is our compass, pointing us in one direction and one direction only – on the pathway to Jesus Christ.

Following a series of articles on Hebrew scriptures, the section on the New Testament says, “The four Gospels are the very heart of the Scriptures. The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John herald the Good News that God came to earth to fulfill the promises made to our ancestors, to form a Covenant with all people, and to overcome the slavery of sin and the darkness of death. They are our primary source for all that was revealed in the life and teachings of our Savior and Messiah.” However, “The Gospels are not identical. Each (Gospel) presents Jesus’ life and teachings from a different perspective. Yet in harmony and without error, they announce the truth that Jesus is the one and only way to the Father.” Amen!

This highly recommended book goes on to offer a look at other books in the New Testament and also to provide insights into “The Liturgy of the Hours,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Scriptures and the Rules of the Saints,” offering further help for the Christian life such as the Lectio Divina (praying with scripture.)

In addition to that review copy from a Catholic publisher, I received a copy of The A To Z Guide To Bible Signs & Symbols: Understanding Their Meaning and Significance from Baker Books, a well-established Evangelical press. Written by Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor, this high-quality slick paperback includes color photographs, key verses, and sidebars relevant to the topic.

Each entry covers two pages, which provides consistency in the layout but doesn’t allow space for the coverage required for in-depth research. Nevertheless, the easy-to-read text and eye-appealing pages give readers a helpful overview of topics ranging from Altar to Zion.

For example, the entry for “Bride” has a subheading on the Church as the Bride of Christ, which says, “The lovely picture of a faithful bride and wife is picked up by both Paul and John in the New Testament to symbolize the relationship God wants to have through Christ with all those who make up the church. Believers have been bought with the bride-price of Christ’s blood and are now wooed by his love.

The key verse for that entry comes from Isaiah 61:10. Then a sidebar reminds us that “Christ Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse. She often wanders from Him, and grieves Him – but He does not allow her faults to affect His love.”

For another example, the entry for “Fire” says that “Fire figures into the Bible in numerous ways – in daily life, religious ceremony, and as an instrument of warfare.” Also, “Fire is pictured as a purifying agent in people’s lives” as in refining gold and silver or in illustrating God’s judgment. Although I saw no mention of the tongues of fire that occurred at Pentecost (nor is there an entry for “Pentecost), the text under the subheading “Holy Fire” reminds us that “For biblical authors, the theophany of fire portrayed God’s power, holiness, and protection over his people.

The third review copy I received came from Concordia Publishing in a nice reddish-brown pseudo-suede cover with cream-colored pages, a red marker ribbon, and an easy-to-read font. As the Preface tells us, the “Concordia Psalter intends to engage all Christians in singing the psalmody of the Church.” To enable readers to do that, “The tones are carefully selected to match the character of the psalm text…. Generally, only one tone is to be used with a psalm, but many of the tones are paired with complementary tones that can be used for singing longer psalms by switching tones somewhere during the course of the psalm.

More importantly, these “Old Testament Psalms not only permit us to see Christ in them, but they also require it. Resurrection, eternity, a universal kingdom, forgiveness, even grace and blessing – each ultimately has its home and fulfillment in Jesus Christ,” Who embodies God’s Word.

With scriptures from the English Standard Version (ESV), the page for the 23rd Psalm begins with a musical notation followed by the Psalm and a prayer: “Lord Jesus, who alone is that one Good Shepherd, thanks be unto You for all Your spiritual and bodily benefits. Let the Word of Your salvation dwell among us richly, and suffer not that trusty staff, the Word of Your promise, to be taken from us.”

For another example, my favorite Psalm 103 includes two tones, the ESV text, and this prayer:

Father of light, we praise You because You forgive iniquity and do not reward us according to our sins. What You promised to the fathers You have fulfilled in Your Son. As the east and the west can never come together, so remove our sins far from us, that they can be accounted to us no more, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.”

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

Concordia Psalter, suede-like cover

The A To Z Guide To Bible Signs & Symbols, paperback

Living in Christ: The Bible, The Living Word of God, paperback

February 2, 2015

African American Catholic Youth Bible

With February designated each year as Black History Month, what better history can we find to honor than that of God’s peoples and places in Africa as revealed throughout the Bible?

Last year, I reviewed the African Heritage Study Bible published by Judson Press, which evangelical Christians and lovers of the KJV (King James Version) will especially welcome. This time I gladly received a review copy of The African American Catholic Youth Bible recently released by Saint Mary’s Press and the National Black Catholic Congress, who collaborated on this excellent project for several years.

Besides presenting readers with the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) known for its accuracy, the book includes numerous features designed to appeal to young readers and draw them to God’s word. For instance, you’ll find book introductions, “Know Your Faith” articles, info on people who remained faithful to God, background articles on biblical times, and “Take It to God” suggestions for letting the Bible assist your prayers.

This edition also includes a subject index, glossary, maps, and helpful lists of “Events, People, and Teachings” such as the parables of Jesus, miracles, and Bible prayers. A topical index on “Life and Faith Issues” provides a quick reference guide to what the Bible has to say about topics of special importance to young people such as fear, forgiveness, sexuality, and temptation.

Catholic youth will especially welcome the 3-year cyclical for Bible reading and other features that inform readers about the Catholic faith and history. In the back of the book, for example, several pages have been devoted to “A Black History of African American Catholics,” beginning with a brief word on the establishment of Saint Augustine “a town in present-day Florida” where “Spanish settlers included black men and women, both free and slave.” I saw no mention, though, of the birth place of the saint for whom the city was named, who reportedly came from present-day Algeria in northern Africa.

Despite the excellent resources in this highly recommended edition, I wish the study aids had placed more emphasis on the African locales mentioned in the Bible and also on the probable heritage of biblical people who, themselves, placed no emphasis on racial distinctions. A sidebar did mention that the Queen of Sheba was most likely black, but I had difficulty finding other such references. However, the nicely drawn artwork consistently shows dark-skinned people throughout instead of the typical illustrations of Bible people as blue-green-eyed blondes, which I object to, even though I am one.

More important, though, are not our racial differences but our heritage and shared beliefs as brothers and sisters in Christ.

For example, a “Be About It!” sidebar entitled “Leaders with Character” suggest we “Look in Proverbs 6:17-19 at the list of things the Lord hates. It reads like a description of a corrupt politician or business person!” But the mini-article goes on to suggest, “Now take the list and put it in the positive: humble eyes, a truthful tongue, hands that protect the innocent, a heart that plans good, feet that hurry to help, a truthful witness, and someone who brings harmony to families. That’s the kind of leader everyone wants!” Amen. Not only does such a leader have “the unique ability to inspire others,” those of us who aim for those characteristics will find ourselves looking less and less dissimilar and more and more like Christ.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

The African American Catholic Youth Bible, paperback

January 29, 2015

Essential Bible Dictionary

After reading and reviewing the Essential Guide to Biblical Life and Times last year, I was eager to see the Essential Bible Dictionary, also published by Saint Mary’s Press, who kindly sent me a review copy.

Similar to the layout, info-chocked pages, and volume slimness of the other offering, this “essential, written by Dr. Sheila O’Connell-Roussell, focuses on the themes, people, places, and events that essentially inform our faith.

As a blurb on the back of the book tells us, this slender dictionary includes more than 800 word entries, 10 charts and tables, 5 pages of color photographs, and 4 colored maps. But even with all that info, once again, I found myself opening the book, starting to read, and getting “hooked” as happens with readers approaching any well-written book.

Most of us don’t make a habit of reading dictionaries, but I recommend the effort. For one thing, it sounds weirdly cool (“What are you doing?” “Nothing much. Just reading the dictionary.”) But mainly, you’ll discover definitions for words you might not know to look up and check out. Or you’ll find words you’ve heard but aren’t 100% sure of their meanings.

Also, one word might lead to another that’s related, so as you look up entries for each, you’ll get a bigger picture. For example, the entry on “Apocryphal Books” leads you to “Canon” and “Deuterocanonical Books,” each of which has distinct differences but similarities too.

To give you an example of the definitions, the word “canon” comes from “a Greek word meaning ‘rule’ or standard.’… The canon of Scripture refers to the list of books that the Church recognizes as the inspired Word of God.”

Although various church denominations might not agree on the canon for the Hebrew scriptures (aka Old Testament), all agree on the books included in the New Testament, but how did they decide?

“When the Church fathers evaluated the writings that were presented for the New Testament canon, they used the following criteria to evaluate whether writings were worthy to be included…. If the manuscripts agreed with all three criteria, it was considered inspired text.

• Was the manuscript written by an Apostle or a student of an Apostle?

• Did the image of Christ and the theology within the manuscript agree with the Apostolic Tradition?

• Was this text well known and accepted by the community?”

Besides the importance of the inspired word of God in the churches, most honor biblical events by some type of ritual or sacrament. In the Catholic Church, you’ll find seven, each of which has an entry in the book: Anointing of the Sick, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Marriage, Reconciliation (aka Confession.)

Looking up the word “Eucharist,” I was surprised to find no mention of “Communion” or “Transubstantiation,” but other related words have individual entries: Altar of Christ, Blood of Christ, Bread, Bread of Life, Last Supper, Passover, Sacrament, Unleavened Bread, Worship.

In addition to word links or cross references, some entries have their own charts or lists. For instance, look up the “Ten Commandments” and find a chart listing those God-given rules. Or look up, “Feast, Festival” and find info on Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Pentecost, Hanukkah, and other special dates on the Jewish calendar, which Jesus and His family surely observed. Or look up “Parables” and find the names and biblical locations of the parables of Jesus. Better yet, look up “Jesus Christ” to discover “The Titles of Jesus,” to Whom we look as essential for our daily bread and lives.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

Essential Bible Dictionary, paperback

December 15, 2014

Christmas gifts for all sorts of Bible readers

This post comes later than intended and, very likely, I accidentally omitted some of my favorites or yours. Nevertheless, this will give you a quick list of highly recommended editions of the Bible to check for your Christmas giving and your own Christmas list.

Catholic readers
Catholic Study Bible
Catholic Women’s Bible
Little Rock Catholic Study Bible
Jerusalem Bible
New Catholic Answer Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
Saint Mary’s Press College Study Bible
The Saints Devotional Bible

Adventure Bible for Early Readers,
Adventure Bible,
Bible storybooks for children
Bibles for children
Catholic Children’s Bible
Catholic Teen Bible
Catholic Youth Bible
ESV Children’s Bible
NIV Teen Study Bible

Evangelical readers
ESV Study Bible
Gospel Transformation Bible,
Holman Study Bible
Life Application Study Bible
MacArthur Study Bible,
New American Standard Bible, wide-margin, goatskin

General readers
African Heritage Study Bible
Amplified Bible
Anselm Academic Study Bible
Complete Parallel Bible
Common English Study Bible
The Lutheran Study Bible,
New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha
The Message with deuterocanonical aka apocryphal books
NIV Study Bible
Oxford Study Bible, Revised English Bible with Apocrypha
Thompson Chain Reference

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


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

April 26, 2014

Essential Guide to Biblical Life and Times

Over the years I’ve acquired a number of hefty books on Bible times, peoples, and places with lots of color photographs and all sorts of information to refer to as I study for my Bible discussion group or write about a Bible topic. When the slender review copy of the Essential Guide to Biblical Life and Times arrived from Saint Mary’s Press, however, I just started reading and enjoying it as I would almost any interesting book.

With short articles ranging from Afterlife, Agriculture, and Anointing to Torah, War, and Women, the author Martin C. Albl reminds us that the Bible not only came to us in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, but people “lived in societies and cultures…very different from our modern American experiences.”

In “Approaching the Biblical Societies and Cultures,” the author defines society as “social structures of institutions...established by a particular people,” whereas “Culture refers to the basic values, beliefs, and practices...shared by a special group.”

With the subjects of society and cultures clearly in focus, the book covers these major areas:

• social and political institutions, including study of the family or kinship system and political structures

• social customs, including dance, music, and hair and dress styles

• general cultural beliefs and values, including beliefs about human nature, sexuality, sickness and healing, and beliefs about the structure of the universe(cosmology)

• religious beliefs and institutions, including beliefs about purity, sacrifices, sin, and spiritual powers, as well as the synagogue and Temple systems in which these beliefs functioned

• economic structures, including professions in agriculture, fishing, and shepherding, as well as a consideration of the money, tax, and debt systems within the context of patron-client structures

Reading the book will give you a good idea of how the apostles went fishing or how the women did their hair and how everyone celebrated certain feast and festivals.

On a more spiritual level, I read with interest the “Afterlife” section, which depicts heaven from a particular perspective that may be unfamiliar to some of us now. For example, the article “Heaven” explained: “Whereas modern Christians tend to think of heaven as a spiritual reality only, the biblical writers did not distinguish clearly between the physical reality of the sky and a spiritual heaven.”

Later, a section on “Human Nature” shows the “New Testament View: Body, Soul, and Spirit,” saying, “We see the holistic nature of the New Testament view most clearly in Paul’s description of the resurrection body. It is not only a person’s spirit that is raised from the dead; the body will be raised as well...” so “a person’s body is renewed and perfected by being made alive through the spirit.”

Similarly, in the section on “Sickness and Health,” we read in “Healing and Salvation” that “Jesus’ healings in this world were a sign of the ultimate healing brought about by the Kingdom of God, inaugurated with the coming of Christ….”

Whether you’re just curious or ready to research a Bible-based saga, I highly recommend this book as a reader-friendly way to immerse yourself in the environment, envision Bible stories, and catch those little nuances that might be missed if we only “translate” what we read from our own lives and culture.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

Essential Guide to Biblical Life and Times, paperback, Saint Mary’s Press

April 21, 2014

Anselm Academic Study Bible

Before presenting the full text and footnotes to the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), the Anselm Academic Study Bible provides a series of articles such as “The Formation of the Bible,” “Geography, Archaeology, and the Scriptures,” “Social Context of the Bible,” and “The Distinctiveness of Jesus,” where each article (and more!) contain highly interesting and helpful information.

For example, the article on geography lets us know the “territory controlled by the ancient Israelite kingdoms was relatively small – about the size of New Jersey.” And, in “Social Context,” we realize that “All of the cultures of the ancient Near East, along with Greek and Roman cultures, were honor cultures” where that status could “be earned or achieved,” which explains why King Saul, who had been victorious over thousands, became paranoid over David, who was honored for conquering “tens of thousands.”

In “The Formation of the Bible,” we discover that the Septuagint or Greek Bible was widely read during Jesus’ time and, therefore, provided over 90 percent of the Old Testament verses quoted in the New Testament. Although Catholic Bibles follow that translation, others do not, making the Apocrypha a source of confusion among various denominations. However, the article on “Deuterocanonical and Noncanonical Scriptures” not only explains this well but mentions various books written during Bible times that were not canonized but became a source of folktales and thought-provoking information not found in scripture.

Equally interesting, the article on “Jewish Biblical Interpretation” gives insight into common methods of study, biblical analysis, and interpretative thinking such as allegory, numeric value, and typology where something on earth represents a type of reality found in heaven. In addition, “Jewish and non-Jewish interpreters familiar with earlier Jewish commentary draw on rabbinic/ midrashic interpretation, with its attention to multiple meanings, plays on words, and intertextual conversations, to enhance literary-critical approaches.”

Understanding Jesus’ Jewish heritage helps us to recognize “The Many Faces of Jesus” as seen by early Christians and Gospel writers who “came to understand the person and mission of Jesus as the new Adam, the new Son of David, the new Passover, and the New Covenant that the Hebrew Scriptures foretold.” With this foundation, we’re better equipped to approach “A Brief History and Practice of Biblical Criticism” with its methods of studying the Bible through history, textual comparisons, translations, forms, sources, intent, and/or unifying themes.

As the article on “Contextual and Transformative Interpretation” explains, “different types of meaning within biblical texts” might focus on “The messianic meaning,” “The canonical meaning,” or “The communal meaning," but “One can read the Bible primarily for information, that is, to be intellectually enlightened, or for transformation, that is, to be personally changed.” Regarding the latter, “This integration of the meaning of the text and the world of the reader is the ultimate goal of interpretation.” With “meditative prayer or communal worship, the biblical texts become more personal and immediate,” for example, through Lectio Divina.

A subheading on “The Tradition of Lectio Divina” offers these bullet points for us to consider and live out:

• Lectio – Reading the Text with a Listening Ear.
• Meditatio – Reflecting on the Meaning and Message of the Text.
• Oratio – Praying in Response to Scripture.
• Contemplatio – Quietly Resting in God.
• Operatio – Faithful witness in Daily Life.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

Anselm Academic Study Bible, paperback

Anselm Academic Study Bible, hardcover

April 12, 2014

The Catholic Youth Bible

The Catholic Youth Bible from Saint Mary’s Press encourages young people to “Pray It,” “Study It,” and “Live It” as they read the Bible and apply scriptures to their lives. As the first page says, “This book can change your life.”

The “Welcome!” section explains “What Makes this Youth Bible CATHOLIC?” by saying, “For starters, its introductions and articles reflect Catholic interpretation of the Bible and make connections to Catholic beliefs and traditions. In addition, this Bible contains all seventy-three books and letters that form a complete Catholic Bible, seven more than most other Bibles…. Does this mean that other Christians cannot use The Catholic Youth Bible? Not at all. When it comes to the Scriptures, Christians from all cultures and denominations have more in common than they have differences.”

"Catholic" generally refers to the Roman Catholic Church, but the word also means "universal." To give you an idea of the type of insights you might expect, a “Catholic Social Teaching” sidebar on “The Cycle of Violence” explains, “Cain was a murderer. Some might say that he deserved the death penalty. But in Genesis 4:15, God marks Cain so that he is protected from being killed. God seeks to stop the cycle of violence."

As an example of a "Cultural Connection,” the sidebar for 1 Kings 5:10 tells readers, “The first Book of Kings says, ‘Solomon’s wisdom surpasses that of all the peoples of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.' ...Ancient southern Egypt included the country of modern Ethiopia. The people in these countries must have been well known for their wisdom in order for the biblical author to use them in a comparison with Solomon.”

Also regarding wisdom, an “Introduction to the Wisdom and Poetry Books” of the Bible says “In general, the wisdom writings have these characteristics,” which include “a search for harmony and the meaning of life” and “a fundamental belief that good and wise living is rewarded, whereas evil and foolish ways lead to ruin.”

Other features insert notes on “Praying with the Bible,” which help readers to “discover that God’s story is our story. God’s life is intimately connected with our lives.” Therefore, this section also provides “Tips for Praying with the Bible” and information about Lectio Divina, “a very ancient art for praying with the Bible… a prayer technique for reading the Bible slowly and contemplatively, allowing God’s word to shed insights on your life.”

Another series of page inserts concern “Living Biblical Principles” where readers are encouraged to:

• See God in Everything
• Trust in God Always
• Stand Up for the Poor and Vulnerable
• Be Courageous
• Serve Humbly
• Share the Faith

A section of photographs of biblical images will help young people to envision various items and places in the Holy Lands, but more importantly, lists of “The Names of God in the Old Testament” and the “Titles of Jesus of Nazareth” can help readers to deepen their faith and get to know the nature and character of our loving God.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

The Catholic Youth Bible, paperback

April 8, 2014

Break Through!

In this well-done edition, Saint Mary’s Press presents Break Through! The Bible for Young Catholics in the contemporary Good News Translation that appeals to readers of all ages.

The beginning pages include a “Salvation History Time Line” that shows the sequence in which the books of the Bible occurred as God breaks through to people, and people break through to God in the unique, ongoing relationship we, too, can be blessed to enjoy.

To encourage interaction with God’s Word, this edition includes sidebars throughout the text to show readers how to “Study It!” but also “Pray It!” and “Live It!” too. In the opening pages, for example, “Study It!” begins by explaining that “The main purpose of the Study It articles is to help you understand what the original author of the story was trying to get across.”

Then, “Pray It!” sidebars focus on “Talking with God,” wondering, for example, “Am I Like Cain?” before praying “Please help me to let go of the anger and jealousy that’s in my heart. Replace it with kindness, fairness, and the ability to see myself as you see me.”

Similarly, the sidebars for “Live It!” encourage young readers to keep on “Following God in Everyday Life,” wisely showing how to go about this. In Romans 12, for example, “Live It!” lets children know, “Sometimes certain messages in our world try to teach us things that are not what God wants for us. In chapter 12 Paul gives us a list of rules for living the life that God intended. Notice how different that list is from some of the things you see or hear every day.”

Other excellent features of this edition include “Break Through!” sections that present Bible stories as interesting conversations and interviews with Bible people. The back matter then has an index to those lively stories followed by an index of the articles for “Pray It! Study It! Live It! and Catholic Connections.”

A user-friendly glossary and a series of time-tested, traditional prayers have also been included in the back matter to aid spiritual growth. In addition, a set of clearly drawn maps will help children to picture Bible journeys but also see the geographical placement of “The Holy Lands in Modern Times.”

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

Break Through! The Bible for Young Catholics, paperback

March 29, 2014

The Catholic Children’s Bible

The Catholic Children’s Bible is bright, blessed, and big! Its very size encourages parents, teachers, and other loving adults to interact with children as they read the Good News Translation (GNT) and the 125 stories featured throughout the text.

For example, in the story “Joseph Forgives His Brothers,” children learn to “Understand It!” as they hear how Joseph “could have tried to get even by hurting his brothers. He could have refused to talk to his brothers. Instead, Joseph hugged his brothers.” The application of that story ends by saying “Not forgiving people is like carrying a heavy burden or load. It weighs us down and makes us very sad.”

The story “God Helps Joshua Defeat Jericho” focuses on another biblical principle: our need to trust God. Then the “Live It!” section reminds readers that “The Israelites obeyed God because they had learned to trust him.” Children are then asked to “Finish these sentences to make your own prayer about trusting and obeying God" by completing the blanks in “Dear God, I trust that you will ______. I will obey you by ______. Thank you, loving Father, for always caring for me. Amen.”

Regardless of our age or level of spiritual maturity, none of us completely trusts or obeys God all of the time, and children need to know this. In “We Ask God to Forgive Our Sins,” the “Understand It!” section tells kids “No one is perfect. Everyone sins. When we do something that we know is wrong, we have ugly feelings. We feel sad, guilty, and ashamed for disobeying God. We want to make things right again. So we need God to forgive us.” This section continues to explain the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a child-friendly, insightful, and understandable way.

The stories often aim to help children mature in character and deepen their relationship with God, but these featured stories also reveal God’s power. For example, the “Live It!” section for “Jesus Heals People from Sin and Sickness” lets young readers know that “…Jesus has power to help sick people. You can show sick people the love of Jesus. Think of someone who is sick. Pray that he or she gets better.”

In addition to the Bible text and stories, the back matter includes clear photos, paintings, timelines, and maps to help children envision the times and places. They’ll also find prayers, such as the “Our Father,” to pray and “Bible Passages for Special Times,” such as “When you are feeling happy” or “When someone has hurt you.”

Throughout this edition, a color tag on the outer edges of each book of the Bible will help readers to find a passage with greater ease. Once there, they’ll find a brief introduction with kids clearly in mind. For example, “The Letter to the Ephesians” begins by saying, “This letter could be called ‘What It Means to Be Christian.’ It begins by recalling what we believe as Christians. God made us his children by sending Jesus Christ to free us from sin. We, who believe in Jesus receive the Holy Spirit. Now we are one people united with Christ. We are all part of his body, the Church.”

Amen and amen.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

The Catholic Children’s Bible, paperback