The Catholic Study Bible general editor Donald Senior (Oxford, £17.95) Francis Moloney SDB WITHIN the past 12 months North American Catholic Biblical scholars have produced two major works: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, released in September of last year, and now the Catholic Study Bible.
Universal acclaim has met the achievements of the editors and authors of the NJBC, and the brief remarks which follow cannot do justice to the magnitude, the quality and the usefulness of the latter initiative. I will largely limit
myself to indications of the rich fare which the Catholic Study Bible has on offer.
The Catholic Study Bible has been designed to aid all who are
interested in approaching the text of the Bible, historically, theologically or inspirationally.
It is not just a Bible with a longer introduction, but an attempt to instruct potential readers through the interplay of the biblical texts and the commentaries upon those texts.
Although it is primarily directed towards a Catholic readership, and sometimes discusses questions which have puzzled Catholics over recent decades, it is a Bible for everyone.
The first section of the work is presented as a reading guide.
Here general articles on reading the Bible, the background to the biblical texts, the Bible in Catholic life and an outline of biblical history introduce more detailed studies of the problem of the Pentateuch, and each book of the Old and New Testament, situated within their particular historical and literary context (eg Deutenomistic history, Wisdom books, Gospels etc).
These studies always follow the same format. They outline the overall structure of the biblical work under consideration, offer a
continuous reading of the text, and conclude with some suggestions for further reading.
While a specialist may like to quibble over some of the structures and the details of some readings, they are crisp and expertly pitched at the level of the general reader, neither condescending nor trivial. Naturally, as with any collection of commentaries, some readers will like one guide more than another.
After the reading guide, the full text of the New American Bible (NAB) is reproduced. This fine translation was the work of some 50 American Catholic scholars which first appeared in 1970. A revision of the New Testament translation began in 1978, and was completed in 1986.
The revised New Testament appears in the Catholic Study Bible.
The volume closes with a rich glossary, an article on the use of the Bible in the present lectionary, further articles by Philip King on biblical geography and archeology and 14 full colour maps.
I can do little more than list the contents of the book and associate myself with the designs of the general editor: "The Catholic Study Bible is designed to open the beauty and power of the Bible to the reader."
But there is no short cut for the achievement of such a design. The length and detail of the reading guide and the additional articles in the Catholic Study Bible is an . indication of this important truth. Anyone who wishes to work personally, in a reflective group with others, or through traditional study programmes to a deeper appreciation of the word of God, as it has been revealed in and through the church, must work hard. Such tasks, to be brought to a fruitful end, need sure guidance and encouragement. It has been provided in the book under review.