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Indispensable for personal study or devotion, group study, homily aid, or scholarly research
on December 15, 2010
This first offering of the Old Testament canon from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible continues in the great tradition of the New Testament booklets in the same series (now compiled into one volume).
Each volume of the series begins with a general introduction to the entire series. This section covers Catholic Church teaching on inspiration and inerrancy, biblical authority, the senses of Scripture, criteria for biblical interpretation, and using the study guide. A great overview that is required reading for anyone new to the series but, I dare say, it should be read every time one begins a new study. It provides Catholic and non-Catholic users alike an authentic and concise (but thorough) explanation of official Church teaching regarding the Bible.
The next introduction is devoted to Genesis itself. Authorship and dating, structure, literary background, and more are covered here. Written in a fairly scholarly manner, but accessible to any educated and interested reader, it provides a fine overview and jumping off point to begin one's study.
In the text itself, extensive footnotes often fill up a third of a page, and sometimes a half a page or more. Icon annotations related to the Church's three criteria for biblical interpretation (content and unity, living tradition, and analogy of faith) are once again used, as appropriate, in the footnotes. These icons are particularly helpful to a user who may be pursuing a particular angle in his study or research. In substance, the footnotes are loaded. There is frequent reference to other Scripture passages, non-canonical religious and secular ancient texts, works of the Fathers of the Church, official Church documents (especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church), and explanation of Hebrew, Greek (LXX), and Latin (Vulgate) words and names. In addition, an appreciation of the culture and mores of these ancient times is provided to the reader through clear explanations.
Deeper dives into the material are provided through maps, charts, essays, and word studies distributed generously throughout the text. All are valuable and should be used, but the charts and essays are absolutely indispensable.
Study questions for each chapter fill up a dozen pages at the end of the booklet. Questions "for understanding" reinforce important passages and themes in the text and information found in the footnotes. "For application" questions challenge the studier personally here and now. All questions are substantial and well thought out, thus helping to ensure retention of material and provoking of thought. Great for all users, but particularly helpful for Bible study facilitators, since the latter will not (necessarily) have to provide questions for discussion themselves.
I was surprised to find that the booklet is in large format (8 ½ x 11) compared to the NT series (6 x 9). This allows for easier reading and larger margins for notes, while permitting the user to lay it flat. The notes pages in the back of the NT booklets have been eliminated with this volume; retaining a couple pages or more specifically for notes would have been nice, particularly anticipating its use in formal Bible studies.
Although it is touched upon in the general introduction to the series, I would have liked to have seen a dedicated overview of the Old Testament in general in this volume. Expanding on the Church's teaching on Catholic understanding of the OT (as found succinctly in Dei verbum 14-16), would have helped the reader or Bible study facilitator to better orient himself when reading this and subsequent OT texts.
This booklet provides an excellent study of the first book of the Bible. Indispensable for personal study or devotion, group study, homily aid, or scholarly research, this volume should be in the library of every Christian (and non-Christian for that matter) serious about understanding the Scriptures better and appreciating them more deeply.
Hopefully this introduction to the Old Testament will spur a new appreciation for these books, which "written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable" (DV 14), and inspire many to lead or form Bible study groups. For anyone who finds the Hebrew Scriptures intimidating or not particularly relevant, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Genesis works powerfully to eliminate both of these issues.