During recent trips to some of the local Catholic bookstores in my neck of the woods, I have noticed that there has been quite a few Catholic "Intros" to the Bible books being published. A number of them have been produced by some fairly well-known Catholic authors, like Scott Hahn and Stephen J. Binz, and are of varying degrees of sophistication. One of these was recently translated and published by USCCB entitled: Essential Guide to the Holy Bible. Written by Msgr. Pietro Principe, this slender (89 pages), yet useful Libreria Editrice Vaticana publication can be purchased for only $6.95 on the USCCB website. (All readers of this blog can receive a 10% discount. All you need to do is give the promotion code “BIBLE” when you place your order.)
For it's size and affordability, this handy little volume is a wonderful introduction for those Catholics who are looking to begin consistently reading the Bible from the heart of the Church. The book is broken up into five sections: 1) The Bible; 2) The Books of the Bible; 3) Some Key Persons in the Bible; 4) How to Read the Bible; 5) The Message of the Bible. Scripture texts are taken from the NAB and Dei Verbum is referenced throughout, with occasional references to the PBC's The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church and the USCCB's Catholic Catechism for Adults.
The first section,"The Bible", discusses issues such as inspiration, the historical-critical method, and the importance of recognizing the overall "story' of the Bible. As Msgr. Principe points out: "The story of humanity and the story of salvation are rooted in two historical events: the will of God that creates the universe, and the redemptive act of Christ that saves humanity. These two events accomplish the wonderful encounter between human reality and divine transcendence (5)."
Parts two and three, which are easily the largest in this book, give brief introductions to each book of the Bible and short biographies on important Biblical people, respectively. The fourth section focuses on how to read the Bible, highlighting the importance of understanding the various "senses of Scripture". The final part concludes the book with some thoughts on the renewal in Bible reading in the Catholic Church, including it's use in the Liturgy and personal prayer.
I should also mention that there are sidebars scattered throughout the book that cover issues like the languages used in the Bible, the historical sources, the canon of the sacred books, related internet sites, the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books of the Bible, and a few others.
If you are looking for a brief introduction to the Holy Bible, from a Catholic perspective, this would be a very nice volume to pick. For anyone who had been reading the Bible for a while, then you probably are familiar with most of the material included in this "essential" guide. Overall, this is a fine addition to the USCCB publishing catalogue.
I will conclude this review, like the Essential Guide to the Holy Bible does, by quoting from Dei Verbum: "In this way, therefore, through the reading and study of the sacred books "the word of God may spread rapidly and be glorified" (2 Thess. 3:1) and the treasure of revelation, entrusted to the Church, may more and more fill the hearts of men. Just as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similar we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God, which "lasts forever" (Is. 40:8; see 1 Peter 1:23-25)."
**I would like to thank Mary Elizabeth Sperry, from the USCCB, for sending me a review copy**