Thursday, May 27, 2010

1951/53 "Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture"

I received this little bit of info a few weeks back from the Bible Christian Society site run by Catholic apologist John Martignoni: Hey folks, I want to let you know about an excellent new resource I’ve recently come across for Bible study. It’s a re-printed version of the 1951/53 “Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture.” I haven’t been through all of it, yet, but what I have seen of it is very, very good. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge of Scripture and of their Catholic Faith. I think Tim Staples is recommending this Commentary as well. You can find it here.

The Commentary series, which is well over 50 years old, is broken into three volumes: 1) Old Testament, 2) New Testament, 3) Articles, Maps, and Index. I acquired one of the original one volume editions from a used book store a few years back. At the time, I used it quite a bit, but now I rarely refer to it. If I remember correctly, the translation used as the base scriptural text was the original Douay-Rheims. Of course, most people are familiar with the editor, Dom Bernard Orchard, who was instrumental in the production of the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version Bible.


Diakonos said...

Dom Bernard Orchard, OSB, was also instrumental, perhaps more than most others, in the Matthew-first Gospel theory and overall dating of the Gospels earlier than most current mainline scholarship (except the Hahn/Ignatius crowd). Dom Orchard's theory is well set forth in a great little book, "Why Four Gospels?: The Historical Origins of the Gospels" by David Alan Black (a Protestant who knew and collaborated with Dom Orchard before the latter's death around 2006 at age 96.)

But here is a thought: when selecting versions and study editions we tend to go with the newest so as to reflect most recent scholarship. Considering this Commentary is over 50 years old and it uses a less-than-desired translation, what is the benefit from a scholarship point of view? I am not dismissing older or prior scholarship but just curious as to what this commentary would be useful for. Thanks.

Theophrastus said...

I also have a copy of the original Nelson publication that I picked up used a few years ago.

I didn't find Orchard that useful at all, I have to say. But I know that some apologists like it a lot. For example, Jimmy Akin says Orchard's commentary is "faith-affirming and will give you a baseline, traditional Catholic take on Scripture." In the same article, he criticizes other commentaries (naming Brown explicitly) saying

The biggest names (e.g., Ray Brown) cannot be recommended to a general audience. They do have good things to say, but they frequently are far too uncritical of higher critical ideas and they present their material in a way that is often faith-challenging rather than faith affirming. A lot of the time it comes down to how you say things, and these guys don't have the knack of saying things in a way that communicates the concept in a way that makes it clear to the average reader how this is to be harmonized with the faith.

(I recommend you read the full article for a better understanding of his views.)

I disagree with Akin in his criticisms, but I understand why he is saying this.

Vince A said...

Are you guys familiar with The International Bible Commentary, which traces its roots to Orchard

Timothy said...


Yes, I picked one up about 3-4 months back. Although it is not as specific/detailed as Orchard's or even the NJBC, I do find it quite helpful and I like the way they organize the content of each commentary, focusing on "first reading" and "second reading" commentary.

Diakonos said...

If you mean, "The International Bible Commentary: A Catholic and Ecunenical Commentary for the 21st Century" (Liturgical Press), then yes and it is wonderful. And can be purchased through Amazon at almost half the retail price. Have only had it a month or so but refer to it regularly and I have found it to be a mixture of decent views and schools of thought but overall more in continuity with the Tradition of the Church than the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Every commentary (just as it seems every Study Bible edition)has its pluses and minuses so I suppopse that's why many of us have several versions/editions of both.

Theophrastus said...

Why is it that Catholic single volume academic commentaries are so much more expensive? Consider the following academic commentaries and their Amazon prices. Notice that the price divides by orientation of the commentary:

Under $30: Evangelical
$30-$50: Mainline or Ecumenical
Over $60: Catholic

* New International Bible Commentary [Evangelical] (1664 pages): $19.79

* New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition [Evangelical] (1468 pages): $29.70

* HarperCollins Bible Commentary (Revised) [SBL] (1232 pages): $31.49

* The Oxford Bible Commentary [Mainline] (1416 pages): $31.98

* The New Interpreter's Bible One-Volume Commentary [Mainline] (forthcoming, unknown number of pages, but earlier edition had 1386): $47.25

* Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible [Ecumenical] (1629 pages): $47.25

* The New Jerome Biblical Commentary [Catholic] (1484 pages): $66.28

* The International Bible Commentary: A Catholic and Ecumenical Commentary for the Twenty-First Century [Catholic] (1918 pages): $67.46

Diakonos said...

My guess is that Catholics - including clergy of all three ranks - do not purchase and use commentaries to the extent that Protestants do. I know from experience that in seminary and diaconate formation biblical commentaries are mentioned, perhaps at best recommended if desired, but never suggested that we should each have one. So if you sell less, youmust charge more, right?

AmMen said...

My concern is, is this edition legal? A 1953 ed. would not yet be in the public domain... I am curious as to the terms of reprint.

Timothy said...


that is a good point. I wonder if anyone has the rights to that edition?

Daniel Egan said...


My name is Dan Egan. I am the guy who is reprinting the commentary and we do have permission to reprint it.

I just finished up Volume 1 - the Old Testament and you should check out how it links Psalm 23 with the Sacraments.

If you have any more questions about the commentaries, write me.

You can find both commentaries through my blog:


Steve said...

Hi Dan,

When with the 3rd volume be available?


Daniel Egan said...

I hope later this year. Sorry I can't be more specific.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dan any update on Volume 3 yet??