Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guest Review: Little Rock Catholic Study Bible

Thanks to Rolf for the following guest review:

I was asked by Timothy to give a guest review of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible (LRCSB)-  hardback, not because I am an authority on the subject, but because I received my copy before he received his. I just received this Study Bible yesterday, so this is a first impressions review.

I think this Study Bible fills a niche in that it appears to be published for the average Catholic reader out there and not necessarily the scholar. It is not unlike many of the Protestant Study Bibles out on the market (such as the NLT, NIV, etc).  But I think that the LRCSB has a much cleaner page display and is much easier to read than the afore mentioned Protestant versions.


9 ¼  x 6 ½ x 2 inches,  2632 pages (plus 16 maps)  *very similar in size to the Oxford Catholic study Bible


NAB (Revised Edition) translation
A timeline of biblical history is located inside the front and rear covers of this Bible.
A section in the front of the Bible called The Fundamentals of Reading the Bible which has various articles within in it;
The Why and How of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible
How to Study Scripture
Why Study the Bible
How and Why Bibles Differ
The Church’s Use of the Bible
A Catholic Approach to Scripture
The Bible and Liturgy
The Bible and Social justice
Understanding the World of the Bible
Archaeology and the Bible
The Cultural World of the Ancient Mediterranean

This Bible contains all the Book descriptions and scriptural footnotes that are mandated by the USCCB for the NABRE translation.

Added to the Old Testament introduction is an article entitled; ‘Why do Christians Read the Old Testament?’
Added to the Beginning of the New Testament is an article entitled; ‘Background to the Gospels.’

In the back of the Bible there is;
A section called ‘Jewish Feast’ which lists all the major feasts with description and biblical refs.
Sunday Readings of Holy Scripture
And 16 nice color maps
Page layout

The NABRE text appears with an approx 9-10 font size, is in single column format and is very well spaced. I found this text as easy to read as some larger print sizes. The paper is thin (2600+ pages) but bleed through is well controlled making the print easier to read.
The cross-references are in the upper outer edge of the page and are in a shaded box and are very easy to locate (unlike other NAB editions).

There are shaded boxes that occur on the pages of the text that relay different information to the reader that have symbols that designated what type of information is being relayed, and they include; definition and explanations of terms and ideas, description of main characters,  insights about not so minor characters, archaeological insights, social justice teachings, prayer starters, liturgical use of scripture and cultural connections. There are also photographs, small maps and charts used within the text.

I really like this Study Bible, the page layout is clean an easy to read. It is compact enough (for a Study Bible) to take with you, although if you had to carry it with you for awhile it could get a little heavy. It gives you information at your finger tips which is good for your average Catholic user (non scholar), who might not take the time to look in the front of the Bible for the information (like the Oxford Catholic Study Bible). Of course if you are looking for a something a little more scholarly, there are plenty other choices out there.
I probably will make this my everyday Bible for now, I love the single column text!


Diakonos said...

Thanks, Rolf. I got mine a couple days ago as well. See my impressions in the posting on the LRCSB below.

rolf said...

Diakonos, I put my LRCSB in a zippered leather bible case also, and I tabbed it and added a ribbon marker. The leather cover makes it much easier to grip and it is more comfortable. Who knows, maybe one day (if they sell enough bibles) they will offer it in genuine leather like Oxford does does with its Catholic Study Bible!

BMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diakonos said...

if anyone is looking for a good genuine leather Bible cover in various sizes try the one from Marshal sold now on Amazon at a HUGE discount. I ordered the Large size (10x7) for my LRCSB.

rolf said...

The NABRE text and textual notes that accompany this translation (at the bottom of each page) spells it, 'holy Spirit.' The notes in the shaded brown boxes are notes added by the editors and scholars of the LRCSB, (separate of the NABRE translators)and they spell it 'Holy Spirit.' I also wish everyone would spell it, 'Holy Spirit."

Colleague said...

I would really like to see some pictures of this Bible before I even consider making a purchase. Is there anyway someone could load some pictures?

BMoon said...

Thanks Rolf for commenting on my comment about spelling of the "holy Spirit" etc...I deleted my comment because I discovered that it is the convention of the NAB (which I have never read much of) that does that thoughout. So it's a translation thing. I still wish someone would make a full Bible of the NLT for us Catholics. That translation just rolls off the tongue, and heart!

Timothy said...


They did make a Catholic edition of the NLT in the late '90's, which you can still get even though it is out if print:

rolf said...

Go to and find the Little Rock Study Bible and click on 'view an excerpt.'

BMoon said...

Dear Colleague, have you seen this excerpt?

Also, Timothy, yes I had heard about the Catholic NLT but it was an earlier translation. I thought about getting it, but for the time being I have a (Protestant) version of the latest NLT which is my daily devotional Bible. Now when an apocryphal book shows up in daily readings I've got my new LRCSB.

Blessed Ascension to you all!

Keith said...

I'm very interested in the content of the social justice boxes in this Bible. Very often social justice in some corners of the Catholic world is a code word for support for a liberal world view and Little Rock is sometimes known for this. My study bible is due in tomorrow so I'm interested in seeing what these sections contain.

Colleague said...

I appreciate those who pointed out the excerpts. This Bible reminds me a lot of The Learning Bible with all the aids, pictures, maps, etc. While these can be plusses, I find their placement more than a bit distracting from the text. The sample from Galatians 6 seems to be the epitome of distracting! That's my overall problem with most contemporary study Bibles. The ESV Study Bible was lauded for all its pictures, but I found that all I wanted to do was admire all the extras and not read the text.

Tim, do you own one of these? If so, would you find yourself using it much?

Timothy said...


I currently do not own a copy, but that might change. If I get one, I will be sure to add my 2 cents.

Diakonos said...

About the "Catholic" NLT. The publishers did not obtain a imprimatur for it and the USCCB later puclished a statement saying that the NLT is not an approved Catholic Bible. I know that the introductions and articles about Mary do not uphold her perpetual virginity. I use it occassionally because it is the only version of a Recovery Bible I could find.

Diakonos said...

Should have said I use the NLT translation occassionally in The Recovery Bible edition, not in the "Catholic" edition. I got rid of that one.

Theophrastus said...

This Bible reminds me a lot of The Learning Bible with all the aids, pictures, maps, etc. While these can be plusses, I find their placement more than a bit distracting from the text. The sample from Galatians 6 seems to be the epitome of distracting! That's my overall problem with most contemporary study Bibles. The ESV Study Bible was lauded for all its pictures, but I found that all I wanted to do was admire all the extras and not read the text.

I understand. However, I find that when I use more serious academic study Bibles such as the HarperCollins, New Oxford Annotated, Catholic Study Bible, Jewish Study Bible; or when I use the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible that the extras are not so distracting. I do agree that from the use of color in this Bible is distracting -- if it were merely black-and-white, it would be superior.

Anonymous said...

How about the fact that it seems to have been put together by the editorial staff of NCR?

Anonymous said...

Keith, that is exactly what you are going to get - social justice according to Marx.

Timothy said...

Perhaps it would be helpful to see a broad spectrum of examples from the LRCSB before we jump to any conclusions.

Theophrastus said...

I can understand that "social justice" is a red flag for some; but the claim that this is a Marxist Bible seem unlikely to be incorrect.

The four page essay on social justice was written by Prof. Mary Elsbernd OSF. Sister Elsbernd, who was on the faculty of Loyola (Chicago), died from cancer just last year, so she is unable to defend her essay.

It is clear from her book that Sister Elsbernd firmly rejected socialism and Marx.

rolf said...

The photos and illustrations in this Bible are in black and white. The only color used (so far) is the light shaded brown area for textual notes, other information and diagrams.

The social justice comments are at a minimum in this Bible, but we should not forget that social justice is a part of our Catholic faith and we should not demonize its use in this Bible or any other book unless we read a majority of the passages.

Keith said...

I just read all of the social justice boxes in the LRCSB (this was easy thanks to the index provided of ll the boxers in the back of the Bible). All in all the articles are relatively benign and lacking specificity. My fear is that the authors of the social justice articles would distort Catholic teaching to support such things as universal healthcare and amnesty for illegal immigrants. None of these are addressed. There were a few economic justice boxes and I had a problem with some of the "redistribution" ideas addressed, but in fairness papal and US Bishop documents were cited to support these ideas. The taxation box was especially problematic but I don't really fault the editors of the LRCSB for this, they were just citing a US Bishops documents that I personally have an issue with.

Overall, in the 50+ boxes on social justice there are not many instances where a liberal political view is endorsed by the LRCSB editors. There may be a little redistribution of wealth that is advocated but no where is it advocated that it is the role of government to redistribute wealth.

And I will give credit because abortion in one box is dealt with as a social justice issue which is not always the case in some Church circles.

All in all, I'm much happier with the LRCSB then I was before I read the boxes.

Theophrastus said...

Rolf: I'm sorry, I should have been more clear -- I was referring to study Bibles that don't have illustrations or colored text boxes.

Thanks for your informative review!

Inigo Montoya said...


I just received my LR NABRE Study Bible and quickly looked up my favorite OT verses. On one of my favorite passages - Jeremiah 29:11 (and following) - I noticed how there, and everywhere else in Jeremiah, the phrase "oracle of the Lord" was used where previously it had read "says the Lord" (or something similar). I noticed this in other books of the prophets as well. I have to admit that it reads a little funny to me. They even frequently separate it by a long hyphen.

Do you have any information on why this change was made? I do not see that phrase used repeatedly in any other version I own (RSV, NAB, NJB) or other online versions that I checked.

Many thanks,

Anonymous said...

I received the hardcover edition of LRCSB. While I agree with most of the positive comments about this edition: such as single-column page layout, study notes and aides (not the NABRE notes), I have a couple of criticisms about the quality of the book itself. The print bleed through is NOT well controlled. It borders on unacceptable, particularly on pages with photographs, which are many. I expect this from a cheaper paperback edition, but not a hardcover.

Also, the binding is glued, not sewn, so it doesn't lay flat when opened, and it doesn't seem like it can take a lot of wear and tear. I expect pages from the front and back to peel out over time.

If they could produce this edition in a leather binding with the same quality as the Oxford Catholic Study Bible (leather edition), it would probably be a "go to" edition for me. As it is, I will probably use it on occasion as a change of pace and to become familiar with the revised old testament of the NAB to see if I want to get a better edition of the NABRE than this one.

In short, if I had not gotten it for half the list price using a coupon and other discounts at an online seller, I would have sent it back.

Timothy said...


Thanks for the review. I hope to get one in the coming weeks and will certainly compare what you wrote to my experiences with it.

Inigo Montoya said...

Anon - I do agree that the bleed is a bit more than optimal, but I put this Bible side-by-side with my older Catholic Study Edition of the NAB. Both measure the same size, including height, but the NABRE has approximately 400 more pages! Something had to give - either thinner paper and more bleeding OR a bigger Bible OR less content. From my point of view, they made the right choice. But as we all know, there is no single version of the Bible which will please everyone...