Monday, April 25, 2016

Guest Review: The Catholic Study Bible NABRE (3rd Edition)

I would like to thank Steven for giving me permission to post his review of the Catholic Study Bible. Steven is Mormon, which makes this review very unique.  

Title: The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition
Editors: Donald Senior, John Collins, and Mary Ann Getty
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Genre: Bible/Study Bible/New American Bible Revised Edition
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages:  2560
Binding: Hardcover
Size: 6 1/4 X 9
ISBN10: 0199362777
ISBN13: 978-0199362776
Price: $49.99

Reviewed by Steven Ray Montgomery for the Association for Mormon Letters

I try to meet people on common ground, and search for ways that we can agree on, rather than differ. 

So, while I, as an active Latter-day Saint, have obvious and glaring disagreements with Paganism and the Pagan origins of Easter for example, at least I agree with them on the aspects of rebirth, new life, preservation of life, that accompany the Spring of the year. And I can celebrate those aspects in spite of other doctrinal differences.

I'm trying to treat the recently published Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition, in the same manner. First, the translation itself. The NAB (New American Bible) was a decades long work of 100 "scholars, including translators, editors, and a subcommittee of Catholic bishops who provided extensive review of the biblical text over" that period. A revision of the NAB then took place. The NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition) is the first major amendment to the New American Bible translation since 1991. It takes into account recent archaeological and textual discoveries. 

As to the common ground, mere belief in the Bible is an area of agreement between Catholics and Mormons. And the Catholic Church has been actively promoting Bible readership among its members, admitting that "biblical focus was lost" when "philosophical analysis" overwhelmed "biblical foundations."

But the Catholic Church is seeking to remedy that, this Catholic Study Bible being one of the tools to restore the balance. And as contained in the Reading Guide, "the purpose of this newly revised and updated Catholic Study Bible is to enable the reader to read the scriptures with new understanding and depth." The world sorely needs that understanding: Catholics, Mormons, the entire Protestant world, etc.

The Bible itself is a very handsome one. It comes with an almost six hundred page reading guide, which I found to be an excellent guide and introduction to the Bible as a whole, as well as each book contained within the Bible. The Reading Guide "leads the reader through the scriptures" and gives an extensive "treatment of the biblical background, . . . history and archaeology."  One thing I especially liked was the interconnection between the text of the Bible and the relevant pages of the Reading Guide. I also found myself mostly agreeing with the length, width, and breadth of the Biblical scholarship therein. Some differences over doctrine? Yes, but many areas of agreement.

The Bible is published by Oxford University Press and I found it to be a great resource, with study notes, essays on various topics, informative sidebars, etc. There is also a 15 page glossary of special terms, thirty-two full-color Oxford Bible maps with an extensive place-name index and a 100 page concise concordance. The maps, glossary, and place-name index are fabulous--I love to know where events take place in the Bible, their meaning, and their relationship to other places. These features alone make the Bible well worth the price. But there is also a table of weights and measures, an index to the reading guides, and, important to Catholics but I found it meaningful as well, a full listing of lectionary readings for Sundays, Holy days, and weekdays.

Incorporated into the text are 52 in-text maps and 18 side-bar essays and charts. I found these to be quite helpful.

One great feature of Catholic Study Bibles in general, and this one in particular, is the inclusion of apocryphal works missing in the Protestant canon such as the books of Baruch, Ben Sira, Tobit, and so forth, as well as extensive notes and commentary for these books.

In conclusion, this is an excellent study Bible. Any serious student of the Bible would be pleased to own one, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Mormon. This Mormon is pleased to own one.


Anonymous said...

That was. . . unexpected.


Anonymous said...

"I try to meet people on common ground and search for ways that we can agree on, rather than differ."
What a wonderful example to us all!
Well done my Mormon friend and how brave of you Timothy.Sadly I suspect you will need a tin hat on to ward off criticisms.
God Bless you both.

Michael Francis Saunders said...

In the 4th paragraph of this review Steven Ray Montgomery apparently quotes an Catholic source when he says that the Catholic Church admits that `"biblical focus was lost" when "philosophical analysis" overwhelmed "biblical foundations."' I have no idea what that means. What is the source of that quote? I would like to read it in its original context.

CarlHernz said...

He is quoting from the section entitled "General Introduction" in the Reading Guide of this same study Bible. In the previous edition the quote appears on page 8.

Ed Rio said...

A non-Catholic reviewing a Catholic Bible...very interesting! I enjoyed reading this.

Mark D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Interesting. I had no idea that Mormons hold that Easter (the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ) is of pagan origin. Learn something new every day!


Steven Montgomery said...

Just to clarify, here is the following from Bruce R. McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine*, under the term "Easter."

Easter is the church festival celebrated by Christians in commemoration of the resurrection of our Lord. The lone scriptural reference to it (Acts 12:4) should have been translated Passover from the Greek pascha found in the original. The name Easter comes from the Norse goddess Eastre whose festival was observed at the vernal equinox. In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea determined that Easter among Christians should be celebrated the first Sunday after the full moon on or following the vernal equinox. Obviously, Easter as now celebrated has come into being as a compromise between pagan and apostate Christian views, and obviously it does not pretend to be the anniversary of the actual resurrection of Christ. Nonetheless the true saints gladly take it as an appropriate occasion on which to turn their attentions to the infinite and eternal atonement of Christ as such was climaxed by his coming forth as the firstfruits of them that slept.

Likewise there is this from Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words with their Precise Meanings for English Readers:

Pascha, mistranslated “Easter” in Acts 12:4, KJV, denotes the Passover. The phrase “after the Passover” signifies after the whole festival was at an end. The term "Easter” is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast, but was not instituted by Christ, nor was it connected with Lent. From this Pasch the Pagan festival of “Easter” was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity.

*the book, Mormon Doctrine is authoritative for some Mormons, but is non-binding and does not speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

CarlHernz said...

The above information was discovered to be incorrect in the 1980s. Partially based on wild ideas popularized by a book entitled "The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hislop, published in 1853, these ideas were widely published by many of the New Religious Movements that sprung from the Second Great Awakening revival movement in America of the mid-1700s.

Most of these groups have a common earmark: 1. They each claim to be the only "restored" true Church and claim 2. We are living in the Last Days. 3. Their leaders are chosen by God to have the only correct interpretation of Scriptures. 4. They are made up of or contain a large group of active proselytizing members. 5. They teach that Catholicism (and sometimes all other Christian religions) are of "pagan" origin. Two groups, the LDS Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses are the most commonly known of the NRMs with these characteristics.

As part of their public preaching and proselytizing, religious groups like these perpetuated views that had developed in anti-Catholic circles. Some of their claims made it into many encyclopedias, even a history on holiday origins once published by Hallmark, the famous holiday card and decoration company.

But around 1980 a series of unconnected research studies untangled claims regarding the alleged connection with Christmas that many of the NRMs made with Saturnalia, a pagan festival of the "birthday of the sun." The claims could not be critically substantiated, not by modern analytical methodologies. Eventually the claims of these groups led back to the anti-Catholic book of Hislop. It had remained in print up until about 1985, even being a book distributed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Secular historians put Hislop's book through critical tests, and it turned out to be such a poor load of fabrications that even the Watchtower Society stopped printing and distributing it, even though it had been cited as proof of the pagan origins of Christmas, Easter and the like by them and others for more than a century. Even Hallmark revised their holiday origins book once these popular stories were discovered to be nothing more than anti-Catholic propaganda.

The word "Easter" does not come from a "pagan" deity, as there were no pagan gods with that name or anything similar. The word "Easter" can be etymologically traced to the languages that led to modern English, namely Germanic and Saxon tongues. The originating terms of "oster" and "aufenster" or similar terms is where the word "Easter" originated. "Oster" is a Saxon or Frank term for "paschal" and seems to means "after the Passover" and the Germanic "aufenster" was based on "oster," meaning "resurrection" as it had been connected to Easter at the terms earliest development.

Further evidence that Hislop was wrong is that the term "Easter" almost only occurs in languages the came from Saxon and Germanic sources, namely English. The festival is the oldest of Christianity and is actual called "Passover" in almost ever language but English and related tongues.

The NRMs, being American phenomenons, often have a signiture of interpreting ancient terms as if English was the language being used universally, throughout history. Not speaking other languages, they did not realize that Catholics generally refer to the event as Passover or Pascha outside the Americas and the U.K. Thus their arguments were often limited to make sense only to an English-speaking audience. The above comments are empty to speakers of other languages who have never used the term "Easter" for the Paschal celebration.

Biblical Catholic said...

"The name Easter comes from the Norse goddess Eastre "

There is absolutely no basis for this assumption. In fact, it comes from the German word "Ostern", which meant "April", because that is the month when Easter usually occurs. Likewise "Lent" originally meant "spring"

Moreover, in every language other than English 'Easter' is known as 'Pesach', which basically means 'Passover', so trying to determine the origins of Easter based on the word used for the holiday in a language that didn't even exist at the time that the feast of Easter was first celebrated is an argument that has absolutely no validity whatever.

Moreover, the earliest references to Christians celebrating Easter date from the mid second century, because there was a controversy over the correct date to celebrate. Mid second century is a little too early for 'pagan influence' to creep in.

CarlHernz said...

I want to clarify that Mr. Montgomery wrote an excellent article, and my comments are not reflective of any disappointment or rejection on my part of his fine work.

Though I was raised as a Hebrew Catholic surrounded by faithful grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., my parents were both the black sheep of their respective families. By the time I was born my parents had begun to walk a path that led to their straying from our Sephardic Jewish and Roman Catholic roots. As a teenager still thirsty for religious direction, my mother placed me in the hands of an aunt of no relation, the only non-Jewish, non-Catholic member among us--one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

As my parents drifted off to live lives that gave much grief to all members of my extended family, I was left to be raised among the Jehovah's Witnesses. When I was an able-bodied adult, I left to return to my home of the Catholic Church.

I wrote the comment because I was more than merely familiar with the above claim. I had used it in door-to-door ministry for many years as a youth. I grew to be entrusted with leadership responsibilities in that religion and learned of the problems, hidden from the average members, when the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses were forced to stopped using Hislop's book and circulating it due to critical analysis which, if memory serves me right, started on the university level by atheists, of all people.

It should be noted that the LDS had apparently begun to stop using these references prior to the Watchtower, at last in official education and instruction. Today there are no official LDS statements that support, perpetuate, or even mention views similar to Hislop. As Steve mentioned while the views still circulate among many Mormons, often due to mere memory of their history, they do not reflect any current official LDS view.

Specializing in language, etymology, and philology, as well as the history and theology of American NRMs, my comments were focused on only information quoted in Steve's comment, information which did not originate with the LDS. Unlike Mormons, however Watchtower publications still officially repeatedly publish these views as authoritative, though they have stopped directly citing Hislop. My focus was mainly to prevent Steve's comments from being picked up by JWs who today often use the Internet to "prove" that all religions but their own are false.