A reader recently sent me the following analysis of the progress on the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (ICSB):

I was thinking about the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and how long it’s taking, and I decided to run some basic statistics. The (rather depressing) results are below.

Most of my analysis is based on the percentage of chapters and verses of the Old Testament covered by the ICSB so far. All of the below is based on the assumption that the volume on Tobit, Judith, and Esther will come out in mid-2019 as it is scheduled to; in effect, this analysis is looking forward from the release of that volume. I used statistics from the 1986/1991 New American Bible for the number of chapters and verses in each Old Testament book, which isn’t ideal (as the ICSB does not use the New American Bible), but those were the numbers I had at hand.

  • So far, the ICSB has covered 15 of the 46 books in the Old Testament. It has covered 32.3%-33.9% of the OT over the last 9 years.
  • There are currently 9 OT volumes; I project that there will be 18 or 19 more volumes, for a total of 27 or 28 volumes.
  • At the current rate of production, based on a projection starting with the release of Exodus in 2012, the final ICSB volume will be released in either 2038 or 2039. Thus, we will likely not see a complete Ignatius Catholic Study Bible within the next two decades.

The 9 current volumes have 778 pages in total. If we project that number out to the whole OT, we get 2,296-2,408 pages. Now, the ICSB New Testament is only around 550 pages if you cut the concordance. If you cut the study questions and other unnecessary pages from all OT volumes (duplicate endpages and copyright pages, etc.), then it should be possible to squeeze the complete Ignatius Catholic Study Bible under 2,600 pages. The New Oxford Annotated Bible has 2,416 pages, so 2,600 pages is really pushing it for a single volume. Of course, if Ignatius is willing to revise the layout of the individual commentaries rather than just using the pages as-is, they could probably reduce the page count a little more. I really hope Ignatius tries to get all those pages into one volume, because the utility of the whole project will be drastically reduced if it is not published as a complete one-volume study Bible.

So there you have it. The original projected release of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Old Testament was 2014-2015, so things are looking quite dire by comparison, and the uncertainty concerning whether Ignatius still plans to fit all this material into one volume doesn’t help matters. It would be great to hear from Ignatius about any plans to speed things along and release a complete study Bible before my toddler graduates from college, but if Mark Brumley, Scott Hahn, and Curtis Mitch are disinclined to break their silence about the future of this project, then all we can do is wait, and hope, and pray, and wait.

6 thoughts on “Progress Assessment for the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible”

  1. It’s hard to believe that these very basic commentaries should take so long to produce.

    As far as delayed projects go, nothing can beat the Anchor Bible. Begun in 1956, it was originally planned to be done in 10 years and fill 10 volumes. As of today, it is still unfinished, both of the original editors have died (William Albright in 1971 and David Freeman in 2008). There are more than 100 volumes, many of the later volumes are updated versions of the older volumes because the project has taken so long that the scholarly consensus has changed. It is 99% finished, but the authors who were assigned the handful of volumes left to be completed have already died without publishing anything. The last time a volume in the series was published was in 2006, and it now seems unlikely that any future volumes will ever be published. 63 years and counting in the making it will probably never be finished.

    Maybe 50 years from now we will be reading a similar update on the progress of the Ignatius Study Bible

    But at least the Anchor Bible has the excuse of being an insanely ambitious project, what is Ignatius’ excuse?

    1. I have really liked a few of the Anchor Bible volumes I’ve read. Their book on the synoptic problem is one of the most interesting books I have ever read on any subject, and one that has influenced, not simply the way I think of the subject, but about academic inquiry in general.

      The milieu that created the Anchor Bible must have seemed permanent back then: the detente between the Christian denominations. The openness and inquisitiveness of the scholars, while belief was still strongly maintained and encouraged.

      It is as if that world has been crumpled up and thrown away. The academy and the churches are suspicious of each other and one can make the case that the church has been tossed out of the academy all together in the developed world. (Or at least what we would recognize as Christian orthodoxy).

  2. I distinctly remember posting a poll on my blog a few years back asking whether the ICSB SB would be completed first or the revised NABRE? I honestly did so out of humor, fully expecting the ICSB to be done first. However, 2025 is slowly approaching….

  3. Yeah, but will Ignatius finish this project before George RR Martin publishes ‘The Winds of Winter’? That’s the real question.

  4. A bit of meandering on my part. Though we are quite actively engaged in “things biblically Catholic”, and have not the matters which Protestant “suffer” with new versions of commentaries, texts, bindings, etc., on an almost daily basis (insert “pun intended”)…we are still rumbling around the edges.

    It’s been nine years since the ICSB-NT was released. Yet, I still don’t see these “flying off the shelves”. It’s currently at #147 on Amazon’s Bible sales list, at #3969 on their Religion & Spirituality book list, and #15,157 on their Books sales list. For you “numbers” people, the last number gives us a glimpse as to how many copies are sold (approximately) on Amazon. On average, 18 copies are sold a day; and that’s about 264 copies sold on Amazon a month. [An online Amazon sales calculator was used to obtain these numbers] Seems good, but considering there are approximately 70 million Catholics in the US…well….

    As we know, and we know well, though the best of intentions (yes, where know where that road can lead) is to publish great books, book publishers will publish what they can make money on.

    With the hoped-for complete ICSB, Dr. Hahn gives a hearty, “The complete Old Testament will eventually be made available.” (Much like Marcus Antonius and some segments of drama…note what he doesn’t say). Ignatius Press had said, back in 2014, their hope was for a complete Bible in 2015 or 2016.

    We can bemoan the fact that the complete Ignatius Catholic Study Bible has not made it from our home to a rebinder, but, that’s a sad state to be in.

    It’s engaging, akin to a baseball fan, to slip endlessly through a maze of statistics. We take pleasure in it, but this reveals only a part of the whole. We’re not a “fly on the wall” in San Francisco at Ignatius Press, nor something similar in Dr. Hahn’s office. We can only sift through replies to emails, phone calls, texts, instant messages, tweets, etc., which we take great amounts of time to compose. After that, we still wait.

    At least we have an invitation to grow deeper into the virtue of patience.

    With that, I take leave with a battle from a fifth century A.D. poem. The allegorical poem, Psychomachia, presents the personification of virtues and vices (the battle between good and evil). It is there where Anger seeks to “take out” Patience, but can neither harm nor destroy her. Resulting from this lack of success in vanquishing the tolerant opposition, Anger kills herself.

    Pardon my meandering, and please have patience with me.

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