I will approach the commentary in the Word on Fire Bible from two different angles: First, it’s worth summarizing Bishop Barron’s stated goals for the commentary and the overarching principles he describes in the introductory essays. Then, I’ll delve into my personal impressions of the commentary and offer some examples that stood out to me.
Goals for the Word on Fire Bible
In two brief essays, Bishop Barron explains his overarching goals for this first volume of the Word on Fire Bible. The essays cover an impressive amount of ground in only eight pages, but I would extract six key points to understand Bishop Barron’s primary intentions:
1. Everyone needs the guidance of the Church in reading scripture:
The Church has realized from the beginning that we need assistance if we are to read the Scriptures with profit. We require precisely the interpretive lens provided by the great scholars, saints, mystics, popes, and prophets who have gone before us…Bishop Robert Barron – “The Word on Fire Bible: A Bible for Restless Hearts”
2. The commentary is especially geared toward people who are not religiously affiliated. It is “designed to appeal to nonbelievers, searchers, and those with far more questions about religion than answers.”
3. The primary focus is on fundamental theology: Who is God, and who is Jesus Christ?
4. A large amount of the commentary is extracted from Bishop Barron’s homilies and books, but there are also selections from many theologians, popes, and spiritual writers throughout history, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, Therese of Lisieux, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Fulton Sheen, Thomas Merton, etc.
5. The Bible features many examples of the beautiful artistic tradition inspired by the Catholic faith with short essays explaining the artwork. These features are all intended to “introduce the seeker to Christ through the aesthetic splendor that he has inspired.”
6. The commentary is designed to view Scripture in a holistic way, integrating spiritual, theological, philosophical, and psychological insights. This is consciously opposed to a single-minded historical-critical approach, which “can lose sight of the overall purpose of the Bible considered as a totality.” Historical criticism “can overlook the fact that, despite all of its sometimes disconcerting variety, the Bible is finally telling one great story, or perhaps better, unfolding one great drama.”
My Impressions and Experience
I have now read through Matthew, Mark, and the first eight chapters of Luke, along with all the commentary and art essays on those passages. Most of the commentary comes across like a homily — not surprisingly, since much of it is extracted from actual homilies that Bishop Barron has preached. Throughout the gospels, the commentaries take familiar passages and quickly bring them from the first century into the present, shaking me out of my familiarity and translating the meaning and importance of the passage for modern life.
Overall, the aim here is very similar to the footnotes in the New Catholic Bible from Catholic Book Publishing Company. I described those notes as mini-homilies that “are written from the perspective of a modern Catholic evangelist, who sees the biblical writings in the broader context of Catholic theology and draws insight from them for living the Catholic faith.” The same description is equally true for Bishop Barron’s commentary, although there are differences of style and emphasis between the two.
The New Catholic Bible‘s notes enjoy basking in the glory of the Church — especially how it fulfills God’s perfect plan of salvation — and they often discuss spiritual insights in a somewhat theoretical and church-centered way. One could say that the notes were written for committed Catholics who are secure in their faith, love the Church, and want to gain more insight from the Bible.
The Word on Fire Bible’s commentary speaks to the reader more directly and forcefully. It certainly delves into theological and spiritual concepts, but it has a way of quickly integrating them into a forceful, convicting insight that applies to personal experience. Old passages that have become stale after reading them dozens of times are suddenly, surprisingly, jarringly made urgent and important to a modern reader.
In my experience, I often react to an insight in the New Catholic Bible with something like “Oh, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way.” In the Word on Fire Bible, my reaction has been closer to: “Whoa, that was powerful!” more than once.
Consider this selection, where Bishop Barron comments on Matthew 9:38 (“…ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”):
…What precisely does it mean to evangelize?
Euangelion (glad tidings) was a familiar word in the culture of the New Testament authors. When the emperor or one of his generals won a battle, he would send evangelists ahead to announce the glad tidings.
The first Christians were being consciously edgy when they adapted this word to their purposes. They were saying that the definitive battle had indeed been won, but that it had nothing to do with Caesar and his armies. It had to do with the victory that God won in Christ over sin and death.
Jesus went into the belly of the beast, into the heart of dysfunction, to the limits of godforsakenness, and he defeated the dark powers. He demonstrated that the divine love is greater than our greatest enemies.
This evangelical message entails, too, that there is a new King, a new Emperor. Christ, the victor over sin and death, must be the center of your life.
Or, consider this challenging reflection on Matthew 12:30 (“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”):
Life is filled with ambiguities, and sometimes a certain psychological “pluralism” is permissible, even welcome; but what Jesus is saying here is that, in regard to one’s ultimate concern and final allegiance, one has to be clear, unified, and unambiguous. Sometimes, despite strong counterarguments and very grave dangers, a definitive choice has to be made.
Another astonishing insight comes in a comment on Matthew 16:18 (“…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”):
…Jesus insists that this society, grounded in Peter’s confession, would constitute an army so powerful that not even the fortified capital of the dark kingdom itself could withstand it. It is fascinating to me how often we construe this saying of Jesus in precisely the opposite direction, as though the Church is guaranteed safety against the onslaughts of hell. In point of fact, Jesus is suggesting a much more aggressive image: his Church will lay successful siege upon the kingdom of evil, knocking down its gate and breaching its walls.
There are practical insights here on living the commands of Jesus. Here is the concluding paragraph of Bishop Barron’s reflection on Matthew 18:21-35 (forgiving seventy-seven times, and the parable of the unforgiving servant):
How do you become a better forgiver? Perhaps I can offer four practical suggestions. First, keep your own sins frequently before your mind’s eye. Second, go to Confession more regularly. Third, forgive offenses quickly. Don’t give them time to settle deeply into your psyche; seek reconciliation right away. Finally, forgive through a concrete act or a concrete sign. Write a note, make a phone call, give a gift, offer your own presence. Forgiveness is most effective when it becomes concrete.
It’s easy to read the parable of the wicked tenants (Matthew 21:33-43) as a reflection on the Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes of the first century. After all, Jesus told the parable to warn the religious leaders that the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them and given to others, right? Bishop Barron does not allow us to comfortably observe this in its first century context:
Just before his Passion and death, Jesus tells the striking story of the landowner who planted a vineyard. The fertile vineyard stands for Israel, his chosen people. But it could be broadened out to include the world. What do we learn from this beautiful image? That God has made for his people a place where they can find rest, enjoyment, and good work.
We—Israel, the Church, the world—are not the owners of the vineyard; we are tenants. One of the most fundamental spiritual mistakes we can make is to think that we own the world. We are tenants, entrusted with the responsibility of caring for it, but everything that we have and are is on loan. Our lives are not about us.
Christ is God’s judgment. We are all under his judgment. In the measure that we reject him or refuse to listen to him, we place our tenancy in jeopardy. And so the great question that arises from this reading: How am I using the gifts that God gave me for God’s purposes? My money? My time? My talents? My creativity? My relationships? All is for God, and thus all is under God’s judgment.
There are countless examples of insights and exhortations like these scattered throughout each Gospel. Make no mistake, this is not strictly a “non-believer’s Bible.” It is full of reflections that would be challenging and interesting for lifelong Catholics or converts. To my mind, the intellectual depth of the commentaries and the deep moral challenges to every reader make me wonder whether it’s accurate to describe this Bible as “designed to appeal to nonbelievers.” Certainly, it pulls no punches in presenting the faith to a nonbeliever, and that is a refreshing difference from oversimplified, consensus-based attempts at evangelism. But it is absolutely not “too basic” for a lifelong Catholic. This Bible is a great resource for any Catholic, no matter how advanced.
Excerpts from the Church Fathers
I’ll limit myself to one example of the excerpts from the Church Fathers. These are usually short, but they offer important insights. Did you know St. Jerome wrote that the curse on the human race because of Eve’s sin was undone by the women who came to the tomb and reported the Resurrection to the apostles? That was news to me. Usually, Mary is presented as the one who overturned Eve’s curse. Take a look at this excerpt from Jerome (commenting on Matthew 28:8-10):
Two different emotions filled the minds of these women: fear and joy. The fear came from the scale of the miracle they had witnessed, the joy from seeing their longings for the resurrection fulfilled. Both feelings drove them forward. They continued till they met the Apostles in order that the seed of faith would be sown abroad…Thus it happened that Eve’s curse was undone by these women.
Artwork and Essays
The art inserts are generally two pages, with the art depicted on one page, along with captions and insets to draw attention to important features. On the facing page, Michael Stevens offers a short, two or three paragraph essay with background on the artist, technique, and important features of the work. I’ve enjoyed these. I am not an artist, and I don’t have much knowledge of art history beyond the basics. These inserts have been educational, and in many cases, they have introduced me to artists and artwork that I never knew before.
Each gospel is preceded by a short introduction written in a popular style. These introductions are not technical, and they have almost nothing in common with the historical-critical introductions in the NABRE. They usually focus on the experience of the reader, who is about to set off on reading the Gospel. Brandon Vogt, in his introduction to the Gospel of Matthew, tells a few stories about how difficult it is to make it through the genealogy in the first several verses. He then moves on to discuss some of Matthew’s main themes in an extremely approachable way. Fr. Stephen Grunow, Elizabeth Scalia, and Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, penned the introductions to Mark, Luke, and John respectively.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the commentary in this Bible, and I highly, unequivocally recommend it. It pulls no punches, addresses tough questions head-on, and challenges the reader to think through the implications of Gospel passages that have become familiar. In a small handful of places, I wished that the commentary provided additional historical detail before delving directly into the personal and spiritual relevance of the passage, but in large part, that is simply my desire for accuracy and completeness, not a failing of the commentary’s mission. The commentary is explicitly not designed to emphasize historical-critical details, and it does an excellent job with its main goal: to show a modern audience the relevance and power of the Gospels.
55 thoughts on “In Depth with the Word on Fire Bible Part 2: Commentary”
Thanks Marc, I’m even more excited now. It was surreal to read in your introduction that you often reacted to the commentary with a “Whoa!”, because when I then came to the comment you highlighted on Matthew 16, I too reacted with my own “Whoa!”.
Secondly, God bless anyone for whom this Bible sparks an interest in any of the selected commentators, whether Church Fathers or more recent. I know my fondness for John Henry Newman began with a single quote in a column in our diocesan paper that struck me so strongly that I searched until I found the full homily by Newman that the quote was taken from, and I continued on from there.
On “release day” a note. It would seem there might not be any “new” “commentary” within this Gospel book. Marc writes that Bishop Barron’s “commentary” is taken from his published works. Thus, if one is familiar with his works, from his early work interpreting Aquinas’ creation doctrine in light of Paul Tillich’s creation teaching to his ongoing works in our day, not much would be new.
Yet, as the Gospel book has now been released, and much of the pre-release specks of information revealed, the clarity of intended purpose is also revealed.
A concern for the non-Catholic, seeker, or perhaps catechumen who picks up the text and presumes that the “commentary” is Church teaching.
Barron, as good Jesuits do as well, challenges one to think. From the brief glimpses Marc has provided, a bit of Ignatian contemplation is revealed as is the Augustinian challenge to “take up and read”.
In the Catholic Church, there are not many (if any) such biblical texts with “guideposts” along the journey inserted along with the text. However, there are similar offerings within the Protestant world.
It will be interesting over the course of time to read, view and listen to people’s encounter with the text. At this point, I’ve not read a single review from a member of the intended audience…only from those for whom this Gospel book is not ideally intended.
I await to hear from such.
Despite having a catholic upbringing I didn’t attend mass and religion didn’t have a part in my days as I thought the bible to be a difficult and incongruent text that was not only hard to read but even when explained hard to follow.
Recently I came across bishop Barron youtube videos, namely his comments on recent movies and it sparked me an interest to know more. I acquired the gospels bible and I have been reading it and rediscovering faith. My wife, who was a non-believer and had a non-christian upbringing is reading it as well on her own initiative.
I can tell you that it is doing its purpose. In fact, it is a shame that up to now, I couldn’t find any catholic works of this quality
Thanks for another great review Marc.
You’ve complicated my life though: I was just about to pull the trigger and ask my wife to order the NCB as my Father’s Day gift, but now I’m dithering between that and the WoF Bible!
I actually feel a little more uneasy about this Bible. I don’t think it’s marketed to the Bible familiar Catholic who wants “more” but perhaps new converts and those feeling their way in the faith. I was taken aback a little by the passage suggesting one might write a note or make a phone call for ask forgiveness. Solid advice to be sure, but not the kind of commentary I’m looking for.
I’m actually more interested in the NCB you mentioned from Catholic Book Publishing. But then again, this Bible can hopefully convert a lot of hearts and I pray for its success.
Thanks for the great insights on the new WOF Bible. I was hesitant to purchase it since it contains only the Gospels and is very pricey for just that selection, but now I have decided not to order upon learning that the majority of commentary is by Bishop Barron. Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE fan of Bishop Barron! But to have biblical commentary primarily from one man’s mind is more of what one would expect from a Protestant Bible coming out of a particular denominational outlook or even an editor’s personal take/slant on the material. Also, it sounds like much of the commentary is already available from Bishop Barron homilies online. Might had been better for them to entitle it, “Bishop Barron’s Bible”.
Great review! I think your review is excellent as you have approached it as if you were a reader from the intended audience. Probably, for the hard nosed long term ,prayerful studier of the Bible this translation may not be the best. However, if you look at the “About” writing in the Word on Fire blog, this Bible seems to match the organization’s mission: https://www.wordonfire.org/word-on-fire/
One thing I am a bit perplexed about is the leather edition given the intended audience. Perhaps it would have made more sense to only have a hardback and paperback (or even just a hard back edition) and reduce the cost based on economies of scale to make it a bit more affordable. I understand Bishop Baron’s idea the beauty is a way to evangelization but I am not sure leather would be a bigger difference than hardback for a confirmation student or inquirer.
I suppose the pages didn’t have to be a thick as well except for the artwork. Then perhaps you could include the entire New Testament in one package.
I had a similar thought, Devin. To me, the leather edition is another piece of evidence that this Bible is intended for practicing Catholics, as well as non-believers and catechumens. Despite the statements from Word on Fire, I don’t think it’s right to describe this as a non-believer’s Bible. That would be as absurd as saying that Bishop Barron’s weekly homilies are only intended for non-believers rather than Catholics.
I ordered it early, as I had signed up for the email reminder a long time ago. Last week, they sent me an email alert telling me with great enthusiasm that because I had signed up beforehand I could go ahead and order early to beat the crowds since the actual release date wasn’t until the 15th. So, I did, thinking, Cool, I won’t have to worry about a delay. That very evening I looked on their website and it was already available to all. I thought that was a bit misleading, to give the impression that you were getting a jump start if you order NOW. So this morning, I got an email saying delivery will be delayed at least a couple of weeks due to the high demand. Hmm. Wasn’t that the point of early ordering— to avoid the wait?
Looking forward to owning it but annoyed by the way that was handled.
Not a small amount of hubris in this website copy
“For many people in our postmodern culture—especially the young—an appeal to the true (“Here is what you should believe”) or to the good (“Here is how you ought to behave”) is often a nonstarter, likely to awaken suspicion and defensiveness. But an appeal to the beautiful (“Just look at this”) is more winsome, less menacing. And so this Bible features many striking works of art as well as literary explanations of those pieces—all designed to introduce the seeker to Christ through the aesthetic splendor that he has inspired.“
An appeal to the true and the good is a good thing in a Bible, rather than the “aesthetic splendor he has inspired”
It’s a turn off
Thanks Liam for sharing that quote from the WoF website; I had not seen it.
For some reason the WoF bible marketing seems to have really struck a nerve with some folks. The objections seem to fall into a few categories:
1. The marketing is just too slick. WoF is like the Catholic equivalent of Crossways in that regards. Sometimes it’s off putting. I get that.
2. Bibles should be plain and without commentary. I have to wonder if lurking behind this opinion is the Protestant idea that the Bible is perspicacious – we don’t need any notes from priests or scholars to interpret it for us! Catholics however believe that one needs guidance from the church and tradition when interpreting the Bible. That’s why canon law requires that Catholic bibles be published with at least minimal notes and commentary. A Catholic bible without notes or commentary is a contradiction in terms: it would be in violation of canon law.
3. The complete Bible should be in one book. I’ve heard Protestants misinterpret Revelations 22:18-19 in this regard, but of course John of Patmos was referring to the Revelations scrolls, not the “Bible” as a whole. Even from a Protestant perspective this objection doesn’t really make any sense, since there are prominent Protestant bibles published in multiple volumes.
4. Appeals to aesthetics or beauty are to be distrusted. This objection too is profoundly Protestant in character: the low church Protestants, interpreting the second commandment too literally, smashed all the stain glass and statues in the churches, and prefer a plain, unadorned church. This is that same logic applied to bibles. Catholics however know that truth and beauty are not opposed, and that beauty can be used to teach spiritual lessons. That’s why there is a long tradition of beautiful Catholic bibles, including the ornate illuminated manuscripts of the medieval era, the beautiful Haydock bible with it’s extensive commentary, and the awe inspiring St. John’s bible from the Benedictines. Given that rich tradition, it’s hard to understand how a Catholic would object in principle to a beautiful Bible with artwork.
I understand the first objection. Too much marketing can be a turn off as Liam said.
Paradoxically however hearing the other criticisms make me more not less likely to purchase the volume, because they help see how profoundly Protestant in character the objections are, and how profoundly Catholic the goals of the WoF bible are.
Now, pardon the phrase, but the devil is in the details here. It’s entirely possible that WoF notes won’t speak to me, or that I’ll find the execution lacking in terms of the layout, font, or that I won’t care for the pictures. (Also I’m going to have to choose just one Bible for my Father’s Day gift, either the NCB or the WoF!) But I do appreciate what WoF is trying to achieve here.
Just wanted to say thank you for giving a well thought out defense of the WoF Bible. Also, I own the NCB and have been reading it for the past several months and I really enjoy it. My favorite translation is the New Living Translation, but it’s slowly being replaced the NCB. As far as the translation goes, the NCB doesn’t do anything new or groundbreaking, but it’s a good solid Catholic translation and even uses presbyters in some places (in others it still uses elders). However, the notes are where it shines, as I’m sure you’ve read. However, the problem with the NCB right now is that it is only available in a Giant Print Edition. If you’ve got poor eyesight then you might love it, but for me it’s a pain to carry around. I’m a seminarian and often move between my room to the chapel, or when I’m on break from my house to my parish, for my Holy Hour and the NCB is annoyingly big.
I’ve purchased the WoF Bible and I’m interested in it mostly due to the commentary, but also because of the pictures. I’m hoping the pictures that are included will foster even better Scriptural meditation and lectio divina. Also, I just think it’s really cool that it is only the Gospels. I can’t remember which Church Father it was, but one of them would carry around with him one of the Gospels, and one of Paul’s letters, everywhere he went. Sure, he had to do that because there was no Bible as we know it right now back then, but I think it’s kind of cool that you could be doing something similar to a Church Father if you just carried the WoF Bible around with you.
Anyway, if you’re okay with having a huge Bible, go for the NCB. Maybe you can get the WoF Bible as a birthday or Christmas present later in the year.
Excellent post. May God bless your formation in the seminary.
Thanks Seth for your impressions of the NCB. I’m still on the fence!
Good luck to you being a seminarian in these trying times, and I will pray for your success in seminary!
Fair warning, this is going to be long….
I don’t think this is really representative of any critique I have heard or read.
Point #1 has some justice, but #2 is something of a straw man. No one I have heard is complaining about commentary _as such_. That is, it is not a critique that also draws in the Didiache Bible, or the Ignatius NT, or even the Great Adventure Bible (much less say, the original Doway/Rhemes, the Haydock, or the Catena Aurea). It has been a question of having so much of the commentary be his own, and the selection of some of the others which are at either curious (eg, Flannery O’Connor and GK Chesterton, much as I like them) or people and schools intimately connected with Bishop Barron’s work or thought (Vogt, Scalia on the former, Balthasar, Girard on the latter). To those of us from a Protestant background, I have to say it has a certain megachurch/televangelist vibe, where it is not at all uncommon to publish a Bible with the pastor’s commentary. As one comment here put it, it makes it seem like “Bishop Barron’s Bible” and that just gives people a bit of pause.
(3) I have only heard this as a preference, never as if it assaulted the integrity of the Scriptures, eg a misunderstanding of the Apocalypse. That is a perfectly valid preference, especially considering the likely final cost, but for my part, I love multi-volume Bibles so I have zero problem with a Gospels-only edition.
(4) This is the big one. I don’t think anyone is taking an iconoclastic bent, again, that is another straw man. What I think is a real hesitation is that the “way of beauty” is at least in some cases being forwarded as if the Transcendentals were in zero sum competition against each other, or were to be uses as a kind of bait and switch. Crank up the beauty, and turn down the goodness and truth; or perhaps dazzle someone with a “winsome” fresco while goodness and truth “menacingly” sneak up from behind and club them.
This is difficult to pin down, because Bishop Barron will in one place talk about them in arranged in a kind of order (beauty, goodness, truth) in another (one of his recent books, for example) suggest a kind of downplaying of sexual morality in particular (I have a long response to make to this if requested), which reinforces the idea of the Transcendentals in a kind of competition. Take as an analogy the debate in the Church about “pastoral” and “doctrinal” as if a good pastor need to be careful not have too much doctrine, since that would spoil his pastoring.
I want to develop this a bit, because I think there are valid reasons to be hesitant about the “way of beauty” as the primary tool of evangelization. The first would be historical, which is simply the observation that while appeals to the beauty of Creation as evidence of God’s existence and goodness (think, Ps18/19 as just one minor example) have been commonplace always, the appeal was a bit different in character. For one, it tended to appeal to the beauty of Creation, not of art. I will return to that in a bit. Secondly, it was simply never the foremost “strategy” of evangelization the Church actually used. I am not arguing that strategies cannot or should never change, but that it is a marked change from how the Church has traditionally propagated the faith, and therefore might be worthy of scrutiny, is hardly “Protestant”.
And I want to point out some of the real problems that might exist with an evangelization of beauty, both objectively and subjectively. First, in a culture that has largely rejected any notion of objectivity in aesthetics or aesthetic experience, it is not clear that this really establishes an avenue for effective communication. If I describe my love of Zaraban’s Agnus Dei and the effect it has on me—a work Bishop Barron highlights in the WoF Bible, and one of which I happen to have commissioned a life-size reproduction that is hanging above me this moment—and someone else replies, “Yes, that is how Jackson Pollock’s work affects me,” where have we gotten? We have both pointed to artwork we find personally affecting, but without any objective criteria, what evangelization has happened to either one of us? It is at best unclear, but even if I awaken an appreciation of Zaraban (I dare say he will never awaken an appreciation of Pollock in me), it is not at all obvious that I have awakened an appreciation of *Christ*.
Related to that is at least the possible danger that the appreciation shifts towards the representation and not the reality. It is quite possible to have a lively aesthetic appreciation of Catholic art or music without any belief, and in fact with explicit unbelief.
There is also the fact that beauty has many counterfeits, and the good and the true aid us in discerning what is truly beautiful from a deceitful semblance. By putting the good and the true on the back burner, it is at least possible to have people take quite the wrong lesson. After all, Satan knows quite well how to appear as “an angel of light”, and many of our most common fairy tales and adages (“beauty is only skin deep”) try to warn us of the dangers of judging things by appearances. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgment.”
As much as I love it, art is also simply lower in “being” than the teachings of the faith. Poetry is, in the words of Aquinas, “deficient in truth” defectum veritatis. Recall he is one of the greatest masters of poetry in any language. The Lauda Sion is a masterpiece of masterpieces. Aquinas is not a slamming poetry. What he is getting at is that a poem resists direct intellectual abstraction and apprehension because a poem by metaphor represents its subject, but it is the subject which has the greater reality of the two.
Which brings us back to the point earlier that most of historical Christianity’s appeals to beauty in an evangelical sense were appeals to the beauty (and goodness) of God’s creation, not to art, because the former was more wondrous and better suited to lifting the mind in gratitude to the Creator than of appreciation of the artist’s talent. Both involve indirection, but creation “declareth the work of his hands” with one less layer of indirection.
The beauty of Catholic art and music usually functioned as the expression of piety and as its aid. That is, it was primarily devotional, not evangelical. Icons were made to help Christians become saints, not pagans become Christians.
I say all of this as, I think, precisely the sort of person Bishop Barron is presumably aiming at. I am a convert who, as a Protestant, acquired a deep appreciation for Catholic art and music, but for all that, it was the truth of the faith which was most important, and its lived expression in some of the devoted Catholics I met. The only valid reason to believe a thing is because it is true, and to see that truth expressed in a man’s life is more transformative than a lovely painting.
I am not entirely down on beauty for evangelization though; I heard Peter Kreeft once say words to the effect, “There is a Bach; therefore there must be a God.” (This is something of a compression of Aquinas’ Fourth Way.) And he mentioned knowing several people converted by listening to St. Matthew’s Passion (a work I cherish). But then he added, “But you either see that, or you don’t, and if you don’t I am not sure how to explain it to you.” I agree, and that is yet one more reason I am quite skeptical that “way of beauty” should in fact be a primary tool of evangelization.
What would my vote be? Holiness. To become “another Christ”. If when someone sees you they can say, like a man did of the Cure d’ Ars, “Today I saw God in a man” it will be far more evangelical than “look at this lovely picture.” I am not being flippant; our culture is painfully low on artistic appreciation, but it is agonizingly low on sanctity. Living saints bear Christ out into the world. Paintings of past ones, however beautiful, cannot to do that labor for us.
Marc, In my complaint about how the WOF sales team handled the release, I forgot to mention: Great posts on the WOF Bible! Very thorough and informative. Thanks!
Not too long ago, I purchased the Little Rock Study Bible, sewn binding edition from 2015. I typically only use the NABRE translation in catechesis. I’ve primarily used the NRSVCE, RNJB, RSVCE2, and now ESVCE when it comes to personal prayer and study. I’m just not a big fan of the NABRE, but when I saw the Little Rock and looked into its supplemental content and layout, I was intrigued. It’s certainly not an in-depth study Bible, but I love the layout, and because of that, I’ve spent more time in the NABRE than ever. The font is easy to read with plenty of margin space, the supplements are easy to navigate, and though it’s not leather, it has a really nice cover. It’s a great resource, especially for people just beginning to explore the Bible.
I think the WOF Bible, though it’s being marketed for beginners, especially, will be a good resource to connect ancient and contemporary Church writings and the Scriptures. I don’t mind it being a “Bishop Barron Bible” in the sense that his commentary will be dominant because I think he’s a brilliant exegete. It certainly won’t be my primary Bible, because it’s only the Gospels and limited in scope as far as being a product of WOF, but I anticipate it will be wonderful for personal prayer and for deepening one’s Gospel knowledge for more effective evangelization.
“grounded in Peter’s confession”
Being a Baptist convert myself, it is worth pointing out that I went “Whoa” for another reason. This line is pretty much the standard Protestant rebuttal to Catholic apologists on this verse, moving the “grounding” of the Church from the person of St. Peter and instead onto merely onto “Peter’s confession”, and thereby refute claims regarding an institutional rather than invisible Church.
It is at the very least unfortunate that he has chosen to phrase his commentary in a way fully consistent with Protestant rejections of the Papacy and Catholic Church.
I clipped the selection from a much longer 1.25 page commentary section by Bishop Barron on this passage. Here are the remaining few sentences after the part I quoted above:
“And notice, too, how Jesus uses the future tense—“I will build my church.” Therefore he cannot be speaking simply of Peter personally but all of those who would participate in his charism throughout the centuries. The integrity of this ekklesia will be guaranteed up and down the centuries—not through appeal to popular opinion (as instructive as that might be), nor through the ministrations of an institutional or theological elite (as necessary as those might be), but rather through the pope’s charismatic knowledge of who Jesus is.”
Hmm, that might be slightly better… but only slightly. The phrase “but all of those who would participate in his charism throughout the centuries” can definitely be read as reference to the Petrine office which continues to this day.
But the next part seems to undo it. The reference to the “pope’s charismatic knowledge of who Jesus is” reflects straight back to it being about “Peter’s confession” which does not belong to any unique papal charism. Hopefully all in who come to Christ are quickened by grace to make the confession that Christ is the Son of God, but that can hardly be said to be a participation in the charism of the papacy.
Admittedly, the “integrity of this ekklesia” extends beyond the papacy to the indefectibility of the Church as whole, but even the extended passage seems perfectly consistent with the Protestant critique that the Church is invisible, and that nothing institutional or hierarchical is being claimed here. In fact, the prima facie sense would seem to be precisely that.
To be clear, I am not saying that is what Bishop Barron believes. I am not a mind reader, and he is a bishop, so one would expect he has a certain affinity toward the episcopal hierarchy of the Church… I am just saying that his phrasing in this particular commentary is fully consistent with the Protestant rejections of the traditional Catholic sense of this passage, and that is unfortunate.
By coincidence, I ran across this video, where a Protestant minister is making precisely the “it’s Peter’s confession” argument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AsPuOxVZKw&feature=youtu.be&t=3431
To be clear again, I am not claiming anything about what Bishop Barron believes, I am only saying it is quite unfortunate that the commentary selected for a new Catholic Bible and a Protestant commentary titled “Refuting Catholic Authority” follow the same exegetical approach to this passage. That the WoF commentary had followed, or at least also included, the traditional Catholic sense is not, I think too much to ask.
I know there is some danger of this falling under the banner of nitpicking, but let me explain. Shamelessly playing the Protestant convert card again, and one that basically “read” for conversion, as I did not know any Catholics, whether as a “seeker”, who is just starting to poke into Christianity a bit, or as a life-long Protestant that is starting to think about the role of the Catholic Church (my case), both are pretty likely to know at the very least that one of the the big differences about Catholicism and Protestantism is the papacy. Whether they know a whole lot else or just a little bit, they’ve at least probably noticed that one.
And so either one might reasonably ask, “So what does that cool Catholic Bible [so-and-so gave me / I found online] say about that?” Quite a reasonable thing, because ostensibly that is precisely why this type of Bible was printed in the first place.
But, if turning there, the argument and interpretation laid out is the fully consonant with that used by many Protestants to argue there is no scriptural support for the papacy, it would not be at all unnatural to conclude that there is no scriptural support for the papacy. And that strikes me as problematic in a Catholic commentary. It is a missed opportunity, and it isn’t like we cannot see this particular question coming a thousand miles off.
I made this comment about 4x longer than it needed to be as regards the point, but I think it was worth it to lay out why, in fact, stuff like this does really matter.
Well you snooze, you lose. The leather is sold out until at least September.
They should have anticipated the heavy sales, especially as much as they’ve been marketing it, and given Bishop Barrons’ current popularity. Hopefully, they’ll be able to honor the sales that were made on the “pre-release” day (that ended up not really being a pre-release day but in my view, somewhat of a sales gimmick). I purchased the Bible the morning I got the email it was “pre-released.” Then I got an email a few days ago saying there’d be a brief delay in shipping by a couple of weeks due to the mass sales; hopefully, that’s still the case and they can deliver the ones they already sold).
I think you are good. Just no new orders until September
Yes, you’re right. Good to go.
I’m looking forward to using the WoF Bible for prayer. I love the readings from the Church Fathers in the Office of Readings every morning. It’ll be interesting having the blend of ancient and contemporary writings connected to the Gospels.
If you have not read it, I cannot recommend the Catena Aurea highly enough.
The Gospel commentaries were selected from the Fathers by St Thomas Aquinas at the direction of Pope Urban IV and the modern English translation is by St John Henry Newman.
It is normally published with one Gospel per volume. The Baronius Press edition is rather lovely; tan leather hardcovers with gilt blocking of a golden chain (the meaning of the words Catena Aurea) around the edge.
Hardcover is now sold out.
I expected them to sell more paperbacks and hardcovers initially. Catholic publishers seem to assume that Catholics won’t buy higher-end bibles, and it’s seemed to me they might be right, with the exception of a few bible aficionados. The fact that WoF sold out of the leather editions so quickly, before the hardcovers, says something. Perhaps the Catholic publishers have been mistaken. Maybe they *could* sell higher-end Catholic Bibles… I mean WHOLE Bibles, with all the books.
Or, maybe, even though it only contains the Gospels, the $60 is doable for most: $60 does seem quite reasonable for what you get in the WoF Bible: sewn binding, beautiful artwork, great supplementary materials, and higher-quality leather. Maybe it sold out so quickly because $60 isn’t going to break the bank for most.
It does make me wonder, though. How cool it would be to see Ignatius Press, or the Augustine Institute, publish bibles with premium leather covers. I know the Augustine Institute says they’ve got higher-end Bibles coming out later, but one has to wonder what their idea of higher-end bibles might be. Bonded leather, or low quality “genuine?” Or will they try something better?
“The fact that WoF sold out of the leather editions so quickly, before the hardcovers, says something. Perhaps the Catholic publishers have been mistaken.”
Or perhaps WoF didn’t print that many leather editions compared to their hardcover and paperback editions. Perhaps, WOF only printed, let’s say, 5,000 leather editions of their bible, versus 10,000 hardcover editions and 20,000 paperback editions. That could be a reason why the leather edition sold out first.
Thomas- thanks for the tip on the Catena Aurea! I’ll check it out.
My first comment on your site, a worthy successor to Tim McCormick’s Catholic Bibles blog. Thank you for the reviews, and especially this review of Bishop Barron;s Word on Fire Bible. At times, my purchase of a book is dependent on good reviews and “look inside” snippets. In this case, my choice now to not buy the book is motivated in part by your excellent review.
There is one thing you cite that grabbed my attention. You state:
“”Did you know St. Jerome wrote that the curse on the human race because of Eve’s sin was undone by the women who came to the tomb and reported the Resurrection to the apostles? That was news to me. Usually, Mary is presented as the one who overturned Eve’s curse. Take a look at this excerpt from Jerome (commenting on Matthew 28:8-10): “Two different emotions filled the minds of these women: fear and joy. The fear came from the scale of the miracle they had witnessed, the joy from seeing their longings for the resurrection fulfilled. Both feelings drove them forward. They continued till they met the Apostles in order that the seed of faith would be sown abroad…Thus it happened that Eve’s curse was undone by these women.””
This did not strike me as Jerome. Furthermore, there is a break in the quote. At times breaks such as this are done to draw emphasis, get to the point , or they can be set up to mislead. Jerome, in his Commentary on Matthew actually said: “28.8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and joy, running to announce to his disciple. Two different feelings occupied the minds of the women: fear and joy. The former came from the greatness of the miracle, the latter from their longing for the Resurrected One. An yet both feelings quickened their feminine steps. They went to the Apostles so that through them the seedbed of faith would be scattered.
28.9 And behold, Jesus met them saying: Hail!” Those who were seeking in this way, those who were running in such a way, merited to meet the risen Lord and be the first to hear: “Hail!” Thus the curse of the women Eve was broken amongst women.””
Translation by Thomas Scheck, Fathers of the Church Volume 117, Catholic University of America Press, 2008 at Pages 325-326. Scheck’s translation is based on the critical edition found in Sources Chretiennes volume 242 (1977) and volume 259 (1979).
We can see here that Bishop Barron’s collapse of the quote is misleading, and his use of an obsolete and inaccurate patristic translation has lead to what I would call an error.
That Bishop Barron and his editors did not do their homework is revealed when we look at Jerome’s sources – Origen and Hilary of Poitiers. Both did Commentaries on Matthew, and like Jerome, Hilary’s main source is Origen. Unfortunately, Origen Commentary on Matthew 28:8-10 either does not exist or the fragments are not helpful for purposes of clarification. However, Hilary’s is illuminating:
“The Lord immediately greeted and presented himself to the women, who has been encouraged by the angel. This was done so that when the women announced his resurrection to the waiting disciples, they would declare it from Christ’s own mouth rather than the angel’s. Because the women were the first to see the Lord, it is they who greet him, it is they who fall prostrate before him, and he tells them to declare him to the apostles. Now the customary pattern, which had been from the beginning is reversed. Whereas death had its beginnings from the female sex, the same sex was the first to bring the tidings of the glory, the sightings, the benefit, and the news of the resurrection.”
Translation by D.H, Williams, Fathers of the Church Volume 125, Catholic University of America Press, 2012 at Pages 3293. Scheck’s translation is based on the critical edition found in Sources Chretiennes volume 254 and 258 (1978).
With Jerome’s quote in context of Hilary, we can see that Jerome was not thinking that Eve’s curse was undone for all people by these women, but that particularly, these women played a role in undoing the curse of Eve in regards to women.
Now, I doubt that Bishop Barron intended to mislead, but the quote is illustrative of shoddy use of patristic sources.
Years ago, when privately communicating with Tim McCormick, as well as Comments on his defunct site, I emphasized the importance of good Patristic Biblical Commentary. I repeat that now. The former two cited works on excellent commentaries on Matthew. Two others that are available are:
1. Origen’s Commentary on Matthew (in two volumes) Oxford University Press, Oxford Early Christian Texts (2018) translated by Ronald E. Heine. This is really is a masterpiece.
2.) Chromatius of Aquileia: Sermons and Tractates on Matthew: Ancient Christian Writers, Paulist Press, 2018, translated by Thomas Scheck.
Thanks for pulling out the truth. When Patristic writings are pulled apart, as with Scripture, many conclusions can be justified.
Have you considered sending this observation along to Bishop Barron and his gang? It would be interesting what the reply might be.
James, that is a good idea. Taking into account Owen’s critique of the comments, I will present it to the Bishop as constructive criticism. I am not opposed to his bible.
I’m in agreement. Any publisher seeks to be made aware of errors, blatant (such as typos) or otherwise. I’ve sent along quite a few errata to many a publisher, and I’ve never received a negative reply. At the least, it’s an assist, and not a complaint.
As to any perceived negative comments on this blog, unless they’re specifically inflammatory (which do not belong on a Catholic blog site, or otherwise), I’m most open to reading what others think or experience with new, or older, biblical texts. This assists me in making a decision whether to spend hard-earned money or not.
If all the comments were solely positive, I’d question the depth of awareness and honest perspective of the commenters collectively. If we’d discourage critiques and perspectives, then part of the goal of this blog would be missing.
Again, as long as all comments are placid and not inflammatory, they should be welcomed.
James & James,
I am not suggesting all comments should be positive or disingenuous. Informed comment is important but these comments read as a wave of criticism and contrast strongly to the review. I don’t have ‘skin in the game’ as they say, but when I read comments that refer to hubris, question the production of a leather edition and display an intense dislike of the marketing, I despair. This project is one of the most INTERESTING projects I’ve seen in a while to promote our faith. You don’t have to love it, Bp. Barron or NRSV but I’m simply sharing the impression the comment box left on ‘a catholic in the pew’… over and out!
I sent a revised version of my comment in, with a suggestion that there be a patristics editor for the project and I made a suggestion in that regard. Unfortunately, all too many books full of Patristic quotes are based on non-critical editions, obsolete translations, or misattributed works, or even forgeries. For example, there was a time that Catholic scholars quoted certain commentaries on the Pauline epistles, on the belief they were Jerome’s. In fact, they were Pelagius’s.
The irony is that Pelagius’s works on Paul’s epistles are quite orthodox, but because of the shadow of error surrounding him, nobody will cite to Pelagius.
Wow, the negative nitpicking in these comments is so disappointing. When someone tries to do something new, interesting and evangelical to promote the GOOD NEWS, at least temper the ‘critique’ with some encouragement.
There’s obviously some highly read individuals here on the comment feed (and thanks for the tip on Catena Aurea), let us use those brains to STRENGTHEN THE BREATHERN, like the blog owner does.
I agree that uncharitable judgmental attacks on Bishop Barron, David Bently Hart, etc., are not helpful of conducive to the mystical body of Christ At the same time, certain nitpicking comments may be useful, so long as they do not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
My primary reason for not buying the WOF is because I just bought the seven volumes that make up the Harvard University Press Dunbarton Oaks Medieval Library Vulgate Bible, Since I deal with patristics and medieval works and thus need the Vulgate. I am sure some would not like the fact that this edition is in several volumes, and not in leather with gilded edges, but it is in a readable font and type face!
Out of curiosity, why that particular Vulgate set? I owned about half the volumes for several years, eventually giving them away because it’s kind of a weird version: it’s not the Clementina Vulgata, really, it’s more “the Vulgate that the Douay-Rheims was translated from” – no one real edition that ever existed in the past, but a Vulgate edited to match the Douay-Rheims and hopefully match whatever ancient version the English translators used.
I have that set and think it is great. I wish they’d split New Testament into Gospels and Epistles… that one is a beast.
1. Use the 1609/1582 text of the Doway/Rhemes, not the Challoner revisions. If the Latin is being tweaked to match the English, shouldn’t the English match the English, as it were? It has been a while since I read the editor’s preface, but surely it wasn’t tweaked to match the ca. 1750 Challoner …
2. Even more volumes. Several of them are really chunky.
3. Longer ribbons.
With those minor points, I think they are really quite lovely, with great paper and typesetting, and can often be found at good prices. They are hard to beat for a Latin/English Bible for actual reading.
If you need Latin/English for serious academic work, probably getting access to older texts of each (or reproductions of them) is the way to go.
ThomasL has put it well. The font is wonderful for my eyes, compared to the various other Douai editions out there. But, when reading a translation from a medieval writer, such as Bonaventure, the RSV2 Catholic is better than useless. The Dumbarton Oak’s Latin brings you closer to the medieval text and the Challoner translation is a good fit when translating the text.
Thank you Owen. I’m one of the many Catholics who is not well versed in the bible. I stumbled upon this website in the process of looking for reviews of this new publication.
My conclusion after reading these various pages in their entirety, can be summed up as :
” A number of the 0.1% of Catholics who are extremely serious students of bible scholarship are disappointed in features of this book, ranging from price, format, inclusion of artwork and marketing. The other 99.9% of readers may very well find it a useful aid in their spiritual journey”.
Another way of putting it might be: “Let no good deed go unpunished” .
I must not have been critiquing well… I didn’t not intended any of the comments I offered to come off as “for a select 0.1% of people this will not do…” I mean to inject a note of caution in general, for everyone.
Let me explain.
I cannot speak for others on these but, I have no problems with price, format, or artwork. In fact, I’d have been first in line to buy it. I think we all yearn for a lovely Catholic Bible to come back into print with quality binding, paper, typesetting, etc.
While it is true that the marketing is a bit slick, I can readily forgive a solid product with a little slick marketing. No, my reservations are all about the actual content and philosophical approach.
To start with the translation. The NRSV-CE switches plural male references to neutrals (eg, “men” to “people”/”humankind”) and singular male pronouns to neutral plurals all over the place. I am going to limit myself to one example and only from the Gospels, since this is a Gospel edition, but presumably the whole WoF Bible will be NRSV, and there are lots of issues throughout, and they tend to be even worse in the OT…
But for now, just one example from the Gospels, St Mark 8:34:
34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Where did those plurals come from? The first problem is that is just not what the text says. Bibles shouldn’t go around changing the words of Our Lord to what we wish He had said. Moreover, stylistically, the switch to the plural blunts the particularness of the message. To use a secular example, think of changing the famous WWII Uncle Sam posters to say “I want HUMANKIND” instead of “I want YOU” and you have a pretty fair flavor of what has happened all over the NRSV-CE. I am probably stepping in it already, but the short version is I am not a fan of the NRSV-CE. (But if I were, I’d get this: http://catholicbibletalk.com/2019/06/rl-allan-nrsv-with-apocrypha/)
In the commentary selected, there are serious theological problems with “into the heart of dysfunction, to the limits of godforsakenness”, as Bishop Barron is drawing here on Balthasar’s theology the separation of Father from Son, and torture in the Hell of the Son in his Divinity, by the Father, which is, put very generously, “adventurous”, and put bluntly, heterodox.
In just the examples selected in this review, the commentary also misused a quotation from St Jerome, and articulated the Protestant position on Matthew 16:18 while failing to articulate the Catholic position.
It is not too much, I think, to ask that a Catholic Bible commentary:
A) Comment on the Catholic sense of the passages.
B) With reference to Catholic doctrine and dogma, rather than avantgarde theological speculation (Balthasar).
C) Perform (A) and (B) with scrupulous accuracy to sources and their wider context.
I know I may fall in the minority here, especially given Bishop Barron’s immense prestige, but as anxiously as we all await a beautiful Catholic edition of the Scriptures, I would not recommend 0.1% of Catholics get something else, I recommend 100% of Catholics get something else.
For Gospels, the Catena Aurea as mentioned is a treasure for the ages. You aren’t going to beat St Thomas Aquinas quoting the Fathers, translated by St John Henry Newman.
If desire a one-volume Gospel commentary, the Knox/Cox “Gospel Story” harmonized Gospel/commentary is definitely worth reading.
In one of Bishop Barron’s videos I think I saw the “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” on his shelf behind him. That is a great set for the whole Bible. Get that, all 29 volumes…
If you want a single-volume whole-Bible commentary and feel sort of 19th century, get a Haydock Bible. I think one recently came back into print, and it has lots of nice engravings as well.
If you love artwork, get a Westminster Bible, which is one of the loveliest Bible editions I have ever seen and has stunning artwork throughout, and though lacking extensive commentary, has decent footnotes.
While some are easier to find than others, we do have a lot of other options, all of which I would recommend before this one.
I appreciate this detailed, thoughtful comment, ThomasL, and I like your list of alternatives. Personally, I don’t find the shortcomings of the Word on Fire Bible to be nearly serious enough to steer people away from it. The details can easily obscure the bigger picture.
Most importantly, I think Bishop Barron’s commentary does an excellent job of speaking to the questions and ideas of modern people. Many of his commentaries address common modern attitudes and viewpoints head-on. There is tremendous wisdom in the works of the Fathers and saints, but for a modern person who has no religion, a commentary that directly addresses modern culture is very useful.
On the two theological points you raised, it’s important to point out that these are not heretical, even if they differ from traditional theological views. Bishop Barron’s comment about Jesus travelling to the limits of godforsakenness certainly calls to mind Hans Urs von Balthasar, but it is also very similar to the view that Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) expressed in his Introduction to Christianity.
Secondly, Bishop Barron’s comment on Matthew 16:18 is by no means a denial of the authority of the pope. I take your point that it is much closer to the way protestants traditionally explain the passage, but I don’t see any reasonable likelihood that a Catholic would read Bishop Barron’s comments on that passage and doubt the authority of the pope.
When it comes to the NRSV, I agree that there is too much inclusive language, but I also use the NRSV frequently for study and reading. The inclusive language is a drawback, and I think you’re right that using plural expressions in order to avoid using a male pronoun (he) can lead to a different, less personal connotation. On the other hand, the NRSV is a nice balance of literal and free that is overall more readable than the NABRE in the New Testament.
With any study bible or commentary, there are advantages and disadvantages. The Word on Fire Bible will not appeal to every reader, but it has positive qualities that are hard to distill from brief selections. I would urge anyone who is considering buying a copy to not throw the baby out with the bathwater!
And many thanks to you, Marc, for your thoughtful reply and also for your reviews.
I agree. Just as we must understand the genre and audience when reading a book in the Bible; so too must we look at the intended audience of an edition of a Bible translation. The subject Bible translation is not really intended for most of the readers of this blog. If the Bible edition does not steer you wrongly in terms of your salvation then it is all good. If it gets the average non-Bible-Reading Catholic to read the Bible it is all good. If it gets the Bible-Reading Protestant to understand the Bible in the context of the Catholic faith it is hugely good!
In spite of what I believe was an unfortunate marketing ploy, WoF delivered. Literally. I got my leather edition on Fathers Day weekend. It is quite extraordinary in content and production. It’s truly beautiful. From the high quality German top grain leather to the semi-gloss pages and incredible artwork and eye-pleasing layout, it’s a steal for $60. I wouldn’t want it to cost more because fewer people would benefit, from owning it, but it’s really worth every penny.
Great to hear. Thank you
I hope I am not out of line with this comment, but is everything ok with the blog? It’s been a long time since there has been a post and updates used to be pretty regular. Just concerned.
My apologies for the delay. I wanted to provide plenty of time for the comment discussion on the WoF Bible without it getting buried under more recent posts. The comments have been very insightful and lively! Thanks to everyone for a great discussion! I have one more wrap-up post on the WoF Bible coming later this evening, followed by non-WoF posts next week.
Marc, I agree that on shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and what you said about the NRSV. I love reading the NRSV, but am aware of the difficulties (in particular when it comes to typology) of pluralizing pronouns for the sake of gender inclusivity (incidentally, I believe Dr. Metzger and his team had the best of intentions in this, even if I think it went too far, because the Word of God truly is for all).
I believe that criticism is a good thing. To critique Bishop Barron’s theology, or the WoF Bible, etc., can create meaningful dialogue, and is helpful especially for those who are discerning the purchase of a certain Bible or Bible resource. In the early Church, it was common for Church leaders to argue theology (and not always civilly!) and wrestle with doctrinal disagreements, which led to a better understanding of doctrine.
One of the things I’ve appreciated about Marc’s blog and Timothy’s before it is that they provide the space for thought-provoking dialogue; the blog owners have set a standard for civility in discourse. In this thread, for instance, it seems to me the discourse for and against certain aspects of the WoF Bible has been respectful and sincere.
Sadly, this is not the case with many Catholic blogs these days. I’m disheartened by the tone of some of the Catholic blogosphere these days, including comments made about Bishop Barron and the quality of his “Catholicity.” Again, to argue a point about his theology seems completely appropriate, as has been demonstrated with charity here, and I’m grateful that I’ve not seen the sort of hateful commentary on this blog that I’ve seen elsewhere and in social media.
I, for one, am so happy to see that the WoF sold out so quickly (even if I critique how it was handled from a marketing standpoint). Why? Because it shows me there is a HUNGER for the Scriptures and it’s being addressed by the good bishop. This is very exciting. And I also truly appreciate his insistence that this Bible volume be of the highest quality. I can imagine the staff meetings in which he explained to his team what he wanted this Bible to look like. I imagine Bishop Barron’s passion as he described his vision for this project. Finally, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people read the brief passages from early and contemporary Church writers and are inspired to pick up more detailed works, such as the homilies of Saint John Chrysostom!
Thank you Leighton, that’s a very useful set of observations. I too am disappointed by the frenzy of pronoun adjusting revisionism that’s common in society today.
I am exactly the potential reader you describe in the last sentence, and I can’t wait to get the Gospels (my order has been placed). I think Bishop Barron’s approach to this might be similar to that of the publishers of Magnificat — providing the word of God in a context of high quality printing and beautiful , inspiring art.
Thanks for your comments