Although it had been a couple years since I have purchased any of the more recent ICSB single volumes, I was quite happy to get my hands on the new edition on The Book of Psalms when it was published this past summer. For my morning prayer time, I typically start by praying through one Psalm a day, so this new ICSB volume seemed like the perfect fit. After spending some time with this new edition, I remain convinced that the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is one of the best bible resources for Catholics. The issue has always been the waiting for a complete one-volume edition. Oh, the waiting… But, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. (More on this development in a future post.)
Looking at the new The Book of Psalms edition, I am reminded of how well Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch integrate scholarly, theological, and historical notes into each volume. For most pages, commentary covers close to half the page on average. The notes are filled with additional biblical cross-references, as well references to the Catechism, the Church Fathers, and other ecclesial documents. The introduction fills four pages, giving the usual information about authorship, dating, and structure of the Psalms. Most helpful is the section on “Themes and Characteristics” which provide an overview of four key unifying leitmotifs as you read and prayer through the Psalter. One of them, The Gift of the Law, reminds the reader that: “The Psalms celebrate all of God’s gifts to his people, but none is praised more than the Law of the Lord. Far from being an onerous burden that weighs heavy on the conscience, observance of the Torah is viewed as a spiritual delight (16).” There can be a tendency from a Christian perspective to over-play the “burden” of the Law, but Hahn and Mitch remind us of its beauty and importance. This is really good stuff!
As with each of the previous volumes, there are “word studies” (4) included throughout as well as “topical essays” (2). All of them are worth your time and study, but in particular the essay on the Imprecatory Psalms was quite good. It asks (and answers) this most important question: “How do psalms that wish ill on our foes impart lessons that are worthy of the God who reveals himself in the Bible? (113)” As some of you are aware, I deeply appreciate the writings of Eugene Peterson. He published some wonderful works on the Psalms, most notably on the Imprecatory Psalms. I find a lot of similarities between what Peterson wrote on them and the essay here in the ICSB. The imprecatory psalms should never be dismissed or minimized, but rather prayed through and understood in their context.
Finally, the volume concludes with over thirty pages of study questions, authored by Dennis Walters. Simply put, these are fantastic. There are sets of understanding and application questions for all 150 psalms, which make this useful for both devotional reading and study. While these questions will not be included in the eventual one-volume ICSB, they are absolutely worth having.
Even though we continue to wait the completion of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible these individual volumes are worth your purchase, particularly if you are looking to study a specific biblical book. I look forward to the day when we have a completed one-volume ICSB.