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.

8 thoughts on “Review: ICSB The Book of Psalms”

  1. Apparently this site came up recently (within the past few months)?
    https://ignatius.com/ignatius-press-study-bible/
    It is asking for donations to complete the entire study bible.

    “Within the next year the Ignatius Press team will complete the Old Testament books and submit the annotations for ecclesiastical approval. Then the entire Catholic Study Bible will be published in a single volume. Individual booklets will continue to be available for Bible studies and personal use.”

    1. That’s encouraging! I think, based on that, that we can safely say the complete version will be done between 2027 and 2030.

  2. They have certainly done most of the books so a single volume is perhaps likely by Q4 2023/Q1 2024 think it’s just mainly the prophets left now. I love the Word on Fire Bible which is a similar project to this in a way hopefully one day they finish that as well.

    1. I think the Word on Fire Bible is excellent for devotional study and daily life application. But the ICSB is a much more detailed and academic project. They are both great and I think they compliment each other rather than overlap. I’ve been studying by reading each of them recently and I highly recommend it if you can.

      As for the ICSB almost being done, I hate to burst your bubble but they have quite a bit left (at least in terms of standalone booklets)… They still need to release:
      Leviticus/Numbers
      1/2 Chronicles
      1/2 Maccabees
      Ezra/Nehemiah
      Jeremiah/Lamentations/Baruch
      Ezekiel
      The Minor Prophets

      Given their recent pace that easily seems like 2-3 years worth of work… Probably more like 4-5 years worth…

      I hope they are further ahead on the one-volume than they are on the booklet releases though!

      1. I forget how long the Old Testament truly is thanks for reminding me will be nice to see these multiple part bibles to be fully finished catholics are getting really lucky, I did back the Word on Fire Bible Project Page recently for the third Volume that is coming Summer next year the cover art alone looks amazing and want to keep supporting that project to insure it’s complete.

  3. Since we are discussing Old Testament study resources, if anyone is looking for a good podcast to aid their biblical knowledge, I would highly recommend the Lord of Spirits podcast via Ancient Faith Radio (an Orthodox ministry). It basically does what the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible does (but only better IMHO) in giving the cultural context of ancient Israel and her near east (and beyond) neighbors.

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