Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Review: A Pocket Guide to the Bible

Written by Scott Hahn, this Guide is part of a series of Pocket Guides published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division. And this Guide truly is pocket-sized.

First is a short explanation of what the Bible is: the Word of God in human words. Mr. Hahn then discusses the organization of the Bible into the Old and the New Testaments, who wrote the Bible (meaning the human authors--he notes right off that God is the Author), how the different books were chosen to be included--and why the Jewish Old Testament and the Protestant Bibles are different from the Catholic Bible--finishing the first section with the relationship between the Bible and the Church.

Mr. Hahn next discusses how to understand the Bible. The Bible is literature and can be read that way, but it contains many different types of genres. There are the stories, the history, the laws, the census count, the poems, the advice column, the letters, and the prophecies. I especially liked Mr. Hahn's explanation that the Bible is the history of our salvation and can be seen as a series of covenants between God and humanity, beginning with Adam and ending with the New Covenant through Jesus Christ. I had never thought of the Bible that way before, but it makes great sense.

There is a section about reading programs, specifically mentioning three: reading straight through, following the Lectionary, or reading your favorite stories. It really doesn't matter which one(s) you choose. The important thing is to read the Bible.

The longest chapter covers all the different books of the Bible with a brief synopsis of what each book covers. The last chapter is titled "Where to Find..." and then has several sections with the corresponding book, chapter, and verse. Mr. Hahn includes the Mysteries of the Rosary and the Liturgy of the Mass in this section, which is handy for apologetics. I also find this type of listing useful because Catholics don't place as much emphasis on quoting chapter-and-verse as some of our Protestant brethren do. Often I know there's a section dealing with the subject under discussion in the Bible; I just don't quite remember where. "Where to Find..." will help.

(BTW, I think it's more important to read the Bible and understand it as a whole than to memorize bits and pieces. The difference in emphasis might be why many Protestants think that Catholics "don't read the Bible." --Ed.)

Mr. Hahn manages to cram an awful lot of information into 79 pages the size of a quarter-sheet of paper. The language is simply, the size is not intimidating--this Guide would be excellent for Middle School and High School faith formation classes, such as Confirmation. In fact, DD#2 (a sophomore in high school) will be starting her second year of Confirmation preparation soon and I'm going to "test" this Guide out with her as well as share it with our parish Youth Minister. But I'm going to buy another copy--I'm keeping this one next to my Bible!

On the March Hare scale: 5 out 5 Golden Bookmarks

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Pocket Guide to the Bible.

(cross-posted at The Mad Tea Party)

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