• Title: Acts of the Apostles
  • Author: Rev. William Kurz, SJ
  • Series: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
  • Published by Baker Academic 2013, 397 pages, ($19 to $23)
  • ISBN: 978080103633

Print

The book has received both a Nihil obstat and an Imprimatur.

Two summers ago, I read cover to cover the Gospel of Matthew in this same series and it was fantastic. This summer I have spent reading and studying this book from cover to cover. This book is of the same quality. I have learned so much, it is difficult to summarize that learning.

I think the most important point I can write about is the author.  Fr. Kurz is a professor of Sacred Scripture at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he has been teaching there for over 35 years.  His expertise is St. Luke, both the Gospel and Acts. Fr. Kurz is not only an expert on St. Luke, but he is also a great teacher. The chapters read like you are listening to his class lectures, but it is important to note not on a difficult intellectual level.  The sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters are understandable and interesting.  While this book can be and should be used in universities and seminaries to teach those types of students, the book is written in a way that it is usable and understandable for anyone who wishes a deep understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. I do mean deep understanding, 400 pages deep.

From the book’s introduction chapter, page 10:

A variety of features are designed to make the commentary as useful as possible. Each volume includes the biblical text of the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), the translation approved for liturgical use in the United States. In order to serve readers who use other translations, the most important differences between the NABRE and other widely used translations (RSV, NRSV, JB, NJB, and NIV) are noted and explained. Each unit of the biblical text is followed by a list of references to relevant Scripture passages, Catechism sections, and uses in the Roman Lectionary. The exegesis that follows aims to explain in a clear and engaging way the meaning of the text in its original historical context as well as its perennial meaning for Christians. Reflection and Application sections help readers apply Scripture to Christian life today by responding to questions that the text raises, offering spiritual interpretations drawn from Christian tradition, or providing suggestions for the use of the biblical text in catechesis, preaching, or other forms of pastoral ministry.

Interspersed throughout the commentary are Biblical Background sidebars that present historical, literary, or theological information, and Living Tradition sidebars that offer pertinent material from the postbiblical Christian tradition, including quotations from Church documents and from the writings of saints and Church Fathers. The Biblical Background sidebars are indicated by a photo of urns that were excavated in Jerusalem, signifying the importance of historical study in understanding the sacred text. The Living Tradition sidebars are indicated by an image of Eadwine, a twelfth-century monk and scribe, signifying the growth in the Church’s understanding that comes by the grace of the Holy Spirit as believers study and ponder the Word of God in their hearts (see Dei Verbum 8).

A map and a Glossary are located in the back of each volume for easy reference. The glossary explains key terms from the biblical text as well as theological or exegetical terms, which are marked in the commentary with a cross (†). A list of Suggested Resources, an Index of Pastoral Topics, and an Index of Sidebars are included to enhance the usefulness of these volumes.

There are three important lessons I learned from this book:

1) The main people in Acts: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Stephen, St. Philip make frequent use of Old Testament Scripture to talk about Jesus. Fr. Kurz explains all these usages of the Old Testament.

2) The Acts of the Apostles is the original evangelization, and Fr. Kurz explains how our new evangelization can learn from the original one.

3) Fr. Kurz does a great job of explaining how St. Luke shows the impact and effect of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles as they go about the mission of establishing and building up the Church.

In conclusion, I have been very impressed with this book. Reading the 400 pages of this book was not a chore or a difficult intellectual exercise, but it has been a joy. I have and continue to look forward to reading and studying it.

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In Matthew’s Gospel, 159 verses make allusions to 247 Old Testament verses, in 30 books. I created this document to visually show the connection between the New Testament and the Old Testament.  A famous quote from St. Augustine: “New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is made manifest in the New.” (“Questions on the Heptateuch” 2,73: PL 34,623. year 419)

The translation I used: New American Bible – Revised Edition (2011)
Copyright 2014 (All Rights Reserved) This document may not be sold, it is given away free.

The document is 42″ by 30″  (106.7 cm by 76.2 cm).  If you would like a printed copy, download the document and take it to you local printer and ask to have it printed on a 42″ plotter (printer).  See the “My Documents” section on the right side of the page…

  • Title: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
  • Author:  His Holiness Pope Benedict XVIJesusNaz_BT
  • Paperback: 389 pages   ($17 to $26 )
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (September 15, 2008)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586171988

Imagine this: forty pages just to explain The Lords Prayer! That is an example of the depth of reflection and teaching that is in this book.  The basic structure has been to combine the parallel passages from the four Gospels and then explain them, along with the inclusion of a modern scripture scholar’s ideas.  Typically Pope Benedict then explains, with charity, why some specific modern interpretation is wrong.  Occasionally the commentary will include a reference to a Father of the Church and how to understand that ancient commentary. The basic format is a chronological progression that follows the life of Jesus.  One notable exception to this is chapter 8, “The Principal Images of John’s Gospel”.  These images are worth listing: Water, Vine and Wine, Bread, The Shepperd.  The images are used by St. John, and explained by Pope Benedict, to help us know who Jesus is.

While Pope Benedict can get technical and deep, this book is very readable and understandable. I have attempted to read some of his college level books, and this is not one of those. The target audience is the typical Christian, a person who wants to know Jesus. The book is not like a popular fiction novel.  This book will cause the reader to think, to think about Jesus, and what Jesus has done and taught. Pope Benedict has commented on what he considers to be the major events in the life of Jesus, and the comments are illuminating.  My relationship with Jesus has deepened because of this fantastic work from a brilliant scholar of Sacred Scripture.  The book has been out five years now, I wish I had read it sooner.

“Yet the Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature,
its meaning grows with them.”

In book 3 of Confessions, v (9), St Augustine is describing his encounter with Sacred Scripture. First, for someone to read the Bible, it takes humility. This is because at first read the text looks simple, and it is deceptively simple.  A deep reading with thought, reflection and faith reveals text that St. Augustine calls “of mountainous difficulty and enveloped in mysteries”. For us today, we must remember that St. Augustine is reading in about the year 400, in a very ancient Latin translation.  Today, we have many resources such as Study Bibles and Bible Commentaries that go a long way to help with the difficulties and shine light on the mysteries.

The basic point that St. Augustine makes is however, still true today.  One should not expect to just pick up a Bible, start reading it and achieve perfect clarity of understanding.  This is where the humility comes into play, because we need to learn how to read the Bible.  An important note: learning is not only possible, it is what God wants us to do, to read and understand His Word. It also helps to have a good teacher, I recommend joining a Bible Study class.  Reading the Bible and learning about the Bible go hand in hand because the individual books of the Bible do have a unity to them, it is one big story about who God is and how much he loves us. So when starting to read the Bible, expect some challenges and expect to grow with the reading and studying.  Think of yourself not as just a reader of the Bible but as a humble student of the Bible.

  • Authors: Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri
  • Paperback: 384 pages  ($14 to $22)
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (December 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801036026

This book is one of a series of Bible Commentary books. As of the writing of this review, seven of 17 books to cover the entire New Testament, had been completed.  The series is based upon the New American Bible, which is the translation Catholics in the United States use at Mass.  All books in the series use the theological principles that the Second Vatican Council published (in the document Dei Verbum) on how to interpret Sacred Scripture.

The authors of this book have done a great job to write in a style that is easy to read, and enjoy while reading it. It is NOT a technical/university text book, but still could be used at a seminary or theological college. I can definitely see both Priests and Deacons using this book to help them prepare homilies for Mass.  Both the authors are very well known and respected scholars in the field of Biblical Study (exegesis). I have read other books written by them and I have learned much from them.   Because the commentary uses theological principles from the Second Vatican Council, anyone reading this will know that they are learning sound and correct information.  Also used in the commentary is the teaching of the Saints and especially the early Church Fathers.

The book also includes some other interesting and important information. Many passages have a “reference link” to related Scripture passages, sections of the Catechism, and where this passage is used in the Lectionary (the book we get our Scripture passages for weekly and daily Mass). The book uses what they call “sidebars” to explain in-depth subject areas of Biblical background and the “Living Tradition” of the Church.  Also included are a Glossary, indexes of pastoral topics and sidebars, and a list of suggested resources.

The text is split into sections, with Bible verses included (so that a reader does not have to use a separate Bible), and then the commentary following the Bible verses.  Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of this commentary is the ratio of Bible verse to commentary. I can accurately estimate a ratio of 10 to 1 (commentary to Bible). This is a much larger ratio than a study Bibles. Study Bibles typically have a 3 to 1 ratio.

It is important to make note of the difference between a Study Bible and a Bible commentary. The basic difference is this: a study Bible will explain verse by verse (for the significant verses) the meaning of the particular verse, as it may relate to some other verse in the Bible, or its historical, cultural, geographical, or linguistic significance. A Bible commentary on the other hand will explain an entire passage or paragraph and what it means to us today in terms of its many meanings: literal, moral, allegorical (how does it relate to Jesus), anagogical (an interpretation of scripture that detects allusions to heaven or hell).  There is some overlap between a Commentary and a Study Bible, for example both types may use examples of the Church’s 2000 years of teaching history.

Perhaps the one most important point I can make about the book and why I recommend it is that is not just the thoughts and ideas of the two authors. It is a collection of the best-of-the-best ideas and commentary, from many people, from the very begin of the Church some 2000 years ago, to what the current “Chief Theologian” (Pope Benedict XVI) has taught about the Gospel According the Saint Matthew.  If you read this book, you will get an in-depth knowledge of who Jesus is, by understanding what Jesus taught and what Jesus did.

For more information about the book or the Series please see the publisher’s web site:
http://www.catholiccommentaryonsacredscripture.com/

  • Hardcover: 2187 pages   ($27 – $40)
  • Publisher: Emmaus Road Publishing (June 29, 2009)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931018494
  • Compilers: C.W. Lyons and Thomas Deliduka
  • Forward by Scott Hahn

So how would you use this book? What is it for? Suppose you wanted to know where in the Gospels does Jesus use the word “bless”? All the entries are listed in alphabetical order, and the various forms of a word are also listed, for example: bless, blessed, blessing.  After finding the word bless, the uses of the word are listed in order of the book of the Bible (Genesis first, Revelations last). So there is one listing for the Gospel and that is for Luke, chapter 6, verse 28.  This is formatted in the book like this:  Lk 6:28 those who hate you, B those who curse you  (The capitalized letter indicates the location of the word within the verse.)

Who is a concordance for?  This book is for people that are serious about Bible study. If you want to find a bible verse quickly, search engines on the Internet can find something real quick, but you are at the mercy of how the search algorithms/ logic works, when it presents the answers to you. The results from an online search may only show the top 10 results (verses). A concordance will show everything. The whole purpose and usefulness of a concordance is that it concretely demonstrates the concept of the “Content and Unity” of Sacred Scripture. Are you serious about Bible study? Why? Why not?

A few notes: This is a simple concordance and NOT an analytical concordance.  If you want word analysis, my advice is to get a good study Bible.  This book is comprehensive and huge, it is about 1000 pages longer than the version of the Bible it is for.  Lastly, the most important note: if you purchase a concordance, you must get a version that is for the specific translation of the Bible you use.

Sacred Scripture is meant for both all mankind and for each one of us. Sacred Scripture needs to become your personal story so that you can then spread it to the whole world, perhaps just to your next door neighbor, or maybe a relative or a friend.

There are a few ways to personalize Sacred Scripture when reading it:

  1. memorize specific verses
  2. make notes about verses in a journal
  3. highlight the verses that speak to you

This list is in order of increasing simplicity.  For most people memorizing more that a few verses will be difficult if not impossible.  Keeping a journal of favorite verses is great but requires some work while reading.  The last method is strikingly simple, but problematic. Bible paper is thin and most all highlighters bleed through the paper.  I am blessed to have finally found a highlight pen that does not bleed through the thin paper: the Zebra Eco by Zebright. It has a florescent pigment ink that works great.  It comes in multiple colors and the model I purchased (yellow) has both a wide chisel-tip and a fine point tip. The only issue with this highlighter is availability.  I was only able to fine it online. It is also a little expensive, I purchased a 12-pack for $20. I highly recommend this product.

A highlighter for use on thin Bible paper: Zebra Eco by Zebright