Book Review: two study Bibles

Ok, actually they are more like study New Testaments.

My wife and I have been reading through the Bible over the last year. We still have a long way to go but in the process she kept stopping and wanting explanations. I don’t of course always have a good explanation, and also I got tired of coming up with stuff so I broke down and bought some commentaries.

When I entered the church in 2000 there was very little Bible related material available for Catholics. The local stores only had copies of the NAB translation and no study materials from a Catholic perspective. The only edition of the Douay Rheims in print was a glued spine paperback and it was over $50.

So I am very pleased to offer this review of two excellent commentaries on the New Testament, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; New Testament and the Navarre Bible; New Testament.

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They both are rather large volumes about the size of a textbook. Both use Catholic revisions of the Revised Standard Version for the English of the Biblical Text. I am personally not a huge fan of the RSV, maybe I’ll write about it sometime, but it’s probably the best choice given what’s available.

The Navarre Bible is a product of the University of Navarre in Spain begun under the direction of St. Jose Maria Escriva. The actual original Navarre bible was a translation from the Neo Vulgate into Spanish with commentary. The Navarre bible in English is a continuation of that work with translation and updating of the notes.

The physical book is well made. A large hardbound volume, it has very good paper a sewn binding and a red ribbon.

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There are maps and introductions to each book as one might expect. The actual text consists of the RSV translation with copious notes below.

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The chapter numbers, headings and cross references are in red. A feature also provided, which I find useful but the majority of users will probably not use, is the text of the Latin Neo Vulgate in fine print. When I’m questioning the RSV translation my rudimentary understanding of Latin is usually good enough to scratch out whether it agrees with the neo vulgate.

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The commentary is largely concerned with explaining the text. It draws mainly from the Saints and Fathers, Church documents and the Catechism. It’s highly spiritually focused. It is a very nice volume.

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible one volume New Testament is roughly the same size… large. The paper is good. Ours is the paperback.

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Something to be aware of with all Ignatius press paperbacks is that the binding is sewn, they will last.

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There are introductions, maps and commentary. Unlike the Navarre it has a concordance and topical essays.

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The commentary is more technically focused than that of the Navarre. It is more likely to go into detail about doctrinal disputes over given texts or details on the meaning of words. It is less focused on what the Saints and Fathers say about passages but still includes some of their incites.

Contrasting the two: I bought the Ignatius volume before the Navarre and wished there were more incites from the Church Fathers. The Navarre as largely satisfied that desire. My wife also prefers the Navarre commentary because of it’s more spiritual focus. The Ignatius does however provide details that are helpful at times when the Navarre fails. Both are excellent and very useful.

In other reviews of these two bibles people have complained about the size, yes they are bulky but for what you get this should be accepted. The paper is substantial and opaque ant the print is of decent size. I would have them be the way they are rather than going to small print and thin paper.

The Navarre bible uses the Catholic edition of the RSV translation while the Ignatius press book uses the more extensively revised 2nd Catholic edition of the RSV which is probably a bit better.

Price is an area where there is real contrast. I paid $17 for the Ignatius press Bible while the Navarre was a whopping $70. This places the Ignatius press bible within the reach of most people while the price of the Navarre is prohibitive.

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