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April 21, 2014

Anselm Academic Study Bible

by Mary Harwell Sayler with Bible Reviewer

Before presenting the full text and footnotes to the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), the Anselm Academic Study Bible provides a series of articles such as “The Formation of the Bible,” “Geography, Archaeology, and the Scriptures,” “Social Context of the Bible,” and “The Distinctiveness of Jesus,” where each article (and more!) contain highly interesting and helpful information.

For example, the article on geography lets us know the “territory controlled by the ancient Israelite kingdoms was relatively small – about the size of New Jersey.” And, in “Social Context,” we realize that “All of the cultures of the ancient Near East, along with Greek and Roman cultures, were honor cultures” where that status could “be earned or achieved,” which explains why King Saul, who had been victorious over thousands, became paranoid over David, who was honored for conquering “tens of thousands.”

In “The Formation of the Bible,” we discover that the Septuagint or Greek Bible was widely read during Jesus’ time and, therefore, provided over 90 percent of the Old Testament verses quoted in the New Testament. Although Catholic Bibles follow that translation, others do not, making the Apocrypha a source of confusion among various denominations. However, the article on “Deuterocanonical and Noncanonical Scriptures” not only explains this well but mentions various books written during Bible times that were not canonized but became a source of folktales and thought-provoking information not found in scripture.

Equally interesting, the article on “Jewish Biblical Interpretation” gives insight into common methods of study, biblical analysis, and interpretative thinking such as allegory, numeric value, and typology where something on earth represents a type of reality found in heaven. In addition, “Jewish and non-Jewish interpreters familiar with earlier Jewish commentary draw on rabbinic/ midrashic interpretation, with its attention to multiple meanings, plays on words, and intertextual conversations, to enhance literary-critical approaches.”

Understanding Jesus’ Jewish heritage helps us to recognize “The Many Faces of Jesus” as seen by early Christians and Gospel writers who “came to understand the person and mission of Jesus as the new Adam, the new Son of David, the new Passover, and the New Covenant that the Hebrew Scriptures foretold.” With this foundation, we’re better equipped to approach “A Brief History and Practice of Biblical Criticism” with its methods of studying the Bible through history, textual comparisons, translations, forms, sources, intent, and/or unifying themes.

As the article on “Contextual and Transformative Interpretation” explains, “different types of meaning within biblical texts” might focus on “The messianic meaning,” “The canonical meaning,” or “The communal meaning," but “One can read the Bible primarily for information, that is, to be intellectually enlightened, or for transformation, that is, to be personally changed.” Regarding the latter, “This integration of the meaning of the text and the world of the reader is the ultimate goal of interpretation.” With “meditative prayer or communal worship, the biblical texts become more personal and immediate,” for example, through Lectio Divina. 

A subheading on “The Tradition of Lectio Divina” offers these bullet points for us to consider and live out:

  • Lectio – Reading the Text with a Listening Ear
  • Meditatio – Reflecting on the Meaning and Message of the Text
  • Oratio – Praying in Response to Scripture
  • Contemplatio – Quietly Resting in God
  • Operatio – Faithful witness in Daily Life