July-August 2002By Thomas Ellis

The Navarre Bible: New Testament (Compact Edition).  Editorial Committee for English Edition: J. Gavigan, B. McCarthy, T. McGovern. Scepter Publishers. 725 pages. $39.95.

This new compact edition of the Navarre Bible is a godsend to anyone whose Bible reading reaches only as far as those little-consulted, onionskin-thin-paged editions with confusing notations and intimidating layouts. This Bible is printed on plain paper with an easy-to-follow commentary.

While the 12-volume Standard Edition of the Navarre Bible may be the crème de la crème of study Bibles, with its detailed notes and extensive commentary, this compact edition is perfect for those just beginning to embark on Scripture study or those who think they haven’t the time to pursue Scripture study. Also, being a single volume, it is much more transportable. The editors thoughtfully present their commentary in footnote form, which eliminates the need to flip back and forth between pages. The commentary itself utilizes Church Fathers, saints, councils, and more to aid our understanding of the sacred Word. It has been compiled by Navarre University’s theology faculty. A hearty thanks to them for their good work!

(Editor’s Note: One reservation: It’s a shame that the commentary uses “inclusive” language when the Church is trying to avoid it in the liturgy. For example, in the comments on Matthew 7:13-27 we read this clunky passage: “A person who strives to put Jesus’ teachings into practice, no matter what personal difficulties arise and even if he or she finds himself or herself surrounded by false doctrine….” The version of the Bible used here [RSV-Catholic Edition] does not use “inclusive” language, so why employ it in the commentary? Generally speaking, there are two reasons for using so-called inclusive language. The first one is bogus — that people can’t understand standard English. The second is craven — that standard English offends feminists. Oddly, by legitimizing “inclusive” language in the commentary, the commentators are signaling something they undoubtedly don’t intend, that the translation of the Bible they’ve chosen to use is either unintelligible or offensive. Thus the volume as a whole seems a tad bit schizophrenic.)



The Saints’ Guide to Knowing the Real Jesus.  By David Mills. Servant Publications. 160 pages. $9.99.

Many good people spend their lives defending the Faith, but how many would be willing to suffer torture and death over the precise words in which to express the Faith?

David Mills introduces us to some early Christians who did just that. He explains exactly what these saints died for and why it is so important to get the words we use to talk about Jesus just right. He also provides instructive examples in which initial heretical statements involve superficially trivial variations of Church teaching. Arianism, for example, began over what seemed to many to be no more than philosophical nitpicking over “when” the Son was begotten of the Father. Drawing out the philosophical ramifications of Arianism, however, calls into question the divinity of Christ. Thus, to get the words wrong is to get Jesus wrong, and to get Jesus wrong is to, well, get everything about Christianity wrong.

Mills also takes up the issue of how the early Church dealt with the proponents of heresy. For many with today’s delicate sensibilities, Polycarp’s calling Marcion “the first born of Satan” would be un-Christian. Mills explains, however, why Polycarp and others still more harsh were obligated to respond as they did. He also uses history, particularly the history of Arianism, to show that it is not only bishops but the laity, too, who should risk everything for the “right words.”

The Saints’ Guide to Knowing the Real Jesus is perfect for anyone who has stood bewildered while reciting the Creed and wondered why such obscure words as “hypostatic” or “of one essence” haven’t been replaced by modern, easier to understand terms. It would also make a great supplement to the surfeit of bland religious education texts. Mills’s engaging style makes this book an enjoyable and enlightening read.



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