Category Archives: News

June 21-26, 2020 – Summer Scripture Conference

I hope you can come!

I will be speaking at the long-standing annual Summer Scripture Conference, June 21-26, hosted by the Institute for Pastoral Leadership at University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago area. This conference has been offering a slate of Scripture scholars speaking to a popular audience for decades and I’m delighted to be one of the speakers this year. Over the course of the five-day conference, I’ll be sharing the stage with scholars I admire and respect:

I’m looking forward to my talks on June 23-24 on these topics:

  • The Headwaters of Christian Prayer: Messianic Hope in the Shape of the Psalter
    • In this talk, we’ll review some of the recent research on the canonical shape of the Book of Psalms and show how over time, as pre-Christian Jewish tradition received, read, prayed and handed on these sacred songs, they began to see them messianically. That is, the songs themselves, as prayed in that era, anticipate the coming of the Messiah, the new David, who will reign on the throne of his fore-father and usher in a time of restoration. The Psalms, of course, are at the heart of Christian prayer and I’ll try to show how this is no accident, but builds on the messianic shape and use of the Psalms.
  • The Book of Wisdom as Model for Christian Reception of the Old Testament
    • Here, we will take a look at one of the most neglected books of the Old Testament. As I’ve noted here before, it has fewer commentaries written on it English than pretty much any other book of the Bible. Wisdom, though, as one of the very last books of the Old Testament penned, anticipates how the NT authors will read Scripture. It offers a unique combination of Jewish piety toward the Torah and Jewish appropriation of Greek philosophy that sets the stage for Christians reading the Old Testament in a Greco-Roman context.
  • Sirach 44–50 and Hebrews 11: The Hall of Heroes and the Cloud of Witnesses
    • Lastly, I will compare two hallowed texts that celebrate the heroes of the Old Testament. Hebrews 11 is well-known as the “Hall of Faith”, but it is anticipated by Sirach. Both texts retell the story of Israel through a list of characters, heroic figures. These celebrated persons exemplify the life of virtue, Torah-observance and faith, showing that a life of fidelity is possible even under difficult circumstances. Like the many lives of the saints volumes written later in Christian history, these texts hold up heroes for us to imitate.

These topics are close to my heart and I look forward to sharing with you about what I’ve found in these three rich Old Testament veins from the Psalms, Wisdom and Sirach.

This event is an awesome chance to dive deep into Scripture study with a wide range of teachers and topics. It is going to be an intense prayerful learning experience. Each day includes morning prayer, Mass and night prayer, along with meals together and an evening social. But the heart of the experience is the three to four daily lectures on biblical topics. You can read the whole event schedule here: https://usml.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020-Summer-Scripture-Event-Schedule.pdf

If you live in the Chicago area, this would be a great opportunity to take a few days off, grab your Bible and your notebook and join us for some great study. If you don’t live nearby, you can stay in the dormitories on the beautiful campus at a low cost. The full conference with all talks, all meals, and a private room for five nights is only $825. You can’t even get a hotel room, let alone all the meals(!) for that much in a lot of places. However, if that’s too much for you and you can’t take off a whole week, then you can drop in for a single speaker’s three talks for $200 or even just a single lecture for $60. If you want all the details, take a look at the registration form. And if you decide to come, you can register online.

All told, with fifteen talks by seven scholars, it stands to be a great experience and if you do come, I look forward to greeting you in person when you get there!

ESV Catholic Edition Lectionary Released in India

Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (apostolic nuncio), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão

Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (apostolic nuncio), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão (photo from daijiworld.com)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has just released a new Lectionary featuring the English Standard Version Catholic Editions (ESV-CE).

A few things to notice:

  • The new ESV Lectionary for India received Vatican confirmation on December 9, 2019 from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
  • It is mandated for India starting on Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020).
  • It uses the Grail Psalter for the psalms (not the ESV), presumably to match the usage of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The money quote comes from Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão:

  • “The publication of the new lectionary by the CCBI is a landmark in the history of the Church in our country, it is a valuable contribution of the Church in India to the Universal Church testifying to our biblical scholarship and liturgical competence.”

The full story here: https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=675520

It is also worth mentioning that the top sponsor of this big new lectionary project, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, was just re-elected today as the president of India’s bishop’s conference, largely so he can help with the implementation of the ESV Lectionary.

Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (50% off sale)

You might have heard of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, which finally has produced a complete set of New Testament commentaries. It clocks in at seventeen volumes–all written with a focus on detailed exegesis and an eye to theology and pastoral ministry. The volumes of this series, edited by Scripture scholars Dr. Mary Healy and Dr. Peter Williamson with associate editor Kevin Perotta, have been helpful to me and my students as they have been coming out these past 10-12 years. The first volume was Dr. Healy’s commentary on The Gospel of Mark (2008). The last one to be published was Nathan Eubank’s volume on First and Second Thessalonians (2019).

The full set of seventeen volumes is now available for a steep 50% discount at the publisher’s website: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/catholic-commentary-on-sacred-scripture-new-testament-set-9781540962225   This complete New Testament commentary, which is both scholarly and accessible, is being offered for $194.98 rather than it’s list price of $389.95. So if you’ve been looking to make an addition to your library that will help you read the New Testament with depth, now is the time to stock up. These books will serve as a helpful reference and reliable introduction to these texts for years to come.

Here’s a video the publisher put out to explain and promote the series:

Here is the full list of volumes and authors of the New Testament series:

  • The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri
  • The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy
  • The Gospel of Luke by Pablo T. Gadenz
  • The Gospel of John by Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV
  • Acts of the Apostles by William J. Kurz, S.J.
  • Romans by Scott W. Hahn
  • First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM
  • Second Corinthians by Thomas D. Stegman, S.J.
  • Galatians by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye and Peter S. Williamson
  • Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson
  • Philippians, Colossians, Philemon by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
  • First and Second Thessalonians by Nathan Eubank
  • First and Second Timothy, Titus by George T. Montague, SM
  • Hebrews by Mary Healy
  • James, First, Second and Third John by Kelly Anderson and Daniel Keating
  • First and Second Peter, Jude by Daniel Keating
  • Revelation by Peter S. Williamson

This sale launches on January 14th, but the set can be preordered today. My understanding is that this sale will only last for a limited time. Here is the link again if you want to check it out: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/catholic-commentary-on-sacred-scripture-new-testament-set-9781540962225

ESV Catholic Edition Bible Now Available in the United States!

Last year, I wrote a post about the new English Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible (ESV-CE) published in India. This year, I have the great pleasure of announcing that this new translation is now available for purchase in the United States, thanks to the Augustine Institute! Yes, it is finally here.

You can buy the ESV-CE Bible here: https://catholic.store/the-augustine-bible/

The Protestant Backstory
The ESV translation first came out in 2001 from Crossway publishers as a Protestant Bible for the Protestant market. The translation was partially born from a late-1990’s controversy over the inclusive language edition of the New International Version Bible–the NIVI. Many Bible readers were unhappy with the translation choices of the NRSV and NIVI. A new translation was needed. Instead of revising one of those translations, Crossway chose to go back to the RSV and then work from there.

What about the RSV?
The Revised Standard Vervsion (the Standard Version is the King James) originally came out in 1950’s and was revised in the 1970’s and then replaced by the NRSV. Many Catholic have used the RSV Bible in two versions–the original RSV-Catholic Edition and the so-called RSV-2CE from Ignatius Press, which was developed in partnership with the Congregation for Divine Worship under the guidelines of Liturgiam authenticam. The RSV-2CE is the translation in the Catholic Bible Study App offered by a partnership of Ignatius and the Augustine Institute.

What is different about the ESV?
The ESV is then a revision of the RSV. The ESV has modified about 60,000 words from the RSV. So it is a “daughter translation,” if you will, not a completely new from-scratch translation, but this makes the ESV feel like an old friend and a new teacher at the same time. It sounds strangely familiar and yet new. It offloads the archaic terms like the “thees, thous and wherefores.” It relies on better analyses of the manuscript tradition. The King James was based on the old Textus receptus of Erasmus, while the ESV is based on the newest critical editions available. It actually restores some King James readings that are more accurate than the RSV: “For example, Isaiah 7:14 was changed back to say, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’ Psalm 2:12 once again says, ‘Kiss the Son,’ and Psalm 45:6 is once again a Messianic prediction that says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever'” (Source: Wayne Grudem, “The Advantages of the English Standard Version (ESV) Translation” p. 3).

How did a Protestant Translation become Catholic?

Fr. Legrand (photo from daijiworld.com)


The Bishops Conference of India needed a new English translation for the Lectionary and other liturgical purposes. Crossway worked out a deal with them, where a team of Catholic theologians and Scripture scholars headed up by Fr. Lucien Legrand, O.P. (now 93 years old!), would review the ESV translation carefully and make some emendations. The Catholic team did indeed review–and change–the text of the ESV in preparation for publication. The biggest change was the Book of Tobit, which had to be retranslated from scratch. The translation was reviewed in accord with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, then it was approved and granted the Impimatur by the whole Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and published in early 2018. It is available in India from the Asian Trading Corporation.

Indian Bishops with ESV (photo from daijiworld.com). Notice the founders of Crossway in the middle: Lane and Ebeth Dennis.

Speaking of Tobit, what about the deuterocanon?
The original 2001 ESV did not include the deuterocanonical books (the ones in Catholic, but not Protestant Bibles), but in 2010, ESV did a joint publication with Oxford University Press which did include the deuterocanon. This edition, entitled “The English Standard Version Bible with Apocrypha,” was only published once as far as I can tell, but it served as the basis for the ESV Catholic Edition rendering of the deuterocanonical books, except Tobit, as I mentioned above.

Augustine Institute?
The Augustine Institute, where I teach as a professor of Sacred Scripture, though originally only a graduate school, has become something of a media and publication apostolate with our Formed.org video platform and our merger with Lighthouse Catholic Media. We struck up a conversation with Crossway about the ESV Catholic Edition a couple years ago. It became clear that Crossway, as a Protestant publisher, did not feel well-suited to serve the Catholic market and wanted a Catholic partner to promote the new translation. Earlier this year (2019), we reached an agreement and hurried to put out our first-ever Bible publication before the end of the year. (Well, our second if you count the “Bible in a Year” RSV-2CE to which I contributed.) We’ve dubbed it the “Augustine Bible” in honor of our patron.

A New Beginning
The first ESV Catholic Edition Bible available in the United States is now ready for order. It arrived in the Augustine Institute warehouse just a few days ago. This edition is really only the firstfruits of a huge new opportunity for Catholic Bible readers. Hopefully, the Augustine Institute will be releasing many different editions of this great translation over the coming years. I have enjoyed using the ESV for study and teaching for years and I hope that you enjoy the new ESV Catholic Edition as much as I have. So go ahead and order one and see what you think.

Here’s the link again: https://catholic.store/the-augustine-bible/

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage – May 2019

I’m excited to announce that this May 16-26 (2019), I will be co-leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Bishop Richard Henning, auxiliary of the Diocese of Rockville Center.

The Holy Land is such an amazing experience—to walk in the places where Jesus walked, to visit Bethlehem where he was born, Galilee where he taught and Jerusalem where he died and rose again! It is often referred to as the “fifth gospel” since paying a visit to the Holy Land fills in so many details that you could never pick up only by reading the Bible. The Bible comes to life when you look out over the same Sea of Galilee where the disciples fished and met Jesus, when you go to the places like Capernaum where Jesus performed miracles.

Not only does a trip to the Holy Land enhance your understanding of history and Scripture, it brings you into an unforgettable spiritual experience. To pray on Mt. Calvary where Jesus died for our sins, to visit the tomb where he rose from the dead, to visit the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place—these are opportunities for you to experience God’s presence in a profound way. A pilgrimage like this is not about a week’s vacation away from home, but a life-changing experience you’ll carry with you forever. Everytime you read the Bible, go to Mass or pray the Rosary, you will be thinking of the holy places you visited.

If you’d like to consider coming to the Holy Land with me and Bishop Henning, please take a look at the flyer and registration form:

New Catholic ESV (English Standard Version)


This is an exciting moment for me! Finally, at long last, a Catholic edition of the English Standard Version has been made available and received ecclesiastical approval in India.

The original ESV was published in 2001 as an alternative update to the RSV Bible, preserving the English Bible vocabulary inherited from the King James Version. The KJV was the original “Standard Version,” which was then updated by the “Revised Standard Version” and now the English Standard Version. It is a fascinating tale that the King James Version, which was published in a rivalry with Catholic scholars who put out the Douay-Rheims Bible about the same time, should now be brought into the Catholic realm. Of course, many Catholics use the RSV-Catholic Edition, but that translation was made around 1950 and does not take into account the last sixty-five years of scholarship. The RSV-CE has gone through updates like the NRSV-CE and the RSV-2CE, but the ESV represents a huge shift.

Now, it’s true that the ESV had translated the Deuterocanon–the books only in Catholic Bibles–but it had a relatively limited publication run under Oxford University Press. I snapped up a copy, but the text of these deuterocanonical books has not been widely available. I’ve been using the ESV regularly since 2005 and have really enjoyed the translation. It excels at literal word-for-word accuracy without becoming cumbrous and wooden like the NASB. Rather than revolutionizing biblical vocabulary (like the Jerusalem Bible, for example), it tries to preserve traditional and theological terms like “grace” and “righteousness”. These fidelities to the English Bible tradition make for a powerful read that connects “dots” in the mind more so than translation that try to be overly original.  Yet the ESV was prepared by scholars who are up to date on the manuscript evidence and current exegetical debates. You can read the statement of their translation philosophy here: https://www.esv.org/translation/philosophy/

The Indian Bishops Conference plans to produce a new lectionary based on the ESV. In the interview video I’ve embedded above, they mention that they have heard interest expressed by bishops in England, New Zealand and Australia, who might opt to use the ESV-CE in their lectionaries. It would be very interesting indeed if the whole English-speaking world starts using the ESV-CE at Mass!

Soon, I think, the text of the ESV-CE will be available not only in India, but everywhere, including in the major Bible software programs like Logos/Verbum, Accordance and BibleWorks. If nothing else, it will be very nice for Catholics to have a new translation option for Bible reading and study. The publication is so new–just announced about ten days ago–that I can’t find a link yet to buy a copy, but I’ll post it here when I do find it. Happy Bible reading!

Here’s a link to an India news story about the release: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=495081

Update: It looks like you can buy the ESV-CE from an India website, but I don’t know about shipping to the US or elsewhere: http://www.atcbooks.in/ 

On TV This Week

Johnette Benkovic and Mark Giszczak

This week, I’ll be appearing on Johnnette Benkovic’s TV show, Women of Grace, on the EWTN channel. The 30-minute shows will air at 11:00am Eastern and 11:30pm Eastern Monday-Friday. We’ll be discussing my recent book, Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture. If you miss the TV broadcast, you can always watch the shows online on the Women of Grace website. The shows are entitled, “Light in the Darkness: A Look at the Dificult Passages and Themes of the Bible.” Let me know what you think of the shows!

 

Abraham, Sand, Stars and Winning the Lottery

A few years ago, the media reported about Joan Ginther, the woman who has won the lottery jackpot four times. Yes, four times! She’s won all told, about 20 million dollars. The Harper’s story about her by Nathaniel Rich probed the probability of her luck and found that it was about one in 18 septillion. There are other reasons why she might be so “lucky” like her Ph.D. in statistics. But what caught my eye from Rich’s story was this line:

There are one septillion stars in the universe, and one septillion grains of sand on Earth.

If that doesn’t make a Bible scholars antennae go up, I don’t know what will! This should remind any Bible student of this line in Genesis:

I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. (Gen 22:17 RSV)

God tells Abraham that he will have as many descendants as there are are stars and as there are grains of sand. What is so amazing about this is that upon scientific observation, those two totals are the same! There are roughly the same number of grains of sand on Earth as there are stars in the universe. Of course, there are many different estimates for these things. NPR even did a story on these questions. And then you start thinking, wow, we have a ways to go if Abraham is going to have a septillion descendants! If there have been, at highest estimates, 125 billion people ever, then we’re only 6.94 quadrillionths of the way there! (If I did my math right.) Whether you find interesting the number of Abraham’s descendants equaling the number of grains of sand or the number of grains equaling the number of stars, at least you can be happy knowing that the probability of winning the lottery four times divided by the number of Abraham’s promised descendants is 18.

What are the Dark Passages of Scripture?

So…I have a new book coming out entitled “Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture.” It will be released on September 20 from Our Sunday Visitor press. In the time leading up to the book release, I’ve put together a YouTube channel called “Bible Broccoli” and I’ll be posting several videos related to the book. This video above is my very first YouTube video and I address the first question you might ask about the book, “What are the Dark Passages of Scripture?” I hope you enjoy this video and I hope you check out my new book!