In this slim, unintimidating, little introduction to the Bible, Fr. Don Rooney offers a simple process for studying the Bible consisting of five steps: prepare, consider, interpret, discover, reflect. Chapters are devoted to each stage of this process, plus there is an introduction and a brief conclusion. The book is based on three basic beliefs: the Bible is in a real sense the Word of God, God's guidance has been expressed in and through human words, and Christians of all faiths (sic) are called upon to make God's Word come alive in their own lives.
The introduction sets out in simple and homey language the project of the book which is to provide five steps by which a reader may use the Bible as a guidebook for his or her journey with God.
The first chapter provides background information such as the books of the Bible, the difference between the Catholic and Protestant canons, how to find a certain passage, and different translations (versions) of the Bible that are available.
The second chapter deals with the question of whether or not the Bible should be interpreted and whether differing interpretations are possible. Rooney attempts to deal with the position of those who argue that the Bible should be taken literally and not interpreted by offering examples of how we interpret our everyday experience. But this analogy is unlikely to change the minds of those who are convinced that the Bible should be taken literally as Rooney concedes.
Chapter 3, acting on the premise that the Bible should be interpreted, offers twelve guidelines for doing this in a way that is compatible with (Catholic) faith and tradition including beginning with prayer, considering the context of a passage, and recognizing that the Bible records a development of ideas.
There are a number of useful suggestions in the chapter called Discover. Rooney suggests the reader look for patterns and then see how the pattern changes, imagine the story in your mind, then ask questions about what initially doesn't seem to fit, recognize that sometimes what is not said is important too, that, when what is described is very specific, consider looking at it from a more general point of view, and, finally, see the Bible as the story of your life. Each of these approaches is illustrated with several examples. This is perhaps the most helpful chapter in the book and seems to utilize the literary approach to the Bible of Robert Alter and others, even that of Deconstructionism, although Alter is not referenced (there are no citations in the book or suggested resources) and one could quibble with some of Rooney's interpretations.
The final step of Rooney's process, reflect, is illustrated by twenty-seven brief examples. Each has three parts: a short Scripture passage with a focus word or phrase highlighted in bold text, one possible interpretation of the passage, and a question for reflection. The reflection questions are intended to help the reader to apply the message of the passage to his or her life. For example, after an interpretation of the Lukan beatitudes and woes (Lk 6.20-26), Rooney asks, "In what area of my life am I imperfect? Do I accept this as a challenge to grow rather than a reason to fail?"
These reflection questions clearly illustrate the tone of the book which is pastoral and addressed to a Catholic audience. Others may find Rooney's discussion somewhat circumscribed and parochial. Journeying with the Bible may be just the thing for people with little or no previous knowledge of the Bible, but for those who already have some knowledge, or for group study, it is apt to fall a little short.