The New Collegeville Bible Commentary Series, edited by Daniel Durken, is an entirely new set of brief commentary volumes on each of the biblical books, replacing the previous series published ca. 1980. Each volume includes a reproduction of the complete text of the recently revised New American translation of the biblical book being examined. The running commentary that appears below the text, written by a well-respected Catholic scholar, is based on the most current Biblical scholarship. The commentaries are written in a very accessible style, with a primarily pastoral audience in mind. The biblical text, which appears at the top portion of each page, includes marginal sigla indicating where the Catechism of the Catholic Church includes a discussion of the topic mentioned in that particular Biblical verse.
Each volume begins with a brief introduction to the dating, authorship, and key themes of the biblical book, and includes review aids, suggested discussion questions, and pertinent maps, photographs, and illustrations. The commentators include discussions of pertinent original (Greek and Hebrew) terms and phrases, as well as quotations and textual citations from or allusions to Old Testament texts. The striking cover art for each volume is taken from the recently commissioned illuminated manuscript, the Saint John's Bible.
Sr. Barbara Reed engages in a primarily narrative approach to GMatt, but one well funded with historical, social, and economic data. She puts Matthews women "in their place" alongside Jesus and the male disciples. Aware that parallels and allusions to other Jewish writings are integral to Matthew's presentation of Jesus, Reed systematically points out the significance of such parallels from the OT and extra-testamental texts such as 1 Enoch, the Didache, and the library of Qumran. Along the way, she gracefully dismisses common doctrinal misunderstandings without losing sight of the gospel's over-arching narrative thread. Reed's concise guide is an engaging distillation of the last two decades of research on GMatt; it promises to be a valuable aid to a wide variety of students of the gospel.
Fr. Michael Patella focuses his discussion on Luke's theological portrait of Jesus, his ministry, and the life of his earliest followers. Luke's fundamental proclamation, according to Patella, is that the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ are God's definitive act of salvation of the entire universe, and the means by which humanity can be transfigured into the divine glory. He identifies three key literary motifs that convey this fundamental message of the gospel: cosmic warfare (i.e., Christ's battle against, and ultimate victory over, the Satanic forces that hold the world enthralled); schism (not all will heed Christ's call to discipleship); and joy (the appropriate response to a redeemed world). Patella's ensuing examination of GLuke illustrates how these three key themes are woven throughout the narrative, from Luke's infancy stories to the post-resurrection appearances.
Taking the literary unity of Luke-Acts as his starting point, Fr. Dennis Hamm focuses on the explicit and implicit connections between the two volumes. Among the implicit connections are the events that are announced in GLuke as fulfilling the Scriptures but actually "take place" in the Acts of the Apostles. Hamm also notes parallels between events in the life of Jesus (in GLuke) and in the lives of the disciples (Acts). His basic thesis is that Luke uses the parallels and other connections between the two works to show the on-going relevance of the life of Jesus (i.e., discipleship as imitatio Christi) and God's continuing fulfillment of the Scriptures in the lives of the readers (ancient and, Hamm suggests, contemporary). Luke shows that this continuity not only unites the readers with the early disciples who are the subjects of the Acts, but with the entire history of God's saving acts, from the creation of the human race, through the salvation of Israel, and now the gathering of the Gentiles into this community of the elect, of God's "saved" people.
The volumes bear the imprimatur and nihil obstat, making them eligible for use in a variety of Catholic educational settings. Parish Bible study groups would find them valuable not only for learning about the Biblical books, but also for overcoming common misconceptions about the Bible or key matters of doctrine. Even teachers in secondary schools or introductory-level college courses might consider using one or more of the volumes in conjunction with a broader survey text.
Reid, Patella, and Hamm have produced high quality work in succinct and readable texts with beautiful cover art, all at a very economical price. If these three volumes are any indication, this new series of brief commentaries will be a very fine replacement.