Finally! Help for the Catholic Rest of Us – Catholic Bible Dictionary: Scott Hahn (General Editor)

Many thanks to the editor and Blogging for Books for providing me a free copy of this resource in exchange for my honest review.

As a cradle Catholic I have often taken my religion for granted.  This year my husband is undergoing RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).  He has questions for which I don’t have answers.  As a result, I have been re-discovering the religion in which I was raised.  I love having a chance to review and discuss the beliefs of the Catholic church in advance of our children reaching an age where their questions will require my husband and I to be on the same page.  Scott Hahn has been instrumental in helping my husband resolve some of his initial issues/concerns with joining the Catholic church.  An expert theologian, professor, husband, father, and former Presbyterian minister he is able to explain the teachings of the church in a straight forward and relatable manner with direct reference to scripture and revered documents.

Catholic Bible Dictionary is an excellent resource for individuals studying the bible.  It is not a dictionary that is overly useful for understanding commonly used terms and acronyms in the Catholic church and literature outside of the bible.  This dictionary is focused exclusively on words found within the covers of the bible.  The inside cover specifically lists what is included in this dictionary:

  • Every book of the Catholic canons of the Old and New Testaments, outline and explained in their entirety
  • Every significant person in the Bible, historical places, and events
  • The social conventions and traditions of everyday life in ancient Israel; everything from marriage and religious festivals to music, money, and food
  • The language and imagery of the Bible
  • The civilizations that influenced events recorded in the Bible – ancient Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome
  • Key archaeological sites and finds
  • Church teaching, doctrine, and theology that relates the reading and interpretation of the Bible to themes ranging from the sacraments to inspiration
  • Detailed maps of the world in biblical times
  • The maps are especially useful for those of us who may be spatially and geographically challenged specifically with regards to kingdoms and

The dictionary is as described, but I was hoping for more.  There is no list of acronyms commonly used in this Catholic church; for example, RCIA is not listed.  There are also no definitions of words commonly used to describe what makes the Catholic church unique such as transubstantiation or the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration.  Other terms such as sola scripture (scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone) used in Hahn’s novels are noticeably absent.

The maps in the back of the book are especially useful to help establish chronological and geographical understanding.  Terms such as “leaven,” “Eucharist,” and  “covenant” are defined in easy to understand layman terms.  Concepts such as “love,” “faith,” and “sacrifice” are beautifully explained within the roots of scripture.  Overall the dictionary is a wonderful instrument for gaining a higher level of understanding of the bible from a Catholic and informed perspective, but for many I suspect this will fail to be an all inclusive stand alone resource.

About the Book:

More than a generation has passed since the appearance of the last major Catholic Bible dictionary. It has been a fertile generation for biblical scholarship, an eventful time for biblical archaeology, and a fruitful time for the Church’s interpretation of the Bible. It is time for a new resource.

Scott Hahn, internationally renowned theologian and biblical scholar, has inspired millions with his insight into the Catholic faith. Now he brings us this important reference guide, written specifically for Catholics, which contains more than five thousand clear and accessible entries and covers a wide range of people, places, and topics. From Genesis to Revelation, the whole of salvation history is presented and explained in smart, easy-to-understand prose.

Catholic Bible Dictionary is an invaluable source of information, insight, and guidance for Catholics and others who are interested in enriching their understanding of Sacred Scripture. Scott Hahn draws from two millennia of scholarship to create an accessible and comprehensive tool for deeper and more rewarding biblical study.

About the Editor:

SCOTT HAHN, an internationally renowned Catholic lecturer and theologian, is professor of Biblical theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is the director of the Institute of Applied Biblical Studies and president of the St. Paul Center for Applied Biblical Theology. His books include A Father Who Keeps His Promises; Rome Sweet Home, coauthored with his wife, Kimberly; The Lamb’s Supper; and Hail, Holy Queen, among others. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and their six children.

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