Friday, August 15, 2008

Revealing the Richness of Scripture

I know you've been eagerly anticipating my first review for The Catholic Company. I had every intention of reading and reviewing the book quickly as I scanned through it before dinner the day it arrived, but Second Daughter had other plans when she arrived just a few hours later! I've finally had a bit of time to read and consider the book.

Disclaimer: This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book, The Sensible Scripture Study by Steven Kellmeyer. They were also kind enough to share a copy of the Magnificat Magazine with me.

Mr. Kellmeyer walks through eight sessions on discovering the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral and heavenly. It's a book meant to be used in a group setting for Bible study and I loved reading through one dedicated to a Catholic study. (I think this could be used by non-Catholics, but it would probably be best to have either all non-Catholics or all Catholics in the group.)

My husband, being a theology professor, was well acquainted with all the senses and examples in the book. I was seeing everything anew myself and was amazed at what I've been missing all these years. For example, I don't remember hearing any priest give a homily on the story of the Good Samaritan where the injured man represents all of humanity (injured by sin and saved by Christ). (My husband suggested I just didn't remember it, but had certainly heard it. That's a definite possibility, especially since we've had little ones in church as I'm very often sadly distracted.)

I read most of this book while nursing Second Daughter, so I think I missed out on some of the wonderful opportunities to really delve into the Scriptures. While the verses themselves are presented in the book, it would be most useful to read through them with a Bible handy for tracking down references. I also think a lot could be gained by researching historical contexts (which I would do online). Once Mr. Kellmeyer started pointing the way, I could see many avenues for further study. In fact, the depth of the examples is much greater as the sessions advance, befitting a study that's actually teaching the reader to uncover the four senses.

I'd love to participate in a group study with this book. I think it's a great tool for Catholics who may not have done many Bible studies (true of many Catholics). In addition to the insight into the four senses of Scripture, the book provides questions for reading and discussion and suggestions for praying Scripture (with references). I also appreciated the excerpts for individual readings from St. Augustine, C.K. Chesterton, and others.

I do think, though, that this book would be best used in a study led (or at least including) at least one person already comfortable with the four senses of Scripture. The complexity of the examples in the eight sessions could overwhelm a group. I know I needed to give much greater attention to the latter sessions than the earlier ones (and truly did not have enough attention to give for the fullest value). Also, my husband was able to add insight as I read. For example, in the first session, Mr. Kellmeyer encourages us to delve into the Scripture and find the symbols present in the story of the Good Samaritan, "As long as your solution does not violate a doctrine of the Church, it is perfectly acceptable." While Mr. Kellmeyer's goal is to elicit responses from those who might by shy or insecure in their suggestions, my husband was able to clarify that we must not add meaning, but uncover what is already there within Scripture. Some answers, while not heretical (violating doctrine), may still be incorrect in that they are not present within the Scripture.

Finally, a brief note on the Magnificat. I've never had a chance to read through a copy of the magazine and was delighted. I loved the prayers and mediations for each day. I can see how it would be easy to carry the book along to work or in the car to pick up and read through the morning or evening prayers in time that would otherwise be idle.

Remember to check out The Catholic Company for more information or for the book The Sensible Scripture Study.

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