Friday, April 13, 2018

Reading Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of John

by Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV

Mater Amabilis™ ™recommends reading the synoptic Gospels over three years, following the liturgical readings for the given year in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, in Levels 3 (6th and 7th grades) and 4 (8th grade). First Son was taking Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 3 in his sixth and seventh grade years which includes a lot of scripture study and I hesitated to add something to his schedule that was already covered at least in part. This year, though, in eighth grade, he did not attend Catechesis. Because St. John is the patron saint of our parish and we already owned this book, I added it to his schedule rather than one of the synoptic gospels.

The short review is: great book with clear commentary and thoughtful application written at a level that is accessible for a Level 3 or Level 4 student (as well as an adult). It's an excellent example of how to incorporate knowledge Tradition, the Catechism, church documents, and other sources while reading sacred scripture.

The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series has a consistent structure that I would trust, even though there are different authors for the various books. I would choose the commentaries on Matthew, Mark, or Luke, though, rather than John. John's gospel is much more ethereal gospel than the others and I think it might be a more beneficial study to begin with those (as Mater Amabilis™ suggests).

The chapters of the commentary do not exactly follow the chapters of the gospel, instead dividing them up to conform to the contents of the verses. The chapters have a descriptive title and clearly show the reference for the verses included. Each one begins with a brief introduction. The exact Biblical text (New American Bible, revised edition) appears in bold, broken into small sections. Just below each section are references to other Scripture passages, sections in the Catechism, and any appearances in the Roman lectionary.

In between the sections of Biblical text, the authors provide explanations of what is happening, with quotes from the text in bold and the reference in the margins. They draw extensively on a variety of theological sources to provide both historical context and contemporary thoughts. Every chapter includes at least one section of "Reflection and Application" which directly challenges the reader to consider the meaning of the verses in his or her own life.

Throughout the book are plenty of sidebars presenting historical information and thoughtful commentary on issues that have arisen over the centuries related to the Biblical text. For example, there is one in the chapter on the trial before Pilate called "The Church's Condemnation of Anti-Semitism" with quotes from the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism, and other Scripture references. (There's a very helpful index of sidebars, too, at the end of the book, so it's easy to find them again if you want to return to explore the additional references.)

First Daughter is beginning Level 3 in the fall, as a sixth grader. The 2018-2019 liturgical readings will be drawn mainly from Luke, so I intend to purchase The Gospel of Luke from this series for her. It is scheduled to come out in September, but we'll just wait to start her gospel reading until we receive it.

We used this book in a parish adult education class. The Amazon links above are affiliate links. The opinions here are my own.

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