A quick book plug: A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament

May I have a moment of your time to plug a book?

Since it has been a loooong time since I’ve had formal courses in Scripture (and some of that wasn’t so great), I’ve determined I need some refreshers. I’ve been gathering materials and doing a little each day.

Regarding the Old Testament, may I recommend to my fellow priests, especially, A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament by John Bergsma and Brant Pitre published by Ignatius Press?


This is turning out to be a very good resource, especially in the sometimes murky front of the Bible.

These guys get the need to maintain an excellent approach to texts according to modern tools of scholarship.  At the same time, they are rock solid faithful to the Church’s teachings and traditions.  They seem to have taken their marching orders from Benedict XVI and his Verbum Domini.    They’ve sought an integrated approach.

You might remember that Benedict, in the introduction to one of his Jesus of Nazarth volumes, said that we need to recover a way of Scripture that is faithful to the texts’ content, much as the Fathers read it.  Without, of course, abandoning modern scholarship.

Also, quite helpful in the book, are frequent references to the CCC.

That said, I would like there to have been much more on the Psalms.  As I’ve been reading the Office lately, I’ve been marking things mentally and then seeking greater understanding through some online resources (there are some good Protestant Scripture tools online with interlinear texts, etc.).  The authors, while stressing the importance of the Psalms, don’t devote much time to them.  One might respond that that, in itself, would take a large book and this book is intended as an introduction.  They make the introduction, and move along.  However, good bibliography is provided for further reading.

I warmly recommend this.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Is this too advanced for lay people with no real formal theology education? My scripture studies in university were questionable. My prof was a laicized priest using his own textbook encouraging us to refer to God as Imma (Mother) instead of Abba (Father) if we’re offended by a male diety.

  2. Jana Parma says:

    Have you read The Language of Creation by Matthieu Pageau? He’s an Orthodox Christian and he’s really good at explaining the difference between cosmic symbolism and materialism. We definitely suffer from a materialist perspective when reading the bible. It’s only on Genesis but it’s absolutely fascinating to bend my thinking in a different way.

  3. bibi1003 says:

    I just bought this a few weeks ago, but haven’t started reading yet. I’m happy to hear that recommend it, Father! Thanks for all you do for us!

  4. Man-o-words says:

    This is GREAT timing. One of my resolutions for the year is to read the Bible cover to cover. Trudged my way to Dueteronomy, and almost through the first milestone of the Pentateuch. It has, so far, been both incredibly enlightening and somewhat confusing. On the one hand, nothing provides more ammunition against protestant heresies than realizing that the book they quote so often fully supports all the things they complain about in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, it’s really hard to understand the writing without fully understanding the context.

    I’ll definitely order this.

  5. HvonBlumenthal says:

    My own conversion to Rome occurred while reading theology at Oxford. I couldn’t help noticing that only Catholic scholars were able to keep up with modern trends without abandoning orthodox doctrine.

  6. johnnys says:

    For the Psalms check out a short volume called Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom by Michael Barber.

  7. haydn seeker says:

    I’m reading it, it’s beside me now. It’s absolutely superb, a real eye-opener for someone like me with zero courses in Scripture. I’m reading it in conjunction with Robert Alter’s complete translation of the Hebrew Bible – talk about drinking from a fire hose!

  8. I think most people could use it well.

  9. cwillia1 says:

    Bergsma has a book devoted to the Psalms.

  10. acardnal says:

    I own this book. Great reference work. I have also read Bergsma book on the psalms. I would like to recommend “Singing in the Reign, Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom” by Michael Barber for a comprehensive Catholic study of the psalms.

  11. acardnal says:

    I forgot to add “Praying the Psalms” by Thomas Merton is also recommended.

  12. Hidden One says:

    This book is truly excellent. It is an excellent antidote to the ailments afflicting contemporary historical critical scholarship.

  13. WhiteHawk800 says:

    We used this book for my seminary Intro to Old Testament class this past Fall. It is an outstanding book! I’m sure I will make much use of it throughout the years. One of the things I appreciated most was how the authors stressed the importance of reading the Old Testament in light of the New. Christ is at the center of both Covenants. Not only was my understanding of the Old Testament increased, but my understanding of the New Testament was also enriched. I hope all seminaries begin to make use of this important resource.

  14. GregB says:

    I have seen many of Dr. Brant Pitre’s video presentations, which are available for sale. They have all been excellent. He has videos posted on YouTube as well.

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    I have this book, hope to get to it soon.

    HvonBlumenthal: Excellent.

    acardnal: “Singing in the Reign” is a good read. I think the author studied under Scott “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” Hahn, thus the puns.

    The Old Testament helped the British Army and Gen. Allenby win a battle against the Ottoman Turks during WW I. The formatting might be a bit off, but here is, with our genial host’s permission, a lengthy excerpt from Maj. Vivian Gilbert’s 1923 memoir “The Romance of the Last Crusade: With Allenby to Jerusalem.” (Internet Archive by State Library of Pennsylvania).

    First, to illustrate how widespread Bible reading was in the British Army in 1917, the beginning of Chapter XIII “The Tactics of Saul”:

    “It was wonderfully interesting to read
    the history of all the places we were visiting
    daily, and men in the ranks were as keen as the
    officers. It was no uncommon sight to come
    across cockney soldiers out under the stars
    when they should have been sleeping, arguing
    about some incident in the Bible because of a
    place or event in the day’s march that made the
    Biblical pages live again.

    British soldiers on guard paced where the
    Israelite soldiers paced; we drank from Abra-
    ham’s wells; we walked where the Saviour
    It was at the
    conclusion of a particularly tiring march when
    I came across a little group of men resting
    beside the dusty road. Just as I got up one of
    them took a Bible from his pack and commenced
    turning over its pages. I overheard his pal say,
    “What was that plice we marched by ter-day,
    Tom; wasn’t that where Joshuar went after
    them there fellers?” And the other, with wither-
    ing scorn, replied, “Naah; that was where
    Absalom caught ‘is ‘ead in the bloomin’ trees.””

    [Several pages later the British Army was about to attack the Ottoman Turks not far from Jerusalem, at the Old Testament battlefield of Michmash.]

    “All orders were given out and the troops were
    getting what rest was possible before zero hour.

    In his bivouac, by the light of a candle, the
    brigade major was reading his Bible. When
    the raid was first discussed the name Mickmash
    had seemed vaguely familiar, although he could
    not quite place it. Just as he was about to turn
    in for the night, however, he recollected and


    thought he would look it up. He found what
    he was searching for in Samuel I, Chapters 13
    and 14:

    And Saul and Jonathan his son, and the
    people that were present with them, abode
    in Gibeah of Benjamin : but the Philistines
    encamped in Mickmash.

    Now it came to pass upon a day that
    Jonathan, the son of Saul, said unto the
    young man that bare his armour, “Come
    and let us go over to the Philistines’ garri-
    son, that is on the other side,” but he told
    not his father . . . And the people
    knew not that Jonathan was gone.

    And between the passages, by which
    Jonathan sought to go over into the Philis-
    tine garrison, there was a sharp rock on
    the one side, and a sharp rock on the other
    side: and the name of the one was Bozez,
    and the name of the other Seneh.

    And the major read on how Jonathan went
    through the pass, or passage, of Mickmash,
    between Bozez and Seneh, and climbed the hill
    dragging his armour-bearer with him until they
    came to a place high up, about “a half an acre of
    land, which a yoke of oxen might plow” ; and the
    Philistines who were sleeping awoke, thought
    they were surrounded by the armies of Saul,
    and fled in disorder, and “the multitude melted
    away.” Saul then attacked with his whole
    army. It was a great victory for him ; his first
    against the Philistines, and “so the Lord saved
    Israel that day, and the battle passed over unto
    Beth Aven.”

    The brigade major thought to himself:
    “This pass, these two rocky headlands and flat
    piece of ground are probably still here; very
    little has changed in Palestine throughout the
    centuries,” and he woke the brigadier. Together
    they read the story over again. Then the
    general sent out scouts, who came back and
    reported finding the pass, thinly held by Turks,
    with rocky crags on either side, obviously Bozez
    and Seneh; whilst in the distance, high up in


    Mickmash the moonlight was shining on a flat
    piece of ground just about big enough for a
    team to plough.

    The general decided then and there to change
    the plan of attack, and instead of the whole
    brigade, one infantry company alone advanced
    at dead of night along the pass of Mickmash. A
    few Turks met were silently dealt with. We
    passed between Bozez and Seneh, climbed the
    hillside, and just before dawn, found ourselves
    on the flat piece of ground. The Turks who were
    sleeping awoke, thought they were surrounded
    by the armies of Allenby and fled in disorder.

    We killed or captured every Turk that night
    in Mickmash ; so that, after thousands of years,
    the tactics of Saul and Jonathan were repeated
    with success by a British force.

    End of Chapter XIII

  16. Fr AJ says:

    I was first introduced to Dr. Bergsma and Dr. Pitre at Scott Hahn’s priest conference held each year in Wheeling, WV. Both give presentations each day and last year Dr. Bergsma lectured on the Psalms the three days he spoke. Both are absolutely wonderful.

  17. jameeka says:

    Thanks, Semper! ( and genial host)

  18. MikeRogers says:

    I brought it & am reading it, very informative to say the least. I anticipate this will take me about a year to read as I do a bit each nite.

  19. MikeRogers says:

    I brought it & am reading it, very informative to say the least. I anticipate this will take me about a year to read as I do a bit each nite.
    I may have to get a book on the psalms to.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    You’re welcome jameeka. GregB: Thanks for the tip about Dr. Pitre’s YouTube videos.

  21. acardnal says:

    I saw on Amazon that Dr. Pitre has a new book coming out this August on Paul, co – written with Michael Barber and John Kincaid.


  22. acardnal says:

    I saw on Amazon that Dr. Pitre has a new book coming out this August on Paul, co – written with Michael Barber and John Kincaid.


  23. excalibur says:

    Father Z, thanks for this recommendation.

    I recommend the Robert Sungenis work on ‘The Book of Genesis’. It deals with chapters 1 through 11, and is volume 4 of his Study Bible series .

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