It seems almost too good to be true—a midsummer night’s dream. But I pinch myself, and I find that it’s really here. After several years of labor—intense collaboration with a team of my colleagues—The Catholic Bible Dictionary is now resting on my desk.
It’s never long at rest, though, because I’m actually using it. I hope you, too, will find it useful.
I know you’ll find it beautiful, inside and out. It weighs in with more than a thousand pages. It’s sturdily and beautifully bound. And it includes more than five thousand clear and accessible entries covering a wide range of people, places, and topics, from Genesis to Revelation. Best of all, perhaps, it comes at a very affordable price.
More than a generation has passed since the appearance of the last major Catholic Bible dictionary. It’s been a fertile generation for biblical scholarship. It’s been an eventful time for biblical archeology. It’s been a fruitful time for the Church’s interpretation of the Bible. It’s time for a new resource.
If you’ve used other Bible dictionaries, you’ll soon notice how this one is different. Our range is catholic and inclusive, and so we privilege the Church’s ancient canon, ratified at the Council of Trent. We treat the “deuterocanonical books” — Tobit, Baruch, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees — as inspired Scriptures. We also recognize the longer forms of Daniel and Esther. We’ve been pleased to assimilate the great contributions of historical-critical scholarship, but we’ve also relied upon the Church’s magisterium.
We live in a time of unprecedented opportunities for Bible study. Of the making of new books — and Bibles — there is no end. Publishing in the fields of biblical studies and translation is at an all-time high. The airwaves are thick with television and radio shows that claim to represent a biblical worldview. New software enables us to search the Scriptures with the speed and accuracy that ancient monks thought impossible this side of heaven.
Yet even with all these tools, major studies seem to indicate that biblical literacy — among all Christians — is not advancing, but declining. Thus, there is a widespread need for a fresh statement of the basic terms we encounter in reading the Bible.
I pray that my colleagues and I have lived up to this task. I pray we have served you well with this book. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.
In the meantime, I thank you for all you’ve done for the St. Paul Center and given us—your words of encouragement, your donations, but especially your prayers. If we do anything worthwhile, it’s because God hears you and gives us the grace.