Great New Bible Project Now Available
Benedictine College associate professor of Theology Dr. Andrew Swafford, as one of a small team of Scripture scholars, has produced a new study Bible that he hopes will set a new standard in popular Scripture study.
The Great Adventure Bible from Ascension Press is now on sale here. Dr. Swafford answered our questions about the project.
What is different about this Bible?
Dr. Andrew Swafford: This Bible is very user-friendly, with some 21 essays introducing the reader to each major period in biblical history, as well as essays introducing each of the major covenants (and essays on Lectio Divino and Catholic interpretation of Scripture).
It has all the relevant information that a good Catholic study Bible would have, yet it’s not encumbered by numerous footnotes which sometimes distract the reader. It has seventy “key events,” very short explanations within the biblical text alerting the reader to significant events in salvation history–sort of like sign posts, if you will. Lastly, it has numerous time line charts which are color-coded and aesthetically easy to use and understand, as well a great number a very helpful maps.
The whole Bible is based on Jeff Cavins Bible Timeline approach to teaching Scripture, which has proved immensely effective and quite popular. In coming to know the history of salvation, we begin to see our lives as part of this great story which continues to this day. This approach to the Bible can thereby unite the head and the heart.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
The most challenging part was definitely the limited word count for the essays and the key event call outs. You want to be comprehensive, but typically the writing would begin at double the word count or more, and then the work of shaving everything down as much as possible set in. I’m very happy with how it all ended up: we expanded the original word count, for example, on the 12 biblical period essays; this way we kept the concision, but without sacrificing essential content.
We also didn’t want to presume prior knowledge, which means everything is explained. Sometimes it’s easier to write for fellow scholars than for the novice because you can assume a lot of verbiage; we tried to avoid that at every turn, so anybody could follow along.
The goal from the beginning was to produce a Bible that was orthodox and competent at the scholarly level, yet accessible to beginners — and clearly written by believing Catholic scholars. Unfortunately, some study Bibles have footnotes that can do more harm than good.
What part of the project were you most surprised by?
I can’t believe how well the project came together. Previously, I had never met Mary Healy, Peter Williamson, or Jeff Cavins. We had great collegiality; I really enjoyed working with them. Mary is on a pontifical translation committee and the two of them are the general editors of the Catholic Commentary on Scripture series — and they have both written commentaries in this series as well. And of course, Jeff is a very popular Bible speaker and teacher. It was a great team to be a part of.
What are your hopes for this Bible?
Well, the publisher is extremely enthusiastic about this Bible. In the first press release, they described it as “the most important product we have ever produced” — which is saying a lot, since Ascension has produced a number of high-quality and very impactful books and DVD series, such as Chosen.
They have tens of thousands of people — more like a couple hundred thousand — across the country already in their Bible Timeline Bible Studies which use the approach Jeff Cavins developed. This Bible is based on that approach, so I think it’s a natural step for those already involved in Ascension’s Bible Studies to turn to this Bible.
And the translation is the RSV Second Catholic Edition, which is probably the most popular translation among New Evangelization Catholics. I think the publisher thinks this Bible could easily become the Catholic Bible, at least in the United States.
This Bible will be tremendously valuable for teachers and preachers alike. Often, priests’ Scripture training is woefully inadequate; and then their often at a loss to preach with power and conviction from the biblical text. The tools in this Bible will help rectify this.
I also think it could be very useful in a high school classroom. I plan to use it in my classes at the college level; much of the material within this Bible will take the place of certain texts I would otherwise to use to supplement my classes–not to mention having ready access to all the colorful timelines and maps
How can readers help?
The biggest thing is just to get the word out. There’s no greater advertising than word of mouth and a person’s authentic experience with a given product. I think this Bible will speak for itself when it gets into people’s hands — again, not just on the content level, but also because it is user-friendly and aesthetically appealing.
I feel privileged and blessed to have been a part of it because I think it will prove to be a great blessing for the Church.