Like a lot of people who do what I do, I have my share of Bibles.
There’s the Good News for Modern Man — a paperback New Testament from the 1970s, with stick figure drawings — that I still treasure from grade school. There’s the New American Bible with its bright red cover that I received from my bishop when I began candidacy for the diaconate on the Feast of St. Jerome in 2003. There’s the Catholic Study Bible, which is packed with footnotes and history. And there’s a tattered edition of the King James Bible that belonged to my mother, with her name stamped in gold on the faux leather cover and the words of Jesus printed, of course, in red.
But then there’s a Bible that is really in a class all its own: The Word on Fire Bible.
I was impressed when the first volume of this ambitious project was published almost two years ago, with the four Gospels encased in a beautiful, fragrant leather cover, accompanied by stunningly reproduced art and elegantly written essays. As I noted then:
You’ll cherish it for a lot of reasons, above and beyond the extraordinary craftsmanship — the gilt-edged pages, hefty paper, gorgeous typesetting (complete with a font “Angelico,” which the publishers tell us was “drawn especially for this Bible.”) You’ll cherish it because this is that rarity today: a thoughtfully produced, written and designed book that is meant to be held, touched, absorbed, revisited. It’s not a product of pixels and laser screens. It’s a work of love, made by people who love books, real books, and who love this singular book in particular, the Word of God.
People might have justifiably wondered: is this a fluke? Can they sustain this kind of quality for more volumes, across years of planning and production?
Based on the second volume, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” This book is a stunner.
Comprised of Acts, Letters and Revelation, Volume II follows the template of the Gospels volume, with exquisite art, essays, analysis and cultural context. More than once as I was leafing through it, I found myself blinking as my lips formed a silent but awestruck “Wow.”
So I’ll say it here out loud: Wow.
It’s all here. There’s the Biblical text, of course. And then there’s so much more. You’ll find commentary by, among others, Origen, St. John Henry Newman, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Benedict, and Fulton Sheen. There are introductions from the likes of Andrew Petiprin and Dr. Jennifer Frey. And there is, of course, the insight and wisdom of Bishop Robert Barron, who at one point writes about the question, “Is the resurrection a myth?” with this answer:
We read this: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” There were no missionaries of Hercules; there were no martyrs to the cause of Osiris; no one gave his life to defend the teaching of Luke Skywalker. But there were hundreds of missionaries of the risen christ and hundreds of martyrs, including the person who spoke those very words. IN fact, you can visit the tomb of that man who ate and drank with the risen Jesus. It is in Rome, marked by the most beautiful gravestone in the world.
I repeat what I said two years ago: this is a trove of homily ideas, and a wonderful resource for teachers and preachers, priests and deacons, and anyone who just loves God’s Word. It would make a beautiful gift for a clergy member — or just for yourself! — and deserves a treasured place in any home where the Bible is read, re-read, cherished and lived.
You might not find yourself tossing it into in a shoulder bag to read on the subway, like The Good News for Modern Man (among other things, The Word on Fire edition is heavy) and it’s not intended to be a quick and inexpensive reference book in your library, like the New American Bible or the Catholic Study Bible. This is something to read carefully and thoughtfully — and, just maybe, pass on to your children.
Check it out. You can thank me later. Visit this link for more on this remarkable project. There are five more volumes still to come, including The Pentateuch in 2023.
Worth noting: it comes in three editions, from leather (at a hefty $69.95, perfect for gifting) to paperback (at $29.95, a bargain).
Still curious for more? The Happy Priest, Fr. Casey Stinson, offers a video tour below.