If You Could Only Have One Book on a Desert Island... A Review of The Didache Bible

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If you ask many people what one book they would want on a desert island, most of them will answer the Holy Bible. I have to confess, that would not have been the book I would have chosen. Until I found The Didache Bible, that is. One of my personal hangups about reading the Bible independently is that it should be read in light of the teaching of the Magesterium and also the time and place in which it was written. A biblical scholar, I am not.

I’m a busy homeschooling mom with littles.  As much as I would love to do an in-depth Bible study (or any Catholic study, for that matter), this just isn’t the season of life for that kind of thing.  I’ve tried to read the Bible several times and I am just one of those people who needs a bit of context.

The new Didache Bible from Ignatius Press is the holy grail of Bibles for busy Catholics.  It’s a Bible study, plus a catechism and apologetics course all wrapped up with God’s word.  That’s pretty spectacular if you ask me.  The Didache Bible is the only Bible that a busy Catholic needs.

didache bible inside

It’s a nice hardcover, which makes it nice for personal reading.  I personally dislike softcover books that are that thick; it feels more cumbersome to me. The Didache Bible includes two ribbons for marking pages; I presume this is to read the Old & New Testaments concurrently.  The print doesn’t seem to be smaller than normal, yet they were able to add copious footnotes from various Catholic documents and apologetics pages.

The beginning includes an abbreviation list for documents of the Magisterium used in the footnotes, a summary of the content of each book of the bible, chronologies of the Old & New Testaments, and even suggestions of scripture for personal meditation.  In addition to the in-text features, the back includes 20+ maps detailing the Holy Land, major cities, and routes of journeys like Abraham & the Exodus, a glossary, indexes of the apologetics pages both by title and subject, and a subject index.

didache bible apologetics pages

Rather than starting off at the beginning (which I’ve done a dozen times), I decided to start with the Catholic books, those that aren’t in the Protestant Bible.  In particular, I read the book of Judith first.  The first page kind of set the scene for what I was about to read.  It turned out to be a very serendipitous pick because we have been studying ancient history in our homeschool and so the story made a ton of sense.  But not all of it.

The footnotes explaining why something was important or noteworthy were so helpful.  I especially loved how they tied various  things into the Catechism and even included those references, in case you wanted to study further.  There were no apologetics pages within the book of Judith, but it’s a rather short book. When I moved to the book of Wisdom, there were two there.

The biggest reason I love this particular Bible is that it feeds all my love of learning desires.  By reading the Bible, as well as the footnotes and apologetics pages, I not only hear the word of God, but I learn history, geography, & anthropology, become more familiar with the Catechism and learn how to defend my faith.  And I can do it in bite-sized pieces, a chapter at a time.  No extra books, no out of the home commitments, but God’s word full of all its richness, meeting me right where I am.

If you felt called to spend more time with His word this Lent, I suggest you pick up a copy of The Didache Bible. You will learn more in small spurts of time than you ever imagined possible.  You can’t know everything there is to know, but you can get a great foundation.  It’s the single best resource I have found for any busy Catholic, but especially Catholic mothers.

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Copyright 2015, Jen Steed.
Images copyright 2015, Jen Steed.

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2 Comments

  1. Agreed.

    I use it every day when praying the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, so I use one bookmark to keep my place in the cycle of readings, and the other for quick reference to that handy index of apologetic topics at the end.

    As an adult convert who was already an active Christian, I like to point out the reverse appeal to people like me: this isn’t just “the Bible illuminated by the magisterium.” For Biblical Christians, this is “shining the light of Scripture onto Catholic doctrine and the Catechism.” It helps me see the tenets of my faith through the far more familiar light of Biblical texts.

    The choice of the RSV-2CE as the translation was a bit of tactical genius that shouldn’t be overlooked. The Midwest Theological Forum partnered with Ignatius Press to license the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, perhaps the one translation with the most appeal to Catholic Biblical Scholars, Protestants (former and current), and casual readers alike. The RSV, a direct line of descent from the Authorized (i.e. “King James”) Version, was the modern translation of choice in most mainline Protestant churches and academic Biblical studies for much of the last century. It was also the first translation of the original languages in modern English used ecumenically but approved in a Catholic Edition by the Church. It predates both the Jerusalem and New American Bibles. When Ignatius Press issued a Second catholic Edition in 2006 to better reflect the Vatican’s new guidelines for liturgical use, it quickly became the study text of choice for scholars like Scott Hahn who use it as the base text for the excellent Ignatius Bible series. In fact, the RSV is so important to the heritage of the Bible in English that the Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans have been given special permission to use it in the Ordinariate lectionary.

    In short, as a lifelong Protestant, this is the Bible I want now that I’m Catholic. And as a Catholic, it’s the Bible I would quote to Protestants. The Didache Edition does all the apologetic legwork by wrapping this favorite text in easy references to doctrine in the Catechism, showing that Scripture and Tradition together contain a single “Deposit of Faith.”

    Thanks for giving it some online love.

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