Book Notes: 3 Guides to the Gospels

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With the New Year past, many of us have made resolutions. Most of the time these resolutions are health related. We want to eat better. We want to exercise more. We want to lose X pounds. However, how often do we focus on setting spiritual goals? A good one I always recommend is reading more Scripture. Since this is Year A in the Church’s liturgical calendar, it seems appropriate that the first books I talk about are on the Gospel of Matthew.

Behold the Christ

Behold the Christ is written by Dr. Leroy A. Huizenga, one of the Catholic Church’s great theologians. The book begins with a preface and a couple of chapters which explain why the Gospel of Matthew is significant, why people incorrectly think it’s based on the Gospel of Mark, and the lens through which we should read this Gospel in this day and age. The rest of the book then walks us through a chapter-by-chapter commentary on the Gospel.

In the first chapter of Mathew, Dr. Huizenga focuses on the symbolism and importance of numbers, particularly fourteen in the value of David’s name and the number of generations in each of the three divisions of Jesus’ genealogy. I have read this before, and I have always found it to be fascinating to hear what others have to say on this. He also makes reference to Isaac, Abraham’s son, which will become significant again throughout the Gospel, but primarily in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. There are many more riches to unpack in this book, but I will leave them for you to discover.

Reading through this book, I was impressed by the level of depth on the commentary, but equally impressed on its approachability. The book teaches the faith, but doesn’t dumb it down. Unlike other commentaries, this one does not include the Scripture in the book, so you will need a separate Bible as you read through this book. However, what it does include is a reference to which specific Sunday, feast day, or weekday each passage of Matthew is read during Mass. This comes in handy, because you can either read the commentary in natural written order or in the order the Church reads it. Highly recommended!

God with us

God with Us is written by Dr. Edward Sri with the Foreword by Dr. Scott Hahn. This study on the Gospel of Matthew was originally published nearly 20 years ago under the name Mystery of the Kingdom. It has since been revised and is focusing heavily on Jesus as “our Messiah King, Emmanuel.” The book is divided into fourteen chapters, focusing on different aspects of Christ’s life and ministry. Unlike other studies on Matthew, this one focuses on specific chapters in the Gospel. At the end of every chapter are study questions to help you lead a small group discussion or dive deeper yourself and reflect on what you read.

The chapter that I really enjoyed was called Battle in the Desert, which is a study of Matthew chapter 4. In this chapter Dr. Sri compares Israel’s three tests in the desert to Jesus’ three tests. Their first tests both involved hunger. Their second tests both involved being tempted to put God to the test. Their third tests both involved the worshiping of a false god. Unlike Israel, which failed their tests, Jesus passed His.

If you have read any books by Dr. Hahn or Dr. Sri, this book reads a lot like those in format (chapters with a bunch of subheadings) and tone (familiar and approachable). This makes the book a great resource for newer Catholics or Catholics who are new to studying the Bible. I would recommend reading this book first, and then if you wanted a deeper dive into the Gospel of Matthew, you would read Dr. Huizenga’s book Behold the Christ.

Memoirs of St Peter

The Memoirs of St. Peter was written by Dr. Michael Pakaluk, a professor at the Catholic University of America. This book is a new translation of the Gospel of Mark. The book begins with an introduction that explains the format of this book and commentary and explains why Mark’s words in his Gospel are actually the words and teachings of St. Peter.

The book is then divided into sixteen chapters, one for each chapter in the Gospel of Mark. Each chapter begins with Dr. Pakaluk’s translation of the Gospel. After this, there is a verse-by-verse commentary. Along with the commentary, the specific verse is bolded and rewritten so one doesn’t have to keep flipping back and forth from the translation to the commentary. I am not going to type out a whole chapter, but here is 1:1 from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) first and then Pakalauk’s translation for comparison.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].” – NABRE

“This is how it began, the good news of Jesus, Anointed One of God, Son of God.” -Pakalauk

To me the NABRE sounds a little more formal and liturgical, whereas Pakalauk’s feels like a blend of casual and academic to try and strike a healthy medium. The commentary itself is easy to read and presents a cohesive narrative that gives a clear indication that the author believes these are the words and accounts of St. Peter that he passed onto Mark.

Overall, this was a very interesting read on Mark. I am sucker for new commentaries and translations of Catholic Scripture so I appreciated Dr. Pakalauk’s efforts and insights. If he were to do this with other books of the Bible, I would certainly give those a read as well!

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Copyright 2020 Stuart Dunn
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About Author

Stuart Dunn was born and raised in Mobile, AL and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Alabama. Stuart primarily does accounting and logistics at the Port of Mobile. He married his wife, Mary Katherine, in 2011 and welcomed their first child into the world in 2013. Stuart reviews all things Catholic including adult books, children’s books, Bible Study series, Catholic Courses, CDs, and DVDs in addition to board games at his blog Stuart’s Study at StuartsStudy.blogspot.com.

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