Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She and co-author of the children’s devotional book, Rise Up: Shining in Virtue. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Find her at her blog, Living With Lady Philosophy.
The first thing I noticed when picking up the The Great Adventure Bible was the softness of Alpha Cowhide cover, and secondly how comfortably it sat open in one hand. As I flipped through it the brightly tabbed books of Bible stood out on the thin, but sturdy pages which make the Bible lighter weight and usable. The text of the Word of God in the Revised Standard Version—Second Catholic Edition translation in a serif font is readable and well-spaced with room for small notations in the margins. I personally prefer the visual experience of reading a font with serifs to those without. The RSV-SCE translation is based closely on the original languages of the texts of Scripture, which is helpful for those of us who do not have the time or skill to learn the biblical languages.
So far this sounds like the pretty standard Catholic Bible, but Jeff Cavins, Mary Healy, Peter Williamson and Andrew Swafford have brilliantly created supplemental material that makes the history of the events of salvation history super accessible. This is the kind of book in which it is a really good idea to read the forward and introduction. They explain how to use the tools given in the Bible as well as give a 90-day reading plan to help one grasp the historical context of the books of the Bible. Other articles at the beginning explain how we as Catholics should interpret Scripture and how to prayerfully read it with lectio divina.
I think the most useful and accessible part of this Bible is how the books of Scripture are color-coded into twelve key periods of history to help the reader keep straight which supplemental book goes with which narrative book. For example, while the Psalms are in a completely different part of the Old Testament than 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, the purple shading around the name of each of the books shows me that the Psalms were written in the time period that the events the historical books took place. The colors also finally help me keep straight which prophetic book goes with which historical book.
Along with the color-coding, there is an essay summarizing the events of each period as well as theological significance of key events at the beginning of each period in the Bible. These essays give one a chance to grasp the overall picture of the books of the period before diving into read them, which makes them more historically understandable. Along with the essays are timeline charts that show Biblical history in context with world history, supplemental books of the Bible, and major events in Scripture.
Another feature of this Bible is the essays on each of the six covenants God made with humanity starting with Adam and Eve and moving up through salvation history to the New Covenant made by Christ with the Church. When I first studied scripture in college I found that the covenantal structure of salvation history made clear a lot of what went on in Scripture, but in addition to my reason it spoke to my heart as well. I saw that God had a plan all along, and I saw the importance of following his commands and trusting in his promises even when it looks like everything is going wrong.
Other neat features of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible include 70 call-outs throughout the text of Scripture focusing on key events, helpful charts for grasping context, the words of Jesus printed in red, and 16 maps created with the help of Rev. Sebastian Carnazzo to give readers a helpful visual. The maps include things like the journey of Abraham in the book of Genesis, the Exodus, the tribal and kingdom divisions, the various empires, the time of Jesus, and St. Paul’s missionary journeys.
I think that this Bible would be a great gift for a teenager or adult who is eager to have a deeper understanding of Scripture. In fact, I am hoping to incorporate it into my children’s homeschooling when they are ready to study scripture independently. I could see myself giving it as a Confirmation gift. Personally, I have already been using this Bible for prayer, study, and research. It is a great tool for understanding Scripture more deeply by itself, and when paired with The Great Adventure Bible Study curriculum or other Bible study one could have an even greater understanding.