A 'Just Right' Guide to the 'Christmas' Gospel


With introduction, commentary and notes by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, and with study questions by Dennis Walters

Ignatius Press, 2001

82 pages, $9.95

To order: (800) 651–1531 or www.ignatius.com

Many Scripture commentaries in recent years have erred by being too technical. Some are more concerned with theories about the documents than with the truths that the Gospels convey. At the other extreme, some go too far in their efforts to be “relevant,” giving such a narrow, ideological reading that they quickly become dated.

The commentary on the Gospel of Luke which forms a part of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is “just right.” Commentator Scott Hahn brings to his work not only a great love for Scripture and a wealth of knowledge, but also the unusual perspective of a former Protestant preacher who now stands in the Catholic tradition of interpreting Sacred Scripture. The result is the best of both worlds: a rich and thoughtful commentary that guides the reader to experience the Gospel as a “living and active” Word.

Every page is packed with valuable, carefully selected information. The top half is devoted to the text of Luke's Gospel, in the Revised Standard Version (Second Catholic Edition). A narrow band along the middle lists Scriptural cross-references. The lower half of the page is filled with annotations in telephone-book type, tiny but legible. Occasional boxes with maps, word studies, charts or topical essays add considerable depth and perspective to the treatment.

The crisp, clear format is matched by the style of the commentary: “Zechariah and Elizabeth live in faithful observance of the Old Covenant (Deut 6:25; Is 48:18). … Mystically (St. Bede, In Lucam), Zechariah and Elizabeth represent the priesthood and Law of the Old Covenant. Both were righteous, as the priest-hood was holy and the Law was good, but together they were unable to bear children for God or bring forth the grace of Christ. The couple thus signifies the aging Old Covenant awaiting the blessings of the New.”

Hahn and Mitch frequently highlight connections between the Old and New Testaments, pointing out the fulfillment of prophecies and also echoes of older biblical books. They demonstrate that Mary is like the Ark of the Covenant and that Jesus' trial was similar to Jeremiah's — not because some clever scholar drew these parallels, but because the Gospel writer intended them as part of his message.

Concisely but thoroughly, Hahn and Mitch also relate Gospel passages to the Church's liturgy and teachings, often referring to the Catechism and other magisterial documents. This comprehensive approach acknowledges that Scripture is divinely inspired and inerrant, and that the truths of the faith form an organic whole.

The study questions at the back of the booklet are of two sorts. The questions “for understanding” quiz the reader on the commentary rather than on the Gospel text itself. (Still, it's worth reviewing lessons learned from such fine Scripture professors.) The questions “for application” are quite personal and often refreshingly blunt: “What does Simon's mother-in-law do when Jesus heals her? How has Jesus' grace in your life influenced your social behavior?”

The study helps which have been so meticulously compiled for this commentary on Luke's Gospel open up marvelous vistas onto this world and the next. The volume is one of a projected series of Scriptural commentaries. It deserves wide circulation and careful, meditative reading.

And, with St. Luke's detailed descriptions of the Annunciation, Visitation and Birth of Christ, it will make for an ideal stocking-stuffer.

Michael J. Miller writes from Glenside, Pennsylvania.