Encountering Christ in Scripture — Word on Fire Bible: Vol. II

REVIEW: New edition will help readers invite others to know, love and follow Jesus Christ together.

Catholic laity and clergy alike will benefit from the latest volume that covers the rest of the New Testament following the Gospels.
Catholic laity and clergy alike will benefit from the latest volume that covers the rest of the New Testament following the Gospels. (photo: Courtesy of Word on Fire)

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” as St. Jerome said, and the hope for any Eucharistic renewal among Catholics in the U.S. depends squarely on them knowing Jesus Christ in the word so they can recognize the Lord truly present in the sacrament. With the Word on Fire Bible, Catholics at the ground level of evangelization now have an excellent tool to expand their knowledge with 2,000 years of Catholic reflection on the faith. 

The Word on Fire Bible takes the right approach to learning the Bible by starting first with the New Testament. As Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, the founder of Word on Fire Ministries, beautifully explains: 

“Jesus alone truly explains the meaning of the Bible.” 

If you want to understand the Bible, God’s word contained in the Old and New Testaments, you start with Jesus, the perfect revelation of God to humanity.

The Word on Fire Bible (Vol. II): Acts, Letters, and Revelation continues from the Gospels covered in Vol. I and takes the reader through the rest of the New Testament from the Acts of the Apostles to the Book of Revelation. Each book contains commentaries accompanying the Scripture, including from the earliest Christians up to Catholics in the modern era, as well as reflections written by Bishop Barron. The volume also boasts beautiful art that provides a visual reflection on passages of Scripture.

The commentaries of the Word on Fire Bible focus critically on these two most important questions: Who is God, and who is Jesus Christ? This gets at the heart of the most important knowledge for a Catholic: knowing Jesus Christ personally as Lord, Savior, Friend, Brother and literally as “God with Us” (Emmanuel). 

The Word on Fire Bible includes Church Fathers, such as Sts. Augustine and John Chrysostom, alongside modern saints’ voices, such as Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux and Pope John Paul II, to name a few. The chorus of voices brought together for commentary unite in their vital concern with knowing and following Jesus in obedience to his word, which is the heart of discipleship. And they do not tiptoe around our need to make Christ the pattern of our life. St. Basil’s commentary for Acts 4:32-35 includes this blunt teaching: “You are thus guilty of injustice toward as many as you might have aided and did not.” 

The commentary also includes key teachings from the Second Vatican Council. Romans Chapters 9-11, where St. Paul demands respect for the Jewish community from non-Jewish Christians and teaches on the enduring mission of the Jewish people, is beautifully accompanied by Vatican II’s teaching on the dignity of the Jewish people and condemnation of anti-Semitism in Nostra Aetate, the Council’s declaration of the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. 

And the Bible equips Catholics to dialogue intelligently with Protestant Christians. The Romans 10 commentary from St. John Paul II, for example, discusses what it means that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


Journey With Jesus

Bishop Barron himself in his reflections excels as a teacher who has internalized that authentic theology must spring from discipleship. He speaks directly to readers in his biblical commentaries as one disciple to another, or as a disciple who invites others to come alongside and join him on that same journey with Jesus Christ. 

The Word on Fire Bible also includes visual commentary, beautiful art with written commentary by Word on Fire artist Michael Stevens on related sacred Scripture. These sections are called the Via Pulchritudinis (meaning “Way of Beauty”) and are spiritually insightful.

The Word on Fire Bible brings forward the Bible in a fresh, engaging and informative way. The presentation conveys the word of God is a treasure and one to be shared.

One of the many virtues of the Word on Fire Bible is that the commentaries keep on pace with Scripture. When the Bible includes a St. John Chrysostom homily in reference to James 1:27, for example, on “pure religion,” the commentary starts on the page where the verse is referenced.

The Word on Fire Bible does have an internal tension between providing the biblical text, which allows a person to enter into intimate conversation with Holy Scripture, and the desire to provide spiritual commentary to guide reading. The commentaries flow beautifully when the Scripture maintains its place as the centerpiece on the page. At various intervals in the Word on Fire Bible, a reader may also find that the number of commentaries on the page crowds out the Scripture, making the thread of the biblical text difficult to follow.


For Disciples, Domestic Church

That small caveat aside, the Word on Fire Bible is a great asset to developing biblically literate Catholics where it counts the most: the family, the domestic church. Catholic parents going through the Word on Fire Bible with their children can write down and highlight for memorization key biblical verses that are excerpted with a full page, such as this one: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This is an empowering feature, especially because parents need to introduce their children to Jesus through the word. In this way, they can learn together. 

The Word on Fire Bible provides a highly readable modern translation of Holy Scripture, the New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition. It is a literal translation, with modern scholarship, that opts for gender-inclusive translation (“brothers and sisters” instead of “brethren”) when that is the intended meaning. 

The Word on Fire Bible aims to help reach those with no faith affiliation or faith, sometimes referred to as the “Nones.” This Bible will help Catholics share the faith credibly with someone from that background who is open. If that person were sincerely looking for a Bible that could help them credibly engage with its contents, then the Word on Fire Bible would be a good gift. 

For the clergy who have to prepare homilies week in and week out, the commentaries include clear references to the biblical text and can be a source of inspiration for preaching to move one’s flock toward greater discipleship of Jesus.

Lay Catholics will find the Word on Fire Bible a great aid to discipleship and helping others follow Jesus as disciples, whether by leading a Bible study, sharing the Gospel with one’s family — the domestic church — or deepening one’s own knowledge and love of Jesus through personal reading. 

Overall, the Word on Fire Bible (Vol. II): Acts, Letters, and Revelation will intelligently engage readers in the faith, warmly invite the faithful and the curious to go deeper into an encounter with Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, aided by 2,000 years of fellow Catholics reflecting on these same passages. Most importantly, it will help readers invite others to know, love and follow Jesus Christ together. 



(Vol. II): Acts, Letters, and Revelation

Bishop Robert Barron

Word on Fire Ministries, 2022

841 pages 

Leather: $69.95

Hardcover: $39.95

Softcover: $29.95

To order: WordonFire.org 


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