Thursday, July 2, 2009

Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn

INK Ancient forms of ink were made from wood, ivory, or other materials burned to create carbon that was then suspended in a gum or glue solution. Ink is mentioned specifically only in Jer 36:18; 2 Cor 3:3; 2 John 12; and 3 John 13.
I don't know about you, but flipping across this reference had me going to my Bible to find these ink references. This one small entry contains not only Biblical references but archeological information that sent me mentally back to those long ago days. I had never thought about ink, imagined what it would take to make it, or pictured those scribes refilling their supplies. Until I read that entry by chance while looking for something else.

Such is the power of a good reference book. We all know the enjoyable pursuit of idly following one reference to another, having our eye caught and then beginning on a new trail. These days with search engines we find those habits almost lost. However, this Biblical dictionary has been both informing me and provoking thought about faith and the word of God. As well, it has been a valuable reference. I learned all about Ezekiel (and his book) in preparing for attending scripture study on the readings for next Sunday's Mass. I looked into the excellent entry on the Ten Commandments for something I was writing for our church bulletin, as well as delving into the issue of covenant in a related set of writings. This has proven to be an invaluable resource in merely one week of having it in my hands.

There are over 5,000 entries which include key information about books of the Bible, archaeological information, language and imagery, ancient civilizations, sociological info about Biblical life and times, people and places, Church teachings and theology, and detailed maps. Information about books of the Bible always include thorough coverage of an overview, authorship and date, contents, and purpose and themes. These entries may cover many pages but are always clear and easy to understand, within the context of how difficult the subject matter may be.

The layout is easy to read and follow. There are clear sets of subheads to help follow the reasoning presented as well as make it easy to find a particular topic within each entry. The cross-indexing is excellent. I have never failed to find something I was looking for. The scriptural references, as one would expect, are thorough. It is easy to track the reasoning for the entries through the Bible and the Catechism. As well, the book itself is handsome. The jacket image is actually printed on the hardback cover, which impressed me. This is a book that is designed to last and be useful.

In short, this is an impressive reference designed for frequent, easy use. I highly recommend it.

I will leave you with another short entry. Notice how much information is packed into it while still keeping it easy to understand. Especially take note of the last sentence which provides us with good food for thought in considering Jesus' sacrificial role.
HYSSOP A plant noted for its dense leaves and its habit of grown on walls (1 Kgs 4:33; cf. Lev 14:6; Num 19:6; Heb 9:19). Scholars believe that the hyssop in Scripture was the herb we call marjoram. hyssop was used especially in liturgical rites for sprinkling the blood of the Passover on the doorposts in Egypt (Exod 12:21-22; cf Num 19:18; Heb 9:19). Hyssop was used also in the purification of lepers (Lev 14;4-6) and the house of a leper (Lev 14:49-52). John (John 19:29; cf. Matt 27:48; Mark 15:36) makes mention of a branch of hyssop used to offer Jesus a sponge soaked in vinegar. This is probably an allusion to the use of hyssop in the Passover, dipped in the blood of the Paschal lamb.

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