COME AND SEE. CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY: THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. By Joseph Ponessa and Laurie Watson Manhardt (Emmaus Road Publishing, 827 North Fourth St., Steubenville, Ohio 43952, 2004), 202 pp. PB $19.95.
There are many Protestant Bible study programs but not very many Catholic ones. So it is encouraging to find a new Catholic Bible study series of books that Catholics can use without wondering whether or not what they are studying is in accordance with Catholic doctrine.
The “Come and See” series by Fr. Joseph Ponessa and Mrs. Laurie Watson Manhardt has been published in order to fill the gap in the study of the Bible for Catholics who want to learn more about the Bible. Previous volumes cover the Book of Genesis, the Prophets and the Apostles.
The purpose of these books is to assist small groups of Catholics who want to meet on a weekly basis to read and study the Bible with relatives and friends. The authors suggest a group of twelve persons, which is the number of Apostles that Jesus gathered around himself for instruction and formation.
In the Introduction the authors explain how to organize a Bible study group. They insist that each participant should have his or her own Catholic Bible and also a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There are detailed directions on how to conduct the weekly meetings. They suggest adding prayer, some singing of a hymn, and a social dimension in addition to the reading and studying of the Bible.
This volume on St. John’s Gospel has twenty-one chapters and an Appendix. Each chapter covers one chapter in the Gospel of St. John. The authors explain one or two main ideas contained in the chapter. A valuable aspect for Catholics is that the material in each chapter is related to some point of Catholic doctrine and morals. This means that the teaching of the Gospel is always related to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. This is something that definitely will not be found in Protestant Bible study programs. Participants are directed to look up various points in the Catechism in the study questions in each chapter.
There is abundant space in each chapter for the student to write down his or her reflections on the revealed word of God. When the group comes together for a meeting each person is urged to share with the others his reflections on the Gospel of St. John.
In Chapter 21 you will find a useful list of all the popes from St. Peter to the successor of John Paul II—265 in all. The Appendix offers the text of the important letter by Pope Paul VI on human life, Humanae Vitae.
Catholics need to understand that the Bible is not a Protestant book. The Old Testament was produced by Israel, and the New Testament was produced by the Catholic Church and handed down to us. Catholics should be outstanding in their knowledge of the Bible, not just as a weapon of apologetics, but in order to know and to relish God’s holy word, which has been handed down to us in the Sacred Scriptures. The “Come and See” series of study guides on the Bible will help thousands of Catholic men and women come to a deeper appreciation of their faith.
Kenneth Baker, S.J.