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February 12, 2012

Book Review: Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger – Gary Michuta

I bought this book while at the local Catholic trinket shop, I call it that, because even though it has books, it has way more statues, icons and other trinkets than anything else. I mean who really needs 20 choices of bottles to hold Holy water?, but I digress. The title intrigued me, having read Neil Lightfoots book on ‘How we got the Bible’, I never got a good answer on the deuterocanonicals. So I felt like something was missing, as well Lightfoot, whether intentionally or not, makes the Catholic Church sound like an Ogre when it comes to the spread of the Bible in the protestant era.

I started this book a couple of times, but it wasn’t until I started a morning routine of reading someone with Apologetic or Theological content to increase my understanding, did I really dig into it. A couple of comments right out the of gate…

  • The book really needs an introduction, that explains where Michuta is going and how he intends to get there. Without any fanfare the book dives right into the heart of the matter, which threw me a bit.
  • The content needs a good once over by a good editor and proof reader, there are some grammatical issues in various places, and missing words (which bug me when I’m deeply reading something).
  • The content is very good, but the footnotes can get a little out of control, spanning multiple pages, with footnotes that good, they should be part of the books content. Leave the footnotes for shorter items.

That being said, I found Michuta’s arguments to be incredibly well done. The only area that I felt was a little out of place, was the discussion of Luther and how he changed his mind on what was canonical and what was not. It was a good part of the argument, but if you are going to make claims that Luther changed his mind because certain books didn’t fit his theology (which I’ve read before in many other sources), then you really need to devote a whole chapter to Luther and his character. Otherwise you run the risk of leaving the door wide open for Luther apologists to eat away at the foundation of your argument. Because after all, your maligning the character of one of the great hero’s of the reformation, you really do need to spell it out. Tt’s the same with Calvin, I like what he has to say about Calvin, but there really needed to more on who and what Calvin was.

I only mention these things to be clear and honest, I found Michuta’s style and prose to be very enjoyable. And when he got to Jerome, I had to stop and re-read it to make sure I understood where he was headed. I’ve read through selected works of the early fathers, but have not had time yet to do a full on study of all their writings. So I knew of Jerome, but I knew nothing of his theory of ‘Hebrew Verity’. Once Michuta laid that out, I knew where he was headed and how we ended up where we are today, and the book came alive. I looked forward to digging into it each morning.

While this is definitely a book by a Catholic apologist, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about the bible, it’s creation and why there are so many different versions. The history on the Bible society’s was very enlightening, and filled a number of gaps in that I could never figure out. There was such a radical departure between the late 18th century and what we have today, and it didn’t make any sense, until he explained the role of the bible society’s in shaping the protestant canon.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about the history of the bible, how it fit into the early church and why its so radically different today, from what the Church used for 1500 years. And Mr Michuta gets an extra gold star for being honest and calling out truth above polemics apologetics, even noting that some Catholic apologists make claims that are not fully true.

For me the only kind of apologist I trust anymore are the ones who are not afraid to point out a truth, even if it means that their side takes a hit.

Good book, good read, and a great resource. My only real complaint is that I wish there was a kindle version, so I could more easily look up information and quote from from it as a source.

You can find the book on Amazon at this link: Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger


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