Friday, July 24, 2015

Letters to the Romans and Galatians and Letters to the Corinthians (Liguori Publications)

Today, I am reviewing another two volumes from the Liguori Catholic Bible Study series. There are 21 volumes in this series (if I counted correctly), and all of the books are written by Fr. William A. Anderson. Fr. Anderson, like many Bible study leaders, places a great emphasis on Lectio Divina. The two volumes, which I am reviewing today are Letters to the Romans and Galatians and Letters to the Corinthians.

If you are going to do a study of Pauline Epistles, I'd recommend starting with Letters to the Romans and Galatians. The reasoning for this is because Romans is arguably one of St. Paul's most important works and Galatians is one of his earliest works. Both these epistles also share a common theme of "assimilating the Old and New Covenants." What this means is that the Church was no longer completely made up of former Jews, but instead was now a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Because of their different backgrounds, there were conflicts and arguments that had to be resolved. Thus, Paul and his epistles helped to mediate these clashes, so that the communities would not be divided.

The book begins with an introduction on Paul and the two Biblical books. Fr. Anderson clarifies authorship on the Pauline Epistles, and he also tells us which ones it is accepted that Paul wrote and which ones that Paul's disciples probably wrote. After this. there are seven lessons total in this book, with five devoted to Romans and the remaining two devoted to Galatians. They are as follows:

1. The Righteousness of God
2. Justification Through Faith
3. Justification and Christian Life
4. Jews and Gentiles in God's Plan
5. The Duties of Christians
6. Loyalty to the Gospel
7. Freedom for God's Children

Each chapter includes study questions, guided Lectio Divina, and of course commentary on the passages you are reading. The lessons on justification are vitally important for understanding our Christianity and our Catholicism, but Lesson 5: The Duties of Christians is important for everyone to read. Fr. Martin tells us that we must be living sacrifices, practice love for all, and live and die for Christ. There are certainly other duties of Christians, but the ones in Romans are essential. If you are looking for a beginning guide to St. Paul's Epistles, in small group or alone, then I recommend starting here.

After reading through Letters to the Romans and Galatians, I recommend moving on to Letters to the Corinthians. In the introduction to this volume, Fr. Anderson provides a bit more information on the man who was Paul. He also clues us in on the Corinthian audience to whom Paul was writing, when and where Paul wrote the letters, and brief outlines of both letters to the Corinthians. This Bible Study volume also has seven lessons, which seems to be Fr. Anderson's preferred length for a study. It's long enough to educate you, but short enough that you won't feel like you have to dedicate the rest of your year to it. It also means you can knock out four a year with plenty of time for rest in between studies or a weekly postponement here or there when life happens. There are four lessons for 1 Corinthians and the remaining three are for 2 Corinthians, and the titles are as follows:

1. Condemnation of Disorders
2. Temples of the Holy Spirit
3. Offerings to Idols
4. Spiritual Gifts
5. Ministers of the New Covenant
6. An Acceptable Time
7. Boasting in the Lord

Chapters 12 through 14 of 1 Corinthians are some of the most well known verses in the two books to the Corinthians. St. Paul firstly talks about spiritual gifts, what the different kinds are, and how not everyone has the same gift. After talking about all these amazing gifts, St. Paul then goes on to explain how worthless they are if one is lacking in love. Fr. Anderson's commentary on these three chapters was spot on, as he made sure to emphasize at the end that we must not become overconfident with our gifts, lest we fall to ruin. The lesson I found most interesting was Lesson 7: Boasting in the Lord. This phrase sounds odd, because Christians are called to be humble, but St. Paul talks about boasting in the Lord. Paul boasted about the sufferings he encountered, the visions he had, etc. However, St. Paul kept things in perspective and acknowledged that God was responsible for everything and not Paul at all. I enjoyed this Bible study, primarily because it enlightened me on two of St. Paul's epistles that often get overlooked, except for the wedding reading of "Love is patient. Love is kind." If you would like to understand these epistles better, then I highly recommend this book by Fr. William A. Anderson.

These books were provided to me for free by Liguori Publications in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!