The YOUCAT Bible: A Fresh Overview of the Word of God

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 01, 2017

The YOUCAT Foundation has published another outstanding reference for Catholic young people. Having released question-and-answer versions of both the Catechism (2011) and Catholic social teaching (2016), the Foundation has now issued what it calls the “youth Bible of the Catholic Church.” For an introduction to YOUCAT’s work (the Foundation’s name is short for “youth catechism”), see my review from last September, “YOUCAT and DOCAT: Catholic teaching for teens and young adults”.

The Foundation is a subsidiary of the International Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which took up the challenge of making official Catholic resources more accessible to teens after it was seen that the Catechism was too dense for that age group. YOUCAT’s materials are published around the world in many languages. Problems have slipped in—and have been corrected—in some countries, but in the United States, the publishing work is handled primarily by the very reliable Ignatius Press.

So now we have the new and very attractively published Bible, which is properly subtitled “An introduction to the Bible with selected biblical texts”. In other words, this is not a complete Bible. Instead, it consists of extracts from each book with introductions, marginal commentary, inset photos of relevant artifacts and works of art, relevant quotations, and prayers. The Biblical text is drawn from the outstanding second edition of the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.

As you might imagine, far more is omitted from the Old Testament than the New. In rough figures, the Old Testament is really nearly four times the length of the New Testament, but in these excerpts it is just 1.5 times as long. The emphasis throughout is placed on the more obvious aspects of salvation history, and repetitive elements are omitted. A simple example would be that very little of Mark’s Gospel is included in comparison with Matthew’s, since the two texts cover much of the same material. Obviously slight differences can be very revealing—as can extensive ritual passages and genealogies in the Old Testament—but for this project the principles of selection make good sense.

When I was a teenager, I tended to be insulted by materials designed for “youth”. I probably would have preferred to read the entire text. But in reality I did not do so until my freshman year of college. I don’t know if I am still an intellectual snob, but I doubt that someone who began writing about Catholicism at age eighteen, and has kept it up for 50 years, can be considered a typical case. As I browsed through the YOUCAT Bible, it became increasingly clear to me that the editors had done an excellent job.

Nonetheless, were I to give this book to anyone, I would include along with it a copy of the entire RSV-CE (also available from Ignatius Press). The combined price would still be an affordable way to introduce someone to Sacred Scripture. Moreover, the YOUCAT Bible can be a useful addition to any Catholic’s collection. With its instructions for use and excellent indices of names, subjects and Scripture passages, it should prove useful not only to young people but to anyone who is not yet an expert in Biblical studies.

There are different ways to read any text. Indeed, complex texts demand multiple readings with varying emphases. One of the right ways for you to review Sacred Scripture might be to take advantage of the birds-eye view provided by YOUCAT. This is not supposed to be a “short cut”, but a way of getting oriented and discovering multiple points of personal inspiration along the way.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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