Bible is ‘key to evangelization’ and soul of theology, says Bishop Barron

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishop Robert E. Barron is convinced “the Bible is the key to evangelization.”

“That’s the soul of theology. It’s where we started,” he said, noting that the Second Vatican Council really brought “the Bible to the fore” for Catholics. “But I always felt we’ve not realized that Vatican II vision of revitalizing the Bible.”

The Catholic Church is “not a philosophy or a kind of self-help program,” Bishop Barron added. “We’re based upon God’s revelation to us. And that’s the Bible.”

Vatican II recommended that “easy access to sacred Scripture be provided to the Christian faithful” (“Dei Verbum”) and that a “warm and living love for Scripture” be encouraged (“Sacrosanctum Concilium.”)

A former auxiliary of Los Angeles who now heads the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Bishop Barron spoke to Catholic News Service about the Word on Fire Catholic Ministries’ Bible project, which will be a seven-volume series when completed.

He is the founder of Word on Fire, a global apostolate that uses digital and traditional media to introduce Catholicism to the broader world.

Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minn., is seen speaking at the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore in this June 11, 2019, file photo. Bishop Barron is the founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

There are 300,000 copies of the Bible project’s first two volumes already in circulation. The first volume includes the four Gospels, and the second volume includes the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of the New Testament and the Book of Revelation.

The Word on Fire Bible “is transforming the way people read, understand and pray with the word of God,” said a recent announcement on the launch of a donor campaign to produce the third volume.

The upcoming volume will feature the first five books of the Old Testament, commonly called the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

There are “tons of study Bibles out there,” which are “full of all kinds of good information,” Bishop Barron acknowledged. But many have “super small print and lots of thick footnotes” and are “probably hard to read, especially for someone who is unacquainted with the Bible.”

The volumes of the Word on Fire Bible use high quality paper and aim to offer more to readers by juxtaposing scriptural text with scholarly commentary from Bishop Barron, the Fathers of the Church, saints, mystics, theologians, scholars throughout history and contemporary Catholic figures. The books also have ample religious art.

Bishop Barron said this format draws more readers in — including, he hopes, one “target audience” in particular — the “nones,” those who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated.

“We tried to imagine someone who’s had very little experience with the Bible” and would find it “so off-putting” to open up a Bible with tiny print, footnotes and double column type on thin paper, he explained.

“So we wanted to do something that would be very inviting, especially to someone unacquainted with the Bible,” he said. “So everything we did was designed to be more attractive and to draw that person in. So that was the inspiration behind it.”

This is a page from one volume of the Word on Fire Catholic Ministries’ Bible project, which will be a seven-volume series when completed. The volumes juxtapose scriptural text with scholarly commentary and religious artwork. (CNS photo/courtesy Word on Fire Catholic Ministries)

“The beautiful” is “going to lead you to the true and the good,” so “we want the book itself to be something beautiful,” Bishop Barron told CNS in an interview during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

“This book is a holistic experience that’s meant to appeal to your eyes, to your imagination, to your mind. It’s, I think, by its very nature meditative,” he said.

The third volume will showcase over 50 works of art. Its dozens of commentaries will include perspectives from Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement; St. Ephrem the Syrian, one of the first to introduce song into the church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful; St. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine abbess and mystic; and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Benedictine abbot who also was a mystic.

The Bible project is funded by donors. For each level of giving, ranging from $50 to $5,000, the donor receives a thank-you gift or gifts, which can be an art print or an art print and a paperback, hardcover or leather-bound copy of the Bible volumes. The combination depends on the amount contributed.

Reserved copies of the third volume will be available next summer.

The leather-bound, hardcover and paperback editions are printed in Vincenza, Italy, by Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto.

Note: More information about the Word on Fire Bible project can be found at

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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