I’m a big fan of Jeff Cavins’s fantastic Bible Timeline materials, so I was very excited to learn of Ascension Press’s release of the Great Adventure Catholic Bible which incorporated them into a single volume. I posted the ad all over social media, and was one of the first to order one.
It arrived today, and I thought I’d let you in on my thoughts in case you are hesitant about dropping the hefty $60.00 Ascension is asking for it.
The cover is nice and the Bible has a good feel overall – sturdy but not fancy (so far they are all blue). My first thought was that it was smaller than I expected. Study Bibles are sometimes rather large, to accommodate all the extra-biblical features. For reasons I quickly discovered, the GACB is about the same size as most non-study Bibles.
I must admit that my initial flip-through was rather disappointing. It was difficult to tell there was anything special about this Bible. Indeed, with almost no notes or cross-references on most pages, it looked like a rather typical Bible. The font size was good, though, and the clean two-column layout makes it very readable. In the New Testament, Jesus’ words are highlighted by red lettering.
Ascnsion’s ads said the GACB had “WIDER margins for note-taking” but they unremarkable in size (maybe 5 or 6 typed characters would fit in the space using the Bible’s own font). Here are the GACB , Didache Study Bible, and Catholic Study Bible lined up for comparison:
Another questionable advertising claim for the GACB is its “tab” system which is simply printed in the page margins. The color-coding follows the Bible Timeline system, and those familiar with it will appreciate the at-a-glance element this adds to the Bible’s side view. However, these labels do not stick out, nor are they carved into the pages – so I am not sure how this counts as a “thumb index” (perhaps Ascension did not want to create competition for its Great Adventure Catholic Bible Indexing Tabs).
The GACB begins with standard front matter such as a simple presentation page and sacrament record, publisher and translation (RSV!!!) information, table of contents etc. It includes a summary of Bible interpretation and Lectio Divina with a Bible reading plan.
Then we come to the truly unique components of this Bible. First, there is a very brief overview of the Bible Timeline explaining the color codes:
Then there is an index of the “70 Key Events”. These are called out throughout the text with little GPS symbols like so:
After this, the Bible proper begins. Each of the Bible Timeline major sections begins with its own introduction including its panel from the Bible Timeline foldout.
Each book in the Bible has its place in the Timeline indicated at the top by a color-coded arrow and the section’s title.
There are a few maps in the back and that….is it. Unlike many Bibles today, the GACB has no index, dictionary, or concordance in the back.
Is the Great Adventure Catholic Bible really “the only Bible you will ever need” as the publisher claims? Naturally, that will depend on what one expects from a Bible.
For those who want a nice, clean reading experience, the GACB is fine – but it is fine for the same reason that many average Bibles are fine. (Lack of features equals lack of distractions!)
The Great Adventure Catholic Bible probably cannot compete with the top Catholic Study Bibles on the market. However, it does not appear that the GACB was meant to be seen as a “study Bible” in the first place (at least not in the same sense as those advertising themselves as such).* Perhaps it is best to think of the as simply an addition to the other Great Adventure/Bible Timeline resources. In that sense, it is certainly unique.
Super fans may see the GACB as a “game changer” – but for my money, I’d rather just stick my Bible Timeline materials into my favorite study Bible.
*What constitutes a “study Bible” is also up for personal judgment. One of my very favorites is the Inductive Study Bible which has even fewer features than the GACB ! What it does have is lots of room to write and no notes (or even headings!) to prejudice one’s reading of the text.