Catholicism and Scripture is one of five books in a series that helps readers understand the intersection of the Catholic Faith with beliefs and actions in all areas of life. (See the review of the rest of the Catholicism and Reason here here.)
Catholicism and Scripture seems to me a very foundational book that could be read by all teens and adults who want to understand the relationship between Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Salvation history is the main theme of the book. While The Great Adventure, Quick Journey through the Bible, and other courses address salvation history, Catholicism and Scripture goes beyond the "story line" of Scripture to provide some of the other critical pieces that help us understand how the story of Scripture underlies the Catholic faith.
The book begins with a Q & A section covering some basics about the origin of the Bible, the different books in Catholic and Protestant Bibles, how to understand the Bible, and practical tips for reading it without getting overwhelmed.
It then begins to explain the story of the Bible in a fashion similar to The Great Adventure and similar sources by summarizing the key books of the Bible in chronological order, relating the key stories and introducing the most important characters. It shows how God's plan of redemption was first given to Adam and Eve, then brought to fulfillment through many generations as God worked through Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so many others up to the birth of the promised Redeemer.
Catholicism and Scripture clearly treats the Bible as a source of real historical information rather than myths. Many of those stories include angels, so an entire chapter is devoted to the topic of angels, explaining their role in Scripture throughout both the Old and New Testaments as well as their role in the future as revealed in the Book of Revelation. We also learn more about the specific archangels Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael. In addition, individual chapters are dedicated to "Bible Heroes and Heroines" and "Villains in the Bible."
One feature of this book that makes it especially helpful is that the authors make connections between Old and New Testaments at important junctures. For example, after covering the Ten Commandments, it compares them with Jesus' teachings in The Sermon on the Mount. Then it also brings in the Precepts of the Church and the Two Great Commandments so we have a greater understanding of God's moral code. Similarly, connections are made between the Passover and Old Testament sacrifices and Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Later in the story, when Samuel anointed Saul as Israel's king, the connection is made to the anointings experienced through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.
When we arrive at the story of Jesus, we encounter the story through the lenses of the mysteries of the Rosary—Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The story concludes with two chapters on the early church, the first focused primarily upon Peter and the second on Paul. At the end of the book are a collection of Catholic prayers in both English and Latin, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.
Ultimately, all of this brings out the key idea that Jesus is at the center of salvation history with everything else pointing or leading to him.
The Leader's/Catechist's Manual for this course is excellent. It provides some specific ideas for teaching the entire course, then offers detailed assistance for each lesson. That assistance includes a statement of the purpose of the lesson, tips for the teacher, topics for discussion, questions and answers with an apologetic flavor that are also great for discussion, project suggestions, and references. Some of the most valuable teaching information in the book is in the tips for the teacher sections of the manual—these sections give teachers more background information than is in the text and often address tough questions likely to arise. In the tips for the chapter addressing Creation and the Fall as well as in some of the questions and answers for that lesson, I was pleased to see that it offers very specific information on what the Church actually teaches (e.g., We cannot believe that there were other human beings besides Adam and Eve from whom people are descended, i.e., polygenism.) In keeping with Church teaching, it doesn't promote a belief in a literal seven-day creation and it doesn't rule out the possibility of some sort of evolution. Yet, it points out troubling aspects of evolution and recommends some of the ideas being presented by the Intelligent Design movement.
Similarly, the topic of church authority (and obedience to it) is treated in the Leader's/Catechist's Manual within the context of the chapter "The Prophets of Exile: Jeremiah and Ezekiel," and the reality of miracles comes up in regard to the story of the loaves and the fishes in the chapter "The Coming of the Messiah."
Catholicism and Scripture is ideal for a group class whether that be teens, adults, homeschoolers, parish faith formation, Confirmation preparation, or any other class that needs to understand salvation history. While a teacher might read the text and present that information through a lecture to a class, it is much better if students read the text, and class time is spent on the discussion questions and maybe some projects suggested in the manual. If the book is used by an individual student, a parent or teacher should still use the manual as a source of ideas for one-on-one discussions. Anyone attempting to lead such a discussion must also read the text unless he or she is already thoroughly familiar with the chapter material. Even then, the leader should read the teaching tips from the manual in preparation for a discussion. If no parent or teacher is available, teens can still read through the text on their own with great benefit. The most significant elements they'll miss are the discussion that pushes their thinking and the apologetics.
Those looking for a magisterium-faithful course in salvation history that ties together other information on the Church, sacraments, and basic apologetics should find this an outstanding option.