Transcript of CS#127: Navarre Bible Commentaries with Kevin Lay

Transcript of Interview with Kevin Lay about The Navarre Bible Commentaries. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

Navarre Bible Commentaries at The Catholic Company.


Chris Cash: Welcome to Catholic Spotlight. This is the Catholic Spotlight, the show where we talk about what’s new, cool and exciting in the Catholic marketplace. I’m your host Chris Cash, director of E-Commerce for, your source for all your Catholic needs.

Today in the Spotlight, we have Kevin Lay. He’s a subject matter enthusiast for – from Scepter publisher. He is going to talk with us today about the Navarre Bible Commentaries and what makes them so special. Welcome, Kevin.

Kevin Lay: Thank you, thank you. Happy to be here.

Chris Cash: Now, Kevin can you tell me just briefly about what is the Navarre Bible?

Kevin Lay: Okay, well, it’s the commentary. It’s basically made up. First of all, you have the – if you look – if you would open up the Navarre, you have a number of introductory articles and such and then, when you get into text itself you have the scriptures, which is of course center. And that the version we use is the RSV-Catholic Edition. And then, beneath that you have a commentary that is basically not the kind of commentary you might encounter if you would go to a library and are looking for a technical commentary. It’s a commentary that’s directed toward living the Christian life. A commentary that’s drawing from the Church fathers, from the saints, from the teaching per se of the church, from the Pope’s and so forth. It’s drawing from the whole of 2000 years of history if you will. And bringing that to bear both in the theological sense of understanding the text as well as the practical sense of how to live the Christian life.

Chris Cash: Now, you know I have opened up and used some Navarre Bibles before and it’s always striking when you open it up and you see maybe a quarter of the page has the text of the – of a few versus on it. And then, see the entire rest of the page covered with the commentary.

Kevin Lay: Yes, yes.

Chris Cash: It’s just – it has so much commentary that it is – could seem overwhelming for some people I think.

Kevin Lay: Well, you know its – it shouldn’t be because it really is directed not to the – you know some kind of technician. I want to use that word theologically, but it’s – you know it’s not a one that goes into the various – you know it will treat some of the meanings of words and so forth. But it doesn’t get lost in the smaller details that a scholar might want to go into. It definitely is directed towards living and to putting the word of God you know in the center of well you know – within ones life, center of course is Christ and basically to put it into action. You know to understand it and to live it. And it does it in a way that’s just not only you know understanding what the text itself means, but it goes into how – see I don’t want to repeat myself here, but its basically it brings it to life in a way that is very practical.

Chris Cash: Oh, I wouldn’t worry about repeating yourself. I repeat myself all the time, so.

Kevin Lay: Well, I’ve been using this – you know the Navarre Bible since I became Catholic in 1989 and a priest, a friend of mine actually first introduced me to it. And I was just amazed that and I started using it and it was – you know first I was kind of an idea of apologetics and such. But really you see it a – it’s a very useful resource to live this Christian life. Maybe we ought to go inside the origins of it too that would maybe *** [04:05].

Chris Cash: Oh, absolutely. First off, I also wanted to touch on the fact that at least in some versions of the Bible or in some of the Bibles, you also see the Latin text.

Kevin Lay: Yes, yes.

Chris Cash: Now, that can be real intimidating to some of us who are not Latin Scholars, which is probably like oh, 99 percent of us right?

Kevin Lay: Well, I have 5 years of Latin and if my Latin professors are listening they would probably cringe it on me saying that. Because I was very – I was probably one of the worst Latin students there was. But yes, its – it shouldn’t be intimidating. It’s actually in a way it even adds to the beauty of the text, because you know you kind of see wow, this is really cool. This is from my own perspective. But you have the RSV, from the RSV-Catholic edition scriptures which is probably one of the best scriptures to use. In a sense of an English translation for the study of sacred scripture, because it’s more literal and it’s actually the text that’s pretty much used in the catechism. They use the RSV. As – and another enthusiast for documents come from the Holy See. At this point, that are translated in English, they basically use the RSV’s is my understanding. But so have the RSV text and then you have the Latin text, which is from the new Latin Vulgate, which is the one that came out I think in 1986 if I remember correctly from the Holy See, it’s the official Latin version of the sacred scriptures called the Latin Vulgate, the new Latin Vulgate rather, and then you have the commentary. So, in fact, all of ‘em – in fact I should add real quickly here. In the current volumes, in the original set that came out you had this Latin in the center. In the current volumes of the 12 volumes that as well as the three volume of the New Testament, they actually took the Latin and put in it back.

In the new version that just came out a new edition of the newest Navarre I should say, the – it’s called the expanded edition which is a different work from the others. We won’t go in all the details of what this means. But it’s – the Latin is actually put back in the center, so it’s really not in the center of all the text; it’s only in the newest one currently.

Chris Cash: Understand. Now, if I am an armchair theologian versus a serious theologian, am I going to still get a lot out of this? And do I have to be an armchair theologian to be able to understand what’s in here?

Kevin Lay: Oh, yes. No, not at all, not at all. It’s definitely – it’s written in such a way, it’s not directed toward only you know theologians, also the theologians can use it and some very serious scholars of course recommended it. You know…

Chris Cash: Including Dr. Hahn, he’s recommended it in many of his audiotapes from San Jose.

Kevin Lay: Oh, yes, yes. Definitely, definitely. But it avoids you could say the particularly technical language, so it’s really not going to overwhelm somebody in that regard. And that’s one of the duties of it. It doesn’t – you know you don’t kind of have to have a degree to be able to understand it. It’s definitely user friendly.
Chris Cash: All right, so can you tell us a little about the origin of the Bible? What was the Genesis of them deciding to take on this project?

Kevin Lay: Okay, sure. Basically, it comes out of the University of Navarre in Spain. This is the university that’s linked up with Opus Dei. And the Founder of Opus Dei, Saint Escriva who was canonized, that was few years ago actually by Pope John Paul II. He actually – he was the Genesis of the idea of the Navarre scripture commentary. And so, in fact in Spain he actually did at whole new translation of sacred scripture of course that’s in Spanish, so we don’t use that. We use the RSV. But his idea was to begin this whole series and this is in I guess the late ‘60’s early ‘70’s they began at in Spanish and then it got translated into English in the ‘80’s. And then, up until I guess it was just 2000 and I’m not sure exactly the year there, that was in the 2000 that we finished the final work of the Old Testament. So, far it’s being able to cover the entire Bible.

But basically, it came out of Saint Escriva and his idea. It came from the university, the faculty of theology from the University of Navarre. And they basically decided to do this text as a help to persons who are not you know executes you know. There – its definitely to help them have a deeper understanding of sacred scripture, to have you know at their finger tips if you will, you know various things from the Church fathers, which is very important, the sayings and so forth, the teachings of the church as well as the work of the scholars.

Chris Cash: And it’s become a very, very popular commentary.

Kevin Lay: Oh, yes.

Chris Cash: As a Catholic bookstore worker, I have – it’s always been exciting when a new Navarre came out, because we knew there’ll be a lot of people coming in to get it.

Kevin Lay: Yes, yes, definitely. And the newest one, the expanded edition is going very, very well.

Chris Cash: So, what’s your personal experience with the Navarre?

Kevin Lay: Well, I think as I mentioned when I converted in ’89, you know like I said that I was a Baptist actually and but I was not a very good Baptist if you will. I didn’t like to read the Bible much. And it was actually through opening the Bible that I started actually my way, my journey towards the Church, and looking for the Church, the Christ I found it. So, when I became Catholic you know my priest friend, he introduced me to the Navarre Bible, he was a monk. And it is – it was like wow a lot of the things that – the questions that I had it went into, it was you know but then I had it – at one point when I was giving the Hebrews, but you know ‘cause it gets into a lot of technical theology a little bit there, but anyhow, its very – it just – it answered lot of the questions apologetically, answered lot of the questions spiritually as to what the text is meant. It kind of helps you – you know it helped me to live – you know to try to live the scriptures you know instead of just approaching it as a book to read. You know I mean really seeing that the word of God is at the heart of things. And then, of course to understand what exactly that you know these scriptures might mean or may not mean. Because when you’re beginning this kind of thing, you know you read, you come across passages that you know pull out your eye and cut of your arm and you don’t want to walk around life without arms or eyes, so it’s good to know that that’s not meant to be literal. I think *** [11:03].

Chris Cash: Very, very fair idea there. I certainly do appreciate having my eyes and arms. But can we get a brief rundown on the different versions of the Navarre that are available currently.

Kevin Lay: Sure.

Chris Cash: In fact, there is a New Paperback version that’s just came out.

Kevin Lay: Yes, sure that’s coming on very soon for the Old Testament. In the beginning, you had the 12 volumes of the New Testament, so that’s basically the standard set of the New Testament. And then, you had after that you had the – well you had also then the old testaments are seven volumes in the Old Testaments. Those are a Hardback, so there’s – there was no Paperback.

Chris Cash: And they are ginormous.

Kevin Lay: Oh, well, yes they’re – well, you know the Minors Prophets are thin, ‘cause you know they’re very few of those. But you know yes you could look at the Major’s Prophets, its pretty big book. Yes, definitely it’s a Hardback set, so it’s not a easy thing that’s to carry around if you want to take the whole thing with you anywhere.

But basically, yes, so let’s go back to the different ones. You have the 12 volumes in the Paperback that began the – in the New Testament, seven volumes in Hardback. That’s a standard for the Old Testament. And then, you had what came out its called the reader’s edition, which was the gospel, which is three volumes and Hardback. The first one was the Gospels and Acts and then the Letters of Saint Paul was the second one and then the third one confined with Revelation, Hebrews & Catholic. Now, you think well what’s the difference between that and the 12 volumes? Actually, now really nothing, because basically what happened in the beginning it was meant – to what you were talking about the Latin, to takeout the Latin and so it would you know first of all be easier to print in one volume. And maybe not scare somebody away if they’re little nervous of Latin but I don’t think that’s really a reason. But anyway, we’ve taken up previously I think the space.

And eventually, what happened as that they – as the original versions they change – the took the Latin from the center and put it in the back and they short it down a bit in the font so it could fit in the book. They basically realized that hey you can – we can just put this back into the hardbacks and just have a hardback version, and that’s what happened. In the Gospels and Acts, Letters to Saint Paul and the other one, they basically put the Latin back into the text in the back. So that kind of – there was a bit of a change. If you have an old edition of their Gospels and Acts, you’re not going to have Latin and if you have a new edition, you’re going to have the Latin in the back.

So, that’s basically the standard set and like I said the 12 volumes and the three volumes are basically the same in the New Testament. In fact, some people get the most, ‘cause they like to carry you know the single ones around with them when they want to go to particular scripture size *** [13:52] you know circle or something. And they don’t want to carry a bigger book, so they carry just one individual volume and so forth with them.

Then there was a combination New Testament, which is the – would be called now the compact edition of the New Testament. And that was basically an abbreviated version. It’s a bit different, but it definitely is smaller in quantity of the Commentary. It doesn’t have the Latin at all. But its definitely – it could be useful to people who might feel overwhelmed or they want to have a smaller version of the New Testament to take with them just so they have you know the whole New Testament together. Because it definitely is a briefer version that you can not feel overwhelmed with, so that’s the compact edition. Then we just came out with you know just recent not too long ago was the New Testament expanded edition we call it. And this is actually a new work, it overlaps somewhat with what happened in the standard edition, ‘cause you know you obviously you can’t say different things about you know Jesus *** [15:10] where, no he didn’t. You know he in fact *** [15:11] going to comment on the same things in lot of similar ways, because some of the knowledge there is just simply the facts and just simply the standard way of expanding, understanding things. But this is definitely a different work, it is a new work. It involves different sources from the Patristics from the Church Fathers, different saints, including different newer documents from the Church, including those of Pope Benedict the 16th, the first two *biblicals* [15:38]. And I think it’s a different feel to, its different approach to it.

The 12 volume set and the stand – and the three volume set and the New Testament, they would – it covers a – they cover a more ground in a sense. That the commentary is going to be longer, ‘cause you’re going to have it spread out between the number of volumes. But and that commentary can go into other aspects of the spiritual life as well, you know in a more – in a different way than the one does. The new one has a little – bit more focusing on the scripture and doesn’t go often as much perhaps you could say into these other areas of the spiritual life that the other ones do. But the same time it’s organized a bit differently. Its organized more in blocks if you will and in a way I think, because it came out during the – you know with the *** [16:30] Pope Benedict the 16th, I think it bears a bit more of an impression of him. This is my personal opinion here. But in reading it I find I have an impression of *** [16:41] uses him, but it’s a impression of his work and scholarship you know according to the scripture and such, his approach. You have a kind of a feel I think, a different feeling in that sense with the new text.

So, that’s the expanded edition of the New Testament. And that one actually, like I said before has the Latin back in the center of the text. And it’s actually – it’s nicer. Nice book in itself, of course they’re all nice, but it’s very nice in the sense that it’s a bit different. It has bigger book, it has a different off – certain off white color paper. It has red for the subject matter of the different you know as well as some other reds of the numbers of the text. So, you of kind of red coloring within it of basically you know like for instance Jesus’ prayer and Agony in the Garden, like the little subtext there in the scriptures that’s in red. So, it has a little nice feel there too.

They’re all excellent books, they – some people get them all, which is very helpful, because you know if you can forward that. Because basically you’re going to be covering a lot of it, same ground is true, but you’re also going to be covering other ground as well. That is in the new works.

Chris Cash: And of course if you got lost in some of that specifics, you can yes you know its good…

Kevin Lay: All right. It’s a lot to say in one *** [18:10] ‘em all.

Chris Cash: It’s good to hear about some of the differences here. But you know in case you weren’t taking notes, a lot of this information you can find in the descriptions of the Bibles over the Catholic Company and as you page through our Navarre Bible section. We have a whole section as you can imagine just for the many various Navarre Bibles. And it’s actually sorted so that the most popular ones are up at the top, so you know if you’re just looking to pick something out you’re going to – as a starter you’re going to find the most popular items sitting at the top categories.

Kevin Lay: Yes. Yes and definitely you know it’s a little bit maneuvering to figure out, because you know there’s so much in the Navarre, so people do have this question all the time. So, its – but each text is worthwhile. Believe me it’s – the new one has its merit; the old ones have their merits. In fact, when I’m using them I go back and forth between them because I’ll remember oh, there’s something I remember reading in the other one, I’ll go back to that one and I think oh, its if I see in new in the new one’s. So, it’s really a treasure trove of information. And also, I think another point to bring out is the usefulness of it for Lectio Divina, it’s very – you know that’s such an important spiritual way of praying in the Church that Pope Benedict emphasized greatly. And with a new – the recent *senate* [19:36] on the word of God that will be coming out and Pope Benedict will be coming out with documents and hopefully this year. All in the – from that *senate* [19:45] but that *senate* [19:48] definitely picked up his call to and the churches call to Lectio Divina, which is the – you know these spiritual – reading a scripture in a very prayerful way. There is you know – it’s a classic you know fourfold approach you know that they talk about.

Chris Cash: We’ve have a – we have a couple of shows already devoted to Lectio Divina, so rather than going into that now. I’m going to refer all of you listeners back to the previous shows we’ve done on Lectio Divina. You just look back on our archives and find a wealth of material there as well as some other books there; it will be good for that.

Kevin Lay: Oh, great, good. Sure. Well, *** [20:25] just add one little that we’re with tie in particularly with the Navarre is that meditation part I’m going to talk to you at second kind of stage, because you’re reading the commentaries. Of course, you know you want to read the scriptures per se it self and you know not just rely only on the commentary, but the commentary can be helpful in providing information for that mediation part.

Chris Cash: All right and you know on a persona note, I always recommend to people that a good starting place in my mind is to get that compact New Testament. I think if somebody is out there in saying for the – in hearing about Navarre for the first time and saying where should I start? The compact New Testaments are really good place to kind of get your feet wet and see – get a flavor of it and then you can expand from there once you have gotten yourself in tune with that.

Kevin, thank you so much for coming on this show. And I will be looking forward to get my hands on the new version of the Bible.

Kevin Lay: You’re welcome. Very good, enjoy.

Chris Cash: All right, you have a great day, Kevin. God bless.

Kevin Lay: You too. Thank you very much.


Transcript of Interview with Kevin Lay about The Navarre Bible Commentaries. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

Navarre Bible Commentaries at The Catholic Company.

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