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Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

series: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

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In this addition to the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Dennis Hamm explores the significance of Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon and the enduring relevance of these letters to the life and mission of the church. Based on solid scholarship yet readily accessible, this book is enriched with pastoral reflections and applications and includes sidebars on the living tradition and biblical background.

About the Series
The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (CCSS) responds to the desire of Catholics to study the Bible in depth and in a way that integrates Scripture with Catholic doctrine, worship, and daily life. The series will include seventeen volumes, offering readable, informative commentary on each book of the New Testament. The CCSS implements the theological principles taught by Vatican II for interpreting Scripture "in accord with the same Spirit by which it was written"--that is, interpreting Scripture in its canonical context and in the light of Catholic tradition and the analogy of faith (Dei Verbum 12).

The CCSS is packed with features designed to help readers use the Bible more effectively in teaching, preaching, evangelization, and other forms of ministry. Each volume provides exegesis as well as reflection and application sections. Cross-references link each passage to the Catechism, the Lectionary, and related biblical texts. Sidebars present information on the background of the text and on how the text has been interpreted by the Church. Abundant quotations from saints and Church Fathers enable readers to glimpse the continuity of Catholic tradition. Each volume includes a glossary, a list of suggested resources, an index of pastoral topics, and an Index of sidebars. Further resources are posted at the series web site,

Consulting editors: Scott Hahn (Franciscan University of Steubenville); Daniel J. Harrington, SJ (1940-2014); William S. Kurz, SJ (Marquette University); Francis Martin (Dominican House of Studies); Frank J. Matera (Catholic University of America); George T. Montague, SM (St. Mary's University); and Terrence Prendergast (Archbishop of Ottawa)

General editors: Peter S. Williamson (Sacred Heart Major Seminary) and Mary Healy (Sacred Heart Major Seminary); associate editor: Kevin Perrotta (award-winning Catholic journalist and editor of the Six Weeks with the Bible series)

Future volumes include:
The Gospel of John by Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV
Romans by Scott Hahn
Galatians by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye and Peter S. Williamson
Hebrews by Mary Healy
James and 1-3 John by Kelly Anderson and Daniel Keating
Revelation by Peter S. Williamson


"These three 'prison letters' of St. Paul are often overshadowed by his more substantive letters, especially Galatians and Romans. Father Dennis Hamm does an admirable job of bringing them out of the shadows and into the light. His commentary is a fine contribution to this series. Hamm shows that these little letters are more substantial than one might suspect. His interpretation is informative and insightful, his style concise and user friendly, and his discussions evenhanded. In addition, the sidebars, illustrations, and glossary are full of useful information. I warmly recommend this commentary to a wide audience, whether Catholic or ecumenical."

Ronald D. Witherup, SS, Superior General, Society of Saint Sulpice, Paris, France; author of several books, including Saint Paul and the New Evangelization

"A marvelous book--lucid, intelligent, learned, accessible, and provocative--written by a scholar who knows how to invite people into the riches of the New Testament. Presented in a lively format that will appeal to both scholars and general readers alike, Father Hamm's new book is a boon to anyone seeking to understand and live out the timeless wisdom of St. Paul."

James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

"Based on very solid and contemporary research, yet free of overly technical terminology, this nifty volume offers a delightfully reader-friendly treatment that greatly illuminates three of Paul's captivity letters. Many illustrations, sidebars, and maps enrich the presentation. All teachers of the letters of Paul will want to alert their students to this sparkling gem. It will enlighten anyone interested in Pauline studies, but especially seminarians, preachers, and pastoral ministers."

John Heil, professor of New Testament, The Catholic University of America

"I've had the privilege of visiting the sites associated with St. Paul's works, but the experience was not nearly as vivid for me as my reading of Father Dennis Hamm's commentary. This book lives up to the standard of a series whose volumes have been at once devout, beautiful, erudite, and useful--an extremely rare achievement."

Mike Aquilina, author of The Fathers of the Church and The Mass of the Early Christians

Praise for the CCSS Series

"After twenty years of teaching priests as well as teaching Catholic laypeople, seminarians, and deacons in formation, I can say with confidence that the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is a landmark achievement in theological interpretation of Scripture in and for the Church. Everything about it is inviting and edifying, from the format, photos, background notes, and cross-references (to Scripture and the Catechism) to the rich exposition of the text, quotations from the Church's living tradition, and reflections for contemporary life. It is a wonderful gift to the Catholic Church and a model for the rest of us. Highly recommended for all!"

Michael J. Gorman, professor of Sacred Scripture and dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore

"By bringing together historical background, exegetical interpretation, Church tradition, theological reflection, and pastoral application, this series promises to enkindle thoughtful discussion about the implications of the New Testament for lived Christian faith in the Church today. Its accessible format and multi-angled approach offer a model for teaching and ministry."

Katherine Hayes, associate professor of Sacred Scripture, Seminary of the Immaculate Conception

"The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture richly provides what has for so long been lacking among contemporary scriptural commentaries. Its goal is to assist Catholic preachers and teachers, lay and ordained, in their ministry of the Word. Moreover, it offers ordinary Catholics a scriptural resource that will enhance their understanding of God's Word and thereby deepen their faith. Thus these commentaries, nourished on the faith of the Church and guided by scholarly wisdom, are both exegetically sound and spiritually nourishing. They are indispensable tools for preaching, catechesis, evangelization, and other forms of pastoral ministry."

Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM Cap, executive director of the secretariat for doctrine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

"Coinciding with the Bishops' Synod on 'The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,' this great project of a seventeen-volume commentary on the New Testament starts with the volume on Saint Mark. This series represents a much-needed approach, based on good scholarship but not overloaded with it. The frequent references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church help us to read Holy Scripture with a vivid sense of the living tradition of the Church."

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna

"The Word of God is the source of Christian life, and the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is an ideal tool for living our faith more deeply. This extraordinary resource combines superior scholarship and a vivid, accessible style that will serve the interested layperson and the serious scholar equally well. It feeds both the mind and the heart and should be on the shelf of every committed Catholic believer. I highly recommend it."

Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Philadelphia

"Mary Healy and Peter S. Williamson, with Kevin Perrotta, have launched an exciting and most promising Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. I plan to read and use it as a basis for preaching and am already profiting from the advanced segments."

Michael Scanlan, TOR, chancellor, Franciscan University of Steubenville

"This series of commentaries is just what the Church needs today. It combines sound exegesis with pastoral and spiritual sensitivity and is accessible to any Catholic who wishes a reliable commentary on Scripture that is understandable, solid in its scholarship, and applicable to life. Recommended."

Ralph Martin, director graduate theology programs in the new evangelization, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Archdiocese of Detroit; author of The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints

"Catholic biblical literature is so abundant that one might raise the question, do we need another commentary on the Holy Scriptures? Such a question will inevitably arise in the minds of those for whom science and mathematics alone give us valid knowledge. But whereas these branches of knowledge grow 'horizontally' (that is, solve one problem to turn to the next), knowledge of God grows 'vertically.' Every word coming from the mouth of God is so rich in content that commentaries--profound as they are--can never exhaust the divine manna. This is why the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is to be warmly welcomed. It builds on the sublime insights delivered by tradition and adds another flower to the bouquet of human homage to revelation."

Alice von Hildebrand, professor emerita, City University of New York

"Those who preach and teach will find their burden lightened and turned into delight with the help of these commentaries. In a time when much biblical scholarship is written for other biblical scholars, these authors understand that the Bible is the book of the Church, the entire people of God."

Richard John Neuhaus, author of American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile

"This new Bible commentary series is based on solid scholarship and enriched by the church's long tradition of study and reflection. Enhanced by an attractive format, it provides an excellent resource for all who are serving in pastoral ministry and for the individual reader who searches the Scriptures for guidance in the Christian life."

Emil A. Wcela, Auxiliary Bishop (retired), Diocese of Rockville Centre; past president, Catholic Biblical Association

"Direct, clear, and spiritually rich, the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is just what we need today: patient exposition of God's Word that illuminates and is illuminated by the teaching and practice of the Church."

R. R. Reno, professor of theological ethics, Creighton University

"This new commentary series should meet a need that has long been pointed out: a guide to Scripture that will be both historically responsible and shaped by the mind of the Church's tradition. It promises to be a milestone in the recovery of a distinctively Catholic approach to exegesis."

Aidan Nichols, OP, John Paul II Memorial Visiting Lecturer, University of Oxford; Fellow of Greyfriars, Oxford

"The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture employs the Church's methodology of studying Sacred Scripture in a faithful, dynamic, and fruitful way. With interest in Catholic Bible studies growing rapidly, the repeated question has been, 'can you suggest a reliable commentary?' The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture is now the go-to resource that I can enthusiastically recommend to all my students."

Jeff Cavins, founder, The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study System

"There is a great hunger among Catholic laity for a deeper understanding of the Bible. The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture fills the need for a more in-depth interpretation of Scripture. I am very excited to be able to recommend this new series to our Bible Study groups around the world."

Gail Buckley, founder and director, Catholic Scripture Study International (

"This new Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (New Testament) grew out of a perception that there was a need, yet to be met, for commentaries oriented to Christian faith and life today. The first two volumes--The Gospel of Mark and First and Second Timothy, Titus--indicate that this series promises to be spiritually and doctrinally informative, based on careful, solid biblical exegesis. The method and content of this work will be helpful to teachers of the faith at different levels and will provide a reliable guide to people seeking to deepen their knowledge and thereby nourish their faith. With the advance of secularism in our times Christian conviction and evangelization need sustained support, especially through Sacred Scripture. I strongly recommend the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture."

Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster

"Pope Benedict XVI has reminded the Church that continuous encounter with the Word remains the source of her renewal and the font of 'a new spiritual Spring.' The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture affords its readers a helpful guide for encountering the books of the Bible in a way that respects both the whole of Scripture and the givens of Catholic faith. Many will discover in the volumes of this collection wellsprings of spiritual refreshment."

Romanus Cessario, OP, professor of systematic theology, St John's Seminary

"As a former evangelical Bible teacher I own hundreds of Bible commentaries, but after my conversion to the Catholic Church, I was dismayed by the lack of good Catholic commentaries on Scripture. It is thrilling to see the new seventeen-volume Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, which is scholarly, easy to read, and faithful to Catholic teaching. The references to the Catechism, the Fathers of the Church, and a variety of other sources make this an exceptionally rich resource. Each volume is loaded with rich detail, theological insight, and helpful background information. These solidly orthodox Catholic scholars have done us a great service by filling the void--providing a commentary series on Scripture that has set a cutting-edge standard for years to come."

Steve Ray, lecturer; author of the Bible Study Guides for Genesis and Acts; and writer, producer, and host of the ten-part documentary series Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine

"This new commentary series appears to me to be a gift of the Holy Spirit to Catholic clergy, religious, and laity at this historic moment. Pope Benedict has effectively announced the rebirth of Catholic biblical theology, bringing together Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of the Church. An up-to-date popular guide to the New Testament is urgently needed at this moment. This commentary reflects not only biblical criticism but also the unity of the Word of God as it applies to our lives. We accept this Word with the confident belief that these writings are given to us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and reliably present the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we study the New Testament because, inspired by Christ himself, it is the guide to eternal life. This is a marvelous and timely introduction. Sign up and learn."

Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, author and preacher

"The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture gives serious American Catholics a critical study tool they've lacked: a spiritually invigorated and intellectually keen verse-by-verse analysis of the biblical text from scholars who are thinking within the heart of the Church. All of this is achieved without getting bogged down in questions of purely academic interest. The commentaries are rich in textual insight and practical illustration, making them immensely helpful to homilists, teachers, and readers. This project is terrific; undoubtedly one of the most exciting works of today's freshly assertive American Catholicism."

Al Kresta, president and CEO, Ave Maria Radio; host of Kresta in the Afternoon

"I welcome with great joy the launch of this new collection of commentaries on the Bible because the project corresponds perfectly to a pressing need in the Church. I am speaking about exegetical studies that are well grounded from a scholarly point of view but not overburdened with technical details, and at the same time related to the riches of ancient interpretation, nourishing for spiritual life, and useful for catechesis, preaching, evangelization, and other forms of pastoral ministry. Indeed, this is the kind of commentary for which the majority of readers have a great desire."

Albert Cardinal Vanhoye, SJ, emeritus professor of biblical exegesis, Pontifical Biblical Institute, former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

"In preparing for the international Synod of Bishops on 'The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,' Pope Benedict XVI reminded the Church that a prayerful study of the Scriptures is at the heart of the Church's renewal. The new Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture promises to directly serve that purpose. Drawing on sound biblical scholarship, the commentaries present the reader with the rich harvest of that study, reflecting on the message of the biblical text and engaging the life of faith from a Catholic perspective. Preachers, pastors, students of the Bible, and adults seeking mature spiritual nourishment will welcome this new series."

Donald Senior, CP, president, Catholic Theological Union

"When the Scripture is read in the liturgy, it is heard as a living voice. But when expounded in a commentary, it is too often read as a document from the past. This fine new series unites the ancient and the contemporary by offering insight into the biblical text--verse by verse--as well as spiritual application to the lives of Christians today. I particularly like the sidebars inserted into the text called 'Living Tradition' that feature memorable sayings from great Christian teachers or brief explanations of puzzling terms and ideas."

Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. professor of the history of Christianity, University of Virginia

"In my opinion, the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture embodies the type of biblical exegesis hoped for by Pius XII. In his 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, the late Pontiff taught that biblical scholars 'should set forth in particular the theological doctrine in faith and morals of the individual books or texts so that their exposition . . . may help all the faithful to lead a life that is holy and worthy of a Christian.'"

Robert L. Fastiggi, professor of systematic theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit

The Author

  1. Dennis Hamm SJ

    Dennis Hamm SJ

    Dennis Hamm, SJ (PhD, St. Louis University), is professor of New Testament and Graff Chair in Catholic Theological Studies at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he has taught Scripture for over thirty-five years. He is the author of several books...

    Continue reading about Dennis Hamm SJ


"This bright, thoughtful, and readable commentary . . . will lead its intended audience to enhanced understanding of the 'prison letters' to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon. . . . While [it] draws on much critical scholarship, it is, on the whole, more theologically and pastorally oriented. . . . The commentary contains a number of helpful photographic illustrations that portray features of the ancient Mediterranean. Many sidebar sections offer detailed insights. . . . It is clear, congenial, balanced, and generally accessible for its intended audiences in its near conversational style. . . . It is informative for church and Bible study groups and will work well for undergraduate course reading particularly in Catholic institutions."

Roy R. Jeal,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Hamm's commentary on three of the four Prison Epistles in the Pauline corpus tracks well with the goals of the series to which it contributes. The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture seeks to place the biblical text in its historical context and also provide robust theological reflection that takes account of the entire canon of Scripture. . . . The commentary provides several aids to the reader, including helpful photos and maps, outlines of each book, a three-page annotated bibliography of Suggested Resources, a six-page glossary of technical and theological terms, an index of pastoral topics, and an index of sidebars. . . . Hamm presents biblical scholarship accessibly to readers; his clean prose and pastoral tone provide lay reader and pastor alike with excellent tools for teaching and living faithfully."

Lynn H. Cohick,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Interspersed throughout the commentary are photographs of relevant art and archaeology as well as numerous sidebars offering historical, theological, patristic, or literary illumination of biblical background materials. . . . Hamm's writing style is straightforward and crystal clear. . . . I can envision using this volume in combination with others from the series to teach an undergraduate course on the Pauline epistles. The text's intended pastoral ministry audience will find especially helpful Hamm's reflection and application sections."

Florence Morgan Gillman,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Part of a fine series that strives to bring an explicitly Catholic perspective to biblical interpretation, this commentary . . . concentrates on three of the so-called 'prison letters' of Paul. . . . Hamm provides a clear introduction to the letters, including practical information about early letter writing in general and the role of the letters in Paul's ministry. The commentary itself is clear and substantive, while remaining accessible to the non-technical reader. A rich array of sidebars and illustrations provides helpful background information."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"A good, brief exposition from a conservative Catholic perspective."

Ray Van Neste,

Preaching (The Best in Bibles & Bible Reference for 2014)

"In this commentary designed for the theologically inclined general reader, Hamm provides an engaging synopsis of some of the major theological and pastoral themes found in three of the so-called captivity letters of Paul. . . . Guided by the renewed emphasis on Scripture inspired by the vision of Vatican II, Hamm effectively links contemporary applications of the scriptural text to the original ancient situations to which Paul addressed himself. Indeed, a genuine strength of this study resides in the accessible manner in which Hamm balances his historical-critical and literary observations with his remarks on the contemporary relevance of these texts. The most important contribution of the commentary is the emphasis placed on Paul as a shaper of communal identity in a countercultural mode. . . . Hamm's study should prove especially useful not only as a solid exegetical assessment of these particular captivity letters of Paul, but also as an accessible introduction to Paul's vocation as a shaper of early Christian communal identity in conformity to the countercultural narrative of Christ-like existence."

Kevin B. McCruden,

Theological Studies

"This is a readable commentary that reflects well the purpose of the series: 'to serve the ministry of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.' It could also serve as an introductory overview for those studying for ministry."

Richard S. Ascough,

Religious Studies Review

Praise for the CCSS Series

"There's something about this series that is notable: the authors explain the Bible in theologically orthodox ways and explain the text clearly, succinctly, and without a lengthy apparatus of the history of interpretation or discussions of alternative views. Solid exegesis; discussion of the evidence as needed; not much bibliographical reference. Just expounds what the text says and moves on. In other words, this could be the first commentary read by a pastor preparing a text and could be read easily by a Sunday School teacher preparing a text, and it would be an excellent commentary for a college Bible class. . . . The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture will prove itself to be a reliable, Catholic--but ecumenically open and respectful--commentary."

Scot McKnight,

Jesus Creed blog