Studying the ‘book of the Church’

Diocesan deacon wants Catholics to be familiar with Scripture

By Gabrielle Nolan

For more than four decades, Deacon Bob Hunt has been teaching the Catholic faith “to everybody from preschoolers to retirees.”

“That’s what I love to do,” he said. “The two things I’m willing to say I do well is write and teach, and I love doing both.”

Deacon Hunt’s motivation for teaching is simple but profound.

“It’s because I love Jesus, and I love the Church, and I want to tell others about Him and about His Church,” he said. “Being in front of a group of people talking about Jesus is my favorite place to be, and it’s really kind of a safe place for me because I almost feel most comfortable there than almost any place else.”

As a teacher, Deacon Hunt has served RCIA groups, CCD classes, adult faith formation classes, and homeschooled his three daughters. He is assigned to two Knoxville parishes, All Saints and Holy Ghost, where he assists at Mass and preaches once per month. He is the spiritual adviser to All Saints’ St. Vincent de Paul group and is the chaplain for Holy Ghost’s Legion of Mary community.

As a writer, he is no stranger to The East Tennessee Catholic newspaper, where he has a monthly column titled “Thoughts and Prayers for the Faithful.” His personal online blog shares the same title.

Now, Deacon Hunt’s two passions are combined with the recent release of his first book, Thy Word: An Introduction to the Bible for People in the Pews.

Deacon Hunt’s book is available for purchase at The Paraclete Catholic Books and Gifts store at 417 Erin Drive on the campus of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. He will be present for a book-signing at The Paraclete on Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, from 1-3 p.m. each day.

“The whole idea and the passion behind Thy Word is to get Catholics to become more familiar with the Scriptures,” he explained.

“The Scriptures are one of the means by which God reveals His truth to us, and in particular the truth of Jesus Christ,” he continued. “So, if we don’t know the Scriptures, we don’t know Christ. How else would we get to know Him?”

Deacon Bob Hunt leads a Bible study at All Saints Church in Knoxville. (Photo Gabrielle Nolan)

Deacon Hunt encourages anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible to pick up his book.

“It is a basic introduction,” he said. “I even have a section in there on how to find a verse in the Bible. It assumes you know nothing. I also do not get into deep debates regarding the Scriptures. I don’t get into speculatory theories, such as the source theory or the synoptic problem, things like that. I do talk about what scholars believe or the consensus of scholarship on when these books were written, who wrote these books, and when they were put together as a canon, but that’s as deep as I get into, if you will, scholarly questions or things like that.”

“The basic idea is to introduce this book to Catholics who would like to learn more about the Bible,” the deacon continued. “And the hope, of course, is that after they finish this book, they’ll be inspired to maybe study more deeply. But if you read this book, you will know what most Catholics know about the Bible, and really what most Catholics ought to know about the Bible. We should know our book. This is our book. The Bible is the book of the Church. It was written by the Church, it was given to the Church as a gift, and it’s intended to be used by the Church to spread the Gospel, the message of God, and to encourage us to live that faithfully. And so, we should be familiar with this book.”

Thy Word contains 22 lessons on the books of the Bible and 10 articles on subjects related to sacred Scripture.

“Each chapter addresses a part of a book of the Scriptures or several books of the Scriptures in a format that is, let’s say, easy on the eyes,” Deacon Hunt said. “There’s a suggested reading on the Scriptures. There’s the content, the text itself, my text of commentary on that section of the Scripture or on those books of the Scriptures. And then a series of critical points, bullet points if you will, to summarize the main message of that section of the book or those books of the Scripture.”

The book, which took two to three years to create, began as a draft for a religious-education class Deacon Hunt and his wife, Margaret, were teaching at All Saints several years ago.

“Our topic was the Scriptures, and so every week I would simply put together my thoughts on the Scriptures, on the topic we were reading that day,” he said. “And that became the first draft for Thy Word. … I finished it in 2013. And I got the copyright, and the nihil obstat, and imprimatur in 2013.”

The book obtained the nihil obstat from Monsignor Robert J. Hoffstetter and the imprimatur from Bishop Richard F. Stika.

Nihil obstat is a Latin phrase that means nothing opposed,” Deacon Hunt explained. “It used to apply to any Catholic book published by any Catholic person on any Catholic subject, or any subject at all almost. Since I think over the last couple of decades or more the Church has shifted, and now a nihil obstat and imprimatur are only required for books that are going to be used for catechetical purposes or teaching purposes to make sure that they’re in line with the doctrine of the Church.”

Imprimatur is a Latin phrase that means let it be printed, or it may be printed,” he continued. “The imprimatur means since there’s nothing opposed to the teaching of the Church in this book then it may be printed. And then Catholics can see that nihil obstat and imprimatur and know that they can read this book with confidence that the contents of this book are in line with the teaching of the Church. And that was important to me because I wanted people to know that. I wanted people to know that when they’re reading this book, they’re not going to find anything contrary to Church teaching so they can read it with confidence for themselves and, more importantly, they can read it and use it as a teaching tool for others, their children, or for others in the parish.”

Although progress had been made on the book, the file remained stored on Deacon Hunt’s computer for a decade, until a new friendship brought it back into the light.

“I met Jim Bello as a fellow candidate in the diaconate program for the diocese,” Deacon Hunt shared. “He writes books also, and he was interested in my book, so I sent him a copy. He loved it, and he arranged for an editor to go through the book, which was very gracious of him, of course. And I incorporated her corrections, the great, great majority of her recommendations.”

He then went to Sister Timothea Elliott, RSM, who serves the Diocese of Knoxville as the Censor Librorum, reviewing religious texts for accuracy and orthodoxy. Sister Timothea is a renowned Scripture scholar.

“Of course, I incorporated her corrections,” Deacon Hunt said. “You don’t go to Sister Timothea to ask her for her thoughts and ideas and not incorporate those. She had some very good thoughts and more than one correction that I appreciated and was happy to incorporate again into the book.”

Now, as more copies of his book become published, Deacon Hunt is giving presentations at various parishes around the diocese and bringing his books for sale.

“I’m very pleased and, again, forever eternally grateful for Deacon Jim Bello for his investment in this, both financially and emotionally,” he said. “Because he’s the one who has made this possible. If I had not met him and he had not taken an interest in this, this book would still be a file on my computer and nothing more than that. I am so grateful to him for his interest and for his passion for the project.”

To schedule Deacon Hunt to speak at your parish, contact him at

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