THE WEEK OF APRIL 22, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Understanding the Bible:
A Catholic Guide to the Word of God
(excerpt from an article from www.beginningcatholic.com)
Too many Catholics aren’t comfortable reading and understanding the Bible. Let’s look at the most essential principles taught by the Catholic Church for reading and interpreting Scripture.
The Bible is uniquely important. The Holy Bible is un-matched in importance for learning about God, his plans for us, and how he has worked through human history for our salvation. Pope John Paul II wrote: [Sacred Scripture] is truly divine, because it belongs to God truly and genuinely: God himself inspired it, con-firmed it, God spoke it through the sacred writers—Moses, the Prophets, the Evangelists, the Apostles—and, above all, through his Son, our only Lord, in both the Old and the New Testament. It is true that the intensity and depth of the revelation varies [within the Bible], but there is not the least shadow of contradiction [between different parts of Scripture].—Apostolic Letter _Patres Ecclesi-ae_ 1980
Key principles for reading Scripture
These points are essential to a basic understanding of the bible:
1. God is indeed the principal author of Sacred Scrip-ture. If there is only one thing you remember about under-standing the Bible, let it be this point! To get it just right, here’s a quote from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: God himself is the author of Sacred Scripture (#18). God chose to reveal to us certain truths for the sake of our salvation. This message of salvation is the set of revealed truths which we call the “deposit of faith,” or Divine Revela-tion. The Bible is primarily concerned with telling us these truths, which are without error. God himself made sure of that. The Second Vatican Council said it well: “everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum, #11). Got it? Good. That’s the most essential point for reading and understanding the Bible. Now, remember that point as we look at some other details…
2. God made use of people to write the Bible. This is im-portant. God did not “dictate” the Bible, word for word, to peo-ple who just wrote down his words. Instead, he did something more amazing! He made use of specific people to write the various sacred books of the Bible. And although God gave each author special grace to aid him in this work, each author wrote in a way that was natural to him. This is also really im-portant for a true Catholic understanding of the Bible. The Se-cond Vatican Council states: In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (Dei Verbum, 11).
These writers used the language of their time, and they used words and wrote in a style that reflected their own personalities and educa-tions. Let’s summarize it this way: These men had to work with the imperfections of human language and understanding. Despite this limitation, the Holy Spirit still used them to write the message of salvation in a way that was completely accurate….This is really quite astonishing—God was willing to work through people to tell us his saving truth. He revealed his divine truths via historical acts, using events and people of his choosing. And he did so using…
3. Human language and knowledge. God used human language and knowledge—with all of its limitations—to tell us his eternal truths. He conveyed things to people through words and actions that made use of the ways of speaking and thinking that were common at the time. God worked this way so it would be possible for humans to write down or pass on these eternal truths.
The people who experienced these events and received God’s divine messages either wrote them down later, or would pass them on in a reliable oral tradition that was later written down under the inspira-tion of the Holy Spirit.
We can easily put these principles to practical use when reading Scripture. First, learn to understand exactly what the inspired authors meant when they wrote their words. A good Catholic commentary will help explain any relevant language, concepts and cultural refer-ences.
That’s an essential first step—if you don’t understand what the sa-cred author was saying to people in his own cultural context, in terms as they were used at that time, you won’t be able to clearly see what God is saying through him. But don’t worry! It’s really not hard to get this right for many passages. And once again, a good commen-tary will do the heavy lifting for you.
Embrace the Word of God
The whole point of reading and understanding the Bible is to encoun-ter God, understand the revelation he has given us, and grow in faith. So now that you’ve read a passage of Scripture and understand what the author is saying...take that next step—listen to God!
Scripture is a living thing, meant for people in all times and places. God speaks through it now just as much as he did when it was writ-ten.
Let the Bible Enkindle Your Faith
Some people feel intimidated when they start to read Scripture. Don’t be! Now you have a foundation for understanding the Bible. The basic principles contained in this article will help you overcome many uncertainties people have with Scripture. So start reading!
Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.—St. Jerome
Santa Barbara Parish Prayer Ministry
prays the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet
for prayer intentions.
May God Bless You & Your Family!
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