Did you know that the “Bible” that the Apostles carried with them in preaching the Good News, was what we consider to be the Old Testament? I never really thought about that, but it has come to light this week for me because of some discussions I have had. There are people who have real problems reading the Bible; those who “cherry pick” verses just to prove their point; those think every word of the Bible should be read in a literal sense and many others.
So how do we as Catholics, deal with these discussions? First of all, you have to study the Scriptures yourself. I don’t mean just reading the Bible, but using a Bible commentary, a Bible dictionary, a Catholic Encyclopedia and a good Catholic Bible. Yes, there is a difference between a Catholic Bible and a Protestant Bible. It would be impossible to address every issue about the Bible in one column, so I will touch on some main points.
First, if your Bible does not contain the books of Tobit, I/II Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) and Baruch, you have a Protestant Bible. There are reasons why these seven books are included in Catholic Bibles, but that would take days to talk about!
Second, the Bible is not a book, it is a library. The books of the Old Testament were written by many different authors over thousands and thousands of years, so there will be some inconsistencies. But this does not mean it is not true. The Bible is a library of religious truth, not scientific or historical fact; although many of the events of the Bible have been proven to be true through archeology.
Third, you have to understand the genre of the book you are reading. Is it poetry, like the book of Psalms? Is it an allegory, like the book of Jonah? Is it a letter to a particular community, like Paul’s letters? Is it “good news”, the gospels of the New Testament? Is it a love story, or a suspense story or a satire? There are many genres of the Bible and you have to know what you are reading.
Fourth, what was the culture like when that particular book was written? What things were happening in the culture that were acceptable then but are not acceptable now? The Bible is the record of people called into a long, loving relationship
with God, while continuing to learn about God and themselves.
As a whole, the Bible is unified in that we see the plan of God’s salvation for us from beginning to end. Also, the Old Testament should be interpreted in light of the New Testament. This means that God is love, and even though God appears to be violent in the Old Testament, many times it is just the author’s perception of how things turned out. Men and women wrote the Bible and humans make mistakes! The Bible was not dictated to people, but God inspired people to write His words down. So, to summarize, the Catholic Church says the Bible is “Sacred Truth”. The books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided through the Scriptures. And what is that truth? God is good, all the time!
See you soon! Karen