How Catholics Should Read the Bible

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"Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (St. Jerome).

"In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs" (Heb 1:1-4).

Lectio Divina

"Divine reading" is a slow, thoughtful, prayerful, contemplative reading of the Bible or other spiritual sources.

Read attentively.

When something catches your attention, linger with the thought, then talk with God about what you have heard.

When that contemplation or dialogue ceases to hold your attention, return to attentive reading.

Alternate reading, prayer, and meditation as the Spirit leads you.

St. Philip Neri's maxim for August 4 explains this method:

To get good from reading the Lives of the Saints, and other spiritual books, we ought not to read out of curiosity, or skimmingly, but with pauses; and when we feel ourselves warmed, we ought not to pass on, but to stop and follow up the spirit which is stirring in us, and when we feel it no longer then to pursue our reading.

Pope Benedict gives a more detailed outline of lectio divina:

  • lectio: understand the text.
  • meditatio: ask what the text says to us.
  • oratio: respond to God's word.
  • contemplatio: see what conversion is needed in us.

The four Latin words are: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.

Enter the Scriptures

Tens of billions of dollars are spent each year on works of the imagination (advertising and entertainment) because the children of this world understand how central the imagination is to the whole of human life.

The one who captures the imagination conquers the whole soul.

St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us to place ourselves in Scripture passages by using our imaginations to enter the scene. We can take on any role imaginatively and extend the scene with our own dialogue.

The way we imagine the scene, the clothing, the characters, and the dialogue is all fictitious; but the spiritual reality is that every event in the Bible includes us. God was thinking of each one of us, individually and personally, as He brought about our salvation through the children of Abraham and in the life, words, and work of Jesus.

Without this kind of personal participation in the realities treated by the Scriptures, the text can be dry as dust. Mingling ourselves with the word of God is like pouring boiling water into freeze-dried coffee; without the hot water, the the coffee extract is useless. It only becomes palatable when mixed with water. In the same way, the word of God can be dry as dust if we fail to mingle our own lives with the sacred text.

Follow the Church's Liturgical Cycle

Every Eucharist is a Scripture service.

Scripture is read in the Liturgy of the Word according to the rhythms of the Category:Liturgical Year.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is, of course, based on the narratives of the Last Supper in the gospels and epistles. The prayers of the whole Mass are suffused with the imagery and language of the Scriptures.

Think with the Church

It is perfectly legitimate to pray with the Scriptures, asking only, "What does this mean to me and for me?" However, we must not confuse our personal and imaginative interpretation of the passages as what they mean for the Church.

  • Rules for Thinking with the Church.
  • The story of Philip and the Ethiopian shows that we need to be taught how to understand the Scriptures: "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?' So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him" (Acts 8:30-31).
  • "In their work of interpretation, Catholic exegetes must never forget that what they are interpreting is the word of God. Their common task is not finished when they have simply determined sources, defined forms or explained literary procedures. They arrive at the true goal of their work only when they have explained the meaning of the biblical text as God’s word for today" ("The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," Pontifical Biblical Commission, March 18, 1994, with a Preface by Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), III, C, 1).
  • Without guidance, it is easy to distort the meaning of the scriptures: "And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pet 3:15-16).

Stay within the bounds of dogma

The Creeds of the Church tell us how we must interpret the Scriptures as a whole. Consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church for more details. These are just a few of the boundaries set by the Magisterium:

  • The doctrine of Original Sin implies that all humans are descended from a single pair whom we call Adam and Eve. In biology, this is called "monogenism" as opposed to the idea of polygenism, which holds that human beings are descended from many original pairs and have no one couple as their common ancestor.
  • Authenticity of the Old Covenant (Abraham, Moses, David, prophets, Temple).
  • Immaculate Conception of Mary in her mother's womb through the ordinary act of marriage (celebrated on December 8).
  • Virginal Conception of Jesus in Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (celebrated on March 25).
  • Perpetual Virginity of Mary.
  • Divinity of Jesus: Trinity and Incarnation.
  • Death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The foundation of the sacraments:
    • Eucharist: transubstantiation.
    • Marriage: no divorce.
    • Reconciliation: power to forgive sin.
  • The infallibility of the Church.
  • Jesus will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New

Re-definition of terms

We cannot read the Bible correctly unless we understand the meaning of the words used by the sacred authors, both God and the human authors whom God inspired to write the Scriptures. The great problem of studying the Old Testament is that the basic definition of terms has been changed by Christians on account of the revelation given to us in the Person of Jesus.

To be a Christian is to take the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus into glory as THE key to understanding what God was preparing in the Old Covenant. On the basis of what Jesus was (true God and true man) and did, everything that came before Him looks entirely different from the way it did to those who did not know about Jesus and His saving action. The words of the Old Testament remain the same but the meanings recognized in those words are dramatically different.

Term Old Covenant New Covenant
Christ A human being anointed with oil to be the King of Israel or the High Priest in the Temple. "Christ" now means Jesus, God, the Son, Incarnate as true man, and anointed with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is both King and Priest--something that was never true in the Old Testament.
King A human being with a harem and children. God promised that the King of Israel would be the highest King: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (2 Sam 7:16, Ps 2, Ps 89). God, the Son, Incarnate as true man, has ascended into Heaven and reigns over the whole of creation.
Kingdom The Kingdom of Israel was a geographic territory, external to us. Because geo-political kingdoms have identifiable earthly boundaries, citizens are in one kingdom or another. The authority of the King is limited to the boundaries of his kingdom. The Kingdom of God is constituted by a spiritual relationship. The Kingdom of God is not tied down to any location on the face of the earth. "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:21).
Enemy The enemy of the King of Israel was other human kingdoms that threatened the autonomy and peace of Israel. The enemies of King Jesus are sin and death.
Victory The King of Israel achieved victory by "breaking things and hurting people" (a military slogan). King Jesus achieved victory by accepting death on the Cross.
Temple The one Temple of God was built out of rock in the one and only Holy City in the one and only Holy Land that was promised to God's one and only Chosen People. The new Temple of the Holy Spirit is built of "living stones" and equally accessible everywhere in the world. "The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23).
Sacrifice Temple sacrifice meant the killing and burning animals. A "holocaust" was an offering that was "wholly burnt" (Greek: holo, whole + caust, burnt). The self-sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross fulfills and ends all animal sacrifice. Jesus Himself was the Priest, the victim, and the altar of sacrifice. All the faithful are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own" (1 Pet 2:9) who join Jesus in renewing His self-offering to the Father in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
Sin For the Jews, sin meant "missing the mark." Personal and national sins were remedied by animal sacrifice offered according to Torah. The Jews had no concept of Original Sin and therefore did not anticipate the need for salvation from that kind of sin. Sin means "alienation (separation) from God." This kind of sin cannot be remedied by the actions of sinners nor by the death and burning of animals. Only God can heal the broken relationship. We can do nothing to compel God to restore us to His love. The gift of the Son by the Father is a free gift (a grace) and is completed unmerited on our part.

De-literalization of the Old Testament

Typological Interpretation

Primacy of Tradition

Both the Scriptures of the Old Covenant (a.k.a. the Old Testament) and the Scriptures of the New Covenant (a.k.a. the New Testament) developed over the course of time out of a living tradition.

In neither case did the development of written expressions of the faith of the People of God annihilate the existence of the faith community. The Scriptures came out of a pre-existing community, were recognized as inspired by that community, and were interpreted and used used by that community to sustain the community.

Development of the Old Covenant

God did not give Abraham, our father in faith (Rom 4:16-17), the books of the Old Testament and command him to read, interpret, and obey the Scriptures. He gave Abraham a covenant, a committed personal relationship.

The children of Abraham inherited God's covenant blessings and promises in unwritten form for many generations. We don't know exactly when the first Scriptures of the Old Covenant were written. It seems likely to me that the assembling of the Old Testament library began with Moses during the Exodus, which would be four or five hundred years after Abraham's covenant with God. The Psalms probably began to develop around that same time with hymns of petition, praise, and thanksgiving related to the Exodus and conquest of the land God had promised to Abraham centuries before.

Once the Kingdom of Israel was established under David (circa 1010-970 BC) and the Temple was built under Solomon (circa 970-930 BC), there were ample human, financial, and technical resources available to compose, edit, and copy the scrolls that we Christians now call "the Old Testament" (TNK or LXX to the Jews).

Development of the New Covenant

When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left a Body, not a "book." The teachings of the Church, the Body of Christ, long preceded the development of the New Testament scriptures (20 to 50 years!). The understanding of doctrine came before the written exposition of doctrine, and it did not die out when some aspects of the faith were expressed in writing. The Church possesses the mind of Christ because she is filled with the Spirit of Christ. She knows how to discern which passages are to be taken literally and which are not:

The Church--and her Scriptures--developed from the hearts and minds of the Body of Christ as they handed on to the next generation what had been handed on to them (1 Cor 15:3-4).

Tradition came first and has never died out, even though some aspects of it were faithfully expressed in the Scriptures that emerged from the life of the Body. Putting some aspects of the faith into writing never killed the Body of Christ. At no time in history has it been necessary to re-create the living Body of Christ from the disembodied Word of God. Paul speaks of preachers carrying the Word of Christ to the world, not a "book."

How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!" But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?" Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, did they not hear? Certainly they did; for "Their voice has gone forth to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." (Rom 10:14-18)

The certitude of the Church comes from God, not from any method of biblical interpretation. The New Testament scriptures are derived from the Church, not the Church from the New Testament scriptures.

Divino Afflante Spiritu

Divino Afflante Spiritu (On Promoting Biblical Studies)--Pope Pius XII, 1943, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Providentissimus Deus (1893).

God does not intend to teach science in the Scriptures
§3 There is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order "went by what sensibly appeared" as the Angelic Doctor says,[1] speaking either "in figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science." For "the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately"--the words are St. Augustine's[2]--"the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things--that is, the essential nature of the things of the universe--things in no way profitable to salvation"; which principle "will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to history,"[3] that is, by refuting, "in a somewhat similar way the fallacies of the adversaries and defending the historical truth of Sacred Scripture from their attacks."[4]
Interpretation begins with the literal meaning
§23 Being thoroughly prepared by the knowledge of the ancient languages and by the aids afforded by the art of criticism, let the Catholic exegete undertake the task, of all those imposed on him the greatest, that namely of discovering and expounding the genuine meaning of the Sacred Books. In the performance of this task let the interpreters bear in mind that their foremost and greatest endeavor should be to discern and define clearly that sense of the biblical words which is called literal. Aided by the context and by comparison with similar passages, let them therefore by means of their knowledge of languages search out with all diligence the literal meaning of the words; all these helps indeed are wont to be pressed into service in the explanation also of profane writers, so that the mind of the author may be made abundantly clear.
The teaching of the Church guides interpretation of the Scriptures
§24 The commentators of the Sacred Letters, mindful of the fact that here there is question of a divinely inspired text, the care and interpretation of which have been confided to the Church by God Himself, should no less diligently take into account the explanations and declarations of the teaching authority of the Church, as likewise the interpretation given by the Holy Fathers, and even "the analogy of faith" as Leo XIII most wisely observed in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus.[5] With special zeal should they apply themselves, not only to expounding exclusively these matters which belong to the historical, archaeological, philological and other auxiliary sciences--as, to Our regret, is done in certain commentaries,--but, having duly referred to these, in so far as they may aid the exegesis, they should set forth in particular the theological doctrine in faith and morals of the individual books or texts so that their exposition may not only aid the professors of theology in their explanations and proofs of the dogmas of faith, but may also be of assistance to priests in their presentation of Christian doctrine to the people, and in fine may help all the faithful to lead a life that is holy and worthy of a Christian.
Spiritual meanings go beyond the literal sense of the text
§26 For what was said and done in the Old Testament was ordained and disposed by God with such consummate wisdom, that things past prefigured in a spiritual way those that were to come under the new dispensation of grace. Wherefore the exegete, just as he must search out and expound the literal meaning of the words, intended and expressed by the sacred writer, so also must he do likewise for the spiritual sense, provided it is clearly intended by God. For God alone could have known this spiritual meaning and have revealed it to us. Now Our Divine Savior Himself points out to us and teaches us this same sense in the Holy Gospel; the Apostles also, following the example of the Master, profess it in their spoken and written words; the unchanging tradition of the Church approves it; and finally the most ancient usage of the liturgy proclaims it, wherever may be rightly applied the well-known principle: "The rule of prayer is the rule of faith."
Avoid excessive figurative interpretations
§27 Let Catholic exegetes then disclose and expound this spiritual significance, intended and ordained by God, with that care which the dignity of the divine word demands; but let them scrupulously refrain from proposing as the genuine meaning of Sacred Scripture other figurative senses. It may indeed be useful, especially in preaching, to illustrate, and present the matters of faith and morals by a broader use of the Sacred Text in the figurative sense, provided this be done with moderation and restraint; it should, however, never be forgotten that this use of the Sacred Scripture is, as it were, extrinsic to it and accidental, and that, especially in these days, it is not free from danger, since the faithful, in particular those who are well-informed in the sciences sacred and profane, wish to know what God has told us in the Sacred Letters rather than what an ingenious orator or writer may suggest by a clever use of the words of Scripture.
We know more about history than the inspired authors did
§31 Moreover we may rightly and deservedly hope that our time also can contribute something towards the deeper and more accurate interpretation of Sacred Scripture. For not a few things, especially in matters pertaining to history, were scarcely at all or not fully explained by the commentators of past ages, since they lacked almost all the information which was needed for their clearer exposition. How difficult for the Fathers themselves, and indeed well nigh unintelligible, were certain passages is shown, among other things, by the oft-repeated efforts of many of them to explain the first chapters of Genesis; likewise by the reiterated attempts of St. Jerome so to translate the Psalms that the literal sense, that, namely, which is expressed by the words themselves, might be clearly revealed.
New questions require new answers
§32 There are, in fine, other books or texts, which contain difficulties brought to light only in quite recent times, since a more profound knowledge of antiquity has given rise to new questions, on the basis of which the point at issue may be more appropriately examined. Quite wrongly therefore do some pretend, not rightly understanding the conditions of biblical study, that nothing remains to be added by the Catholic exegete of our time to what Christian antiquity has produced; since, on the contrary, these our times have brought to light so many things, which call for a fresh investigation, and which stimulate not a little the practical zest of the present-day interpreter.
The inspired authors had different personalities, gifts, and resources
§33 As in our age, indeed new questions and new difficulties are multiplied, so, by God's favor, new means and aids to exegesis are also provided. Among these it is worthy of special mention that Catholic theologians, following the teaching of the Holy Fathers and especially of the Angelic and Common Doctor, have examined and explained the nature and effects of biblical inspiration more exactly and more fully than was wont to be done in previous ages. For having begun by expounding minutely the principle that the inspired writer, in composing the sacred book, is the living and reasonable instrument of the Holy Spirit, they rightly observe that, impelled by the divine motion, he so uses his faculties and powers, that from the book composed by him all may easily infer "the special character of each one and, as it were, his personal traits."[6] Let the interpreter then, with all care and without neglecting any light derived from recent research, endeavor to determine the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed.
The authors used various kinds of writing ["genres"]
§35 What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use.
§37 Nevertheless no one, who has a correct idea of biblical inspiration, will be surprised to find, even in the Sacred Writers, as in other ancient authors, certain fixed ways of expounding and narrating, certain definite idioms, especially of a kind peculiar to the Semitic tongues, so-called approximations, and certain hyperbolical modes of expression, nay, at times, even paradoxical, which even help to impress the ideas more deeply on the mind. For of the modes of expression which, among ancient peoples, and especially those of the East, human language used to express its thought, none is excluded from the Sacred Books, provided the way of speaking adopted in no wise contradicts the holiness and truth of God, as, with his customary wisdom, the Angelic Doctor already observed in these words: "In Scripture divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use amongst men."[7]
§38 Hence the Catholic commentator, in order to comply with the present needs of biblical studies, in explaining the Sacred Scripture and in demonstrating and proving its immunity from all error, should also make a prudent use of this means, determine, that is, to what extent the manner of expression or the literary mode [genre] adopted by the sacred writer may lead to a correct and genuine interpretation; and let him be convinced that this part of his office cannot be neglected without serious detriment to Catholic exegesis. Not infrequently--to mention only one instance--when some persons reproachfully charge the Sacred Writers with some historical error or inaccuracy in the recording of facts, on closer examination it turns out to be nothing else than those customary modes of expression and narration peculiar to the ancients, which used to be employed in the mutual dealings of social life and which in fact were sanctioned by common usage.
The different kinds of writing required different kinds of reading
§39 When then such modes of expression are met within the sacred text, which, being meant for men, is couched in human language, justice demands that they be no more taxed with error than when they occur in the ordinary intercourse of daily life.
Human sciences can help us understand the context of the Scriptures
§40 Let those who cultivate biblical studies turn their attention with all due diligence towards this point and let them neglect none of those discoveries, whether in the domain of archaeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing.
All truth is from God, even in the humanities and science
§41 For all human knowledge, even the nonsacred, has indeed its own proper dignity and excellence, being a finite participation of the infinite knowledge of God, but it acquires a new and higher dignity and, as it were, a consecration, when it is employed to cast a brighter light upon the things of God.
We may have to wait for clarity and understanding
§44 Nevertheless no one will be surprised, if all difficulties are not yet solved and overcome; but that even today serious problems greatly exercise the minds of Catholic exegetes. We should not lose courage on this account; nor should we forget that in the human sciences the same happens as in the natural world; that is to say, new beginnings grow little by little and fruits are gathered only after many labors. Thus it has happened that certain disputed points, which in the past remained unsolved and in suspense, in our days, with the progress of studies, have found a satisfactory solution. Hence there are grounds for hope that those also will by constant effort be at last made clear, which now seem most complicated and difficult.
Some questions may remain unanswered
§45 No wonder if of one or other question no solution wholly satisfactory will ever be found, since sometimes we have to do with matters obscure in themselves and too remote from our times and our experience; and since exegesis also, like all other most important sciences, has its secrets, which, impenetrable to our minds, by no efforts whatsoever can be unraveled.
There is room for new ideas in response to new questions
§47 Let all the other sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity; all moreover should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that very reason be opposed or suspected. Let them bear in mind above all that in the rules and laws promulgated by the Church there is question of doctrine regarding faith and morals; and that in the immense matter contained in the Sacred Books--legislative, historical, sapiential and prophetical--there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous. There remain therefore many things, and of the greatest importance, in the discussion and exposition of which the skill and genius of Catholic commentators may and ought to be freely exercised, so that each may contribute his part to the advantage of all, to the continued progress of the sacred doctrine and to the defense and honor of the Church.
"Profane science" can help us understand Sacred Scripture
§48 This true liberty of the children of God, which adheres faithfully to the teaching of the Church and accepts and uses gratefully the contributions of profane science,[8] this liberty, upheld and sustained in every way by the confidence of all, is the condition and source of all lasting fruit and of all solid progress in Catholic doctrine.
Theology should guide exegesis
§54 Exegetical explanation should aim especially at the theological doctrine, avoiding useless disputations and omitting all that is calculated rather to gratify curiosity than to promote true learning and solid piety. The literal sense and especially the theological let them propose with such definiteness, explain with such skill and inculcate with such ardor that in their students may be in a sense verified what happened to the disciples on the way to Emmaus, when, having heard the words of the Master, they exclaimed: "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He opened to us the Scriptures?"[9]
notes for Divino Afflante Spiritu
  1. Cf. I, q. 70, art. I ad 3.
  2. De Gen. ad litt. 2, 9, 20; PL 34, col. 270 s.; CSEL 28 (Sectio III, pars. 2), p. 46.
  3. Leonis XIII acta XIII, p. 355; Ench. Bibl. n. 106; supra, p. 22.
  4. Cf. Benedictus XV, Enc. Spiritus Paraclitus, Acta Ap. Sedis XII (1920), p. 396; Ench. Bibl. n. 471; supra p. 53.
  5. Leonis XIII Acta XIII, pp. 345-346; Ench. Bibl. n. 94-96; infra, pp. 15-16.
  6. Cf. Benedict XV, Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus; Acta Ap. Sedis XII (1920), p. 390; Ench. Bibl. n. 461; supra, pp. 46-47.
  7. Comment. ad Hebr. cap. 1, lectio 4.
  8. Emphasis added twice (MXM).
  9. Jn. 6:69.
  10. Vatican II

    "Dei Verbum: Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation" (1965).
    §7 The Church's job is to transmit the gospel to all peoples through all times and places. The Church has two fields of expertise: saving truth [faith] and moral discipline [morals]. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of scripture; the Catholic Church does NOT endorse the theory that God dictated every word of the Scriptures; that is a Protestant theory about the "infallibility" of the Bible.
    "God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations. Therefore, Christ the Lord, in whom the entire revelation of the most high God is summed up (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20; 3:16-4, 6) commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel . . . This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."
    "But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, 'handing over' to them 'the authority to teach in their own place.'[1] This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2)."
    The characteristic Catholic position is that Tradition and Scripture together give us the vision of GOD by which decisions are made. The Scriptures are part of Tradition.
    §8 Tradition makes progress under the guidance of the Holy Spirit by growth of insight. Tradition gives us the canon (official list) of Scriptures and determines the meaning of Scripture.
    "And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3)[2] Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes."
    §9 Tradition and Scripture have one source (GOD-revealing-GOD) and are "in some fashion . . . one thing." Certainty does NOT come from "Scripture alone" (Luther's slogan: sola Scriptura).
    "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. . . . the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence."
    §10 Only the teaching authority of the Church (the [[Magisterium) can determine the correct interpretation of what God wants to reveal to the whole Church.
    "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church." The Church can only teach what it has been taught by GOD.
    NOTE WELL: Infallibility is a doctrine about GOD's power, not about human power.
    §11 God is the author of all of the OT & NT. The human authors "made full use of their powers and faculties" while writing, so that they are also "true authors" of the books.
    Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.[3] In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him[4] they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them,[5] they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.[6] ...
    "The books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures."
    This means, I think, that there are no theological errors in the Sacred Texts. To put it another way, there are no errors about the truths necessary for salvation.
    §12 We need to understand human forms of writing to understand the human and divine meanings in the sacred texts. NEVERTHELESS, the final interpretation of the text must fit into the context of "the whole of Scripture, taking into account the Tradition of the entire Church and the analogy of faith. . . "
    Notes on Dei Verbum
    1. St. Irenaeus, "Against Heretics" III, 3, 1: PG 7, 848; Harvey, 2, p. 9.
    2. cf. Second Council of Nicea: Denzinger 303 (602); Fourth Council of Constance, session X, Canon 1: Denzinger 336 (650-652).
    3. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chap. 2 "On Revelation:" Denzinger 1787 (3006); Biblical Commission, Decree of June 18,1915: Denzinger 2180 (3629): EB 420; Holy Office, Epistle of Dec. 22, 1923: EB 499.
    4. Cf. Pius XII, encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu," Sept. 30, 1943: A.A.S. 35 (1943) p. 314; Enchiridion Bible. (EB) 556.
    5. "In" and "for" man: cf. Heb. 1, and 4, 7; ("in"): 2 Sm. 23,2; Matt.1:22 and various places; ("for"): First Vatican Council, Schema on Catholic Doctrine, note 9: Coll. Lac. VII, 522.
    6. Leo XIII, encyclical "Providentissimus Deus," Nov. 18, 1893: Denzinger 1952 (3293); EB 125.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Verbum Domini

    Verbum Domini--2010 Apostolic Exhortation by Bendedict XVI.

    The Church produced the Scriptures

    "Here we can point to a fundamental criterion of biblical hermeneutics: the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church. This is not to uphold the ecclesial context as an extrinsic rule to which exegetes must submit, but rather is something demanded by the very nature of the Scriptures and the way they gradually came into being" (§ 27).

    "It is the faith of the Church that recognizes in the Bible the word of God; as Saint Augustine memorably put it: "I would not believe the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church led me to do so"[1] (§ 27).

    See the whole

    "Since Scripture must be interpreted in the same Spirit in which it was written, the Dogmatic Constitution indicates three fundamental criteria for an appreciation of the divine dimension of the Bible:

    1) the text must be interpreted with attention to the unity of the whole of Scripture; nowadays this is called canonical exegesis;
    2) account is be taken of the living Tradition of the whole Church; and, finally,
    3) respect must be shown for the analogy of faith" (§ 34).

    The New Testament re-interprets the Old Testament

    "In a word, while acknowledging the validity and necessity, as well as the limits, of the historical-critical method, we learn from the Fathers that exegesis "is truly faithful to the proper intention of biblical texts when it goes not only to the heart of their formulation to find the reality of faith there expressed, but also seeks to link this reality to the experience of faith in our present world."[2] Only against this horizon can we recognize that the word of God is living and addressed to each of us in the here and now of our lives. In this sense, the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s definition of the spiritual sense, as understood by Christian faith, remains fully valid: it is “the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the paschal mystery of Christ and of the new life which flows from it. This context truly exists. In it the New Testament recognizes the fulfillment of the Scriptures. It is therefore quite acceptable to re-read the Scriptures in the light of this new context, which is that of life in the Spirit"[3] (§ 37).

    Lex orandi, lex credendi

    [A loose translation of "lex orandi, lex credendi" is: "We pray the way we believe; we believe the way we pray."]

    "To understand the word of God, then, we need to appreciate and experience the essential meaning and value of the liturgical action. A faith-filled understanding of sacred Scripture must always refer back to the liturgy, in which the word of God is celebrated as a timely and living word: 'In the liturgy the Church faithfully adheres to the way Christ himself read and explained the sacred Scriptures, beginning with his coming forth in the synagogue and urging all to search the Scriptures. ... the deep meaning of the word of God ... unfolds each year in the liturgy, revealing the fundamental mysteries of our faith. This is in turn the basis for a correct approach to sacred Scripture.'"[4] (§ 52).

    "For this reason, the privileged place for the prayerful reading of sacred Scripture is the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharist, in which, as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament, the word itself is present and at work in our midst. In some sense the prayerful reading of the Bible, personal and communal, must always be related to the Eucharistic celebration. Just as the adoration of the Eucharist prepares for, accompanies and follows the liturgy of the Eucharist,[5] so too prayerful reading, personal and communal, prepares for, accompanies and deepens what the Church celebrates when she proclaims the word in a liturgical setting" (§ 86).

    Read the Scriptures and the Catechism together

    "Sacred Scripture, in fact, as 'the word of God written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,' and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a significant contemporary expression of the living Tradition of the Church and a sure norm for teaching the faith, are called, each in its own way and according to its specific authority, to nourish catechesis in the Church today"[6] (§ 74).

    Lectio divina

    "I would like here to review the basic steps of this procedure. It opens with the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas. Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged. Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us. Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?" (§ 87).

    All believers are missionaries

    "Since the entire People of God is a people which has been 'sent', the Synod reaffirmed that 'the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism.'[7] No believer in Christ can feel dispensed from this responsibility which comes from the fact of our sacramentally belonging to the Body of Christ. A consciousness of this must be revived in every family, parish, community, association and ecclesial movement. The Church, as a mystery of communion, is thus entirely missionary, and everyone, according to his or her proper state in life, is called to give an incisive contribution to the proclamation of Christ" (§ 94).

    Pentecost continues

    "The greater our openness to God’s word, the more will we be able to recognize that today too the mystery of Pentecost is taking place in God’s Church. The Spirit of the Lord continues to pour out his gifts upon the Church to guide us into all truth, to show us the meaning of the Scriptures and to make us credible heralds of the word of salvation before the world. Thus we return to the First Letter of Saint John. In God’s word, we too have heard, we too have seen and touched the Word of life. We have welcomed by grace the proclamation that eternal life has been revealed, and thus we have come to acknowledge our fellowship with one another, with those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and with all those who throughout the world hear the word, celebrate the Eucharist and by their lives bear witness to charity. This proclamation has been shared with us – the Apostle John reminds us – so that 'our joy may be complete' (1 Jn 1:4). ... This joy is an ineffable gift which the world cannot give. Celebrations can be organized, but not joy. According to the Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22) who enables us to enter into the word and enables the divine word to enter into us and to bear fruit for eternal life. By proclaiming God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit, we also wish to share the source of true joy, not a superficial and fleeting joy, but the joy born of the awareness that the Lord Jesus alone has words of everlasting life (cf. Jn 6:68)" (§ 123).

    Notes for "Verbum Domini"
    1. Contra epistulam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, V, 6: PL 42, 176).
    2. Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" (15 April 1993), II, A, 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 2987.
    3. Ibid., II, B, 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 3003.
    4. "Final Message of the Word of God Synod" (2008), 3; cf. Lk 4:16-21; 24:25-35, 44-49.
    5. Cf. ID., Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), 66; AAS 99 (2007), 155-156.
    6. Congregation for the Clergy, "General Catechetical Directory" (15 August 1997)128: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, No. 936.
    7. Propositio 38.

    Studying the Scriptures

    One of the categories on this wiki is "Scripture Studies." These are notes I have made for myself to get ready for or else to follow up on questions asked on the show.

    Four senses of Scripture

    CCC, §118:

    Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
    Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

    The letter speaks of deeds; allegory about the faith;
    The moral about our actions; anagogy about our destiny.

    Some favorite verses

    • "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:1-4).
    • "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (24:32).
    • Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch: "How can I understand what I am reading unless someone explains it to me?" (Acts 8:26-40).

    The Pastoral Gifts of the Holy Spirit

    Eph 4:11-16
    And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.
    • apostles
    • prophets
    • evangelists
    • pastors
    • teachers

    Some favorite characters

    Person(s) Status
    Adam and Eve Biologically and theologically necessary. The Church teaches that all human beings are descended from an original pair who also plunged all of us into Original Sin (monogenism).
    Nephilim Biologically and theologically impossible. Angels have no power to impregnate human beings.
    Noah Legendary. We are not obliged to believe the details of the Noah story at the literal level. The meaning of the story is that sin cannot be eradicated by killing sinners; sin survived the flood.
    Jonah and the Big Fish Theological fiction. The whole point of the book is given in the last verse; it is not about miraculous fish but about how we should think about our enemies.
    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Essentially historical and not inherently implausible; theologically significant. Our faith comes from Abraham's covenant with God.
    Moses Historical. There is hyperbole in the account of the Exodus, but Moses left an indelible mark on the people of Israel. The best archeological evidence of the reality of Moses is the nature of Torah.

    Resources

    Catholic Study Guides

    Online Lectures