Skip to comments.Church and the Bible(Caatholic Caucus)
Posted on 02/21/2007 3:40:34 PM PST by stfassisi
Understanding the correct history of the Holy Bible and the emphasis placed by the Catholic Church on properly reading and understanding the sacred writings is paramount to understanding the message of God. Some have claimed that the Catholic Church "Lords over scripture as its master," when in fact the Church is a servant to Sacred Scripture. Do these erroneous claims enkindle your desire to seek out the truth and correct the errors attacking our Church and the Holy Scriptures?
As Catholics, we have nothing to fear except our own lack of effort in pursuit of the truth! History, science, nor any other search for knowledge when conducted in an unbiased manner can or will contradict the teaching of the Bible when understood correctly. However, knowing the historical and scientific truths with respect to our faith helps us to follow the greatest commandment. How so? When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment." (Matt: 22:37-38) However, how can we love Whom we do not know? For to know God is to love God. Fortunately for us, God revealed Himself to us through His spoken word--Jesus His Son-- and through His written Word--the Holy Bible.
A Brief History of the Bible
A translation of the entire Hebrew Bible from Hebrew into the Greek language was begun between 285 - 246 B.C. The translation was completed between 250 and 125 B.C. and was later called the Septuagint. This is a Latin word for the number 70 (LXX in Roman numerals), which describes the number of Jewish scholars traditionally believed to have undertaken the task. The Septuagint contains 46 books. The Catholic Church, using the authority given it by Jesus Christ (Matt: 16:18), officially approved 46 books of the Septuagint comprising the Old Testament, at the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. This Council (and another) declared that the canon (rule, or measure) of Scripture includes the 27 books of the New Testament. In 405 A.D. Pope Innocent I approved the 73-book canon and closed the canon of the Christian Bible.
The canon of the Catholic Christian Bible was universally accepted for 1100 years until Martin Luther called it into question in the year 1517. He cited the same concerns of the Jewish Council at Jamnia, namely that there were no Hebrew counterparts to the seven books rejected by that Council. The great biblical scholar St. Jerome shared these concerns; however, he ultimately acceded to the decision of the Catholic Church as authoritative on the canon of Scripture, but Martin Luther sided with Jamnia. Ironically, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 in caves at Qumran, Israel, ancient Hebrew copies of some of the disputed seven books were discovered. This discovery undermines rejection of some of the seven books based on the fact that there are Hebrew counterparts to the Greek texts. Additionally, some of the books falter against the "written later than the time of Ezra" criterion proposed by the Jewish Council at Jamnia.
St. Augustine said, "For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church." It is ironic that Martin Luther, a once devout Augustinian monk, would not submit to the same authority as did the founder of his order. In his commentary on St John, (Chapter 16) Martin Luther wrote, "We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists (Catholics) that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it." If the Catholic Church gave us the Bible (according the Martin Luther), why change it?
Perhaps the most important validation in addition to the authority of the Catholic Church's proclamation of the 46- book-canon rather than the 39-book-canon is that the Septuagint was the text quoted more than 300 times by the writers of the New Testament (as opposed the to Hebrew version of the same texts.) Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI points out, "The Apostles and New Testament writers quoted principally the Septuagint. In fact, of the three hundred and fifty Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament, about three hundred are taken directly from the Septuagint." Proof is commonly demonstrated in word usage. For example, Hebrews 1:6, quotes Deuteronomy 32:43. The New Testament quotation does match the English versions of the Bible translated from the Old Testament texts written in Hebrew, but it does match the English versions of the Bible translated from the Septuagint written in Greek.
We can assume that if the Septuagint was quoted by the writers of the New Testament, it stands to reason that Jesus accepted the 46 books derived from the Septuagint as the inspired word of God. Why? Because it was not until 70 years after the crucifixion that the Jewish Council of Jamnia convened to remove the additional books. If Jesus accepted all 46 books, why shouldn't we?
The Church, Mass, and the Bible
The Catholic Church is often accused of not encouraging the faithful to read the Holy Bible throughout the centuries and even sometimes chained the Bible to the Church pulpit so people could not take it home and read it. Why is this?
After the fall of the civilized world known as the Roman Empire during the late 300's to early 400's, illiteracy rose to an all time high. How could the faith be propagated from generation to generation without literacy? The answer is that the Catholic Church then taught (rather than leave people in ignorance or misery) by word of mouth, pictures, liturgy, artwork and traditions. As for the Bible being chained to the Church, until the advent of the printing press some 1000 years later by Gutenberg, all books were written by hand--a very expensive proposition. The Bible was often stolen and sold. Thus, to avoid theft and allow all who could read the opportunity to do so, the Bible was secured in churches.
The fact is, the Catholic Church has always encouraged reading of the Holy Scripture and its proper interpretation. Some people today are afraid that studying the Bible using modern methods, technology, and thinking will change the meaning and message. To dispel this myth before becoming Pope BenedictXVI Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,was head of the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said, "The study of the Bible is, as it were, the soul of theology, as the Second Vatican Council says, borrowing a phrase from Pope Leo XIII (Dei Verbum, 24). This study is never finished; each age must in its own way newly seek to understand the sacred books."
Today, Catholics and all Christians must avoid two extremist pitfalls: fundamentalism (rigidly interpreting the Bible without, past precedent and without a magisterium (Consensus teaching office guided by the Holy Spirit) which brings extra-biblical principles to assist. Thus, some Mormons and others have polygamy (as practiced by Jacob, King David, Solomon, etc.) some Muslims kill adulterers (Leviticus 20:10), because these are in the Bible.
The other extreme, liberalism, which may see the Bible stories as metaphors, subjective reports not having objective events as basis. During the period when secular reasoning without the element of religion, commonly known as the Enlightenment, liberal understanding of the biblical text rendered the mysterious as natural. For example, did Jesus miraculously create the abundance of food from the small quantity of fishes and loaves or was it simply that the people learned to share? We may have even heard this erroneous rationalization preached at a Sunday sermon; however this type of liberal interpretation caters to the thought that rational people will not believe in mysterious or miraculous. Are we unwilling to take Jesus at his word? Or do we rationalize His message to mean something less challenging? Saint Anthony, pray for us that we might find our belief in the mysteries of our life, death, and hopefully resurrection as shown by example in the person of Jesus. Help us to rediscover the life of our Savior!
The essence and eternal truths of the Bible must be contemporized for today's world without compromise, rationalization, or alteration. The job of the Church, Bible scholars, and all laypeople is to update the Bible's meaning for today's world. What does the Bible say about human cloning? Well, nothing, but we do have principles on which to base a negative decision. What does the Bible say divorce, termination of pregnancy, they holiness of right marital relations? Are we searching these answers to our questions with and open heart and open mind and a focus on right understanding? Perhaps most importantly, we should be reading what the saints and the Church have to say on these issues,
In 1994, the Pontifical Biblical Commission wrote a document entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. The following excerpts (in italics) are quoted from that document, followed by commentary from this priest.
"In principle, the liturgy, and especially the sacramental liturgy, the high point of which is the Eucharistic celebration, brings about the most perfect actualization of the biblical texts, for the liturgy places the proclamation in the midst of the community of believers, gathered around Christ so as to draw near to God. Christ is then "present in his word, because it is he himself who speaks when sacred Scripture is read in the church" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," 7). Written text thus becomes living word."
During Holy Mass, we read directly from the Holy Bible on four separate occasions: the first reading, the responsorial Psalm, the second reading, and the Gospel. If you attend Mass every day for three years you will have heard the entire Bible read aloud. In fact, the perfect form of prayer acceptable to God (the Mass) draws heavily from the Bible and the institutions of Jesus as described in the Bible. Quoting often from saints and Church documents, Dr. Scott Hahn's book, The Lamb's Supper, discusses this reality in layman's terms and is suggested reading for all. In this book, Dr. Hahn explains the relationship between Holy Mass and the often misinterpreted Book of Revelation (or the Apocalypse). It will become very apparent to the reader that the liturgy of the Mass draws heavily upon the sacred text of the Bible.
"The liturgical reform initiated by the Second Vatican Council sought to provide Catholics with rich sustenance from the Bible. The triple cycle of Sunday readings gives a privileged place to the Gospels, in such a way as to shed light on the mystery of Christ as principle of our salvation. By regularly associating a text of the Old Testament with the text of the Gospel, the cycle often suggests a Scriptural interpretation moving in the direction of typology. But, of course, such is not the only kind of interpretation possible."
You may need two more. ;)
ARTICLE 3 - SACRED SCRIPTURE
101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: "Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."63
102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64
103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.66
104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God".67 "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."68
105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69
"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, 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."70
106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71
107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that 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."72
108 Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living".73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."74
109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75
110 In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."76
111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."77
The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.78
112 1. Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture". Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God's plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79
113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"81).
114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By "analogy of faith" we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.
The Senses of Scripture
115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83
117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88
120 It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books.90 This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New.91
121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value,92 for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.
122 Indeed, "the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men."93 "Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,"94 the books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God's saving love: these writings "are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way."95
123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).
The New Testament
124 "The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament"96 which hand on the ultimate truth of God's Revelation. Their central object is Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church's beginnings under the Spirit's guidance.97
125 The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures "because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior".98
126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:
But above all it's the gospels that occupy my mind when I'm at prayer; my poor soul has so many needs, and yet this is the one thing needful. I'm always finding fresh lights there; hidden meanings which had meant nothing to me hitherto.103
The unity of the Old and New Testaments
129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.105 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.107
130 Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when "God [will] be everything to everyone."108 Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God's plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.
131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life."109 Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."110
132 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."111
133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.112
134 All sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, "because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ" (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642: cf. ibid. 2, 9: PL 176, 642-643).
135 "The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God" (DV 24).
136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf. DV 11).
137 Interpretation of the inspired Scripture must be attentive above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our salvation. What comes from the Spirit is not fully "understood except by the Spirit's action' (cf. Origen, Hom. in Ex. 4, 5: PG 12, 320).
138 The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.
139 The four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their center.
140 The unity of the two Testaments proceeds from the unity of God's plan and his Revelation. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfils the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are true Word of God.
141 "The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord" (DV 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps 119:105; cf. Is 50:4).