What Is The Bible?

What Is The Bible?

The Bible is a library of some of the religious literature of ancient Israel and of the Christian Church. Like any library it contains a great variety of literary forms. There is history, saga, tales of tribal heroes, and legends about the beginnings of the world. There is poetry, drama, parables, allegory, prophecy, maxims, proverbs, and love stories. The Gospels are a unique literary form of their own. We have letters and apocalyptic writings peculiar to the times when they were written. All the literary forms have rules for interpretation. The Biblical scholars have provided those rules for us so that we can get the true meaning from the text. The Bible is not self explanatory!

The Vatican II Council taught that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error the truth that God wanted put into the sacred writings, for the sake of our salvation.” The blanket coverage of the inerrancy of Scripture has been removed. It is now limited to only those things pertaining to our salvation. Baronius, an ancient scholar, said that the Bible does not tell us how the heavens go, but rather how to go to heaven.

Bible Fundamentalism

One of the pitfalls in Bible study is fundamentalism which interprets the Bible to the letter. Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Noah built an ark. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days. According to them the end of the world is near.  There are some today who want the first two chapters of Genesis included in the public school curriculum under the title of creationism.

Most scientists are agreed that the human species evolved from a lower form of life. In 1996 the late John Paul II said, “the evidence now clearly supports the idea that the human species developed along an evolutionary line.” At the same time he said that “this leaves room for God the creator to breathe spiritual life—the soul—into each person.”

The greatest problem of fundamentalists is that they have locked themselves into a culture, a level of knowledge, and a concept of morality that is antiquated and totally out of sync with the advances made n modern civilization.

We also have the other extreme (non-Roman Catholic scholars) called minimalists who consider the history of Israel to be fiction, that there never was a Solomon’s temple or the Kingdom of David and that the Gospels are the story of a misguided wonder worker who went to his death on a cross.

Our Catholic scholars are on the cutting edge of Biblical study today and are highly regarded by their peers of other faiths. They present a well-balanced approach to Scripture. We therefore must be open to their teachings and the authority of the Church.

The Apostolic Church

Jesus was a Jew reared by devout Jewish parents. He followed the laws of the Torah and worshipped in the temple. During his public ministry he used their Scripture. In his final appearance to his disciples as recorded in Luke’s Gospel he said, “Recall those words I spoke when I was with you: everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and Psalms had to be fulfilled” (24:44).

The emerging Church also only had the Scripture of Israel for its Bible because Christianity took form in the temple and synagogues of Judaism along with the teaching of Jesus. When the Christians were finally expelled sometime after the destruction of the temple, their writings were produced. It began formulating rules (Acts 15), its liturgy (I Corinthians 11:17-34), and sacramental system (Romans 6:3- 4). The New Testament was slowly formed with Paul’s letters first, followed by the four Gospels and other writings. However, there were many other Gospels, letters and writings in circulation during the early centuries. The canon was not finally established until early in the fifth century when the 27 books were finally selected (Jerome’s Vulgate). The Bible came from the Church, not the Church from the Bible.

What Bible Shall I Use?

The Catholic Study Bible (NAB), Oxford Press, is the best in Catholic scholarship containing reading guides, reference articles, a history of Israel, a lectionary, maps, archaeological discoveries, commentary, and other study aids. Other Roman Catholic editions include: New American Bible (NAB), 1987; New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), 1985; and the New Revised Standard Edition with Deuterocanonical Books (RC Edition). All editions listed above have excellent cross references, maps and explanatory footnotes. Caution: Other than not having all the books approved by the Church, some Protestant Bibles have footnotes that are contrary to the church’s teachings.

Bible Study Aids

Bible dictionaries provide information arranged alphabetically about persons, aces, things, and themes. They also contain historical, geographical, archaeological, and lingual material. [McKenzie Bible Dictionary; Harper Bible Dictionary.]

A concordance presents an alphabetical list of all words with the verse in which it is found. This assists in locating passages that one has heard quoted (Crudens, Strong).

An atlas contains maps covering each historical era with a commentary, and an archaeological recap (Oxford and others).

A commentary gives an interpretation of the Bible verse by verse. It also provides information on related subjects. [Jerome Bible Commentary; Collegeville Bible Commentary; Harper Commentary.]

Parish Bible Classes

Bible study by one’s self is difficult for three reasons:
     1) to acquire the above mentioned books for study would require a considerable cash outlay;
     2) next how shall I use them and where shall I begin? and
     3) who will answer my questions?

To solve these problems join a parish Bible study class. You will find them in virtually every parish in your diocese. The courses use organized programs written by scripture scholars providing texts and handouts for each class. There are questions for discussion giving all the opportunity to participate. The material used is arranged in an interesting format which answers doctrinal questions as well. Not only are you learning but you are socializing as well. The classes are in a setting of prayer and devotion.

St. Paul writes: “All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching — for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the person of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

"What Is The Bible" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Actually there was no change in Vatican II from Leo XIII: http://www.faithfulanswers.com/inerrancy-of-scripture-and-the-second-vatican-council/