How to Read the Bible
These three points are essential to a basic understanding of the bible: 1 God is indeed the principal author of Sacred Scripture. 1 God made use of specific people that wrote in a human language, and did so at a particular time and place in history. 1 At times we have to work carefully to determine exactly what a sacred author is asserting to be true, distinguishing that from something he’s using as an image to help us understand the truth more clearly. Catholic exegetes approach the biblical text with a pre- understanding which holds closely together modern scientific culture and the religious tradition emanating from Israel and from the early Christian community.
Course Description:. How to Begin Reading the Bible as a Catholic is a free online course for Catholics who want to learn the basics about how to read the Bible and apply the Word of How to merge pdf files in photoshop in daily life. The second module discusses the various translations of the Bible and provides guidance on how to choose a Bible for study.
The third module explores the historical and geographic context of the Bible. The final module introduces two methods of praying with Scripture: lectio divina and Ignatian contemplation. This course is designed for personal enrichment only and does not count towards any academic credit at Sacred Heart Major Seminary or for any certification in the Archdiocese of Detroit. For technical support see the Tech Support guide in the Welcome module of the course.
Catechism of the Catholic Church and other resources will be provided in each module. Schedule of Topics:. Module 1 - Studying the Bible as a Catholic. Module 3 - Engaging the Cultural World of the Bible. Module 4 - Praying with Scripture. Conclusion Module - Where to Go from Here? Module Activities:. The following learning activities are available to students in each module. There are no specific requirements. Those who complete all the videos and self-tests will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course.
The time commitment is flexible for this course. Lectures are generally around minutes long. However, levels of participation and engagement are up to the discretion of the individual. Technical Requirements:. Canvas Tech Requirements. Full course description. Instructors: Dr.
Module Activities: The following learning activities are available to students in each module.
Reader Question: Now that I’m Catholic…how do I read the Bible?
The first thing to do is just to make sure you basically “get” what is going on in the scene. Make sure you know who is speaking, who is present in the scene, and the context of the passage. A good Catholic Bible commentary is invaluable here. I use the Navarre Bible. Aug 18, · How to Interpret the Bible Remember that context rules. If you lay the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in the light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. Jan 01, · Taking due consideration of the factors that influence proper exegesis, the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers.
What characterizes Catholic exegesis is that it deliberately places itself within the living tradition of the church, whose first concern is fidelity to the revelation attested by the Bible. Modern hermeneutics has made clear, as we have noted, the impossibility of interpreting a text without starting from a "pre-understanding" of one type or another.
Catholic exegetes approach the biblical text with a pre- understanding which holds closely together modern scientific culture and the religious tradition emanating from Israel and from the early Christian community.
Their interpretation stands thereby in continuity with a dynamic pattern of interpretation that is found within the Bible itself and continues in the life of the church.
This dynamic pattern corresponds to the requirement that there be a lived affinity between the interpreter and the object, an affinity which constitutes, in fact, one of the conditions that makes the entire exegetical enterprise possible. All pre-understanding, however, brings dangers with it.
As regards Catholic exegesis, the risk is that of attributing to biblical texts a meaning which they do not contain but which is the product of a later development within the tradition. The exegete must beware of such a danger. Interpretation in the Biblical Tradition The texts of the Bible are the expression of religious traditions which existed before them.
The mode of their connection with these traditions is different in each case, with the creativity of the authors shown in various degrees. In the course of time, multiple traditions have flowed together little by little to form one great common tradition. The Bible is a privileged expression of this process: It has itself contributed to the process and continues to have controlling influence upon it.
The subject, "interpretation in the biblical tradition," can be approached in very many ways. The expression can be taken to include the manner in which the Bible interprets fundamental human experiences or the particular events of the history of Israel, or again the manner in which the biblical texts make use of their sources, written or oral, some of which may well come from other religions or cultures--through a process of reinterpretation.
But our subject is the interpretation of the Bible; we do not want to treat here these very broad questions but simply to make some observations about the interpretation of biblical texts that occurs within the Bible itself. Rereadings Relectures One thing that gives the Bible an inner unity, unique of its kind, is the fact that later biblical writings often depend upon earlier ones. These more recent writings allude to older ones, create "rereadings" relectures which develop new aspects of meaning, sometimes quite different from the original sense.
A text may also make explicit reference to older passages, whether it is to deepen their meaning or to make known their fulfillment. Thus it is that the inheritance of the land, promised by God to Abraham for his offspring Gn.
The prophecy of Nathan, which promised David a "house," that is a dynastic succession, "secure forever" 2 Sm. The promised kingdom becomes universal Ps. It brings to fullness the vocation of human beings Gn. The prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the 70 years of chastisement incurred by Jerusalem and Juda Jer. Nonetheless, much later, the author of Daniel returns to reflect upon it once more, convinced that this word of God still conceals a hidden meaning that could throw light upon the situation of his own day Dn.
The basic affirmation of the retributive justice of God, rewarding the good and punishing the evil Ps. In the face of this, Scripture allows strong voices of protestation and argument to be heard Ps. Relationships Between the Old Testament and the New Intertextual relationships become extremely dense in the writings of the New Testament, thoroughly imbued as it is with the Old Testament through both multiple allusion and explicit citation.
The authors of the New Testament accorded to the Old Testament the value of divine revelation. They proclaimed that this revelation found its fulfillment in the life, in the teaching and above all in the death and resurrection of Jesus, source of pardon and of everlasting life. As always, the relationship between Scripture and the events which bring it to fulfillment is not one of simple material correspondence. On the contrary, there is mutual illumination and a progress that is dialectic: What becomes clear is that Scripture reveals the meaning of events and that events reveal the meaning of Scripture, that is, they require that certain aspects of the received interpretation be set aside and a new interpretation adopted.
Right from the start of his public ministry, Jesus adopted a personal and original stance different from the accepted interpretation of his age, that "of the scribes and Pharisees" Mt. There is ample evidence of this: The antitheses of his Sermon on the Mount Mt. All this was in no sense the result of a personal whim to challenge the established order. On the contrary, it represented a most profound fidelity to the will of God expressed in Scripture cf. Jesus' death and resurrection pushed to the very limit the interpretative development he had begun, provoking on certain points a complete break with the past, alongside unforeseen new openings.
The death of the Messiah, "king of the Jews" Mk. The resurrection and heavenly glorification of Jesus as Son of God lent these texts a fullness of meaning previously unimaginable. The result was that some expressions which had seemed to be hyperbole had now to be taken literally.
They came to be seen as divine preparations to express the glory of Christ Jesus, for Jesus is truly "Lord" Ps. It is in the light of the events of Easter that the authors of the New Testament read anew the Scriptures of the Old.
The Holy Spirit, sent by the glorified Christ cf. While this meant that they came to stress more than ever the prophetic value of the Old Testament, it also had the effect of relativizing very considerably its value as a system of salvation. This second point of view, which already appears in the Gospels cf. Paul and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews show that the Torah itself, insofar as it is revelation, announces its own proper end as a legal system cf.
It follows that the pagans who adhere to faith in Christ need not be obliged to observe all the precepts of biblical law, from now on reduced in its entirety simply to the status of a legal code of a particular people. But in the Old Testament as the word of God they have to find the spiritual sustenance that will assist them to discover the full dimensions of the paschal mystery which now governs their lives cf. All this serves to show that within the one Christian Bible the relationships that exist between the New and the Old Testament are quite complex.
When it is a question of the use of particular texts, the authors of the New Testament naturally have recourse to the ideas and procedures for interpretation current in their time. To require them to conform to modern scientific methods would be anachronistic.
Rather, it is for the exegete to acquire a knowledge of ancient techniques of exegesis so as to be able to interpret correctly the way in which a Scriptural author has used them. On the other hand, it remains true that the exegete need not put absolute value in something which simply reflects limited human understanding. Finally, it is worth adding that within the New Testament, as already within the Old, one can see the juxtaposing of different perspectives that sit sometimes in tension with one another: For example, regarding the status of Jesus Jn.
One of the characteristics of the Bible is precisely the absence of a sense of systematization and the presence, on the contrary, of things held in dynamic tension. The Bible is a repository of many ways of interpreting the same events and reflecting upon the same problems. In itself it urges us to avoid excessive simplification and narrowness of spirit. Some Conclusions From what has just been said one can conclude that the Bible contains numerous indications and suggestions relating to the art of interpretation.
In fact, from its very inception the Bible has been itself a work of interpretation. Its texts were recognized by the communities of the Former Covenant and by those of the apostolic age as the genuine expression of the common faith. It is in accordance with the interpretative work of these communities and together with it that the texts were accepted as sacred Scripture thus, e. In the course of the Bible's formation, the writings of which it consists were in many cases reworked and reinterpreted so as to make them respond to new situations previously unknown.
The way in which sacred Scripture reveals its own interpretation of texts suggests the following observations: Sacred Scripture has come into existence on the basis of a consensus in the believing communities recognizing in the texts the expression of revealed faith. This means that, for the living faith of the ecclesial communities, the interpretation of Scripture should itself be a source of consensus on essential matters.
Granted that the expression of faith, such as it is found in the sacred Scripture acknowledged by all, has had to renew itself continually in order to meet new situations, which explains the "rereadings" of many of the biblical texts, the interpretation of the Bible should likewise involve an aspect of creativity; it ought also to confront new questions so as to respond to them out of the Bible. Granted that tensions can exist in the relationship between various texts of sacred Scripture, interpretation must necessarily show a certain pluralism.
No single interpretation can exhaust the meaning of the whole, which is a symphony of many voices. Thus the interpretation of one particular text has to avoid seeking to dominate at the expense of others.
Sacred Scripture is in dialogue with communities of believers: It has come from their traditions of faith. Its texts have been developed in relation to these traditions and have contributed, reciprocally, to the development of the traditions. It follows that interpretation of Scripture takes place in the heart of the church: in its plurality and its unity, and within its tradition of faith.
Faith traditions formed the living context for the literary activity of the authors of sacred Scripture. Their insertion into this context also involved a sharing in both the liturgical and external life of the communities, in their intellectual world, in their culture and in the ups and downs of their shared history. In like manner, the interpretation of sacred Scripture requires full participation on the part of exegetes in the life and faith of the believing community of their own time.
Dialogue with Scripture in its entirety, which means dialogue with the understanding of the faith prevailing in earlier times, must be matched by a dialogue with the generation of today.
Such dialogue will mean establishing a relationship of continuity. It will also involve acknowledging differences. Hence the interpretation of Scripture involves a work of sifting and setting aside; it stands in continuity with earlier exegetical traditions, many elements of which it preserves and makes its own; but in other matters it will go its own way, seeking to make further progress.
Interpretation in the Tradition of the Church The church, as the people of God, is aware that it is helped by the Holy Spirit in its understanding and interpretation of Scripture. The first disciples of Jesus knew that they did not have the capacity right away to understand the full reality of what they had received in all its aspects.
As they persevered in their life as a community, they experienced an ever-deepening and progressive clarification of the revelation they had received. They recognized in this the influence and the action of "the Spirit of truth," which Christ had promised them to guide them to the fullness of the truth Jn.
Likewise the church today journeys onward, sustained by the promise of Christ: "The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will make you recall all that I have said to you" Jn. Formation of the Canon Guided by the Holy Spirit and in the light of the living tradition which it has received, the church has discerned the writings which should be regarded as sacred Scripture in the sense that, "having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for author and have been handed on as such to the church" Dei Verbum , 11 and contain "that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation" ibid.
The discernment of a "canon" of sacred Scripture was the result of a long process The communities of the Old Covenant ranging from particular groups, such as those connected with prophetic circles or the priesthood to the people as a whole recognized in a certain number of texts the word of God capable of arousing their faith and providing guidance for daily life; they received these texts as a patrimony to be preserved and handed on.
In this way these texts ceased to be merely the expression of a particular author's inspiration; they became the common property of the whole people of God. The New Testament attests its own reverence for these sacred texts, received as a precious heritage passed on by the Jewish people.
It regards these texts as "sacred Scripture" Rom. To these texts, which form "the Old Testament" cf. This double series of writings subsequently came to be known as "the New Testament. In discerning the canon of Scripture, the church was also discerning and defining her own identity. Henceforth Scripture was to function as a mirror in which the church could continually rediscover her identity and assess, century after century, the way in which she constantly responds to the Gospel and equips herself to be an apt vehicle of its transmission cf.
Dei Verbum , 7. This confers on the canonical writings a salvific and theological value completely different from that attaching to other ancient texts The latter may throw much light on the origins of the faith.
But they can never substitute for the authority of the writings held to be canonical and thus fundamental for the understanding of the Christian faith. Patristic Exegesis From earliest times it has been understood that the same Holy Spirit, who moved the authors of the New Testament to put in writing the message of salvation Dei Verbum , 7; 18 , likewise provided the church with continual assistance for the interpretation of its inspired writings cf.
Irenaeus, Adv. The fathers of the church, who had a particular role in the process of the formation of the canon, likewise have a foundational role in relation to the living tradition which unceasingly accompanies and guides the church's reading and interpretation of Scripture cf. Providentissimus: Ench Bibl. Within the broader current of the great tradition, the particular contribution of patristic exegesis consists in this: to have drawn out from the totality of Scripture the basic orientations which shaped the doctrinal tradition of the church and to have provided a rich theological teaching for the instruction and spiritual sustenance of the faithful.