Bible Study

Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

by Steve Ray on December 1, 2018

bible-study-bannerWe often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents.

There are two good list of quotes from Church documents and leaders of the Church from the early centuries until today.

The second is a list of Catholic Bibles from ancient times that prove the charge against the Catholic Church false, since the Forewords and Prefaces prove that the Catholic Church PROMOTED the reading of Scripture.

Here is the beginning of a long article which gives a TON of information on this topic and proves the Catholic Church has not forbidden the reading of Scripture — but quite the contrary, it has always promoted the reading and study of Scripture by the faithful.

02064_early_church_fathersjpg.jpegDoes/Did the Catholic Church Forbid the Reading of the Bible?

In three parts:
1) Introductory Comments
2) Pope Leo XIII’s On the Study of Holy Scripture
3) Multiple Quotes from Fathers, Popes and Councils

You and I have both heard the myth: “The Catholic Church has forbidden Catholics from reading the Bible!”

I am not intending to say that Catholics, especially in the United States were always big Bible readers in the past.  Certainly there was a deficit in this area — and a certain shyness coming from the problems of Protestantism and their Bible-thumping ways.

But it is a MYTH that Catholics did not read the Bible until the late 20th Century —  until after Vatican II.  Those who could read (many could not read over the centuries and even today ½ the world’s population is effectively illiterate) did read the Bible when they had them.1 Catholic biblical scholarship did not begin with Pius XII. It seems almost ludicrous to have to say that since we Catholics have had the best and the brightest of biblical scholars long before modern times — just consider Origen, Tertullian, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Thomas Aquinas just to mention a few.

There has been a very long history of Bible reading, study and scholarship stretching back to the beginning of Christian/Catholic history….

For the whole article and list of quotes, click here.

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The Bible out of Context: “Saved by Faith Alone”?

by Steve Ray on November 13, 2018

When reading the Bible devoid of its historical and textual context, there is no context except the context which any person might supply for it.

or put otherwise,

A text without a context is a pretext.

I always get frustrated when self-proclaimed Bible students or teachers start pontificating about the meaning of the Bible and theology without a clue what they are talking about or what the Bible is talking about. We had a classic example of this in our family this week. A Fundamentalist condemned us Catholics for emphasizing the need for good works (cp. James 2:24) using verses like Romans 3:28 that says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”

IMGP0964.JPGWith great ignorance the Fundamentalist said “This verse proves you Catholics wrong. We are saved by faith alone and not by good works.”

Such blithering nonsense has nothing to do with Romans 3:28 — which is not a Catholic-Protestant debate but a Jewish-Gentile debate. But in an argument like this the Fundamentalist ignores the historical and textual context. He uses the Bible verse as a club–as a proof-text to promote his Fundamentalist traditions of men. He creates his OWN context to the detriment of the historical and textual context. It is his argument to trip up Catholics who are not well catechized in their faith.

In Romans and Galatians (and Acts 15) this is the argument: Can an uncircumcized Gentile become Christian (follower of the Jesus the JEWISH Messiah) without first becooming a Jew by being circumcized and obeying all the Laws of Moses and regulations of the Pharisees?

circumcision.gif“Works of the Law” is a technical term. It refers to those actions that made Jews distinct from the Gentiles. Paul says we are not justified by “works of the Law” or Mosaic circumcision and prescribing to all the 613 laws of Moses, but rather by faith.

This is how the Catholic Church understands the New Testament and why the Fundamentalist who takes verses out of their context plays the fool and twists the Scriptures to their own confusion and the confusion of all those who are foolish enough to listen to them.

For more on this read my earlier blogs “Flint Knives and the Gospel” and “St. Paul Did Not Write to Us.”

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Is it possible for a sinful, fallible man to give an infallible interpretation of Scripture or an infallible definition of doctrine? If he is fallible and sinful, doesn’t that preclude his ability to be infallible when it comes to things of God?

No. In fact while many Protestants would say the Pope cannot be infallible in faith and morals because he is a sinner himself, they at the same time must agree that he can do something much more difficult.

What is more difficult: to pick up 10 pounds or to pick up 100 pounds? What is more difficult: to write the very words of God — infallible and inspired text — or to simply give them an infallible interpretation?

Peter and Paul were both fallible, weak and sinful men. There should be no argument here. Yet both did the harder of the two. Both wrote the very words of God inspired and authoritative. Their human weakness did not keep them from being used by God to write inspired Scripture.

We have at least 12 of Paul’s infallible, innerant, inspired writings and two from the pen of Peter. Peter lumps Paul’s writings in with “the other Scriptures,” attesting to their quality as “scripture.”

So Peter and Paul wrote infallible writings by the assistance of God, why would it be impossible for them to do the lesser — to provide an infallible interpretation of the writings, by the assistance of the same God.

Peter’s words were considered infallible even in Acts 15 when James quotes Peter along with the Old Testament Scriptures as his two authorities in making a dogmatic interpretation binding upon the Gentiles. The letter written in Acts 15 is actually called “dogma,” (Greek word used in Acts 16:4).

Peter and the apostled infallibly defined “dogma” in AD 49 at the First Council of the Church held in Jerusalem — long before we had a New Testament.

So, Peter and the apostles CAN give infallible interpretation. This was demonstrated in Acts 15 and in all of Scripture (written by men) and has continued to be demonstrated through the history of the Church with the Popes and the bishops and the councils of the Church.

Remember, Peter demonstrated his fallibility and weakness when he attempted to walk on water and sank. But remember this, Jesus is the one that makes Peter infallible. Jesus reached down and held Peter by the hand and with Jesus’ assistance, Peter did walk on water — all the way back to the boat. It was Jesus who gave Peter the ability to walk on water. It is Jesus who gives the Church, through her pastors and the Pope, the charism of infallibly to lead and teach the Church  — within the guidelines of infallibility (CCC 890-892).

The argument from the greater to the lesser certainly works here. Peter wrote divinely inspired Scripture — which is the harder task, and under the protection of the Holy Spirit he can also provide an infallible interpretation — which is the lesser task.

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Bias in Bible Translations

May 22, 2018

Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase. Translation resembles a sliding […]

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The Technology of Scripture Study: The Middle Ages (and a hilarious video at the end)

April 16, 2018

“I am an ecclesiastical historian by training and a Bible software guy by trade. Which, I think, puts me in the unique position to write about the history of the intersection of technology and Scripture study in a series of posts.” Written by my friend Andrew Jones PhD: “We might start with a description of […]

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Should Catholics Attend Non-denominational or Ecumenical Bible Studies?

April 10, 2018

Every day, Catholics are invited by coworkers, neighbors, and even family members to “ecumenical” Bible studies. Should they go? Certainly all of us would benefit from more study of Scripture, but as someone who has been a part of a number of Protestant Bible studies—I’ve even taught them—I discourage Catholics from attending them because of […]

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Which Translation of the Bible Should I Use?

April 7, 2018

No translation is perfect. Translating ancient and foreign languages into English is not as easy as it would seem. There are ambiguities and linguistic hurtles. Picture a sliding scale from left to right. Every translation fits somewhere along that scale. At one end of the scale are literal translations and on the other extreme are […]

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“Ecumenical” Bible Studies

April 4, 2018

Without a teaching authority or the tradition of the historic Church, this cartoon shows what many Bible studies are really like. I remember Bible Studies that started out with “What does this passage mean to you?”  To keep from arguing or fighting, many just avoid difficult passages. There are many studies that exclude Catholic ideas […]

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Sherlock Holmes: Is this a Real Bible Study?

April 3, 2018

The Case for you – Sherlock Holmes: Stan filled the fireplace and lit the oak logs to make the living room cozy for the arriving guests. The Bible Study had been announced at Mass, and now suddenly it was here. Stan and Suzie had been Catholics all their lives, but they had never really studied […]

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Dangerous Playground or Safe Bible Study?

March 29, 2018

Imagine children running and tussling unsupervised in a playground. Now imagine the playground surrounded by deadly dangers: a sharp cliff dropping down a thousand feet to one side, a field of land mines, poisonous snakes in the sand, and a bog of quicksand on the other sides. With anguish you watch the children decimated as […]

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Great New Didache Bible from Ignatius Press

February 12, 2018

The Didache Bible Is Here, By Dr. Jeff Mirus [Steve’s Comment]: I posted this a while ago, but want to make sure new readers are aware of this excellent new Bible with the right footnotes, maps, etc. This is my choice. [Miras’ article]: This Bible uses the Second Edition of the Catholic Edition of the […]

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Differences Between Catholic and Protestant Approaches to the Bible

February 8, 2018

“Bible Christians” (a misnomer, since Catholics are the real and original Bible Christians), based on their recently devised “Reformation” principle of sola Scriptura, study the Bible with the following premises: 1. There is no binding authority but the Bible alone; 2. There is no official binding interpretation or interpreter; each person ultimately is their own […]

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Did the Bible Always have Chapters & Verses?

January 8, 2018

No! The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are relatively recent additions to the Bible. Originally it was written in Hebrew and Greek and there were NO chapter and verse divisions–in fact, most of the time there was not even spaces between the words! Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews the writer is quoting […]

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Verbum – Couldn’t Live without It! Now Updated and Free!

December 20, 2017

I have been using Logos Bible Software since 1990. It is now light years better and with separate CATHOLIC software called Verbum. It works off the internet, on a desktop or laptop (Mac or PC), tablets or smartphones – both Android and Apple. It seamlessly syncs between all your platforms. Catholics should be the best at Bible Study […]

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7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

November 24, 2017

7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible Posted by Cierra Klatt on 09/06/2017 in Olive Tree Blog 1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message. 2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each […]

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Bible Study: Playground or Minefield?

October 10, 2017

Imagine children running and tussling unsupervised in a playground. Now imagine the playground surrounded by deadly dangers: a sharp cliff dropping down a thousand feet to one side, a field of land mines, poisonous snakes in the sand, and a bog of quicksand on the other sides. With anguish you watch the children decimated as […]

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