Sacred Scripture: Catholics and the Bible
“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.’ ‘In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.’” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 104
The Church encourages Catholics to read and meditate on the Sacred Scriptures as a foundational element of prayer. All Sacred Scripture is inspired by God and contains what God wants us to hear. Studying Scripture does more than enhance an individual’s understanding of the Bible; it allows people to share their interpretations and viewpoints.
People also are able to relate their insights and have the opportunity to learn about how the Spirit is alive in today’s world. Being involved with a Catholic scripture study helps bring God’s word to life.
There is also a vital connection between Scripture and the Eucharist. The Scriptures are an important aspect of our lives of worship and faith as Catholics.
It is important to note that there are many different translations of the Bible. The two most popular Catholic Bibles are the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible. After the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants removed seven books from the bible that never left Catholic translations. These books are Judith, Tobit, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. The Catholic version of the Bible also includes longer versions of the books of Daniel and Esther.
Reading the Bible
Tips for reading the Bible:
- Find a quiet place
- Simply pick up a Bible and read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to bless your reading and then just read, slowly and thoughtfully
- Listen at Mass to the readings and Gospel. Reflect on their meaning in your life
- Consider joining a Catholic Bible study group, possibly affiliated with a parish
- Start with one of the Gospels and read one chapter a day
- Use the Liturgy of the Hours, or parts of it, for your personal prayer.
Resources for reading Sacred Scripture:
Information from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the General Directory for Catechesis:
Sacred Scripture is fundamentally important in the life of the Church. The principle sources of catecheses are Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, or the Church’s teaching authority. Sacred Scripture is “the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.” Sacred Tradition “transmits in its entirety the word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.” The Magisterium has the duty of “giving an authentic interpretation of the word of God” and fulfills a fundamental ecclesial service.
In addition to a literal reading of Scripture, a spiritual reading addresses realities and events that can be perceived as signs.
We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ. Thus, the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism (1 Cor 10:2). This addresses the allegorical sense of Scripture.
The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb 3-4:11). This addresses the moral sense of Scripture.
We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland. Thus, the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-22:5). This addresses the analogical sense of Scripture.
From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001)
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:
Word of God and Popular Piety
87. The Word of God, as transmitted by Sacred Scripture, as conserved and proposed by the Magisterium of the Church, and as celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy, is the privileged and indispensable instrument of the Holy Spirit in the faithfuls’ worship. Since the Church is built on, and grows through, listening to the Word of God, the Christian faithful should acquire a familiarity with Sacred Scripture and be imbued with its spirit (100), so as to be able to translate the meaning of popular piety into terms worthy of, and consonant with, the data of the faith, and render a sense of that devotion that comes from God, who saves, regenerates and sanctifies. The Bible offers an inexhaustible source of inspiration to popular piety, as well as unrivaled forms of prayer and thematic subjects. Constant reference to Sacred Scripture is also a means and a criterion for curbing exuberant forms of piety frequently influenced by popular religion which give rise to ambiguous or even erroneous expressions of piety.
88. Prayer should “accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man”(101). Thus, it is highly recommended that the various forms of popular piety normally include biblical texts, opportunely chosen and duly provided with a commentary.
89. In this respect, the models used in liturgical celebrations can be most useful, since they always contain a text taken from Sacred Scripture, variously chosen for different types of celebration. However, since the different expressions of popular piety already exhibit a legitimate structural and expressional diversity, the disposition of the various biblical pericopes need not necessarily be followed in the same ritual structure with which the Word of God is proclaimed in the Sacred Liturgy. In any event, the liturgical model can serve as a touch stone for popular piety, against which a correct scale of values can be developed, whose first concern is hearing God when He speaks. It encourages popular piety to discover the harmony between the Old and New Testaments and to interpret one in the light of the other. From its centuries long experience, the liturgical model also provides praise-worthy solutions for the correct application of the biblical message and provides a valid criterion to judge the authenticity of prayer. In choosing biblical texts, it is always desirable to take short texts that are easily memorized, incisive, and easily understood, even if difficult to actualize. Certain forms of popular piety, such as the Via Crucis and the Rosary, encourage the use of Sacred Scripture, which can easily be related to particular prayers or gestures that have been learned by heart, especially those biblical passages recounting the life of Christ which are easily remembered.