Loving the Bible as a Catholic: What's Your Take?

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photo(6)Usually when I write, I try to write about what I know. I mean, that’s what all writers are supposed to do, right? I try to come to some kind of conclusion-however feeble it may be- for my readers’ sake and for my own neurosis.

Today is a little different though. Today I only have questions. And this is why:

Last Lent I tried to start a Bible reading regimen where I was going to read the entire book in one year. I did great during Lent, but everything tapered off once Easter came and went.

This year, I have the same goal, and darn it, I’m going to do it. Like my dad says, “When you get up to the pearly gates one day and God asks if you’ve read His book, you can’t say, ‘No. I didn’t have time.'”

Anyway, here I am, reading the Bible each day, and, surprise surprise, I am being left with waaaaay more questions than I am getting answers. I suppose that is a good thing.

From my millions of questions, here a just a few that I thought you could offer some insight on. I want to understand the Bible in the way God intends it to be understood, so, help?

I just finished reading Leviticus and Numbers, so keep those books in mind when understanding my questions.

1. As Catholics, why are these books important to us? What is our main purpose for reading and studying them? What am I supposed to “get” from these books (although I don’t think my personal benefit is always the point; but I’m not sure how else to phrase that)?

2. How do I talk to non-believers about these books? I know they are often quoted by people who are trying to make the point that the Bible is flawed and full of hatred/hypocrisy/antiquated laws. What is my answer to these allegations? For example, we are not required to make animal sacrifices and oblations pleasing to the Lord anymore, but we still do not condone homosexual activity. Why are some rules still upheld while others are not?

3. If my understanding is correct, Jesus came to die for our sins so that many of the laws and sacrifices from these books would be unnecessary afterward. Is this true? What else can I learn about this idea?

4. It often seems like the God of these books is a harsher God-a God who demands worship, sacrifice and sometimes seemingly cruel consequences. How do I make sense of this when it seems so different from the God of the NT-the God who is so loving and forgiving? The love of a father?

5. How do you explain Numbers 35:16-19 to people using it as evidence that the Church is hypocritical in its view of sanctity of all life?

See? Lots of hard questions. I don’t want to just read the Bible; I want to understand it in a Catholic way. What are your thoughts? If you’re having a hard time articulating answers, resources are always welcome too.

Thanks in advance, friends.

Copyright 2013 Jenna Hines

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8 Comments

  1. Joyce Donahue on

    Jenna – how wonderful that you want to read the Bible! However, reading it cover-to-cover is probably the most difficult way. Catholics read it from the “center” – from the Gospels “out”. You can understand Leviticus better from the perspective of this weekend’s Gospel, for example, the Woman caught in Adultery. The Jewish Law prescribed stoning. Jesus told us that the Law needs to be grounded in the reality of the personal struggle against sin. If you only read Leviticus and Numbers, without the context of Jesus’ teachings about the Law, they will be confusing, because the Jewish culture of several thousand years ago is not our Christian culture.

    Catholics are not literalists when reading Scripture, but we always consider the context of a passage within the whole Bible, how that passage is used in the Church (the Catechism, documents, teachings and the liturgy) as well as the culture and history of the people at the time it was written. Because of that it is important to read Scripture with guidance from the Church.

    I have a friend who is a biblical scholar for our diocese and teaches people who will go on to be Bible study leaders. Here is her website. She will help you understand the need to read the Bible using Catholic commentaries and other tools. She also has some suggestions on the order in which to read. http://scriptureschool.org/default.aspx

    • Thanks for commenting, Joyce.

      I love that idea of reading the Bible from the middle. I have always heard that you should start with the Gospels, but you explained it so well here.

      And, I enjoyed your example of the woman who committed adultery. It leads me to another questions though. I understand what you are saying when you explained that Jesus said the law needs to be grounded in reality, but why is it that we do not change our stance on things like homosexuality in today’s culture? I really want to understand that issue so I can evangelize properly 😉

      And, finally, thank you for that resource! I can’t wait to dive into it!

      You’ve been super helpful 🙂

  2. Taylor Gilfillan on

    I think that the stance against homosexuality is more about sins of the flesh and the glory of marriage which is written about in Romans and Ephesians and guarding against practices that went against our lives as Christians and is backed up by old Testament laws. Roman society had little value for sexual morality so there are strong warnings against it for the early church. There are also questions regarding circumcision. Christ says that it is not necessary, but it is still common place in America whereas in Europe it is usually non Christian Abrahamic faiths that practice it. Germany recently tried to bring in legislation banning it. But I am with you because the bible is full of questions and one day I hope we can get all the answers.

    • Thanks for the comment, Taylor.

      For some reason, I never thought of the fact that certain laws are upheld by the NT while certain laws are updated by Jesus. Why has that thought never crossed my mind? Because apparently I was waiting for you to comment on this!

      That clears up a lot in my head. Thank you so much 🙂

      Also, prayers for you as you read and question too!

  3. Nick Larocca on

    Jesus is the sacrifice we offer to God each and every Mass. No longer does God accept burnt offerings and animal sacrifice. Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice. God will listen to those with contrite hearts.

    Jesus’ death and glorious resurrection sealed for us a new covenant with God.

    The Mosaic covenant was one of rules and laws. The new covenant is one of love and grace. A reaffirmation of Gof’s covenant with Abraham.

    Bible: if you get a daily missal, and read the liturgy of the Word, in 2 years you have read the entire Bible – old & new.

    Hoped this helped.

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