Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bible Context = Catholic Context

A troubled man was pondering his existence. His life had seemed to hit rock bottom and he did not know where to turn. He remembered being told in his youth to always look in the Bible for answers to life’s hard questions. He then took a dusty Bible off a shelf and said a little prayer, “Please show me what I need to do.” He closed his eyes, opened the book, put his finger on the page, opened his eyes and began reading at a random place. Matthew 27:5 “Judas…then hung himself.” The young man shook his head and thought, “Surely this can’t be right.” So he randomly picked another verse the same way that he picked the first. It was Luke 10:37 “And Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”

The point of this story is to show that the Bible isn’t a Magic Eight Ball! Do not get me wrong, the Bible should shape our lives but we have to approach it and use it in the right way. You don’t use a TV remote to unstop a toilet. Why, because a TV remote is bad? No, because a TV remote was meant to serve another purpose. The Bibles purpose is the share divine truths to mankind about his creator not to be a magic book, almanac, or a scientific explanation of the universe. The better we understand the Bible, the better we will understand Gods message to us. Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.When we approach scripture, we have to approach it with the right context. If I were to say, “Put the kitty on the table.” You would need to know in what context I was speaking. If I was in Vegas and said “Put the kitty on the table” you would be able to conclude what I was gambling. But the meaning of “Put the kitty on the table” changes if I were at a pet store. Context is key! (Remember this, when a verse is taken out of context to be used as a proof text- that’s really a pretext.)

So what are some context tips for reading Scripture?

  • Get a good study Bible, commentary, and concordance.
  • Learn the history of the Bible and how it came into existence.
  • Realize that The New Testament did not come before the Church but from the Church.
  • Remember that Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade.-Pope St. Gregory

I was raised Baptist. As a Baptist I was taught that the Bible was the most important “tool” I had as a Christian. If it could not be found in the Bible, then it obviously was not important. This view is called “Sola Scriptura,” or “by Scripture alone.” Ever since Martin Luther, Protestants have believed that the Bible alone is the sole teacher of truth and therefore the reason for faith. Ironically though, this is not found anywhere in the Bible. Scripture never says that the Bible alone is the sole rule of truth, but on the contrary it gives that authority to Christ’s Church , “…the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1Tim. 3:16) “And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican.” (Matt. 18:17) The idea of the “Bible alone” is not Biblical. Sola Scriptura falls apart with logic because the printing press was not invented until the sixteenth century. Therefore people could not afford a Bible and even if they could, the vast majority were illiterate. Christians heard the Bible at every Sunday Mass because the Church is the mother of the Bible and not vice versa. The New Testament did not come before the Church but from the Church. Jesus did not hand a Bible over to his apostles. Jesus wrote nothing and as far as we know, He never asked His disciples to write anything. His significant command to them was “do this,” not “write this” ; and “this” referred to the Church-forming sacraments. Only five of the twelve apostles wrote any thing down at all. The first generation of Christians had no new testament. Nine years past after Christ’s death before even one piece of the New Testament was written. It was sixty-four years before the last Gospel was completed. So there were sixty-four years without the twenty seven books of the New Testament. The New Testament, as we know it, was not gathered into one book and added to the existing Bible, the Old Testament, Until 393 A.D. at the Council of Hippo. The Bishops of the Catholic Church, gathered in council, prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, decided on those twenty-seven and excluded other writings. They said these books and these books alone are the Word of God. Who decided that? Catholic Bishops. Form then on, it was definitely referred to as the New Testament and as part of the Bible. The Church that canonized the Scriptures was the very Church that had produced them. During that four-hundred-year gap, before the New Testament was considered a part of the Bible, Christians relied on the traditions of the apostles for the truth. “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (2 Thes 2:15).

Here is a short video I made about how Bible study can change your life:

The Holy Bible is with out question the most popular book of all times but that does not mean that it is the most read or most understood. Some Christians see the Bible as one big book. It is not A BOOK. Its huge collection of books, a library, that took thousands years to put together. When you go to the library, you do not read every book the same way. You do not read every book literally because there are many types of genres. It is the same for the Bible because it is made up of many types of literary genres. The Bible is made up of Jewish history, poems, political onion, mythology, letters, parables, and theologically rich narratives. The Bible’s complexity throw’s personal interpretation out the window. “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation…”(2 Peter 1:20). “ Phillip ran up and herd him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (Acts 8: 30-31). Martin Luther, the original spokesman for personal interpretation, later admitted its absurdity, “There is no rustic so rude but that, if he dreams or fancies anything, it must be the whisper of the Holy Spirit and he himself is a prophet.” It’s the scandal of Christianity that Protestantism has divided into thousands of rival sects each teaching its own set of doctrines while claiming to follow the Bible alone. My conversion to Catholicism did not weaken my view of the Bible; it reinforced it with two thousand years of tradition. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation states the following, “It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred scripture, and the teaching authority of the church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” The Church that produced and canonized the Scriptures in the past, is the same church that interrupts the Scriptures today.

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