The written word

One contributor, writing to me, has mentioned the overuse of Scripture on the Blog as causing confusion. I do not disagree. As we would all expect, it is common in the discussions which appear in this Blog that Scripture should be employed to make a point or to reinforce a line of argument. So it may be profitable to consider how best Scripture might be used, and the traps into which we may fall.

The first point to bear in mind is that Scripture is not an absolute authority in its own right. Scripture is ‘owned’ by the Church. The belief that Scripture is a convenient way of demonstrating that the Church (or anyone else) is wrong on some issue is Protestant in origin, not Catholic. It is the Church which confirms the validity of the Old Testament (including the books which are properly a part), and the New Testament was actually written from within the Church, and similarly validated. Of course the interpretations of aspects of Scripture can well be loyally disputed but, in the end, it is the Church’s book, under the Church’s authority.

The second point concerns the inspiration of Scripture. Unlike, say, the Koran, Scripture is not claimed to be dictated by God. It was written by human beings in their language and in terms of the concepts and knowledge of the time. We may presume that the writers did not even know that they were inspired. An important aspect of interpretation is to distinguish the real significance of Scripture from the apparent significance lent by the context in which it was written. Many of the conflicts which have surrounded aspects of Scripture have arisen from forgetting this.

While we may immediately think of issues such as the six days of creation or the treatment of Galileo, we can find this problem also in the New Testament. The gospel accounts are sometimes inconsistent and necessarily selective, and we must, for instance, understand St Paul in the light of his own character and personal history. Even Jesus’ metaphors of hell (outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth etc) are framed in the concepts of the time.

So how do we use Scripture in debate? The answer is, sparingly. The use of a phrase or a verse as a cudgel to prove a point is not helpful. Of course there are key phrases, or incidents, to which we need to refer – but only if they are sufficiently well known in their context for the reader to be able to appreciate their relevance to the matter in hand. Debating through fusillades of quotes does not advance truth.

So let us as far as possible rely on our own reason and our personal understanding in our debates. There will or course be a few occasions where looking at Scripture, in its appropriate context, deepens our understanding. But we give it all the more significance by reserving it for occasions when it is strictly needed.

Having said that, we must remember that we are People of the Book. Historically of course the laity were not free to use Scripture for their own understanding; the Church reserved its presentation to its officials. Perhaps as a result many members of the of the Reformation denominations(and their offshoots) are more familiar with the texts than we are. Shame on us!

I am far from being an expert but I see Scripture as quasi-sacramental. That is, the reading and contemplation of Scripture gives us, through the Spirit, a direct way of relating to God. It is not a benefit to be overlooked lightly. So we would value hearing how all of you use Scripture in your lives (or find it hard to use). We can learn from each other.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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111 Responses to The written word

  1. Patsy stevens says:

    One needs to be aquainted writings such as those by Aelred of Rivaulx to really understand or appreciate the importance of weaving Scriptural texts into relevant articles..

  2. St.Joseph says:

    Patsy welcome to Second Sight Blog.
    I agree with you, hence the necessity of the Magisterium. And Tradition of course.

  3. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    I worship in a Monastery, and a sermon is given every day, to which is related to the readings and Gospel of the day.
    I receive a copy and keep it on my computer and it is a blessing to read it. given by a Holy priest.
    I am not able to go to daily Mass just yet, also I have to keep away from crowds if there a people on Retreat ,but I do look forward to his sermons. and watch daily Mass on EWTN.
    I dont read the Bible unless to look something up.

  4. overload says:

    To remind you that when being tempted in the desert, Jesus did not use the power of debate, or any spiritual power, to rebuke the devil, rather: “scripture says…”.

  5. Iona says:

    And – following on from Overload’s last comment – the Gospels and the Letters frequently refer to parts of the Old Testament (espcially the psalms), using the references as prophecies relating to Jesus.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.
      In the Monastery where I go, there is Terce before Mass (Psalms) , Midday Prayer (Psalms). Vespers (Psalms), All sung, It is a very spiritual experience.

  6. Iona says:

    Quentin asked us about how we use Scripture in our own lives. I did a great deal of Bible reading – especially the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles – around the time I became a Catholic (technically was “reconciled”), then read it in a less organised and more sketchy manner, e.g. looking things up and then becoming drawn into reading more, not necessarily relevant to what I’d been looking up. For a while I tried to read the “readings of the day” but often felt I didn’t have time, or couldn’t do justice to them. At present I take the “Magnificat” booklets, which contain Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and the Mass for the day; but feel this may actually be counter-productive, as I am not thereby reading anything at length, or in depth, or with any real knowledge of the context.

    Then there is the question of the translation, especially from the original Hebrew or Greek; I gather this can sometimes be in dispute. For example, the angels that appeared to the shepherds, – did they sing “peace to men who enjoy his [God’s] favour”, or “peace to men of good will”? Is Our Lady “full of grace” or is she “highly favoured”, or are they the same thing, and does it make any difference to the way we regard her?

    • John L says:

      Iona: I can’t recommend the “Magnificat” booklets highly enough. Some of the daily contemplations are pure gems. Of course the scripture is mainly limited to that of the daily Mass, but for those who cannot attend daily Mass they are valuable. One can always read more around their context if one wishes.
      I agree there are many (too many?) translations, but I find them more helpful than the older English of the King James or Douai versions. “Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” will bear translation as “Peace to men of good will” or (Anglican) “Peace, good will to men”, it depends on the placing of a pause, or a comma. Latin does not use commas, so I feel safest with the Church’s traditional translation. The first one you quote is merely a looser or more colloquial version. As regards Our Lady, my own view is that to be full of grace is to be highly favoured anyway – no difference?

    • milliganp says:

      Iona, the two translations to which you refer are from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome, who translated the Greek NT into Latin in the 5th Century. This was the official translation used by the Catholic Church up to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Inevitably translating via another language creates conflicts (the Jerusalem Bible used in Catholic Churches in the UK is translated via French and is oft criticised for lack of accuracy).
      Perhaps it is best not to base our faith on textual criticism but allow the texts to inform a faith already held.

  7. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Perhaps I am naturally perverse, but as a rule I find that reading the scriptures leaves me less spiritually-minded than before. There are exceptions, of course, notably parts of Isaiah, but even in the New Testament I wonder how much is to be taken at face value. For instance, the description of Peter’s problem with walking on the water looks remarkably like a typical kind of nightmare recounted for didactic effect.

    • milliganp says:

      Peter, I find it more comforting, when reading scripture to either say “what does this tell me about Christ”, or ” how would Christ have read this”. The entire OT is part of salvation history. Jesus challenged the scriptural interpretations of the Pharisees and Sadducees, so arguments of interpretation are not new.
      On your second point, I presume you are unsure of the historical literalness of scripture; this is potentially dangerous territory as the question arises “how much is true”; are the resurrection encounters with Jesus true? If the resurrection is credible so is walking on water.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Miliiganp – Thank you. In general I agree on “what does this tell me about Christ?”. Unfortunately Scripture, OT especially, arouses the sceptic in me.

  8. overload says:

    Quentin, one suggestion is to read prayerfully and sacramentally from cover to cover. Holy Scripture is like a string, having a natural flow seqentially (even though it skips about a bit here and there, and some things are lumped together) — especially the narrative of the OT, and also the books of the NT.

    Without reading God’s love letter to me (to us), surely I could not possibly have found the faith to have got confirmed in the RCC (I have mentioned before that this did not sit easily with me).
    It took me 2 years to read through the Bible; NT followed by OT (re-reading parts of NT, and the Psalms, as I read the OT). Now I re-read bits and books as I am carried, and aim loosely (often doesn’t come naturally) to in the morning daily with/after prayer to read — for instance — a chapter from OT, chapter from NT, plus a Psalm (reading the Psalms I find them very alive, unlike the generally dull dry Psalm readings at Mass).
    (BTW I have read only the 66 books as according to the Protestants, I have yet to read the others in the Roman Catholic cannon, perhaps will apply myself to that at some point.)

  9. Martha says:

    Writing as Martha now rather than as Singalong, I always appreciate the Readings at Mass, the Gospel and Epistles, especially when they are followed by a god sermon or talk which draws out the significance and puts the message into context, but I find trying to read more directly from either the Old or the New Testament quite difficult.

    As a child there were simpler narrative accounts to read, and I have recently been reading The Greatest Story Ever Told which is really helpful in making me understand Our Lord’s life better, and imagining maybe how I would have responded if I had been in the crowd then. During the 1970’s Radio 4 broadcast Dorothy Sayers The Man Born to be King in a number of episodes before Easter which we recorded on cassette tapes, which unfortunately have not survived family life and several house moves. They were very inspiring. I do not respond too well to the visual dramatisations of film and TV.

    A fellow parishioner has recently recommended the Life Application Bible.

    • John L says:

      Martha: Try Mary Renault’s “God so loved the world” if it’s still available. Perhaps a bit sentimental, but very human”

    • John L says:

      Sorry – I speak with forked tongue. It’s by Elizabeth Goudge, not Mary Renault.

      • Martha says:

        John L. again thank you, I shall be interested to read it. She was very popular when I was at school, but I don’t remember her life of Christ, probably at that time because she was not a Catholic author.

    • overload says:

      Has anyone seen The Gospel According to St. Matthew by Pascolini, a homosexual communist Italian director? He said it was not true to call him an Atheist. I think he was confused. Very beautiful film.

  10. Quentin says:

    I have received this valuable contribution from a friend.

    You are right, we Catholics often don’t value Scripture as we should. We reckon we have the Church to guide us and that is enough, but we lose such a lot by not reading Scripture. Eighteen months ago I decided I should put this right in my life, so at the age of 86 I decided to start reading the Bible from beginning to end. So far I have persevered and I am now on the Epistles. One thing has helped a lot.

    I am not doing this on my own. If I were I would probably have stopped by now. But every Tuesday morning a much younger friend arrives at my house with her Bible so I have to sit down and read it with her. We started at Gen. Ch.1 v1 each reading a chapter out loud in turn and discussing any problems at the end of each chapter. We have two different Catholic Bibles – mine the Douay- Rheims and hers the Catholic American so we have two different sets of really sound and helpful notes to guide us.

    I have found it an extremely rewarding experience especially as the Old Testament has enriched my understanding to the New Testament. I remember Dr Frank Sheed saying years ago that,(hopefully,) when we reach Heaven we will meet lots of Catholics who never learnt to read and they will say to us, ” You could read and you didn’t bother to read the Bible !!” So, sooner rather than later, lets get reading with a group , with a friend or on our own.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin.
      The few years I attended a Catholic School in Ireland,
      First for a year with Nuns, we had a Catechism (Irish) question to learn each day.
      Then the other school when I lived in the country, we were never allowed to read the OT, just Genesis.
      Always the new, we had to write it down.(proper writing) or got a smack on the fingers,.
      My friend and I were curios one day, as it was said that the story of Ruth was a bit naughty,so we went into the Headmasters office to find it and see what it said. We got caught.!
      I still have not read it.!
      Bible groups are perfect if there is a Spiritual Director there.
      I have always felt better, as always involved in a parish- if I did not understand to ask the priest.
      One day He said from the Pulpit, ‘You all remember Ezekial- I felt very embarresed.
      Who was he I thought.! I was 29yrs.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph
        The story of Ruth is not naughty. (However, Ruth was a Moabite; the story of the origin of the Moabites is naughty.)
        Why don’t you read it, It’s not very long.
        My gran was saying yesterday for some reason: “whither thou goest I goest, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God”. she remembered it was a quote from Ruth.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload
        Thank you.
        Maybe one day I will read it and see if it was worth getting told off for!! Seems not.!

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        St. Joseph – You should read Ruth; it’s a lovely story, and anyone who thought it naughty probably had a dirty mind.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Peter D Wilson.
        That was a Catholic School. In Ireland, I was about 9 at the time.
        When I said I would read it sometime. I did not mean because I was told it was naughty- it is just at the moment I am not into reading anything only the blog.
        Thank you anyway…

    • milliganp says:

      It is worth noting that it was only in the 1950’s that the reading of the Bible by Catholics became acceptable. My wife’s uncle went from England to a seminary in Ireland in the late 1930’s; when he came home on holliday he had in his possesion a Bible and his father said “what are you doing with tht protestant book!”. I understand that up until the late 50’s lay Catholics were only alowed to read theology texts with the specific permission of their Bishop. Even today most Catholics are unaware of vast swathes of the OT and few have anything more than a rudimentary handle on the NT.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, In view of the conditioned entrenchment of this historical attitude towards the Bible which you mention (ie. that it is not to be read by the common laity, and not to be read at all except in Latin), I wonder whether Thomas More, when burning Tyndale’s Bible translator-publishers at the stake (presumably in obedience to the RCC, or perhaps in his own zeal?), whether he really thought/believed he was doing God’s will? Indeed, I myself — even though I presume his behaviour to be antiChrist — cannot say for sure that God did not want him to do this, since they were being disobedient to the authority of the RCC, perhaps heretical/schismatic . (I am, and am also not quite, intending to be ironic by saying this.)
        FYI — A prayer which I am particularly taken with at the moment, by St Thomas More, composed after being condemned to death.
        (Note how the quotes from the Bible are in Latin. I printed this prayer out for myself, with the Latin bits substituted with the English. One of my grans likes it. My other gran finds the language too awkward, or maybe she dislikes the tone of repentance!)

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, there is no doubt that the history of the Catholic Church contains errors of attitude (but. one hopes, not of faith). The Douay-Rheims Bible was a translation into English of the Latin Vulgate in 1582, so although the Latin continued in Liturgy until 1964 in the USA (I can’t find the date for England), scripture was available in English from a similar time to the KJV. However the laity were not encouraged to read it. It was only under Pius XII that scripture reading was encouraged; his encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu was the first document of the post-reformation era to encourage the study of scripture.
        As to Thomas More, he was a man of his age. His letters to Erasmus are, I believe highly polemical n nature and use language we would consider intemperate, vulgar and insulting.
        It is also important to realise that More would have fully supported the divine right of the king to rule; so disobeying Henry VIII would have been considered as equal to disobeying the Church – and the punishments for defying Church or State were equally violent.

    • Alasdair says:

      I am a non-catholic Christian. In all my (very many) contacts with Catholicism it never once occurred to me that scripture had a lesser status than it does within the reformed denominations – until now. Every Catholic Mass I have attended has included 4 scripture readings and a sermon (homily) which skilfully expanded upon the themes within the readings. Moreover, catholics have several sources eg missals, which lay out a reading plan for 3 years. (Do not attempt to read from cover to cover). Several Internet sites (mostly American) also provide a very detailed commentary on the mass readings week by week.
      In Acts, Philip asked the Ethiopian Eunuch “Do you understand what you are reading?” and he replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
      Yes indeed, you need a guide, but you catholics are already very well served by the church in that respect.

      • Martha says:

        I am glad to read your experience, and for those who can go to Mass on weekdays, there are 3 readings each time then also. I don’t really think we have been losing out.

      • overload says:

        Alasdair, remember that the Ethiopian Eunuch had not yet been baptised!

      • milliganp says:

        Alasdair, thank you for your comment. The Vatical II document Dei Verbum gave equal weight to Scripture and Tradition (the teaching authority of the church). It could be expressed that before Vatican II the Church (Pope, Bishops and Theologians) read scripture and tough its message whereas after Vatican II the whole church read scripture together but the Church continued to preach its meaning and purpose.
        The second major change after Vatican II is that the readings at Mass were greatly expanded (about 5 fold for Sundays and 30 fold for daily Mass) so that Catholics get to hear far more scripture at Mass than in the past.

      • Alasdair says:

        More aids to scripture reading spring to mind:
        I’ve seen a monthly magazine called “The Word Among Us” which has daily mass readings commentary.
        Also a friend has a “Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible” (based upon the New Revised Standard Version) which is full of additional material linked to the scripture by catholic commentators. Presumably the men are equally well catered for with a similar book.
        Yes, you’re right Overload, the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts ch8) was not yet “born of water and the Spirit” (or “born again” as we evangelicals say) and so did not yet have the Spirit to guide him into all truth.

  11. overload says:

    re.”outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth etc”
    My thought is that the correct translation might be “wailing” (burning alive) and “chattering of teeth” (frozen alive). Otherwise, what does gnashing of teeth actually mean in this context?

    • John L says:

      Grinding one’s teeth in rage? That’s how I’ve always understood it.

      • overload says:

        (Is rage a sin?) I don’t expect there is room for rage in Hell, in outer darkness. I imagine one is kept well occupied (“bound hand and foot”, or rather bound in all respects) by the extremity of the suffering, which may be God’s way of making the darkness of outer darkness more bearable (keep the mind from wandering, so to speak) — and keeping one in check so that, like someone in prison, one can commit no further offence.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        Your coment at 12.40.
        If the wicked go to Hell it will be like their second home, amongst friends-will they know any different.

        I still think their souls will see what they have lost when it comes to the Resurrection of the body.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph
        With reference to those in Hell being with friends so not realising it: you seem to be confusing hell (this world of sin, in which many are apparently comfortable and at home: temporarily sustained by God’s kindness to all, but clinging to delusion and empty circumstance), and Hell: perpetual suffering as consequence of sin.
        On your second point, yes, Scripture tells us that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”, and talks about the resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and unrighteous. So whatever this means — however this will actually work — in reality, it certainly indicates that ALL will glimpse Heaven (God is Heaven?) at the Last Judgement. However I do not discount the likelihood that many have already gone to Hell (fast-tracked) — though not sure right now if this is demonstrable from scripture — if so I think they will not glimpse Heaven at the Last Judgement, presumably they have done so already if they have already been thus judged.

      • stormdog1 says:

        Overload The wicked must be comfortable with it, otherwise they would not do it. They will not be so comfortable when they see Heaven from afar Only opinions .Read what Jesus said about the wicked.

    • John L says:

      Overload: If God has the effrontery to attack my good opinion of myself by putting me in Hell, then naturally I will rage against Him. Sin enough, I think.

      • overload says:

        Again, you are, I believe, talking about hell, not Hell.
        God doesn’t put you in hell, but he will bring into the light if you are already in hell in denial (The eye is the lamp of the body… If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!)

      • overload says:

        You can rage, or you can humble yourself before God, admit your sin, and repent.

      • John L says:

        I find I must choose my words more circumspectly. Clearly irony does not serve.
        I am discussing Hell – after death – however you define it – being deprived of God. This is “where there will be weeping and gnashing (or grinding) of teeth”. If I reject God and thus deprive myself of His eternal presence to me (“go to Hell”), then my injured pride will cause me to rage against God. At this point repentance is too late, and in any case is impossible, my pride and anger will not permit it. I will have joined Satan instead of Christ by being like him, instead of having accepted God’s invitation to be like Christ.
        I think we may be labouring this point too much.

    • milliganp says:

      Overlord, you seem to suffer what I would call the KJV fallacy. This is that the KJV is the perfect rendition in English of texts written in Hebrew and Greek. To add to the problem you are trying to interpret in 21st Century English, a text compiled in the early 17th. The use of the English language has changed, if you read Shakespeare (contemporary to KJV) grinding of teeth is a sign of anger or hatred.

  12. overload says:

    On the place of Scripture to different Christians, very roughly (if I am correct):
    Lutherians: solo (only) scripture
    Methodists: “Methodist Quadrilateral” — Holy Scripture is first (“prime”), the other 3 ingredients are reason, tradition and experience).
    Catholics: Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition are joint prime, informed by reason.

    • overload says:

      “both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.” (DEI VERBUM. note the difference in caps st & SS; not my doing!)

      I read from wikipedia that Aquinas said:“our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors.”

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I missed these two posts so my apologies for failing to realise your depth of knowledge in my more recent responses.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload. When you say ,informed by reason-what do you mean-?

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, I can try and tell you what this means to me in my personal experience, if that is what you are asking? Otherwise it is a matter of establishing what the Catholic Church says and means, and how this applies in reality.

    • John L says:

      Problem is:- If I come to you with no belief, it is pointless to refer me to Scripture. It is without basis, and has no authority or validity unless it is verified in some way. That verification comes from the (initial) Church whose eye-witness validates what is written in the N.T., which itself refers back to the O.T, Thus, for me, Church first and Church gives me the Scripture. That is why I am uneasy with a Protestant position putting Scripture first.

    • John L says:

      Postscript:- I find I am here merely repeating a point which Quentin has already made in his introduction – for which I apologise.
      I really must check with my grandmother if she does know how to suck eggs.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      I was asking where your thoughts were within ‘reason and the Magisterium’.
      How do you think reason applies to the Magisterium.

      • overload says:

        I think there is dark reasoning, and there is intelligent reasoning, and both these have a part in how the Magisterium operates.
        Even with intelligent reasoning, it is dark if it becomes the driving force. It is to be used when the driving force is faith — with an attentiveness to God in communion with Him and the WHOLE of His Church.
        I think thats what I think.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload
        Thank you for your reply.
        I would have thought that the Church or the Bishops of the Church would not have taken so long to speak out clearly regards to HV,
        I dont know if that would apply to reason. What do you think?

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, I am not very knowledgable about the history of HV, so I’m not quite sure what you mean.
        My impression of HV and various other matters of doctrine and the Magesterium is that they are bound up in a climate of fraught rigidity and/or casual complacency, within which it seems almost impossible to identify the difference between what comes from God and what comes from man.
        My reasoning asks these kind of questions:
        Correctness of the doctrine?
        Correctness in translating the doctrine in reality and explaining correctly to laity?
        Correctness in attributing by default to mortal sin?
        Correctness of the Church’s understanding of mortal sin?
        Correctness in communicating the Church’s teaching on mortal sin to laity?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        Thank you fo your interesting comments.
        I assume by them that you are not married, or you would be aware of the Humanae Vitae
        Encyclical By Pope Paul V! which he wrote in 1968, on human life.
        At that time contraception was very much thought to be used by catholics. As it was. So it was very much established in most minds.
        It was difficult then for most to find it as the prophetic document as it is.
        Society were already becoming permissive to the sexual reveloution especially outside marriage. I would consider it to be the sexual reveloution of our time,that ended in the results of,more abortions, sexual transmitted disease, breakdown of marriage etc.Just to fill in information for you!

        Cardinal Gagnon in 1982 -84, I have the letter somewhere) wrote to, Clergy, scientists, doctors , midwives, Natural Planning Teachers (to me) asking that research on the method of NFP to be known.This did happen and it has become 100% effective and becoming more accurate all over the world. It is as far as Holy Mother Churchs concern, for married couples..
        44 years ago it has taken that time to recognise that fact with the Catholic Bishops and Clergy-that is my own experience.
        The Birth Control Pill causes an eary abortion-so your comment on’ reason’ was correct in a sense that the Catholic Church had a responsibility to encourage catholics to believe that HV was prophetic
        Thank you overload.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, thanks for the background context to HV.

      • overload says:

        …”explaining correctly to laity”, I think this also includes responsibility to make sure the laity understands. Explaining correctly is useless if the Magisterium does not take into account whether or not it has been digested and understood correctly at large.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, could I just counter your historical interpretation of the events surrounding HV. At the time of its publication the vast majority of married Catholics did not practice artificial contraception, the two methods used for family planning were rhythm and near total abstinence. Similarly sex outside marriage was the exception rather than the rule.
        The laity in the west anticipated that the Church would accept the contraceptive pill within marriage on the basis that it was the application of human reason (like the developments of vaccines and medicines) to the issue of human fertility. HV came as a great surprise because a change in teaching was overwhelmingly expected.
        Because the traditional expectation by the Church of the laity was blind obedience, little effort was made to explain the foundational moral principles behind HV and this was further diminished by the reality that many priests and bishops had also expected a change in the teaching on the same basis.

  13. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    Now that I come to think of it. my parents did not have a Bible, nor my grandmother
    I used to read the readings on my Grans old Sunday Missal. and tell my Gran how clever Jesus was when He told Parables. I have a box full of old Mass books belonging to my parents.Also prayer cards to many to count.
    My late husband had a Bible ,now my daughter has it. (in her book case).His family were Methodists as he was, good people but did not practice in Church.They were not bigoted and came to all the Baptisms and other Sacraments of my children and Grandchildren.
    I found more comfort in the CCC when it came out and gave one to each of my children..

  14. Iona says:

    John L – (just to go back briefly to “Magnificat”) – I discovered yesterday that the January Magnificat has an article (by Fr. Jerome Bertram), right near the beginning, on St. Matthew’s gospel. It describes how the Gospel is structured, dividing it into sections. This sort of analysis is something I find very helpful, and I shall read Matthew’s gospel anew, a section at a time. I’m not keen on reading right through from Genesis to Revelation (though I have done so); it tends to go in one eye and out the other. I like background information, – history, language, etc.

    Can’t think of anything naughty in Ruth. There are some fairly naughty events recorded in Genesis. Lot and his daughters, for example.

    I have read “gnashing” (of teeth) translated as “grinding”. If that helps.

    • John L says:

      I agree. My wife always says (with tongue in cheek) that the Bible is very unedifying, there is as much sin and bloodshed in is as there is in modern television drama.
      As a child I tried to read it as a history book and soon got bogged down. Great fun with Moses (see Cecil B De Mille) but then comes Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the like, and I wonder what the dietary regulations of a nomadic people have to do with me – particularly as I love black pudding! What the simple ten commandments have expanded into! Thank Goodness Our Lord was satisfied with two – God and neighbour.
      I find that my best approach now is to see where the Mass readings lead, and then explore round them. Once I see what is the theme, then I can make some progress.
      Re Cecil B De Mille, I once went with a priest friend to see the film “A Man for All Seasons”. Before the film there was a trailer for an epic film entitled “The Bible”. Although it only seemed to get as far as the Tower of Babel it looked like the best traditions of Hollywood. My friend leaned over and said, “I’ve read the book and it’s better”.

  15. Nektarios says:

    One of the problems and confusion about Christian Apologetics – that is the defending of what we believe. When it comes to the Bible, there is much confusion owing to several factors. Principally we do not read it; we do not believe it; when we do, we do nothing about it; we are influenced by denominational views of Bible truth, which in parts conflict with each other; we are influenced by Humanism and Secularism and liberalism which has no God as their belief, therefore, the Bible to such can only be solely a human invention.

    When it comes to the Bible, God is speaking to man, for God is a personal God, and because we really do not understand Him, so He speaks to us in presuppositions.

  16. Ignatius says:

    Many years ago I was laid low by illness for a month or so. During that time I read the Pentateuch..first five books of the old testament. I think that experience of allowing myself to be absorbed in scripture and scripture alone was to make a profound difference to my life and lay a foundation for the understanding and apprehending of God. A simple reading of the psalms, one or two a day all the way through is also excellent.
    Scripture can be simply read, almost as if a novel, and will still have an effect on the mind/spirit which is inclined towards God. Scripture will almost always refresh in some obscure way though there are times when one finds the page as dry as dust.

    I think that often we Catholics are afraid of scripture, terrified of picking up some ‘heresy’ or another as if the bible were a crowded tube station in winter where we dare not breathe in in case we catch some bug or another. The thing is to practice a kind of lectio divina approach where one just mulls the stuff over and ponders it without needing to draw pertinent conclusions and then goes and looks up some stuff in a commentary if necessary. I have read scripture as if analysing runes with minutiae of interpretation along with armfuls of commentaries – and I have allowed it to wash over me as if some classic novel; one simply has to see scripture as a friend, as a balm, as a means of accessing God.

    A really good thing to do is to read the bible along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church..open up a bit of the CCC which interests you and then go through the scriptural references to the topic, this helps both with the understanding of scripture and the way the Church interprets it. It is squarely said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

    • overload says:

      Ignatius, “It is squarely said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
      I would agree with this in the sense that Scripture is written into our spiritual DNA. And regularly applying ourselves and being vigilant, by reading Scripture externally to wake ourselves up to reading internally, and thus to be sure we are not reading some different spiritual/material DNA, is very profitable, for us as individuals. As for the Church — unlike an individual who only NEEDS the information that Christ is Lord and died for his/her sins (if even that much) to know Christ — surely she is responsible for correct reading of Scripture externally (as also internally), and to broadcast it without partiality or doctoring (regardless of how ‘good’ her intentions may be in doing so), as representative and responsible for all her members.

    • St.Joseph says:

      (It is interesting to me that St Peter is mentioned 139 times in Scripture, more than any other Apostle. Then St John I think 23 then down to the other Apostles.That tells how important he is.
      Taken from Where does it say in Scripture.on EWTN by j

  17. Ignatius says:

    Regarding my above post I must say that I concur with Quentin’s inclination against using scriptural verses to cudgel one another with. Duelling scripture is misguided not to mention arrogant since it assumes that ones own particular grasp is divine and that of the other is deluded…dangerous ground indeed. We should be able to express our thoughts regarding the divine in simple clear everyday language hoping thus to avoid the pitfall of private fantasies masquerading as revelation.

  18. John L says:

    Please try again, Nektarios. I wanted to see that link, but had not time before. Thanks in anticipation.

    • John L says:

      That’s odd – the above seems to have been inserted in alphabetic sequence, where I expected it to be by date/time. Should have been after Quentin’s below.

  19. Nektarios says:

    John L

    .youtube.com/watch?v=i1FfYz3TZQk

  20. Nektarios says:

    John L
    try this see if it works.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1FfYz3TZQk

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      I found that Link very interesting!
      However, I thought about the man in the street, how he would be able to connect with that.
      In the beginning he said that St Paul said ‘ believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
      There are many who believe in Jesus Christ,He existed.
      Not all christians believe what the RC teaches, also not all believe in the Trinity
      As to what the You Tube said, as far as the catholics who have lapsed, would they understand the language.
      Very pertinent for scholars and students,
      How do you think I could explain that to those who call themselves Christians and are Baptised in another Church, and some Catholics who believe in abortion, and contraception. ;euthansia, and test tube babies etc;
      Do those things not matter for our salvation?.
      Before you say. it is left in Gods hands in the end-do we not have duty to evangelise?
      Or is evangelization only believing in Jesus.?
      When my husband and I ran a public house, many came back fo church when they saw Peter my husband doing so much for the parish funds. Not a Catholic!
      At least they new where they belonged.
      They were curious why we did not have a condom machine in the gents.
      That did not put them off.!

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Wonderful! At last I have found a way to just get the link on its own – you can expect more in the future.
        As to the questions you pose: Firstly, as a Christian, our first action towards others should be one of love. What makes this or that person tick, what is their world they are coming from, their problems, joys, fear, trials and other difficulties.

        Concerning those who believe in, or accept such things as abortion at the beginning of life, and euthanasia at the other which are going to increase, in part what Shaeffer was on about was where does this trend of thinking come from. Essentially it is Humanism.
        I think that you may feel you have the right, or the desire to confront or change their thinking, arguing your case. But it there is no meeting of mind somewhere along the line, one will not succeed in changing their views very much. Listening to them in love comes first.
        To answer your next question,` are these things not matter for our salvation?’
        I understand RC thinking on these and other issues, it only bears on Salvation, when it highlights our sinnership. When one comes to see one own sinnership, then the Gospel of Salvation in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved comes into play.
        One does not put the cart before the horse in other-words.

        If one is truly living the Christian life are we not walking Epistles to the truth of the Gospel?

        Being an Evangelist, one is a gift to the whole Church everywhere. They are going out into the highways and byways, preaching the Gospel and bringing in such as should be saved. Being an Evangelist per se is a calling of God. `The fields are white unto harvest, but the labourers are few.’

      • overload says:

        Nektarios, I agree, and as St Paul makes clear, it is fundamental that the Church needs to understand “not put the cart before the horse”.

        With reference to “belief”, this indicates one of the major problems with misinterpretation of Scripture, when very free language like this is used. So a casual understanding of belief misunderstands what the word actually means — ie. if we believe we will be saved. If we believe, we will obey Christ; knowing and receiving the love and patience of Christ for us we can in turn love, and obey Him.

      • overload says:

        …Same goes with a misunderstanding of the word ‘Evangilisation’, and us, as Pope Francis says, ordered to be ‘missionary disciples’. Most Catholics are not in a position to do this! They need themselves to be evangelised first.
        I think it was St Francis of Assisi who said “preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary”. So it must come naturally with every breath, or we may do more harm than good if we try to ‘catch a convert’.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        We evangelize by living out our faith to the full.
        That is our Mission.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        Yes of course our only action to others ought to be’ one of love. That is understandable.That also applies to non-christians! They have the same duty being human!
        The point you made ‘where these people are coming from- was what I said too.
        ‘The man in the sreet’
        We can not expect others to have had the same upbringing as we have had, or those who have lost their faith.
        You say ‘ Concerning those who believe in or accept such things as abortion etc;
        To me that comes from the lifestyle of todays modernist thinkingI
        I dont understand your meaning of Humanisn.
        You say ‘you think that I may feel or have the desire to confront or to change their thinking by arguing my case’.
        DID I SAY THAT? or even imply it?
        We have a duty to evangelize. Jesus died for our sins! We need to co-operate with Him for the salvation of those living in ignorance.
        So you believe that abortionists who are Christians, committing that evil act, believing in Jesus, will not have to answer for their sins, that is enough just to believe in Him.
        You say if one is truly living the Christian life are we not walking Epistles to the truth.

        Christians can think they are truly living the christain life and be walking the Epistle truth
        .I dont think the labourers are few- just that few are listening!
        The 1st Commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul,and your neighbour as yourself.
        2nd Do unto others as you would have done to you.
        If I was unaware of the Truth I would certainly like to be told!

        Nektarios. A small thought for you, if you have the answer please tell me.
        There were three Crosses on Calvary. Jesus on the middle Cross!
        The one on the right of Jesus said to Him ‘Remember me this day when you enter into Paradise’
        The one on His left was mocking Jesus!
        Would Jesus have taken him into Paradise too?If not why not?

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, are you suggesting that we (the RCC) can engineer peoples (inc. non-believers) knowledge of Christ?

        Nektarios was making the point that the matters of godliness/sin which pertain to our salvation/damnation are beyond our control; we need Jesus (not just what he commands and says), the Holy Spirit within us, to make us right with God; that we understand — not so much because of fear of Hell, but because of love of Christ; knowing how to please him here-and-now, not according to a pre-prescribed formula — why not to, for instance, carry out an abortion.

    • John L says:

      Got it.
      Thank you Nektarios.

  21. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph
    The Lord spoke to another on a cross, saying remember me &c.
    I have no knowledge whether the Lord took the other theif to heaven or not.

    Humanism essentially means, man is the centre of all things, – crazy I know, but this is the world
    philosophy and world view today.

  22. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    If Holy Scriptures, the Bible, is not authoritative in all matters concerning God’s plan of Salvation,
    in matters of Christian apologetics. If the institution of the RCC claim it is under its authority, then the RCC falls into the trap of usurping authority over the Word of God. We are to receive the Word of God, believe it and act upon it.
    One other point for the moment, Quentin, your view limits it seems to me the Word of God. Anyone can read it, but not necessarily understand it in all its aspects, especially its spiritual aspects.
    The abuse of Holy Writ has lead to many errors in the past and present.
    Lastly, when it comes to Scripture being authoritative,over us, consider the Book of Revelation.
    Is the RCC as claimed in charge of all that ending? I think not.

    • Quentin says:

      Nektarios, before you can be guided by the Word of God you need to know which books authentically contain it. You will be aware that several documents, claiming to be part of Scripture, were around in the second century – and that even some books in the Old Testament were later to be downgraded by the Reformers. It was, and could only be, the Church which could state authoritatively which documents were included. Similarly, when parts of Scripture could be understood differently, only the Church could rule which interpretation should be taken as correct. Such authority was given to the Church from Christ through the Apostles.

      When the canon was defined (late fourth century) the Eastern Church was united to the whole, and was therefore party to this authority. I cannot of course speak for the decisions made by the Eastern Church after it ceased to be united.

      • Nektarios says:

        Quentin
        Yes, indeed all this is well known to me.But if the inference is, the RCC has sole authority as the only custodians of Holy Writ ,etc then that would be somewhat misleading, don’t you think?

      • Quentin says:

        For those who accept that teaching authority was only given to the Church which is in communion with the see of Peter (the rock on whom Jesus built his Church) what I have described would follow. Others would no doubt have other views.

      • overload says:

        Perhaps we who are said to be built upon the rock and in the possession of the keys, should have a careful read of 1 and 2 Peter, the rock and keys of the Holy Scriptures — ?

        (And not forgetting Romans 11, with regards to not “boasting against the branches”)

      • overload says:

        Quentin, you said “You will be aware that several documents, claiming to be part of Scripture, were around in the second century”.
        I’m not sure I did know. You are talking about NT Apocrypha? I am surprised and confused reading now on wikipedia mention of Hamesh Megillot — I read that these books were not included as part of the Tanakh until 2C AD? So Jesus did not read these books?

        In reference to the Orthodox Church, are you making the point that Scripture was set/fixed when the Church was unified in the 4th C, before the various Schisms, thus there are not questions over delineation of the One Church, and delineating the authority of the Roman Catholic Church?

        I do not understand the reasons for the Catholic extended OT cannon; why this differs from the Tanakh and Orthodox and Protestant cannon. (and vice versa, why the Protestant differs from the Catholic cannon.) I think I will read about this, unless someone can explain this in straight forward language?

      • Quentin says:

        If you have started to explore these questions you will no doubt have discovered that the whole area is very complex. It is specialist territory. But I am not a specialist (nor, as you suggest are you) so I rely on what the Church tells me. This blog is no place for any deep debate on such a topic, which I imagine is of limited interest to most readers.

      • Martha says:

        Yes as far as I am concerned.

        I would be very interested in a recommendation for a good audio version of the Old and New Testaments, particularly if there is one read in an English accent which I find easier to listen to.
        (Apologies to the many good programmes on EWTN)
        Do they include notes or a commentary?

      • milliganp says:

        The early church developed in the Greek speaking world of the Jewish diaspora. In the community the Greek language Septuagint version of Jewish scipture was used in the synagogues. This Septuagint version contains all the OT texts in the “Catholic” version of the bible. The story behind the Septuagint is that it was deemed to be a “miracle translation” of Jewish Scripture into Greek and was thus held a canonical by the Jewish diaspora. After the destruction of Jerusalem and againt the rise of Christianity (before we had Roman Catholic, Orthodox Catholic or Protestant) the Jewish Pharisees met and agreed to “purify” their scripture of those works only available in Greek and reduced the Hebrew Bible to that used in Jerusalem. It is this text which forms the basis of the Protestant version of scripture. However EVERY quotation from the OT included in the NT is from the Septuagint version. If it was good enough for the evangelists and Paul, it ought to be good enough for us.

      • Quentin says:

        Thanks for the detail.

      • milliganp says:

        Martha, there is a website / organisation called “Faith Comes by Hearing”, you can either buy Tapes / CDs or download from the website. I’m fairly crtain they offer the RSV read by Briish voices.

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, quoting another source:-
        “The statement, sometimes rendered as “Rome has spoken; the cause is finished” or in Latin ” Roma locuta; causa finita est,” derives from a statement Augustine made early in the fifth century.”
        Given that Augustine writes before the Great Schism, if it was good enough in the 5th Century it ought to be good enough now.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp “if it was good enough in the 5th Century it ought to be good enough now.”
        Your reasoning is flawed, I feel.

        My reasoning:

        1) Exactly because it was before Schism, there was to Augustine no question as to the authority of Rome.

        2) There is perhaps a difference between Heretics (clearly judged by the Church to be opposed to the Church), and a Schism, where the Church has been split apart: where it is at least to some extent unclear who is responsible for the Schism, and it is perhaps unclear where God’s favour lies.

        3) The Authority of Rome was not set out in Holy Scripture, but by the early Church Fathers. This does not make it invalid, but it does not hold the same weight as what is set out in Holy Scripture. You display ignorance of Roman 11, which tells us that Rome is not the unchangeable authority of the Church.

        4) Because the Church is split, all the more importance to refer to Holy Scripture (specifically the NT, which is the same to all Churches), since this is the only common language of all Christians. The only way to avoid this would be to claim that only Roman Catholics are or can be Christians.

        5) Sacred tradition is arguably tangled up with the traditions of men — or at least bound up with theologies which may not be dogmatic — so cannot easily be discerned. Sacred Scripture on the other hand is accepted by all Church authorities as reliable, the problems being primarily with interpretation and understanding, not so much with the text itself (ie. slight differences in OT cannons).

      • John L says:

        The RC accepted version of the OT is not without importance to us. One example:- We (thank God) pray for the dead. Most of our Protestant friends think this is incorrect. We find justification in Maccabees. They reject Maccabees as part of the canon.
        Whether either is cause or effect, or what is the motivation would take a far cleverer person than I am to resolve. I continue in the hope that someone will pray for me, alive or dead. I stand by the barque of Peter.

  23. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph

    ‘ Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned’ Attributed to St Augustine, and quoted by Samuel Beckett in ‘Waiting for Godot’.

  24. Martha says:

    Milliganp, thank you for recommending the Faith comes by Hearing website, it is an amazing resource, though so far I am not quite sure if it includes a Catholic version.

    • overload says:

      Martha, one of my grans uses RNIB taking books service. On their website I did a quick search in their catalogue, came up with a Jerusalem Bible, and a couple of others. However, I think you might need to be registered partially sighted / blind with the RNIB to make use of this.

    • milliganp says:

      I checked the contents of one of their downloads, it does not contain the deuterocanonical books of the OT at all. Similarly the NT changes included in Catholic versions will not be present.

      • overload says:

        milliganp, you mention “the NT changes included in Catholic versions will not be present”; what are these, I thought the NT was the same for all (Catholic + Orthodox + Protestant)?

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I have a copy of the RSV Catholic Edition New Testament; there are a total of 53 variations, about half refer merely to footnotes to the text but others refer to choices of source text (there is no single copy of the NT of sufficiently ancient origin and provenance to assure us of a definitive text.) Some are nuances of translation (because Catholicism gives primacy to texts which conform to the Latin vulgate of Jerome).
        A few examples are:-
        Matthew 1:19 RSV uses phrase “divorce her”, RSVCE reads “send her away”
        Matthew 19:9 RSVCE adds after “commits adultery”, “and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” with a footnote stating that other ancient texts do not contain these words.
        Mark 16:9+ the RSVCE has additional post-resurrection material in the text which the RSV adds as a footnote.
        Luke 1:28 RSV “O favoured one”, RSVCE “full of grace”

        As you can see the variations are minor but do nuance aspects of faith such as our specific attitude to divorce and the status of Mary, the mother of God.

  25. Truthos says:

    I confess I have only skimmed through the comments on this post, but I recommend the book ‘Opening the Bible’ by Thomas Merton. I’s only a small book but it’s an excellent perspective on the bible that I found very enlightening.

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