Bible Study Lesson One
Note: At the Vatican II Council, sixteen official documents were produced which dealt with various aspects of the life of the Church. One of those, entitled Dei Verbum (The Word of God), dealt with Divine Revelation, Sacred Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium/Teaching Authority of the Church and how Catholics are to read the Bible. (This document is available on-line and is recommended reading for this class as we begin our journey through the Old Testament).
Key Points Found in Dei Verbum, the Vatican II Document on Sacred Scripture
1. Why should we read the Bible?
* Fellowship with God and with other Christian faithful (past, present and future) DV 1-2
* Enlighten the mind, strengthen the will and set your heart on fire with love DV 24
* Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ – St. Jerome DV 25
* We speak to Him when we pray; We hear Him when we read the divine sayings – St. Ambrose DV26
* Just as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similarly we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God DV 26
2. What is Divine Revelation?
* It is made up of both the deeds and words of God accomplished by and inspired by Him throughout history. This can be broken down into three general categories: a) Creation, b) Salvation History as recorded in the Old Testament, especially from Abraham to the Prophets and c) the coming of Jesus Christ with all his works and teachings, especially those that took place from his Passion until the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. DV 2-4
* Thought of another way, Divine Revelation is all that the Church is and all that it believes. DV 8
* Divine Revelation is made up of both Sacred Scripture and Tradition as taught be Christ and revealed by the Holy Spirit. [We are not a Church of the Book. We are the Church of Jesus Christ]. It was conveyed to us by mouth and by letter and continues to be passed on to future generations in thet same way. DV 8-10
3. Will there be any further new Revelation to come?
* The simple answer is “no”. Those things which were sometimes either incompletely revealed or even temporarily revealed in ancient times in the Old Testament were clarified and perfectly revealed in the New Testament. Our understanding of those revelations may deepen over time through the guidance of the Holy Spirit but no new revelation will be added. DV 4, 8
* A measure of any authentic new understanding of Scripture is that it finds its source and/or approval through the Magisterial (teaching authority of the Church/Pope and bishops in union with him) DV 7
4. How should we, the faithful, receive this revelation?
* We should receive God’s self-revelation with the Obedience of Faith – that is by submitting our intellect and will to this revelation and the Church’s authentic presentation of it.
5. Who is the author of Sacred Scripture?
* The Holy Spirit inspired human authors to convey everything He wished them to write for our salvation, while at the same time not restricting their own freedom or skills as writers and editors to relate that revelation to us. Inspiration is NOT oral dictation from God (unless the author is relating a direct quote). Therefore, it is proper to say that each book of the Bible is co-authored, in a way, with God as the principle author.
6. What is the most effective way to read Sacred Scripture?
* Advice for understanding the Divine Author: We may think of the Bible as a Trinitarian book. The three persons of the Trinity always act together as a unity so it is never exactly proper to speak of crediting a work or action to one Divine Person alone. However, that being said, we can say that the spotlight is on the Father in the Old Testament, on the Son in the Gospels and what follows, and on the Holy Spirit in Acts and, behind the scenes, as the inspiration of the human authors. Therefore, it would be wise to pray to God before we read the Bible and even learn to make the act of reading Scripture a prayerful act. God can speak to our hearts in powerful ways as we read.
* Advice for understanding the Human Author: To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. We can better understand the human author’s intent and method of communication when we understand the context (historical background, Middle-Eastern geography, culture, political events, economics, archeology, etc.) Scripture Scholars use various linguist critiques, style/form critiques, source critiques, etc. to gain a deeper appreciation for what is happening. Sometimes this deepens or even changes the meaning of the text from what we think of immediately as the literal meaning of a passage. DV12
* Scripture should never be read in isolated passages. This is an easy recipe for misinterpretation. There is an integrity to Scripture. According to St. Augustine, the Old Testament is revealed in the New and the New Testament is hidden in the Old. All passages must fit together in harmony with one another and with the life of the Church and her living Tradition. DV16
* We should prayerfully read Scripture as we also live out the sacramental life of our faith whenever possible. We are fed from the table of the altar by the Eucharist and from the table of the word by Sacred Scripture. The two work best together (understanding the Bible “from the inside” as a formal member of God‘s family) DV 21