Bible Study Ministry at St. Rita
Meets: alternate Mondays - please see the events calendar
Location: Church Conference Room (Next to St. Joseph Chapel)
The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We have Good Samaritan (Luke 10) laws, welcome home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12), "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15), and "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:39).
Today's Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the bible.
Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.
- Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
- Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
- Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church's complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
- The Bible isn't a book. It's a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers' accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
- Know what the Bible is – and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as a historical text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
- The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
- The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God's plan for human beings.
- You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
- What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
- Reading isn't enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be "living and effective."(Hebrews 4:12).
The above document was produced by Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible.
Why Study the Bible?
Most articles about studying the Bible jump right into the topic at hand. This article will take a different approach by first asking the question, Why study the Bible? This is both practical and foundational. It is practical because we will learn real reasons why studying the Bible is important, but it is also foundational because it will prepare us for future discussions on the importance of Bible study.
While not an exhaustive list, below are eight reasons for studying the Bible:
- Because it is God's Word to us
- To know God better
- Avoiding error
- Cultural literacy
- To learn what it says firsthand
- Personal edification
- To help others
For Christians, the Bible culminates in the New Testament account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some 2,000 years after the time of Christ, His life and ministry remain relevant even in our contemporary world. Regardless of how one views Christ, like the Bible, He cannot be ignored. Far from being a distant prophet or irrelevant figure in history, Jesus Christ is at the Christianity's foundation. Particularly studying the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will help anyone gain a better understanding of Jesus and His mission.
God's Word to Us
For people the world over, the Bible is God's Word to us. People inspired by God recorded the words that make up the Bible, thus communicating what theologians call special revelation. In other words, God has chosen to reveal Himself not only through creation and conscience but also especially through Jesus and through His Word. Studying the Bible, then, is a matter of course for those who love God and desire to follow Him.
To Know God Better
Since the Bible is God's Word, studying it is a way to know God better. Through His words, we come to know not only the nature and attributes of God, but we also come to understand His plan for each of us. In a larger sense, we also come to know God's plan in history, His sovereignty, His providence, His love, and more. There is only so much we can learn about God apart from the Bible. But with it we can know God better.
Studying the Bible also helps us avoid theological error. The Bible tells us, "Watch your life and doctrine closely" (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV), adding that we "must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1 NIV). If the Bible is our authority for faith and life, then the inspired words it contains will help us to avoid error. In a pluralistic world with many religious and non-religious ideas competing for attention, studying the Bible provides us with a firm foundation in God's truth rather than the errors of the world. Knowing the Bible also helps us respond to errors and answer questions that skeptics and others may have about it.
One reason to study the Bible is for cultural literacy purposes. E.D. Hirsch writes, "To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world."1 Simply put, the Bible contains a wealth of cultural literacy. References to the Bible are found not only found in religion but also in art, music, philosophy, literature, law, and more. Knowing what the Bible says is an important part of everyone's k-base.
Many popular phrases and figures of speech also find their origin in the Bible including being a Good Samaritan, the folly of letting the blind lead the blind, going the extra mile, ethical maxims such as "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," manna from heaven, etc. Hirsch considers the Bible so important to cultural literacy that it appears first in his Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.
What Does It Say?
Another reason to study the Bible is to learn what it has to say firsthand. Whether one is a supporter or critic of the Bible or perhaps just neutral or uninterested in the topic, history has demonstrated that the Bible cannot be ignored. Considering that the Bible is important to three major world religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – it is worthy of study.
In addition, the recent rise of hostile criticism towards the Bible itself and religion in general also makes it worthy of study. Sometimes the critics do not always quote the Bible correctly or in context. Knowing what it says firsthand and having some knowledge of the context is helpful in understanding not only current events but key ideas the Bible addresses such as the nature and existence of God, the human condition, the biblical pattern of redemption
and salvation and ethics.
For thousands of years, the Bible has been read not only as history and God's Word but also for personal edification. This, of course, is a more meaningful reason for studying the Bible for those who believe in God, but the Bible is also surprisingly edifying for those who do not believe. It is full of individuals facing moral choices, life challenges, and, frankly, situations that are applicable to us even today. As Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).
The Bible is available for us to learn from not only on an intellectual level but on a personal and emotional level.
To Help Others
But the Bible is not just for us to keep to ourselves as individuals. It is also useful in helping others. We gain centuries of wisdom and are thus able to help others by studying the Bible. Proverbs, for instance, contain general principles and ideas to assist anyone in living their lives in a way that is helpful and pleasing to God.
Studying the Bible in order to help others is not just for ministers, priests, or pastors, but is something everyone can do. By knowing what the Bible says on different subjects, we can help others through difficult circumstances, encourage them, and so forth.
As we have seen, studying the Bible is important for a number of reasons. Other articles in this series will explore how to study the Bible, devotional Bible study, family Bible study and in-depth Bible study. The Bible is not just for theologians and scholars. Rather, it is God's Word in plain language intended for everyone. Together, we will explore the importance of Bible study and its relevance to everyday life. Far from being a stuffy or boring book, the
Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, helpful in building us up so that we may serve, love, and glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as we are intended to do.
By Robert Velarde