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05 - The Bible: Part 1

When was the last time you used words?

Bit of a trick question, seeing as you’re reading a blogpost full of words right now... But before that, when was the last time you used words? In the past day, have you done any of the things on these 2 lists:

  1. Said good morning to your parents?

  2. Messaged your best friend to see how they are?

  3. Caught up with someone on the phone?

  1. Read a news article?

  2. Taught your grandparents how to use Skype?

  3. Checked Twitter to see what’s happening in the world?

I’m guessing you’ve done at least one or two of these things today.Words are completely central to who we are as human beingsand we use them every single day. (Some people claim I use them too much!).

What's the difference between these two lists?

There are several differences you could find, but the key one is that the first is ways to use words to grow in a personal relationship, and the second one is ways to use words to gain or pass on knowledge. These are the two key ways in which we use words.

If you think back to our first study blogpost, on creation, can you remember how we can work out that we’re made in God’s image and likeness?

CCC 356 Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator"… he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life.

Human beings are able to know and to love because we are made in the image and likeness of God who can know and can love. So the way we use words can either help us grow in knowledge, or in love.

This is how God uses words too. God understands that we are relational beings and intellectual beings, and that words are completely central to our lives. So when God wants to communicate with us, he doesn’t use delta waves or interpretative dance... he uses words. 

CCC 101 In order to reveal himself to men... God speaks to them in human words.

And these are words that both help us grow in love of him and knowledge of him.

But wait...God didn't actually write the Bible, did He?

I thought God was non-material and didn't have hands...

Look at these two paragraphs from the Catechism. Based on what they say, who is the author of the Bible?

CCC 105God is the author of Sacred Scripture."The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

CCC 106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books.

It seems that the Catechism is saying that both God and human beings – you know, St Matthew, St Luke, the Prophet Isaiah, and so on – are the authors of Scripture. How does that work?

Look at the passages again and see if they have anything else in common apart from the word ‘author’. What do you find?

inspiration of the Holy Spirit... God inspired the human authors.

Both God and human beings are said to be the authors of Scripture because of something called divine inspiration. The word ‘inspiration’ literally means ‘to breathe into’. Ordinary human beings like you and me sat down, picked up their pens (or quills, orstyluses or whatever) and wrote down the words of each book of Scripture. 

But they wrote each word because God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired each word: placed it on their hearts and minds so that it was that particular word they wanted to write down. 

So if we look at any book of the Bible, we’ll see that it was written by a real human being, as their completely free choice: but it was a free choice directly inspired by God, and God was working in and through their free choice. 

The Bible and Revelation

In the Bible, God reveals himself in the world through the free action of human beings. But it’s not the only way he does that. He also uses the teaching of the Church handed down through the centuries, which we call Tradition (more on that story in future study blogposts.)

Actually, neither of these things – the Bible nor the Church’s Tradition – are divine Revelation itself.

What does the Church teach that divine Revelation actually is?

This is from a document of the Church called Dei Verbum, meaning ‘God’s Word’. What does the Church teach that Revelation is?

‘In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature.’ Dei Verbum 2

Or rather, who does it teach Revelation is? Revelation is Jesus Christ. The Bible and the Church’s teaching are the two means by which we come to know and love Jesus, who is God revealed in the world.

This is how Dei Verbum puts it:

This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God. Dei Verbum 7

The Bible and the Church are the two means by which we come to see Jesus.

But wait... the whole Bibleis not about Jesus, is it? What about the books where Jesus doesn’t feature at all?

‘In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed’

- St Augustine

St Augustine: ‘Dear God, please send me a great one-liner on the Bible that still rhymes when it’s translated into English in 1500 years’ time’

Have a look at the contents page of your Bible and make a list of the books that actually mention Jesus Christ.

How many books do you have? Presumably it’s all the books from the Gospel of Matthew onwards, and none of the books from before the Gospel of Matthew. If we believe that the Bible reveals Jesus to us, we’ve got to ask ourselves: what’s the point of the Old Testament?

Especially since so much mad stuff happens in the Old Testament. Did you know there’s a talking donkey in the Book of Numbers? Well, now you do.

Here’s another question for you. I’m sure you understand your best friend pretty well. Did you understand everything about your best friend in the first conversation you ever had?

Did you know and understand them as fully and completely as you do now, from the very first moment you met them? Or did it take a lot of time of being around them and talking to them to get to understand them properly?

I’m guessing that your relationship with your best friend developed over time. It’s probably grown and matured as you two have grown and matured. This is how human beings operate: we grow and develop over time and strengthen our relationships and our understanding of each other over time. God knows this about us– you'd hope so, because, well, he created us this way– and so that’s how he reveals himself. Not all at once, but gradually over time.

The Catechism describes this as the‘divine pedagogy’- in other words, God’s teaching style: 

CCC 53The plan of Revelation involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

So God uses the Old Testament to prepare us for Jesus Christ. As humanity grows and matures spiritually, God reveals himself gradually. How exactly does he do this?

Go to this section of the Catechism, paragraph 53. If you don’t have your own Catechism, it’s here.

In Part 2 of this section, the Catechism talks about four stages of revelation that come before Jesus Christ. Let’s have a look at them.

  1. Can you briefly summarise what these four ‘stages’ are? 

  2. Each one mentions one specific person from the OT who is really key in this stage of revelation. Can you name each one?

We can see that the four stages are: God making himself known to Adam and Eve; his covenant with Noah; his election (choosing) of Abraham; and his forming of the people of Israel under Moses.

The four people are: Adam; Noah; Abraham; and Moses.

It is these people and their role in salvation history, which prepares us for the coming of Christ.

How exactly do they do that? You’ll have to come back for the next blog to find out.... :D

Going Deeper

  1. Read Chapter III of Dei Verbum (it’s six paragraphs long) on Sacred Scripture. Ask yourself: 

A) Where does it talk about God’s authorship of Scripture, and where does it talk about human authorship of Scripture?  B) What does it say about the relationship between Scripture and the Church?  C) What does it tell us to pay particular attention to if we want to understand the intention of the authors, and what the Scriptures are really about?

  1. Pick a passage from the Old Testamentstories of Adam, Noah, Abraham or Moses,and pray with it to discover what it reveals to you about Jesus.We’ll be looking in more depth at praying with Scripture next time.

  2. If you enjoy praying with Scripture, you might want to set up a group on Skype or Zoom where a group of you can meet regularly to pray with Scripture together – let Ben or Sr Carino know if you want some help organising this.

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