Catholic Bible: How to Read the Bible

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Tips for Effective Bible Study

Choose the right Bible for you:

Before you read a single word, you have to make sure of one thing: that your Bible is approved by the Catholic Church.  It is unfortunate that due to the beliefs of those who have separated from our Church, many of these groups have added or omitted books or offered their own new Bible translation to suit their tenets.  Theirs will differ from the Catholic Bible as compiled by our forefathers under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

When looking through Bible translations, the first thing you should do is find the "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" within the first few pages.  These mean that a censor assigned by the Church has reviewed everything written and a Bishop has given the final approval for it to be published.  You should also do these for any books you purchase that address any elements of our faith.  With these proclamations, you can be certain what you are reading is consistent with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

With that said, there still remains the different versions of approved Catholic Bibles from which you can choose.  Though all versions bearing this approval are safe to read, the Douay Rheims Bible is said to be the most accurate in that it was based on St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate, acknowledged as the Church's definitive text for Sacred Scripture.  Other non-textual variations are simply in the size of the type (for people with poor vision), the accompanying guide or commentary suited for different purposes (illustrated for young children, study guides for bible study, etc.), or the durability of the paper and binding.

How to Read the Whole Catholic Bible:

Fun fact: If you attend Mass everyday for three years, you would have heard the entire Catholic Bible during the readings.  If you want to read it in one year, you will need to read about 85 verses from it every day.  There really isn't a prescribed plan on how to read the Bible.  You can choose to read it front to back, from Genesis to Revelation, if you wish.  Or, you can choose to read several verses or chapters from its different divisions.  Notice how both Testaments mirror one another:

Old Testament

  • Laws - how God established the rules since Creation
  • History - events in the Israelites' story
  • Poetry - useful adages for daily living
  • Prophets - prophecies of the coming Messiah.

New Testament

  • The Gospels - the story of Jesus Christ
  • The Acts of the Apostles - the story of the early Church after Jesus' death
  • Letters - correspondences that illustrate and apply Jesus' teachings
  • Revelation - prophecies of the Second Coming.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that both Old and New Testaments show the unity of God's divine plan for our salvation.  Jesus Christ in the New Testament is the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament.  Therefore, we must "read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen." Likewise, the New Testament must be read acknowledging its precedents in the Old.  (CCC 128, 129).  It is advisable then to start with the Gospels: read about Jesus Christ who is the center and fulfillment of our entire Holy Bible.  From there, we can perform a better exegesis (the explanation or interpretation of Sacred Scripture) of any of the Bible verses we will encounter.

An Example of How to Read the Bible:

Let us examine a Bible verse from the New Testament as an example of how to read scripture.

St. Matthew 27:45-46:

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

We know this as Jesus' last words in St. Matthew's Gospel before He dies in the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation.  But digging deeper, we will find that Jesus' last words is exactly from Psalm 22 of the Old Testament, titled Passion and Triumph of the Messiah.  In these verses, David describes how the Messiah will come to be treated, right down to the piercing of the nails in His hands and feet, the pouring of water from His body, and how the Centurions casted lots for His garments.  In His last breath, Jesus reveals that this Old Testament prophecy has come true through Him.

Now, here's an Old Testament example.

Genesis 14: 18-20:

Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand."

We see this again in the Gospels of the New Testament, in Jesus' bread and wine of the Last Supper.  This is the foundation of the Eucharist our priests celebrate this very day.  We see that it has its origins even in the very first book of the Bible.

Why is it important to read and know the Bible?

Apologetics is the defense of our Catholic beliefs.  Knowing what is said in the Bible equips us with the foundations of every single thing we believe and practice as Catholics.  When prompted with those difficult questions that many ask of us--like what is the basis for the infallibility of our Pope, to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, to why we need to Confess to a priest, or to why we venerate our Saints--we can support our answers using the Word of God.  

For Bibles and Bible Resources, See These Sections:

Apologetics - Catholic Bible - Bible Related Items - Bible Study Supplies - Catechisms






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