Both knowledge and faith are integral to our understanding of God who reveals himself to us through the Sacred Word. Through a study of Scripture, we enter into a greater understanding of our relationship to God and our mission as disciples in a contemporary world. This study resource is a wonderful introductory tool for the average person. It presents the Bible in its literary, historical and religious context and provides a valuable framework for continued learning.
About the Author
Kay Murdy: Author, lecturer, teacher and member of the Coordinating Instructional Team of the Catholic Bible Institute co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University. Her education includes a Masters in Religious Studies, Mount St. Mary's College (Los Angeles) and Certificates in Bible Studies, Bible Study Leadership and Pastoral Studies from Loyola Marymount University. She is a contributing writer for Ministry and Liturgy magazine, Eucharistic Minister, New Theology Review and Church and her published works include 90 Days: Daily Reflections of Lent and Easter, Season of Emmanuel: Daily Reflections for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, and From Pharaoh to the Father: A Journey toward Freedom Through the Lord's Prayer (all published by Resource Publications, Inc.).
There are five titles in the What Every Catholic Needs to Know series:
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about the Mass;
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about Lent, Triduum, and Easter;
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about Advent and Christmas;
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about the Bible;
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about the Eucharist;
You can order sets of all five of the titles in this series at the special set price of $39, by clicking on the button below.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Finding your way around the Bible
Chapter I: What does the Catholic Church teach about Divine Revelation?
Chapter II: The handing on of Divine Revelation
Chapter III: Understanding the Old Testament
Chapter IV: Understanding the New Testament
Chapter V: Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church
INTRODUCTION: Finding your way around the Bible
Jesus tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).1 Sometimes, it is a difficult task to find our way around the Bible. When Catholics search for truth and life in the Bible, non-Catholic perspectives may also confuse them. Catholics need to study the Bible in a manner faithful to our own spiritual tradition. So let’s begin by asking, “What do Catholics need to know about the Bible?”
What does the word “Bible” mean?
The Greek word, biblios, for Bible, translated into Latin, biblia, means a “book.” For Christians and Jews, the Bible is “The Book.” But the Bible is more than a single book; it is a collection of books, a small library. As in any library, you will find a variety of books – prose, poetry, history, etc. In the Bible we find two large groups of books:
- The Old Testament – the Hebrew Scriptures
- The New Testament – the Christian Scriptures
The word “Old” does not mean that the Old Testament is outmoded and no longer useful. For Christians, it simply means the Jewish Bible or the Hebrew Scriptures. For both Jews and Christians, the Bible is a testimony to the God whom they worship.
What does the word “Testament” mean?
When you hear the word “testament” you might think of “last will and testament.” The word “testament” is from the Latin word testamentum that translates the Hebrew word berît, both of which mean “covenant,” a pact or agreement that God made with the people:
If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples (Exod 19:5).
For Christians, the covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. God did not revoke the covenant with the Jewish people; it is irrevocable and unconditional.
How are the books of the Old Testament divided?
The books of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, are arranged, numbered and titled in several different ways in Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Bibles. Ancient and modern Jews divide their Bible into three parts:
1) The Five Books of the Law (Hebrew, Torah, meaning “Instruction,”
are also called the Pentateuch, a Greek word meaning “five books”): Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
2) The Eight Books of the Prophets (Hebrew, Nevi'im). These books are divided into two groups: the Former Prophets (that Christians call the Historical Books): Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, and the three Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. The Twelve Minor Prophets, considered as one book, are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
3) The Eleven Books of the Writings (Hebrew, Ketuvim, also called the Hagiographa, a Greek word meaning “Holy Writings”). These books are: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth), Esther, Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Chronicles.2
By taking the first letter of each of these Hebrew titles – Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim – the acronym Tanakh was formed, the word for Judaism’s sacred Scriptures.3 Most Christian Bibles have adopted the ancient Greek order of the Jewish Scriptures, which arranges the books of the Old Testament in four parts:
- The Pentateuch
- The Historical Books
- The Wisdom Books
- The Prophetic Books
The placement of the prophetic books has an impact on how Jews and Christians understand the Old Testament. For Jews, the prophets were the interpreters of the Torah and they belonged with the first five books. For Christians, the prophets anticipated the Messiah and were placed at the end of the Old Testament, right before the Gospels.
[Note: The rest of the introductory chapter deals with answers to the following questions:]
How many books are there in the Old Testament?
What is meant by the “canon” of the Bible?
How many books are there in the New Testament?
How do you find your way around the Bible?
When did the Bible become a “book”?
How do you find a particular passage in the Bible?