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Learning God's Word: A Catholic Guide to Scripture Study

Learning God's Word: A Catholic Guide to Scripture Study

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Published by stpaulcenter
Most introductions to the Bible are quite large and imposing - thick volumes with many pages of text and fine print.

I have tried to write something much more brief, perhaps surprisingly so; it is meant to be like a little "handmaid" for the reader who wants to have a succinct overview of the major themes in biblical study both past and present - whether as a goal in itself, or as a framework for further, more detailed study.


I have drawn the material from documents of the Magisterium and from reputable Catholic scholarship both past and present, thereby hoping to provide the basic information and knowledge you need to appreciate the sacred texts within the living tradition in which they were written. May His Word always accompany you.

- Fr. Michael Giesler
Most introductions to the Bible are quite large and imposing - thick volumes with many pages of text and fine print.

I have tried to write something much more brief, perhaps surprisingly so; it is meant to be like a little "handmaid" for the reader who wants to have a succinct overview of the major themes in biblical study both past and present - whether as a goal in itself, or as a framework for further, more detailed study.


I have drawn the material from documents of the Magisterium and from reputable Catholic scholarship both past and present, thereby hoping to provide the basic information and knowledge you need to appreciate the sacred texts within the living tradition in which they were written. May His Word always accompany you.

- Fr. Michael Giesler

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Published by: stpaulcenter on Jan 19, 2010
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Learning God's Word: A Catholic Guide to Scripture Study
Preface
Most introductions to the Bible are quite large and imposing - thick volumes with many pages of text and fine print.I have tried to write something much more brief, perhaps surprisingly so; it is meant to be like alittle "handmaid" for the reader who wants to have a succinct overview of the major themes in biblical study both past and present - whether as a goal in itself, or as a framework for further,more detailed study.I have drawn the material from documents of the Magisterium and from reputable Catholicscholarship both past and present, thereby hoping to provide the basic information andknowledge you need to appreciate the sacred texts within the living tradition in which they werewritten. May His Word always accompany you.
- Fr. Michael Giesler 
 
Chapter 1 -
God, the Church and Scripture
The story of the Bible begins with God and His everlasting love for human beings. As a matter of fact the 
 , Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, begins itsconsideration of Sacred Scripture on the highest plane by connecting it with life and mystery of the Holy Trinity itself.The mercy of God the Father for us reveals itself through the life and words of God the Son, whothen sends us His truth and love by God the Holy Spirit. All three Persons are therefore involvedin the revelation and realization of God’s saving plan for the human race, namely our redemption.Sacred Scripture is the written record of that revelation and redemption. It was composed byhuman writers who were inspired by God’s grace and wrote inerrantly what He wished them tocommunicate. This point should be taken into account at every stage of biblical studies; if it isforgotten, the Bible will easily be misunderstood and its true meaning deformed.Sacred Scripture - both the Old and New Testaments, all seventy-three books - is really themanifestation of the truth and love of God Himself in His dealings with mankind. For thisreason, Scripture can truly be called
 sacred 
and is unlike any other ancient book.Jesus Christ is the summation and fulfillment of Scripture, as He reveals to us God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Christ is therefore the greatest Revelation, which no book can fullycontain. This Revelation includes His miracles, His words, the infinite power of His divinePerson, His boundless charity for each person and His mysterious action through the sacraments. None of this could ever be captured in the written word.We must remember that Christ Himself never wrote a book, and that Saint John, His closestdisciple, stated that there were "many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to bewritten, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (seeJohn 21:25). From this text we can conclude that Christ said and did far more than was ever written down in the Bible.The total Revelation of Christ to His followers is called Sacred Tradition (see
 Dei Verbum
,no.9). It contains all the individual truths that He gave to His followers and, just as importantly, the proper context in which to understand them rightly. It is a living tradition because it comes fromChrist the Living Word Himself. It is active throughout the centuries, and as such it is entrustedto His Church.This is verified in Scripture itself. Christ promised that He would be with His disciples "to theclose of the age" (seeMatthew 28:20), and that He would communicate His truth to men throughHis disciples: "He who hears you hears me" (seeLuke 10:16).This communication of Christ, then, is not done in the abstract, but through the witness of Hisfollowers in the Church that He founded. And it is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity who
 
works in those followers and maintains them in the vital context of Christ’s truth and love, as Hereveals God the Father (
 Dei Verbum
,no. 8).Therefore, this interrelated and powerful action of the Three Persons is preserved in the livingtradition of the Catholic Church. No part of Scripture can be properly understood outside of thisliving tradition, which is really the Gospel itself in its full meaning.The living unwritten tradition not only precedes the written word of Scripture, but also forms theorigin and vital context of its interpretation - and this can be applied to both the Old and NewTestaments.Without an understanding and appreciation of God’s loving plan in Jesus the Messiah for theHebrew people, the books of the Old Testament would be largely unintelligible, and without anunderstanding and appreciation of Christ’s Person and gift to the new chosen people, the booksof the New Testament would be completely unintelligible.It is not enough to know the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, or to studyhistory and archeology extensively. If the Bible is not read in the living context in which it waswritten, it cannot be truly understood.For this reason,
 Dei Verbum
(no. 12) stresses that Scripture must be read and interpreted in thesame spirit with which it was written.Practically, this means that the words of the Old and New Testaments must be understood withinthe living tradition of the Church: "There exists a close connection and communication betweenSacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divinewellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end"
(Dei Verbum
,no.9).Scripture alone, therefore, is not sufficient for understanding the whole truth of Christ andRedemption; Scripture must be understood within a context greater than itself.Intrinsically connected with Scripture and Tradition is the Magisterium of the Church. TheMagisterium is the teaching authority of Christ’s Mystical Body extended throughout time. Itconsists of the pope, and the bishops in union with Him, as they explain Scripture and other revealed truths, especially in matters of faith and morals.The Holy Spirit actively guides the Magisterium, not only in times of heresy or misunderstanding, but in an ordinary way through instructions given by popes and bishopsthroughout the ages.The Magisterium can never be considered outside of the living tradition of the Church; rather, itis the supernatural extension and protector of the living tradition. Without the Magisterium, wewould have no guarantee that what we believe today was really revealed by Christ to Hisdisciples. This was emphasized by Vatican II
:

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