A lot of people are quite certain that they know a lot about the Bible, if not everything there is to know about it. Some people are so convinced that know everything about sacred scriptures that this conviction has led to all sorts of evil to be committed in the name of the Bible. People have been killed, and wars have been started over this false belief.
First of all one should ask, where did the Bible come from? When was it written? The word of God (Bible) is a collection of about 70 books, which tell the story of God and His people. The Bible includes books from the old and new testaments. It was written over 2000 years in many literary styles. These include hymns, prayers, proverbs, letters, poetry, prophecies, and the theologically focused historical events, to name a few. Bible study includes the history of the Bible and the study of Biblical theology.
The Bible was formulated around the year 400 in a series of Bishops’ Synods of the Catholic church. It was reaffirmed in 1442 and then again in 1546.
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It is interesting to note that for most of the time of the existence of the Bible in the world throughout history, very few people could read or write. Obviously, the word of God was passed on by other means.
The early church had no Bible as such, some separate books and letters existed along with many other items which were never considered as valid parts of the Bible.
The religious truth of the Bible is certain, but not some human history or geography. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, but Catholics are not supposed to be fundamentalists who believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. Most churches do not accept that everything in the Bible which relates to history or science is true. For example, the Old Testament says that the earth is flat – when we now know it is round.
The Bible cannot be used outside the context of the present believing community which is the living church today.
Christianity is a community which Jesus Christ founded. It is worldwide and has pastoral and teaching authority. The church produced the Bible. The Bible did not produce the church. The church is not man made. Peter and the apostles were given special authority to teach and govern before the New Testament was even written. They were the “church” then, and we can say that we are the “church” now.
We believe that God continues to speak to His people even today as we continue to live our lives in the ever-changing world. The Holy Spirit is present in the church today. The Bible cannot be used outside the context of the present believing community which is the living church today.
The Bible asks “faith” questions, not academic questions, therefore the Bible is to be studied in a faith environment.
The experience of the risen Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit are key to the living word of God in the world today. The revelation of God’s word is not finished.
The word of God challenges us to find Jesus in His scripture and the church today. Salvation is a “now” experience. Salvation for us must be attained in our present time.
The Bible asks “faith” questions, not academic questions, therefore the Bible is to be studied in a faith environment. The most important question of the Bible is what is God telling me today? What does the word of God mean to me? The Bible is a living document which requires our continued participation and study.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper