Catholic Bible 101

21st Century Catholic Apologetics for Mary's Spiritual Warriors

The Holy Bible


Where did the Bible come from?  Well, the books of the Old Testament were decided on many years before the time of Christ.  Christ himself read from the Old Testament when he proclaimed that He himself had come to bring liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61:1). 

In other words, Jesus was proclaiming that He and He alone was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that promised the Jews a Messiah (the Anointed One).  The Jews were called the "Chosen People" for a reason.  That reason was to make the Word of God (the Bible) known to all mankind, and that through these "Chosen People" the Messiah would be born. There are many more Old Testament verses that refer to Jesus, which were written hundreds of years before He was born.  One such verse is the 22nd  Psalm, which refers to someone suffering greatly with people casting lots for his garments and his hands and his feet being wasted, a clear reference to Jesus on the cross.  So we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of a Messiah.  The Jewish leaders of the day, however, wanted a Messiah to come and free them from worldly oppression from the Romans, and didn't expect a Messiah to come and "just" free them from their sins and bondage to the devil, so they rejected Jesus and had Him crucified. 


The New Testament, on the other hand, was not decided upon until the late 4th century, at the Council of Rome, in the year 382.  This collection of writings from the first century Christians was determined by this Council to be divinely inspired by God, the real author.  Many other writings were considered, but were thrown out by the Catholic Church as not being the authentic Word of God.  The interesting fact here is that this means for almost 400 years the Christians of those days had no Bible to refer to.  Therefore, the Church that Jesus Himself had set up had to primarily transmit His Word orally (some rare individual manuscripts did exist, but were mainly limited to Churches, and not considered divinely inspired as sacred scripture until 382 AD), which is the beginning of the doctrine of Tradition.  In 2nd Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul tells us "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter".  This means that not every teaching in the Church was written down in the Bible, otherwise, St. Paul would not have said "by word of mouth".  One of these traditions is infant baptism.  Some people today reject infant baptism, because they don't believe that a child has the faith to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, and therefore can't be saved through Baptism.  This, of course, is not true, because Jesus Himself said, "Unless you have the faith of a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:15), as well as the fact that God chooses us (at any age He wants to), we don't "choose" God (John 15:16).  So we see that the Tradition of the Catholic Church, which was there at the beginning with Jesus when the Church was formed, is therefore correct on the subject of infant baptism.  Other original traditions of the church, such as praying for the dead in Purgatory and asking saints in heaven to pray for us, are also rejected by other churches.  However, these same churches also have a tradition of believing that the books in the bible are divinely inspired, but don't really know how that tradition came to be, because that fact is not written down in the Bible either.


Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone) is a false doctrine.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the sole authority on religious matters.  As a matter of fact, the Bible does say that the Church of the Living God is the pillar and bulwark of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15), which means that the Church is the primary transmitter of truth, rather than the Bible.  When the subject of whether or not one had to be circumcised first before becoming a Christian came up (Acts 15:1), no one "searched the scriptures", but rather, they had a Church Council in Jerusalem where St. James declared the solution to be straight from the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28).  When St. Peter declared that all foods were now OK to eat, he didn't "search the scriptures" from the Old Testament to find this out (he certainly would be looking a long time for that!).  Rather, God revealed this to him in a DREAM  (Acts 11:9)!!


An important concept to remember is that the Bible proceeds from the teaching authority of the church (Matthew 28:19), as opposed to the Protestant model of the church conforming to the Bible.  Just as a University uses books to teach, so the Church uses the Bible to teach. Just as a professor in college interprets for you what your textbook really means, so the Church, through its teaching authority from Jesus himself ("Go forth and teach all nations", Matthew 28:19), has the mission to teach as well as to interpret Scripture, through its gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself told the early Church that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide it in truth (John 14:26 and John 16:13-14).  Remember, Jesus didn't write down a Bible for us to read and he didn't tell everyone to go out and get their own copy and try to figure everything out on their own. Instead, He established a Church (Matthew 16:18) to teach us what we need to know about God, to love Him and serve Him, and to be happy with Him in Heaven. 


Another interesting fact is that the Catholic Bible contains seven books of the Old Testament not contained in the Protestant Bible.  These books are:


  1. The Wisdom of Solomon
  2. Tobit
  3. Sirach
  4. Judith
  5. 1rst Maccabees
  6. 2nd Maccabees
  7. Baruch

Additional parts of Esther and Daniel are also not in the Protestant Bible.  These books were not written in Hebrew, but in Greek instead. The Catholic Church, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, discerned that these books were divinely inspired and included them in the Bible in the year 382 AD. at the Council of Rome, under Pope Damasus I.  After all, God is not limited by language.  Martin Luther, over 1000 years later during the Protestant Reformation, thought that these books were not divinely inspired, and unilaterally threw them out, deriding them as the "apocrypha".   Luther also tried to throw out the Books of James and Revelation in the New Testament, but luckily was blocked from doing so.  He actually called the Book of James an "epistle of straw".  Anyone who wants to start a new church today by deleting books of the current Bible would probably not have too much success, but would probably be labeled as a heretic.


While the Catholic Church truly believes that reading and understanding the Bible is a good and holy thing, she cautions strongly against trying to understand the true meaning of sacred scripture on your own.  After all, Peter warns in his epistle "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, " (2 Peter 1:20).  And there is also 2 Peter 3:15-16: "And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures."

So, the answer is to get a Catholic Bible that contains lots of explanatory footnotes, or even better, get a bible with great commentary, like the Navarre Bible.  This will help you when your non-Catholic friends start quoting individual verses from the Bible to you.  The Holy Bible is meant to be read as a whole book in its entirety, and is never to be taken out of context.   The false approach of taking individual verses from it to prove a particular point would be like trying to make a car go 70 miles an hour after you have disassembled it into its individual components. In all cases, scripture must be interpreted in light of what the writer was actually trying to convey, & not what we think it means to us personally.  

In summary, the New Testament writings were selected in the year 382 by Pope Damasus I and the Council of Rome though the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church’s authority to teach error-free, through His power. There is no other revelation by God forthcoming that hasn't already been revealed in the Bible, or through Sacred Tradition, or through the teaching authority of the Church.  There are, however, new insights and understanding of these things, based on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.   The Bible was written in different languages from a different culture, and from a different time in history, so using the Catholic Church as your official interpreter of what the Bible really says and means is the only way to fully comprehend its true meaning.  In no field of learning where a degree is given out, does the institution give everyone a book and have them try to figure it out all on their own - whether it's engineering, physics, science, Spanish, etc. In each case, the institution (college or University) teaches from the book.  It's exactly the same with the teaching authority of the Church using its book, the Bible.  Trying to figure out all of the meanings of the Bible by ones' self would be like trying to figure out quantum physics on your own without an instructor.  The Church has been around for 2000 years, and has seen it all.  The Church has already figured out all of the meanings of the Bible for us - All we have to do is to learn from the Church what these meanings are.  After all, we can't afford to be wrong on anything when facing Jesus after death.


Here is a great series of Bible School writings.  You would do well to read each and every one.



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