Biblical interpretation: Why Catholics Get It Right

The reason Catholics interpret the Bible correctly is because the Catholic Church made the Bible. The Bishops of the Catholic Church decided which books were inspired by God, and hence, belonged in Sacred Scripture. This descion, of course, would require the Bishops to know and understand the teachings of the Apostle (Sacred Tradition), and it would require them to be under the guidence of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to lead His Church into all truths. If the Bishops did not have Apostolic Tradition, they wouldn’t be able to tell authentic gospels from false gospels and authentic letters from false letters. If the Bishops did not have Divine Guidence, they wouldn’t be able to tell which books were inspired by God and which books were the product of human piety. For example, the letters of Ignatius were almost included in the Bible - but the Bishops had decided to not include them in the Scriptures, because they were judged to not be inspired by the Lord. Ignatius’ letters are great letters, but they weren’t inspired by God.

Now, obviously, in order for the Bishops to know Apostolic Tradition, and to be able to tell which books didn’t include false teachings, they had to be able to intepret the words of Jesus and His Apostles. Otherwise, they could be easily fooled by, say, the gnostics, who used Christian figures and terminology to spread heresy. So the Bishops had to know about the two intepretations of Scriptures: the literal and the spiritual. And this interpretation had to come from the Apostles, who would know what they were talking about when they spoke and who would know what Jesus was talking about when He spoke. (Jesus taught and enlightened them to His teachings between the time of His Resurrection and His Ascension; during His ministry, the Apostles weren’t too bright and didn’t understood Him too much). Since the Catholic Church made the Bible, and Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His Church into all truths, it would follow than that the Church would preserve the Scriptures - the verses and their interpetation - throughout the ages, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But this dosen’t mean Catholics interpret the Scripture as they see fit. Catholics are not allowed to use personal interpretation; they may only interpet the Scriptures as the Church interprets them (i.e., according to the teachings of the Church). The Bible was made by the Church, not by indvidual Catholics. The teachings of the Church are the very teachings of the Apostles - the same teachings which the Church used to decide what books go in the Bible.


You are so right. The Sacred Scriptures came from the Church, not the church from the scriptures, which is what has happened since the reformation. I was a protestant believer for 30 years before converting to the Catholic Church. Protestant churches come from a variety of different interpretations of scripture. Not so much on the main tentants of the Christian faith, but on lesser doctrines. (some groups may vary on main tentants, and they were considered cults) We were out there with our Bibles, and with “the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth,” and it was like “water witching” our way to truth. When I finally had eyes to see and ears to hear, I understood the Apostolic authority that was given to the Church, and it was the most liberating moment of my life. The Truth is safely vested in the Magisterium where it belongs (and were us average joes can’t botch it up). I’m so glad to be home, and not out to sea, being tossed around by evey wind of doctrine, or new fangled fad or church model.

Wrong wrong wrong. You don’t even know you’re own church’s teachings. Many portions of scripture are left up to private interpretation while specific doctrines from scripture are non-negotiable. This is the same thing as essentials and non-essentials that protestants have been teaching for years. Catholics are not required to interpret the Genesis account as 6 literal days just using one example. The Bishops did not decide what was inspired and what was not. Again your failure to understand from exactly where the Bible comes. The church never claimed to decide anything that was considered official canon. The church always professed it received the canon by guidance of the Holy Spirit. That wasn’t achieved by Bishops sitting down one day and saying “hmm now what is canonical and what isn’t??”

By the way Ignatius’ letters were never under consideration to be part of the official canon. Ignatius was the first to push for an official canon to combat the terrible gnostic heresy he was facing. But he never proclaimed his writings to be inspired although he personally testified to the validity of the Gospels of John and Luke.

Understanding Genisis takes alot more than reading the bible. The author of Genisis (Moses I believe) spoke of the creation story on a physical level consistent with classical astonomical teachings at the time. Therefore many presumptions were made which modern science now calls errant or wrong. Genisis is not a history book or a science journal. Some fundamentalists like to treat with it as such but that is ignorant of the true intent of the author. Genisis, like the rest of scripture, is meant to relay deep spiritual truth to the reader, not to give us facts but to understand God.



Actually Marcion, who the proto-orthodox/catholic called “heretic”, was the first to compile a “canon”, some of the authentic letters of Paul and an abreviated edition of “Luke”.

Meaning that personal interpretation of the scripture is dangerous and the reason why there are so many factions/flavours of christianity in existence. I don’t think God intended things to be this way. If you are not willing to do the research the way theologians do it and take lesson form them then don’t bother reading the bible hoping to understand the “whole” truth of it.

I agree. I have intently studied what Anglican theologians have said regarding different parts of the Scriptures.

Let’s start with a simple test of this proposal: Who wrote Hebrews?

The councils that determined the canon stated unambiguously that Paul was the author of Hebrews. This followed various opinions on the part of the church fathers as to who was the author.

So, Eucharisted, do you:

a) state that it is the infallible teaching of the Catholic church that Paul is the author of HHebrews?

b) state that the US Bishops are endorsing private interpretation by permitting the following to be published on their website?

[quote=Introduction to Hebrews, NAB]As early as the second century, this treatise, which is of great rhetorical power and force in its admonition to faithful pilgrimage under Christ’s leadership, bore the title “To the Hebrews.” It was assumed to be directed to Jewish Christians. Usually Hebrews was attached in Greek manuscripts to the collection of letters by Paul. Although no author is mentioned (for there is no address), a reference to Timothy (Hebrews 13:23) suggested connections to the circle of Paul and his assistants. Yet the exact audience, the author, and even whether Hebrews is a letter have long been disputed.


As you can see this passage clearly contradicts the decision of the Council, so something is amiss. Either the Council missed it in naming Paul as author or the USCCB is remiss in not clearly stating this teaching.

Which is it?

Many Catholic scholars and bishops and apologists take exception to the “introductions” offered in the NAB. Simply because modern “scholars” and “historians” have a differing opinion means nothing. The original councils were guided by the Holy Spirit, their decisions were valid and binding on the entire Church. Much of modern scholarship is nothing more than speculation.

Good post, NDN. And those original early Councils were Church Councils guided by the Holy Spirit and promised by Jesus Christ, Head of the Church which He built.

This is great. Instead of discussing what was posted you make your own interpretation of what Catholics are supposed to believe then tear it down; a strawman. Ultimately proving nothing.

The Bible is a great way to get historical accounts of the culture and the people living during that age. However it is not written to be an historical account and therefore there are items that are simply not included in the text. Where was Joseph after the finding in the temple? There is no direct account detailing this so one can have opinions based on inferential data. Historicity is one thing, Spirituality is another. Catholics are not free to interpret faith and morals from the Bible any way they see fit and still be Catholics. Period.

The Bishops did not decide what was inspired and what wasn’t? Absurd. Of course they did! At the time there were literally thousands of different writings claiming to be teachings of Christ. Many certainly agreed but there were also many that were at complete odds with each other. They all couldn’t be true.

It was realized that to be a Christian community there had to be unity. Heresy is bad. Like modern version of heresy, treason, it was punishable by death, a very serious crime, politically as well as religiously. Heresy was being spread both knowingly and unknowingly by multiple writings that were at odds with Tradition handed down from the Apostles. So the Bishops got together to compile an "Apostle Approved"™ list of writings that shared the spirituality of Christs teachings. If writings are sharing the true Christ and what He taught they are inspired.

Your position of the Catholic Church never claiming to be deciding an official Church Canon is false. The Holy Spirit is in the Catholic Church, forever guiding her. Don’t separate the two.

Do you really think that the NT was gracefully handed down by God in a shaft of light? It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get everything together. It took Jesus himself a few years to teach a small percentage of people. How long and how hard most it of taken to prayerfully and diligently compile something as important as the Bible? Something that will be used by everyone thereafter?

Have a great day! Jay

This is the Catholic position on the canon.

  1. These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.
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