Catholic Attitude Toward Bible?


#1

I was on the USCCB site and saw this.

Once the printing press was invented, the most commonly printed book was the Bible, but this still did not make Bible-reading a Catholic’s common practice. Up until the mid-twentieth Century, the custom of reading the Bible and interpreting it for oneself was a hallmark of the Protestant churches springing up in Europe after the Reformation. Protestants rejected the authority of the Pope and of the Church and showed it by saying people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves. Catholics meanwhile were discouraged from reading Scripture.

Identifying the reading and interpreting of the Bible as “Protestant” even affected the study of Scripture. Until the twentieth Century, it was only Protestants who actively embraced Scripture study. That changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so. And with Catholics studying Scripture and teaching other Catholics about what they were studying, familiarity with Scripture grew.

So until 1943, reading the Bible was discouraged? I’m just trying to understand this as a new Catholic from a historical perspective and what is meant by discouraged and by who and how? And the other part of the question is it said the encyclical allowed for the study of scripture like it was forbidden beforehand? Or am I misinterpreting that?

Thanks!


#2

Don’t know how much help I can be but let’s give it a go…

There is a considerable difference between “studying” scripture and “reading and interpreting” scripture. As Catholics, we are encouraged to read and study scripture “with the mind of the Church”. That is, we are not to read and study the bible in isolation but to do so within the whole history and teaching of the Church that we have received from Christ through the Apostles.
Thus the Catholic is able to fulfill the biblical call to test the spirits, to "tell it to the Church, and to “listen…to the Church”, which is, after all, “the foundation and bulwark of Truth”.

This is a very different thing from the protestant notion of “read and interpret” for ones self. By separating the study of Scripture from the rest of Church teaching and by rejecting the authority of “church”, the protestant reformation set-up two unintended consequences.

  1. It left the individual with no guide but themselves
  2. It undercut the ability of any ecclesial community to exercise real authority in teaching.

If we take Mt 18:15-18 as an example…
Note that in vs 15 that it refers to sin against a brother…I’m sure we all agree that teaching false doctrine is a sin…so…

Bill and Ray are each sincere Christians who attend different churches…
Bill is teaching something that Ray believes is a false and dangerous doctrine.
Bill goes to Ray and discusses it with him, but Bill is not convinced.
Bill then brings in “two or three witnesses”…but Ray is still unconvinced - and maybe brings in two or three of his own witnesses…
Now - Scripture tell us to “tell it to the Church” and to “listen…to the Church”
So How do Bill and Ray “tell it to the Church” when they are attending different “churches”.
Bill’s pastor says that Ray is wrong…Ray’s pastor says that Bill is wrong…
And each pastor knows that the other has no authority over him…and each firmly believes that he is interpreting Scripture correctly. :shrug:

See the problem?

Now - as to Catholics being discouraged before 1943 - Yes I am sure this is true…but it has a lot to do with “education” - not just in Scripture itself, but in the totality of Church teaching and how the two things fit together.
As education has improved…so to is the ability of the Catholic to read and study Scripture.

Sorry if the above is a bit jumbled…but I hope it helps some.

Peace
James


#3

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

There is a misunderstanding among those who “read and interpret” the Bible along the line of Protestant thinking - that one will find the way to life there, meet Jesus there, find how to fix your life there.

Paul, in Romans 10, shows where believing and faith and meeting Jesus and the way of life are found. It is in hearing from the one sent to you, a real person (which is the Church in its individual members, and especially in its shepherds). If one hears (listens to and is obedient to what is revealed via this person) one is hearing Christ, the sender.

In the Bible one reads “about” Jesus, but one does not encounter his person - that is found in the Church, the personal encounter, the acceptance as his follower in baptism, the teaching of the way of life. It is found in the congregation, not in private reading and interpretation. Private reading, like the Ethiopian Eunuch, will set you on a search for the “messenger” (Philip, for the Ethiopian), and when he is “sent to you” you will see "how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

The Bible, studying it in light of the explanation by those sent by Jesus, one finds like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “(Jesus in his sent ones) beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”

Scripture is for Catechization, so that one is a workman prepared to fulfill the mission given when one is confirmed, and throughout the life thereafter, to be the bearer of Good News of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ, and to be one who can open the Scriptures to others so that they are not like sheep finding and interpreting their own “green grass” but have a shepherd with “beautiful feet”.


#4

Given that the Church has written, printed and distributed Bibles for thousands of years to it’s members the idea that reading would be discouraged is ludicrous.

Besides, until the 20th century most of mankind was illiterate, so reading the Bible was not an option for many of them. And even if the position has changed the Church is still needed as a teaching authority as a lot of people misinterpret the Bible phrases they read.

BTW the Gutenberg Bible, the first ever printed Bible in 1485 (I think) , was a Catholic Bible containing all the Deutercanonical Books that were latted tossed by Luther.


#5

I think it is very possible that you are misreading the author. As an example of Catholics being encouraged to read the Bible prior to 1943, consider these quotes from the popes: 1382 A.D. - Pope Gregory XI - “[T]he kingdom of England [is] glorious…[for] its sacred learning; [and for] producing also many men illustrious for their exact knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.” (Bull Against John Wycliffe)

1778 A.D. - Pope Pius VI - “[Y]ou judge exceedingly well, that the faithful should be excited to the reading of the Holy Scriptures…by publishing the sacred writings in the language of your country, suitable to every one’s capacity…” “[F]or these are the most abundant sources which ought to be left open to every one, to draw from them purity of morals and of doctrine, to eradicate the errors which are widely disseminated in these corrupt times.” (Letter to the Most Rev. Anthony Martini, Archbishop Of Florence, on his Italian translation of the Bible. Translated and printed in the Haydock Bible, revised by the Very Reverend Dr. Husenbeth, 1884 AD. See Photograph)

1893 A.D. - Pope Leo XIII - “[We] have for a long time cherished the desire to give an impulse to the noble science of Holy Scripture, and to impart to Scripture study a direction suitable to the needs of the present day. [We] not only…desire that this grand source of Catholic revelation should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ, but also not to suffer any attempt to defile or corrupt it, either on the part of those who impiously and openly assail the Scriptures, or of those who are led astray into fallacious and imprudent novelties.” (Providentissimus Deus 2)

1920 A.D. - Pope Benedict XV - “Our one desire for all the Church’s children is that, being saturated with the Bible, they may arrive at the all surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Spiritus Paraclitus 69)

And: “[Jerome’s] words…to the maiden Demetrias are really addressed to us all: ‘Love the Bible and wisdom will love you; love it and it will preserve you; honor it and it will embrace you; these are the jewels which you should wear on your breast and in your ears.’ " (ibid. 31)

And: “[As] far as in us lies, we, Venerable Brethren, [we] shall, with St. Jerome as our guide, never desist from urging the faithful to read daily the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles, so as to gather thence food for their souls.” “Our thoughts naturally turn just now to the Society of St. Jerome, which we ourselves were instrumental in founding… The object of this Society is to put into the hands of as many people as possible the Gospels and Acts, so that every Christian family may have them and become accustomed to reading them.” (ibid. 43-44)Here are a few quotes from earlier popes, saints, and doctors of the Church, illustrating that this has been the constant teaching of the Church:410 A.D. - St. Jerome - “* the command[s] of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. … [For] ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Commentary on Isaiah Book 18)

Before 604 A.D. - Pope St. Gregory I - “The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.” Letters, 5, 46. (EnchBibl 31)

~630 A.D. - St. Isidore of Seville - “These bookcases of ours hold a great many books. … Here the venerable volumes of the two Laws shine forth, [t]he New joined together with the Old.” “Behold and read, you who so desire, if you wish. Here lay your sluggishness aside, put off your fastidiousness of mind. Believe me, brother, you will return thence a more learned man. But perhaps you say, ‘Why do I need this now? For I would think no study still remains for me: I have unrolled histories and hurried through all the law.’ Truly, if you say this, then you yourself still know nothing.” (From the Poem Written in his Library)

798 A.D. - St. Alcuin - “Accustom the boys to…learn the sacred Scriptures, [so] that when they are grown up they may teach others. … [S]tudy the text; understand its meaning [so] that you may both feed yourselves and feed others with the food of the spiritual life.” Also: ~797 A.D. - “Therefore the reading of the Holy Scriptures is necessary, for in them each may learn what he must follow and what avoid.” (Letters to the Monasteries of Lindisfarne and Hexham, at it appears in G.F. Browne, Alcuin of York, p. 136, 138)

866 A.D. - Pope St. Nicholas I - “[T]he Christian [ought to use Sunday] to go…to church, to engage in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, to spend time in prayer, to offer oblations, to communicate with the memories of the saints, to rise to imitate them, to concentrate on divine scriptures, and to distribute alms to the needy.” (Letter 99, The Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgars)

Before 1153 A.D. - St. Bernard of Clairvaux - “The person who thirsts for God eagerly studies and meditates on the inspired Word, knowing that there, he is certain to find the One for whom he thirsts.” (Commentary on the Song of Songs, Sermon 23:3)Please let me know if that helps. God bless!*


#6

Try to remember that the Bible as we have is, as I understand, a compliation of writings deemed accurate and true and reflect the Holy Spirit’s influence…put together by the then Church…the Catholic Church…the books that comprise the canon were put together literally by Monks before the Guttenberg’s printing press obviously…remember too that only a few people mostly Religious…Monks COULD Read…some Protestants play on the fac that the chained the Bible up so no one could have it…it was chained because it was precious and theft would have been tradgic…so to trust the average person to intrepret would have not been good for all…I am a scripture scholar but have a basic understanding of these things…someone please correct me if I have mis stated anything…


#7

Also you have to remember the Mass readings we do every Sunday. So Catholics are presented the Bible at every Mass and hear it along with the Gospel being proclaimed. Every Sunday we have a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a letter or epistle and a reading from the Gospel.


#8

Thank you all for the excellent replies! I see where the confusion came in I think. Like you all pointed out, Scripture is read at Mass, simply by going to daily Mass for 3 years you would hear the entirety of Scripture (correct me if I’m wrong on that). Given the long history of the Church not discouraging reading/studying/hearing/distributing/translating the Bible as pointed out was where my confusion came in.

I believe what the author was intending to say is that simply “reading” and not “studying” Scripture in the correct context, history and tradition of the Church was discouraged and I would agree. Which is why there are some 30-40,000 Protestant denominations because people started to privately read and misinterpret.

I’ll have to find that encyclical somewhere and read it…but how they wrote it is maybe a little poorly worded IMO…or at least doesn’t explain it very well.


#9

Actually we do NOT hear all of Scripture in the 3 year cycle. For instance…at no time do we sit and listen to all of the “begats” that are listed in Chronicles. :shrug:
We DO hear the majority of Scripture…just not ALL of it.

I believe what the author was intending to say is that simply “reading” and not “studying” Scripture in the correct context, history and tradition of the Church was discouraged and I would agree. Which is why there are some 30-40,000 Protestant denominations because people started to privately read and misinterpret.

Amen.
While I do not like the 30-40 thousand number ( I think it flawed and not constructive in dialogue), the fundamental fact is that individuals reading and interpreting Scripture outside of the structure of the Church (the universal ecclesial community) is simply not biblical…Go figure…:hmmm:hmmmm

Peace
James


#10

Thanks for the clarification on the 3 years!!! :thumbsup:

I agree the number 30-40,000 (or whatever it is or isn’t) normally isn’t the best way to dialogue.

I did get this question from a Protestant and tell me if I should open a new thread: they said there are other Catholic denominations such as Eastern Orthodox etc. so what’s the difference between Protestants having different denominations and Catholics having some?


#11

"Truly “in love” with the Word of God, he (St. Jerome b 347) asked himself: “How could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, through which one learns to know Christ himself, who is the life of believers?” (Ep. 30, 7). The Bible, an instrument “by which God speaks every day to the faithful” (Ep. 133, 13), thus becomes a stimulus and source of Christian life for all situations and for each person. To read Scripture is to converse with God: “If you pray”, he writes to a young Roman noblewoman, “you speak with the Spouse; if you read, it is he who speaks to you” (Ep. 22, 25). The study of and meditation on Scripture renders man wise and serene (cf. In Eph., Prol.). Certainly, to penetrate the Word of God ever more profoundly, a constant and progressive application is needed. Hence, Jerome recommends to the priest Nepotian: “Read the divine Scriptures frequently; rather, may your hands never set the Holy Book down. Learn here what you must teach” (Ep. 52, 7). To the Roman matron Leta he gave this counsel for the Christian education of her daughter: “Ensure that each day she studies some Scripture passage… After prayer, reading should follow, and after reading, prayer… Instead of jewels and silk clothing, may she love the divine Books” (Ep. 107, 9, 12). Through meditation on and knowledge of the Scriptures, one “maintains the equilibrium of the soul” (Ad Eph., Prol.). Only a profound spirit of prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help can introduce us to understanding the Bible: “In the interpretation of Sacred Scripture we always need the help of the Holy Spirit” (In Mich. 1, 1, 10, 15).

A passionate love for Scripture therefore pervaded Jerome’s whole life, a love that he always sought to deepen in the faithful, too. He recommends to one of his spiritual daughters: “Love Sacred Scripture and wisdom will love you; love it tenderly, and it will protect you; honour it and you will receive its caresses. May it be for you as your necklaces and your earrings” (Ep. 130, 20). And again: “Love the science of Scripture, and you will not love the vices of the flesh” (Ep. 125, 11).

For Jerome, a fundamental criterion of the method for interpreting the Scriptures was harmony with the Church’s Magisterium. We should never read Scripture alone because we meet too many closed doors and could easily slip into error. The Bible has been written by the People of God and for the People of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God do we truly enter into the “we”, into the nucleus of the truth that God himself wants to tell us. For him, an authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmonious accord with the faith of the Catholic Church. It is not a question of an exegesis imposed on this Book from without; the Book is really the voice of the pilgrim People of God and only in the faith of this People are we “correctly attuned” to understand Sacred Scripture. Therefore, Jerome admonishes: “Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you can preach according to right doctrine and refute those who contradict it” (Ep. 52, 7). In particular, given that Jesus Christ founded his Church on Peter, every Christian, he concludes, must be in communion “with St Peter’s See. I know that on this rock the Church is built” (Ep. 15, 2). Consequently, without equivocation, he declared: “I am with whoever is united to the teaching of St Peter” (Ep. 16)."

~ Pope Benedict XVI

w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071114.html


#12

Going to Mass everyday for 3 years you would actually heard only about 18% of the Old Testament and about 74% of the New Testament. (breakdown)


#13

Well the main and I would think only substantive difference is that the Ortodox Church does not recognize the Pope of Rome as having any authority over them. There is the issue of the fillioque on the Creed but it is theological nitpicking if you ask me.

But but they do have ALL the 7 Sacraments AND more important still they have a valid lineage of priests going back all the way to the Apostles therefore they have valid authority from Jesus to not only bestowe the Sacraments onto the faithfull but they confect the Eucharist that wondrous miracle that allows to receive the true Jesus Body, Soul and Divinity at every mass.

So you there is significant difference from the prostestant world where there are some wide latitude of beliefs and practices.

You see, Even among the Churches that ARE in communion with the Bishop of Rome they have different ways of conducting the mass BUT, all the elements of THE MASS as handed down by the Apostles ARE THERE. Each of those Churches teaches the same truths as the Latin (Roman) rite Church.

This is NOT the same on the protestant denominations.



#14

Thank you for the breakdown. Good to know. Although reading the Bible in its entirety is encouraged as well.


#15

I agree - best to open a new thread on this…

Peace
James


#16

scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a2.htm

scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm

w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html


#17

scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a2.htm

scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm

w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html .


#18

“To read Scripture is to converse with God: “If you pray”, he writes to a young Roman noblewoman, “you speak with the Spouse; if you read, it is he who speaks to you” (Ep. 22, 25). The study of and meditation on Scripture renders man wise and serene (cf. In Eph., Prol.). Certainly, to penetrate the Word of God ever more profoundly, a constant and progressive application is needed. Hence, Jerome recommends to the priest Nepotian: “Read the divine Scriptures frequently; rather, may your hands never set the Holy Book down. Learn here what you must teach” (Ep. 52, 7). To the Roman matron Leta he gave this counsel for the Christian education of her daughter: “Ensure that each day she studies some Scripture passage… After prayer, reading should follow, and after reading, prayer… Instead of jewels and silk clothing, may she love the divine Books” (Ep. 107, 9, 12). Through meditation on and knowledge of the Scriptures, one “maintains the equilibrium of the soul” (Ad Eph., Prol.). Only a profound spirit of prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help can introduce us to understanding the Bible: “In the interpretation of Sacred Scripture we always need the help of the Holy Spirit” (In Mich. 1, 1, 10, 15).”

~ Pope Benedict XVI from the above.


#19

As I’ve mentioned before on some other threads, I still today have self-described Catholic students who show up to my classes claiming that the Catholic Church doesn’t permit them to read the Bible on their own outside of Mass.


#20

That’s because its repeated by so many protestants and atheists, they believe it.


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