old testament


My daughter just asked me why, traditionally, Roman Catholics did not read the Old Testament. In fact, in my mother’s day, she was taught it was considered somewhat of a sin.


Can she cite an example? Where did she hear that we Catholics traditionally don’t read the Old Testament?


Every Catholic Mass has a reading from the OT. And vertually every NT reading references the OT.

Concede to your daughter and say “Perhaps we should read more of the OT, and thanks for reminding me.”

Maybe there was a time when priests thought that the laity should not try to read and interpret the OT on their own. But now with so many good CATHOLIC commentaries available, we are on “safer” ground… lest we read, and then self interpret… and then become wanting, like our protestant brethren.

So, go for it… read and enjoy.


Well I’m sure this sounds very strange to most people here. If you go and read any of the early Church fathers, they all discuss the Old Testament. So if they did this, there’s no way that it could be considered a sin! The ECF’s are generally considered to be beacons of orthodoxy (correct theology). Possibly your mother had a bad teacher.


It is true that for the 400 years prior to the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, except for the Psalms, only a few verses from the Old Testament were ever read at Mass:
Before Vatican II, each Catholic Mass included only two biblical readings, which were normally referred to as “The Epistle” (since the first reading was almost always taken from one of the New Testament letters) and “The Gospel.” Readings from the Old Testament were never used on Sundays, but only at the Easter Vigil, the Vigil of Pentecost, the feast of Epiphany and its octave, during Holy Week, and on some weekdays (esp. Ember days, weekdays of Lent, the feasts of some saints, and some votive Masses). (source)



Not having the O.T. read at the Sunday Mass isn’t the same as someone teaching that it was a sin to read the O.T… And, it doesn’t make sense for a Catholic priest to teach that reading the O.T. was a sin given that the Catholic Church very explicitly had a translation of the O.T. & N.T into English 30 years before the KJV (Douay-Rheims). It just wouldn’t make sense for the Church to provide the Translation if it didn’t intend for people to use it.

The Offertory Prayers, and the Introit, Gradual, Gospel Tract and Offertory and Communion Verse didn’t always come from the Psalms. And, You forgot about the Offices of the Day where Old Testament Lessons have historically been read, and Special Services such as “Lessons as Carrols” where Prophecies relating to Our Lord’s Birth and Incarnation were read.

I’m sure that the situation since Vatican II, where Old Testament Lessons are included in every Sunday Mass (as a part of a 3-year Lectionary) and in the daily Office of Readings, exposes Catholics to more O.T. & N.T. Scriptures than they were before if they didn’t read the Bible independently.

I can’t see how a Catholic could say that it was a “sin” to read the O.T. under either Lectionary. The Post-Vatican II one just makes it even more impossible.

Your Brother in Christ, Michael


Last I checked every single Mass has a reading from the Psalms, and last I checked the Psalms are part of the Old Testament. Sounds like there was no discouragement from reading it to me.


RE" reading the Old Testament…perhaps I should clarify…my mother is 83 years old and was brought up in a parish governed by a strict order, I am actually talking about years prior to Vatican II. And yesthere are old teatament readings in the mass, but independent reading of the bible was not encouraged by Catholics in those days, esp the Old Testament.


Thanks to all who respopnded to and commented on my question.
I must clarify by saying that my mother is 83, so her memories re: the Old Testament were very much pre-
Vatican II. Catholics of her era were encouraged to read the bible passages chosen for their Missals, but most did not engage in free reading of The Bible. From her, I have heard a few explanations: they weren’t considered learned enough to properly interpret the passages, and some OT material was just not considered appropriate. Therefore, the ones chosen for the missals were the only ones to which they were exposed.
I have to tell you, and I am striving to find the right words, so bear with me. This is the first time I have ever participated in any forum, let alone a ‘Catholic’ one. It was just an innocent question from a mom who was trying to give her daughter a hand with a school assignment. I was a little surprised at the condescending, sanctimonious and yes even sarcastic tone (‘the last time I looked’, ‘there is no way it was considered’,she had a bad teacher’) of some of the responses. Open up your minds brethren, it is just possible that. although the Roman Catholic church is the ‘One True Church’ we may, in our separate parts of the world, have had different experiences.
Thanks again.



My mother is 87 and as a young person she acquired a Douay Rheims version of the Catholic Bible. As a small child I would read this bible. I remember in the opening pages that the Church offered an indulgence associated with reading the scriptures.

There are some parishes in the US where local priests and perhaps some bishops used to discourage home bible study. The problem was their concerns pertaining to misinterpretation. They did not want people going off track by casually reading the scriptures and applying their personal spin. Scripture is always best understood within the liturgy and with guidance from the Church.

I have never heard anyone claim that the Catholic Church had ever indicated that reading the OT was a sin. That one is a new one on me. It is certainly possible that someone told your mother this. There are many that have misspoken on behalf of the Church and this is unfortunate.


Perhaps I should have used another word other than ‘sin’ I was using it in the colloquial sense, not mortal or venial. My home had strong Irish influences, so there were more ‘sins’ than not.

That is my understanding.  Many could not comprehend the Old Testament as being synchronized with the New Testament so they simply used and encouraged the New Testament.  Many believe the Testaments are actually the same- the same message.  However one is a much easier to understand version.


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