Reading the Gospels - please help


#1

Dear CAF,

I am a catholic college student, and I really would like to start reading the four gospels and to really know the gospels by heart. I was wondering, how do you think that I should read the four gospels? when I read a passage in the gospels that I don't understand, what do I do? Where do I go to in order to find out the meaning of a certain passage?


#2

[quote="sonoftherosary, post:1, topic:335844"]
Dear CAF,

I am a catholic college student, and I really would like to start reading the four gospels and to really know the gospels by heart. I was wondering, how do you think that I should read the four gospels? when I read a passage in the gospels that I don't understand, what do I do? Where do I go to in order to find out the meaning of a certain passage?

[/quote]

In order to become really familiar with the Gospels, there's no substitute for simply reading them. A lot. Every day. Over the course of many months you'll become more and more familiar with them until it becomes second nature to recall more and more passages.

At the same time, it really helps to to some directed study, even on your own. There are tons of great Catholic study resources out there, but if you want something to refer to while reading the Gospels to get you through the tough spots, I would highly recommend the** Ignatius Catholic Study Bible**. You can Google it for more information.

You can find other Catholic resources for studying the Scriptures at my website, linked below.


#3

I pray for understanding when I read the Bible. This is a helpful website–
www.biblegateway.com


#4

Try this site, full of accurate historical references and resources and provides both Catholic and Protestant material which I find very enlightning. I thoroughly enjoy what this site freely provides. Give it a try.
biblestudytools.com/luke/


#5

At veritasbible.com/commentary you will find two separate bible commentaries, one of which is the writings of the Church fathers. They offer commentaries on all major and some minor verses. As Catholics, we are called to interpret scripture within the parameters of Church teaching, so as not to be lead astray.


#6

I'd say to have a slower progress in your reading that you usually would in books in general. Get on the focus of a page, maybe read it twice, and if you are in the bed near sleeping or something (like I did in the beggining), just keep thinking about it about what something must mean in the way that it's written. Everyone may get different conclusions, but all of them complement themselves to what the Gospel is really meaning. After you have a grip on the 4 books, then it's a good time to read external stuff showing explicitly what something means, and re-read everything to find different perspectives on the matter.

In short, in the beggining, just read it a bit more methodically than a normal book. When you get used to that, keep reading out all books, have your personal reflection on them, and then let theologians pour into you the fruits of their own studies so you can complement in an even more solid way what you know about the Gospel. Before you know it, you'll be far nearer to Christ than you've ever been, and you'll love that feeling. :thumbsup:


#7

OP, you've received excellent advice here. One of the main things to remember is, don't try to read the Gospels like you would a "regular" book. I rarely read more than one chapter at a time, and sometimes not even that much. Best to read slowly, let it sink in, and have food for thought the rest of the day.


#8

A lot of wonderful advice already.

My view is this…the first time through - just read…don’t try to grasp every word or understand every passage. I don’t mean to read it all at one sitting, though you certainly could…but break it up over the course of a couple of days. Do this to get comfortable with the “landsacape” the events, the miracles, the culture, the action etc.
You will find Mt Mk and Luke to be somewhat repetitive these are called the “synoptic” gospels and more or less follow a “timeline” format. The style of the Gospel of John is quite different any you might need to read it a bit more slowly - but again…just read through it.

After you have done this. Set it aside for a bit. You will find that many things will be spinning around in your head. Pray and meditate on this for a couple of days or maybe a week and then return to the Gospels for a slower and more thoughtful reading. Again - don’t feel like you have to understand every passage. Understanding will grow with time.
What is important is to gain an ever deepening understanding of the gist of the Gospels and Jesus message in them. Lessons such as, the criticality of Love, the need for commitment, the importance of faith, the absolute reliance on God, the value of suffering and of forgiveness, the necessity to act upon one’s faith in Love etc.

As someone said above…different people can glean different meanings from certain passages…and these meanings can change over time as we grow in our faith and our life situation changes. But the meanings, when properly understood within the whole, are consistent and interrelated.

Of course the various commentaries that others have linked to can be of great help in developing a more broad understanding of culture and continuity between the OT and the NT and so please do make use of them - but not at the very beginning…
As I say - to start off - - - Just read through them and allow the wholeness of them begin to fill your soul. THEN come back and start reading them more slowly.

Peace
James


#9

Yes, just dive in and read, but make it a routine.

I started with Mark, because it was the shortest, and Matthew and Luke seemed to have use it as a reference and resource. Then when I got to the other gospels what I read “rang a bell” and soon I was comparing parallel passages.

Don’t ignore the OT, although it can be daunting, so start with genesis… Or just the daily mass readings are helpful. If I am not familiar with the daily readings and their context, I’ll read the whole chapter they are taken from.

Regular reading of scripture will lead to study, and regardless of reading or study, if you take time to read, ponder and pray the scriptures, your life will change as you begin the hard part…living the scripture.

Peace and all good!


#10

So many good answers. My .02

  • I would start with Mark, it is the shortest and will give you an outline to read Luke and Matthew. John is pretty different in content, but has a very rich and deep message. Don’t forget that Acts was written by St. Luke too, so it may be worth your while to read those 2 back to back.

  • Get a Bible that you can read. Some people like the flowery poetic translations, others like dynamic translations (thought for thought, not word for word) as it is easier to read. I second Biblegateway.com. It is a good idea to check other translations if you hit a point of confusion, sometimes it is the translator that obscures things.

  • As for commentaries. I would again 2nd the recommendation for a good Catholic one. My personal style is more to read, understand, and if a passage doesn’t immediately make sense in the context of Church teaching, I sit on it, and keep reading until the meaning becomes clear… then find out what the commentaries say. This is just a personal preference though.

  • Figure out if it makes more sense for you to read one Gospel straight through first, or if you want to take the time to check the Synoptic parallels (for instance, read a story in Mark, then go see how Matthew and Luke depict the same event.) Also, most Bibles have citations for when Jesus or the authors make an allusion from the OT. It is worth your time, at some point, to go read these passages in the OT to get some additional perspective. Again, this just comes down to how you read and your background knowledge.

  • Let the Spirit move you! Easier said than done, right? :wink: You will find that reading the Bible doesn’t stop when you close the book, the material and feelings will keep running through your head and heart. Embrace this!

WARNING*

Don’t get punch drunk with all the new knowledge and think you can figure it ALL out for yourself right away. Reading the Bible is part personal discover, and part catechism. Sadly, reading the Bible for the first time is often considered “open season” for attempts at conversion from some Protestants. This is what happened to me. Many people tried to draw me away from the Church when they found out I was reading the Bible in depth.

Be strong in your Faith and be careful who you trust, as some will see an opening to try and use the Bible out of context to draw you away from the Church. I would recommend coming here. There are many, many very knowledgeable posters who can help your personal journey, and help answers questions you may have about Catholic teaching.


#11

Thank you tremendously for all the responses.

But I feel as if I still don't understand. My specific question is this: When I am trying to read through the Gospels to understand something, what do I do if I come across a verse or passage that I don't understand. Is there a good faithful Catholic website that I can type the Bible verse into in order to understand its meaning. Should go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look up the Bible passage in the catechism?

For example, there are many very easy passages in the Bible - such as the Prodigal Son and the Parable Good Shepard (everyone knows what these two passages mean) but what about more difficult passages?? Like the passage about salt in Luke 14:34-35 or the passage about Purse, Bag, and Sword in Luke 22:35-38.... and then there was that passage where Jesus said something about "Women, do not weep for me but weep for your children" or the passage about Luke 12:57-59...

When I encounter a passage in the Bible that I don't understand, where do I go? What are the steps that I take? Is there a FREE online website that I can go to? Should I post that particle passage onto Catholic Answers Forum and wait for a response - how do I know if that response is faithful to the Catholic Church/Magisterium?

Can someone please outline for me a step-by-step method for when I read a passage of the Bible that I don't understand? Do you know where to get a cheap or free Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Furthermore, I have been given advice on reading the CHurch father's commentaries - I have a problem with this - what if I can't understand the commentaries? Aren't they written in very high leveled, complicated language?

Is there a product (a cheap CD or video) made by Catholic Answers or EWTN that can guide me through every single verse of the Gospels?

And someone suggested that I buy the Ignatius Catholic Study BIble - I can't! It's so expensive. I already have the RSV-CE.... I am frustrated. please help me.


#12

A practical approach to find an answer to a puzzling verse is first going through the websites and literary sources you have at hand. In case the matter remains unsolved, additional possibilities are to find new books, ask a question at the forum or contact your priest. As to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is available online at the Vatican website in various languages. Also here is a website containing a long list of works by St. Thomas Aquinas.


#13

[quote="sonoftherosary, post:11, topic:335844"]
Thank you tremendously for all the responses.

But I feel as if I still don't understand. My specific question is this: When I am trying to read through the Gospels to understand something, what do I do if I come across a verse or passage that I don't understand. Is there a good faithful Catholic website that I can type the Bible verse into in order to understand its meaning. Should go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look up the Bible passage in the catechism?

For example, there are many very easy passages in the Bible - such as the Prodigal Son and the Parable Good Shepard (everyone knows what these two passages mean) but what about more difficult passages?? Like the passage about salt in Luke 14:34-35 or the passage about Purse, Bag, and Sword in Luke 22:35-38.... and then there was that passage where Jesus said something about "Women, do not weep for me but weep for your children" or the passage about Luke 12:57-59...

When I encounter a passage in the Bible that I don't understand, where do I go? What are the steps that I take? Is there a FREE online website that I can go to? Should I post that particle passage onto Catholic Answers Forum and wait for a response - how do I know if that response is faithful to the Catholic Church/Magisterium?

Can someone please outline for me a step-by-step method for when I read a passage of the Bible that I don't understand? Do you know where to get a cheap or free Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Furthermore, I have been given advice on reading the CHurch father's commentaries - I have a problem with this - what if I can't understand the commentaries? Aren't they written in very high leveled, complicated language?

Is there a product (a cheap CD or video) made by Catholic Answers or EWTN that can guide me through every single verse of the Gospels?

And someone suggested that I buy the Ignatius Catholic Study BIble - I can't! It's so expensive. I already have the RSV-CE.... I am frustrated. please help me.

[/quote]

I think that the simplest solution to your question will be this...
When you have a question, come here and post it. Specifically ask for Catholic commentary references and not just the input/insights of the good folks here.

Very quickly I suspect that you will find two things...
1) Certain folks here always give good answers and
2) You will find yourself sent to the same site(s) over and over for further reading.

Then - you will likely pick one or two sites and start exploring them on your own....

Either that or you will find that you have so much fun discussing things here that you won't ever stop....

Anyway - that's my idea....

Peace
James


#14

I also want to emphasize the importance of how to read:

  1. Read with the “supervision” of the Church. The Bible itself warns against individuals interpreting difficult passages for themselves.
  2. Read it through once or twice, the first time not spending an inordinate amount of time on it (it takes patience. Just accept that the first time will not be sufficient and should be more of a quicker read)
  3. After that, begin to read everything. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the OT in understanding on a deeper level the NT.

It’s like being an English teacher. Do you have to know Old English and Middle English? Well… no. But you’ll sure as heck have a more profound understanding of Modern English.


#15

First of all, you need to know that for MOST of the verses of the Bible there is not one “official” Catholic meaning. Only rarely does the Church make a statement about the meaning of a verse, and then it is more likely to be to say that a verse does NOT mean something that someone has asserted it means (such as “no, the “until” in Matthew 1:25 does not mean that Mary and Joseph had sexual relations after Jesus was born”).

This silence on the exact meaning of a verse is because the Bible is richly layered with meaning. There is the literal meaning (which is best understood in the historical and literary context of the particular book) and the spiritual meaning, which includes many possible symbolic meanings, the allegorical sense (in which, for example, the Crossing of the Red Sea and Noah’s Ark both point to baptism), the moral sense, that is, the life lessons we learn from the passage, and the anagogical sense, the ways that the events and stories point to things eternal.

Also, because “the Word of God is alive and active,” (Heb. 4:12) and the Spirit speaks to our hearts when we read prayerfully, we will see different meanings in the same verses when we read them at different times, with different experiences, emotions and interests.

There are lots of good websites that you can access for commentary, several have been mentioned here. And by all means, come here and post a question whenever you have one! We’re all here because we love to think and share about Scripture. Doubtless, you’ll get different opinions and different insights from different people here. Most of them will be valid - and if someone posts something that’s contrary to Church teaching, you can be sure that it will get pointed out very quickly, and with documentation.

HTH
Sally


#16

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary:

haydock1859.tripod.com/

veritasbible.com/commentary/haydock


#17

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