Studying the Bible: Where to Begin?



Hi! As I’ve progressed further along on my Scripture reading goals, I’ve become more interested in serious Bible study. I know my parish is doing the Great Adventure Bible Series, though I haven’t been able to go and I may have to attend when they offer the study another time. But are there any good helps I can use on my own? I have a hardback RSV-2CE I use for devotional reading, and I’m working my way through Fr. Pacwa’s Eucharist Bible Study, which is very good! The St. Paul Center also has nice online studies I am trying to work through.

Does anyone have any recommendations? I was thinking about the Ignatius Series, but it would be nice to have a Bible with introductions, etc. I did take Bible survey courses of the OT and NT at college (part of the core curriculum at my Baptist college), so I’m familiar with general information; I just wanted to go more “in-depth” from a Catholic perspective. It seems many people recommend the New Oxford Annotated Bible as well, although I’ve looked at some of the notes and cringed a bit. It does seem to have nice introductions and cross references. I do not like the NABRE; the layout as well as translation bother me, so I would prefer to stay away from that.

Any ideas where to begin?


Depends what you’re looking for. Do you want to read it critically as a historical document, or as sacred scripture? Now, I’d be the first to say that you can and should do both, but which aspect you focus on first will likely determine what you ought to read!


I have found the bible commentary on sacred scripture -mark the most help for myself. It’s probably the best commentary I’ve read and will get you off on the right path. The gospel of mark is a great gospel to start first with. Mary heely is the author of is great scripture commentary… It’s available on amazon… Feel free to message me if you have any questions


I enrolled in our diocese scripture school and I am learning a lot. Somewhat serious study, about 12 hours a month of class. However the more rewarding part was the study group that formed around this program. We meet every week. I talked to an alumnus of the program and there group is still going several years after they completed the program. I guess I am saying there is more encouragement if you work with a group.


I have taken bible study courses within my parish and I have done some free online
ones like father Oscar Lukefahr,C.M. catholic home study service
I started this year with the 365 day catholic bible. It has an old testament scripture and a new. At the end of this year, I will have gone through the entire bible!


I have enjoyed Our Father’s Plan by Dr. Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins…


Dear friend, you cannot read the Bible as either/or as you have stated. From the viewpoint of the Catholic Church, it is sacred, inspired scripture, period.

Historical criticism was developed specifically to discredit the Bible, first and foremost, by denying anything as inspired or miraculous or spiritual. So, it is IMPOSSIBLE to read it as both inspired and not inspired, miraculous and not miraculous, spiritual and not spiritual, etc.

The result of reading it as not inspired, not miraculous or supernatural, or not spiritual is predictable – this is not edifying (building up) of the faith – it is the ridiculing of faith, the discrediting of faith.

Would you actually read the whole Bible in this negative way? For what purpose?

The early church fathers already saw, among the heresies of the first centuries of Christianity, that you have to read the Bible with faith. You have to believe it, to understand it. this sounds suspicious if not ironic, but if you read it only first to understand it so that you can believe it, you’ll never succeed, because many things in the Bible cannot be understood, at least not until we get to eternal life beyond this earthly life.

As St. Paul says, we walk by faith, not by sight. If you read the Bible once or ten times and thought you “understood” it, then you haven’t understood it! Our ways are not God’s ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

If you “understood” it, you wouldn’t have to believe it, would you? The things we believe in are things that cannot be proven by science or history, only by faith and revelation.

In Pope Benedict’s apostolic exhortation on sacred scripture, entitled Verbum Domini, he quotes St. Augustine who said the reason for reading/studying scripture is to increase our faith,hope, and love. L. Huizinga, in Vol 8 of Letter and Spirit (from the St. Paul Center for Biblical theology) quotes Augustine further (page 88) “So if it seems to you that you have understood divine scriptures, or any part of them, in such a way that by this understanding you do not build up this twin love of God and of neighbor, then you have not understood them.”

WOW and WOW again. Historical criticism will not get you “there.” Historical criticism, which denies faith, will not lead to faith.


If there’s any group bible study in your parish or town, this may get you started. Being impatient as I can be, I had to learn that it takes a lot of time, maybe a lifetime. I think being open to God’s word over a lifetime is the right way to set your person expectations.

My own experience is that it sometimes takes years to get to a point of understanding some aspect that bothers me. As time has gone by, I study on my own more and more, because the groups seem to try to move too quickly over, let’s say, three chapters of scripture in an hour - WOW – that may only help you to identify the questions you want to dig into at some later time. Three chapters in one hour is good as a survey of that scripture. But, you will be rewarded by deeper study.


The Ignatius series does have introductions to each book.


You understand neither what I was saying, nor historical criticism. I was talking about emphasis.

From* Verbum Domini *45: “Before all else, we need to acknowledge the benefits that historical-critical exegesis and other recently developed methods of textual analysis have brought to the life of the Church. For the Catholic understanding of sacred Scripture, attention to such methods in indispensable, linked as it is to the realism of the Incarnation… The study of the Bible requires a knowledge of these methods of enquiry and their suitable application”

Like all good theology, the theological interpretation of Scripture is fide quarens intellectum. First we are convinced of God’s revelation in Christ, and that this is (at least partly) accessible through the Scriptures; then, to better understand the Christ-bearing Scriptures, we study their history to see how God has chosen to reveal Himself to man down the ages.


Since everybody is different and not a one size fits all, not all approaches work best for each of us. I can tell you about what works best for me when it comes to Bible study, but some of the suggestions from others may be what you are looking for.

I enjoy picking a book of the Bible to study and then reading it and then have commentaries on hand to consult. So when I run onto passages that I want to know more about I then have resources on hand to look it up. I like to have multiple choices of commentaries and study Bibles because there are occasions when one commentary will either not explain every verse or leave me unsatisfied, so have others to consult always comes in handy. I created a website that has many Catholic commentaries on every book of the Bible that is designed to easily look up specific passages by different commentaries. The link to the site is below called the Aquinas Study Bible. Its all free for every one.


This site is very nice; thank you for sharing the link. It could be laid out differently to make things easier to find, but this is very useful information! :thumbsup: I guess what you are saying is what I am looking for. I would really like to have a way I can do more study on my own and not so much in a group setting, especially because I am unable to drive and getting to group studies oftentimes proves difficult, particularly during college! I am definitely wanting to look at modern scholarship, but also in view of the Church’s tradition of interpretation and history.

I think the Ignatius seems like a good bet, since they offer booklets for each section of the Bible and I can work at my own pace. I think that’s really what I’d like and need (short of ditching my final semester of English Major studies and going another four years for religious studies); something I can work through on my own time, and take it to my pastor if I have questions or need help.


You can definitely not wrong with the Ignatius Study Bible!


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