The Bible "in context"

Catholics accuse us Protestants of “picking and choosing” from the Bible and not reading it “in context” with the other scriptures. But yet, I’ve heard Catholics say that the writers of the Bible didn’t know that they were writing “the Bible” as we know it today. :frowning:
If the latter is true, how come we can’t read the Bible by book and not as a whole? We know that scripture can’t contradict itself but the claim that the writers of the Bible didn’t know they were writing the Bible that we use today just contradicts itself.
How then, are we supposed to read the Bible? How does the Magisterium read the Bible?
Please don’t say “Catholics read the Bible in light of Tradition”. I’ve heard that before. I want to know how someone is to understand the whole Bible if you claim the writers of the scriptures didn’t know they were writing the Bible as we know it to be today? :confused:

Here’s my own understanding, which I think is pretty much in conformity with an orthodox view and would be acceptable among both Protestants and Catholics with regard to your specific question.

It is my understanding that SOME Biblical writers DID know they were writing for the ages. Some perhaps did not. Understand, I am referring to the NT, and not the OT. The OT was a long time in development, and most of it underwent a lot of revision over a long period of time before it was finally, and gradually, canonized by the Jews. The NT was much more rapidly assembled and canonized by the Catholic Church in comparison to the OT.

For instance, I’ve heard people say that when Paul wrote Romans, he was just writing a “letter” and it never occurred to him that that letter would be preserved for the ages as Scripture. But, when I read Romans, I find a theological tour de force that just couldn’t have been a scratch-out-and-mail letter. Same with other books, especially the Gospels. Acts appears to have been addressed to a single person, but I rather imagine that Luke knew that what he was putting down would be preserved and revered.

The real question is how does the Bible have so much detailed continuity throughout. Look at the cross references in any decent modern Bible. Almost every NT verse is linked to several other verses, both in NT and OT. There is a seamlessness to it that lends credence to the notion that God is the inspirational author. No other possible explanation could be given for the apparent fact that all the authors, whether they were conscious of it or not, were writing an interconnected presentation of God to mankind. The time frame is so spread out, the authors, many of them anonymous, writing in ages without electricity or high speed communication, printing presses, in more than one language, often under duress… The Bible is a miracle of God.

BTW I use this same type of reasoning to justify my being a Catholic. The survival of the Catholic Church over 2 millenia, considering all the upheaval that it has been through, testifies to me that God is behind the Magisterium, guiding it, protecting it. Call me simple. That’s how I reason it out.

I understand what you’re saying here but how do you know how to read the Bible and understand what is being said? Do you read it as a whole or do you read it book by book? Meaning, do you look at each book individually or do you look at the Bible, particularly the NT, as being tied together for us to understand and read together?


Both. We can look at individual books and see who they were written to, what the situation was, what the cultural norms were, etc. For example, we can read one of the Prophets, and see that maybe they were writing to Israel in captivity. Or one of Paul’s letters addressed to a particular Church that had its own issues. But we also look at the whole. How does that Prophet fit in with the overall plan of Revelation and Redemption. How does Paul’s letter relate Christian virtues and correct doctrinal errors. We can’t take a verse from the Prophet and say aha! he means that we should abandon society and kill ourselves because the end is near (though some extreme quasi-Christian cults view it this way).

Fortunately, we have an official and infallible interpreter of Sacred Scripture, which is the Magesterium.

I would say that [1] and [2] are different sides of the same coin. Catholics should take offence when someobne, Catholic or not, abuses our Bible. The noticeable difference is that many Protestants know a chapter and verse to quote… and do just that. Many Catholics know the sense of the Scripture and can not quote the chapter/verse to explain their point…

Thus the Protestant picks the verse to “prove” the point, which all too often IS in conflict with another verse because the interpretation of the first verse is in error.

As for [3], well you need to hear it often. Tradition is what the Bible is based on. Much of the way the early Christians were taught was from Oral Tradition… and then much of that Tradition was eventually written down by the early Catholic Fathers… into what we know as the Bible…,.73 books… canonized in the 4th century, and re-affirmed at Trent.

Why would we not read our Bible in light of our Tradition, as authoritively interpreted by the Magisterium.?


The OT is fullfilled in the new. All good Catholic Bibles contain references to other parts of the Bible,… and it is often interesting at the very least to see how they are linked.

At every Catholic Mass, the readings (1OT, 1Gospel on weekdays, and 1or 2OT, 1 NT, 1 Gospel on Sundays) are all chosen because they are supportive of each other.

today for instance:
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Luke 16:19-31

and for Sunday
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9

Thus the teachings use both the OT and NT together. MUCH of Catholic teaching is both/and… and not either/or

The question of what it means to read the Bible in context can have several different answers.

One of the meanings is to read the Bible in its historical context. This means keeping in mind the time of the original writing, who the inspired author’s original audience was, and the problems facing that particular community at that particular time.

Another meaning is to read the Bible in its literary context. This means not mistaking apocalyptic literature for prognostication, or not mistaking allegory for a science lesson.

What Catholics mean when they say that the Bible must be read as a whole, or when they accuse Protestants of ***picking and choosing ***is this: One cannot use one part of the Bible as a “proof text” without being mindful of the teachings of the whole of Scripture. For instance take the question of how Salvation is accomplished. Protestants who insist that Salvation is by faith alone (e.g. Baptists) will cite to John 3:14-18 and Ephesians 2:4-9 to support that proposition. Those same Protestants tend to ignore Matthew 25:31-46 and James 2:14-26 altogether. Alternatively, they will find a way to say that those passages don’t really say what they so clearly say. The same thing is true with once-saved-always-saved, the Real Presence, actual grace being conferred through Baptisim and so forth.

Catholics, who “read the Bible as a whole” will stand on John 3:14-18 and Ephesians 2:4-9, and believe that we must have faith in order to enter the Kingdom, and that our Salvation is not accomplished by our own merit. We will also stand on Matthew 25:31-46 and James 2:14-26, and believe that our works do indeed play a part in our Salvation.

In other words we cannot “pick and choose” between Matthew and John, or between Ephesians and James. In order to have a proper and full understanding we must be mindful of the entirety of Scripture. We must read the Bible in context.

Speaking only for myself, mind you… I read in a variety of ways. Presently I’m on a study mission with my partner and fiance. We started at Genesis 1 and are working our way through the Torah. We’ve been inspired by Dr. Tim Gray who visits our parish now and again and gives lectures. You can see him on EWTN. That is study.

Mostly I read piecemeal. I go to adoration most every morning before work, and always take my Bible with me, and read in the presence of Our Lord after some prayer. During those times, I will just grab something at random, whatever strikes my fancy of the moment… Psalms, some Gospel, whatever.

Sometimes this forum will prompt me to look at something closely. I may remember a verse or a story, and look it up via my Strong’s Concordance.

I do at least SOME Bible reading most every day. I have four translations on my handheld computer, which I carry around with me always. If I’m waiting for something, I will pull it out and read a little, either at random, or in connection with something else I’m working on.

I’m not aware of there being a distinct progression in the NT among the epistles. The four Gospels and Acts obviously progress, and then there is the Revelation at the end. But I’ve never really thought about a line of progression that includes all of the epistles. Good question. I’m sure they were put into the order they were for very good reasons… I’m just unaware of what that reason is.

I believe James, Johns, Peters and Jude were place after the hard to understand epistles of Paul for clarification and edification.

Greetings and peace be with you MrS;



](“”)Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9[/FONT]

I believe Catholics have their scriptures picked and chosen for them as your example shows. The Exodus reading misses out verses 9-12 and Corinthians misses verses 7-9. This is fairly common but I have not had an explanation as to why we should do this.

I have just started to read the Bible from start to finish and I feel you perceive it more in the way it was written.


The reasons for this are;

[1] Since all of Scripture is inerrant, the Church designs the readings so that virtually all of the NT, and OT (less some of the historical parts, etc) are read over a 3-year period. These are called cycles…

[2] The readings are choosen, not in a random pattern, but in a remarkable design so that the seasons of the year, Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, and other major holydays are accompanied by pertinent readings

[3] When following this design, you can thus walk into any Catholic Church in the world, and you should hear the same readings in any of them.

[4] The Priest or celebrant does not choose a favorite verse to dwell on, as we often find in the protestant faith communities.

[5] The sermons (or sermonettes as Protestant’s called them) are the talks given by the celebrant that may not necessarily dwell on the readings, but are centered on another part of the faith. Homilies, however, are those talks that follow the Gospel reading, and are based on the readings.

talk about context…:wink:

“I have heard” is not a source. If you would like to debate or discuss this statement please provide a source, otherwise, there is nothing to discuss.

[1] lucky you, he is pretty good

[2] lucky you, I too enjoy going often… though usually I write if so inspired

[3] There is an 8-translation, parallel Bible of Catholic versions available from Oxford, on the NT… I use it often… and note the differences… some rather intriguing.

im not a Catholic but I’m a Christian. if you will pray to God to understand the Bible and ask for his help you will begin to be able to understand it . i did and the Bible is God’s word and ive actually read some stuff about Catholic doctrine that i didnt know if it was true or not but i did ask some questions in another post i just posted.that hasnt been responded to yet about whether that stuff was true or not. i advise you to read the Bible and compare it with the catholic doctrine (which ive never read)and see if the doctrine contracdicts the Bible if it does you should decide whether you want to study and follow God’s word or others people’s word who are sinners like you and me. also when you read the Bible read the King James Version only this is why heres an online bible place hope i helped

:rotfl: hopefully you will soon see that all Catholic Doctrine is based on OUR book… the Sacred Scriptures.

Why pick the KJV, when the latest is 7 books short of the first version…???

Yep, we are all sinners, and even lots of prayer to the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that we could be still influenced by the devil, or by men doing his work… how do you think we have tens of thousands of “denominations” which were all started by sinners like you and me… all who also thought that simply praying and reading would give them the Truth.

Perhaps you should read the 4 Gospels at least three times each… and then perhaps ACTS. You can’t ignore Catholicism then…unless God’ plan is to make you wait and work harder.

God Bless

By the way… do a little research and see which MAN founded the Baptist faith community… see which year it started… and compare the fellowship they offer, with the what Jesus commanded (hint: John 6)

If you’ve never read the Catechism of the Catholic Church then how would you know if it contradicts the Bible?

If you want to understand any book you read, you would go to the author of that book to get what he means with certain sections of the book of which you’re not sure, correct? But what if the author is no longer around? You could probably find someone that knows the author very well. Perhaps the author confided in someone his inner most thoughts about his book. And if so, this person will know what the author actually meant with certain statements in the book. Perhaps the author actually left someone in charge to talk about his book in a way that no one else can. And the author probably told this person “in charge” that he wanted to make sure that his book was preserved so that no one can misunderstand what he wrote and/or commanded; so the author asked this person “in charge” to also pass on the his thoughts and commands that are in the book. So this person “in charge” makes sure that the author’s writings are preserved so that no one can misunderstand what he wrote. This way, the true understanding of the book can be preserved for a lifetime and longer, until the end of time.

If you could go back, aaalll the way back to the author in this way, you could get some insight about the book so that you can understand it the way that the author meant for you to understand it.

Can you find sources in your church that go way back to the Apostles’ teachings? Are there Bishops in your church that have succeeded the Apostles by a direct laying on of hands?

The Catholic Church was built by Jesus Christ and the bible was preserved and handed down by the Apostles to all the successors that we now have in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church put the Bible together the way that it is now in all the Catholic Bibles.

The Catholic Church is guarenteed the Holy Spirit so as to preserve the correct interpretation and teachings of the Bible.

A Catechism Of The Bible - Douay-Rheims Bible
There is only one true God. He took flesh and
became man only once. When man, He founded
only one religion and one Church, the Roman
Catholic Religion and the Roman Catholic Church.

That Church is the divinely appointed guardian of
the writings divinely inspired by God, known as
the Bible. This Holy Bible is like no other book,
because no other book has God for its principal

Nevertheless the Bible is not the foundation of the
Church, but the Church is the foundation of the Bible.
That is why Catholics need Mother Church as the
guardian and interpreter of the Bible.

[quote=7Jesus7saves]if it does you should decide whether you want to study and follow God’s word or others people’s word who are sinners like you and me.

The Catholic Church does have God’s Word. We are all sinners. Jesus Christ chose sinners to follow him and to pass down His Word so that He cannot be misinterpreted. Our Bishops, which include the Pope, are sinners just the way the first 12 Apostles were.
But God the Father in Heaven “enlightened” Peter on who Jesus is. That is called infallibility. You should not confuse impeccability with infallibility. Since our Pope is the successor of Peter, he also is “enlightened” by God through the Holy Spirit.

[quote=7Jesus7saves]also when you read the Bible read the King James Version only this is why

Don’t believe everything you read when it’s about the Bible. For true teachings and interpretations of the Bible, go to the source of that Bible. Go to the ones who were entrusted with the Word of God so as to not be misinterpreted.

[quote=7Jesus7saves]heres an online bible place hope i helped

The only help I need is right here in the Catholic Church with its many writings and resources. If I follow the Church’s teachings about the Word of God I will need no other “help” that is not within the Catholic Church.

With that said, I do go to Bible Gateway if I need to compare different protestant versions of the bible. I really like the way that website is put together. I have found out that some Protestant versions of the Bible are very close to some Catholic versions of the Bible. I’m so glad that my Protestant brother reads the ESV Bible; it’s his favorite. The ESV is so close to the RSV-CE and the NAB. You can kind of put the RSV-CE and the NAB together and you get really close to the ESV of the bible.

Going back to, it’s too bad that the website does not present any Catholic versions of the bible. And if they do, I don’t know that particular version to be Catholic.

1 Tm 3:15
15 But if I should be delayed, you should
know how to behave in the household of
God, which is the [size=]church of the living God,
the pillar and foundation of truth[/size]

I am a student of Guadalupe Bible College, which you can learn about at (sorry, I stink at making links). We are taught to look for patterns. Patterns in God’s behavior, in the Israelites’ behavior, and so on. Since there is historicity in the context: ie- the events happened; there is no need to add intentions that were not meant to be there.

The Psalms are prayers to the Lord in reaction to events that occured. The epistles were reactions to events that occured. The Gospels are accounts of events that occurred. God inspired these records for the benefit of our revelation of Him and our relationship with Him. He has a message for us.

Look at the thread that passes through all of Scripture. One word: obedience. This is the theme of the entire Bible. Obedience to God, and, in turn, obedience to rightful authority.
Our downfall was disobedience, and our continued rebellion and disobedience has perpetuated our problems. Jesus’ obedience to the Father has set it all aright, and our “latching on”, if you will (which depends on our obedience to Jesus), is our salvation that He secured for us. Heretics, Schismatics and Protestants constitute disobedience to His Church. This is the problem, you see. Each of us in our sin perpetuates the problem. This is why we must seek to live virtuous lives- to root out the sin and to make up, if you will, for the disobedience of others to God’s plan. If God means to send me to help my neighbor, and I fail, and they go into despair because I refused to help, who is He going to blame? There are other things, such as the Church’s role in our salvation, but that is the gist of it.

There is no need to get hung up on all the minute details. This occurs because of your need to come up with doctrine. That is not your responsibility. Never was. The Israelites’ job was to follow Moses’ command. They really struggled with this, as you know. It takes a lot of humility and dying to self to obey without question. Yet, that is our task in life. To find out what is the Will of God for us as an individual as He has a plan for us, and to carry it out. :o

Hello and welcome! :slight_smile: I use and I have to say that I love it! It’s a great source to help better understand scriptures related to a particular topic. :thumbsup:

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