The Books of the Prophets


Greetings Friends!

I have been reading the bible for a year and have attempted to read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Hosea multiple times. However, I always drop it Because I’m confused. Even though I always pray to the Lord before reading scripture I can not seem to understand the Books of the Prophets. Could it be because I’m not Catholic and therefore in a state of mortal sin? I would like help.


Are you just reading the text itself, or are you using a commentary along with it? If it’s the former, then you ought to find a good solid commentary, such as Haydock’s, or a Bible with commentary, such as the Didache.


Okay thanks man


No. Just because you’re not Catholic, it does not mean that you are “in a state of mortal sin” necessarily.

Your confusion probably stems from not knowing the historical situation that the prophets are in. Without knowing what’s going on in the countries of Israel and Judah, the prophets and their messages will seem quite confusing.


What is confusing you?

If you have gone through the first five books of the Bible, ie, Genesis. Exodus, Deuteronomy, Samuels and Kings, you would have an over-view of the time line of the people of God.

The prophets were in the era of the Kings as the voice of God to the people. Thus their teachings addressed the issues of their time.


The prophets can be a little bit difficult to read because they require a bit of an ability to place the prophet into historical context, and also because prophetic literature is typically highly poetic in nature. It takes a bit of practice. Using a commentary could be helpful. I also recommend reading “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Gordon Fee. He does a really nice job breaking down the genre of prophetic literature and discussing the issues with interpretation for each different literature type in the Bible. It is simply written and well worth the time in my opinion.


I’m thinking that the ‘historical overview’ might be a tad different:

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Numbers (with Deuteronomy backing it up)
  • Joshua
  • 1st & 2nd Samuel
  • 1st & 2nd Kings (with 1 & 2 Chronicles backing them up)

I recall hearing “The Bible Answer Man” recommending this book, over and over again, back in the days when he was a Protestant who was quite critical of the Catholic Church and her doctrine. I think I would be concerned that the hermeneutical principles and the viewpoints expressed in that book would run counter to Catholic doctrine. Just a thought…


The book is not advancing doctrine, it is a book discussing the hermeneutical challenges involved in reading the various forms of Biblical literature. Also, I am not Roman Catholic so I do not feel confined to recommend books by Catholic authors.


Does it present particular interpretations? Do those interpretations conflict with Catholic teachings?

Every hermeneutic is representative of a community’s interpretation of Scripture. So, even if it discusses a variety of hermeneutical approaches, it’s implicitly going to end up in the same interpretative space as a particular community, right?


Read the book and see. The structure of the book is broken down by the various types of Biblical literature. So it has a chapter on Old Testament narrative literature, Prophetic literature, Wisdom Literature, Psalms, New Testament narratives (Gospels), Epistolary literature, Letters (the author draws a distinction between epistles and letters), parables, and Apocalyptic literature. He discusses the literary genre from a structural standpoint for each type of literature form. Then he discusses general points of hermeneutical principles from which to read through and understand the literature. And again, I am not Roman Catholic so I am not limited to providing recommendations from Roman Catholic authors as this site has a multiplicity of faith traditions represented here.

You are more than welcome to make your own recommendation though.


The best resource I know about, for understanding the Prophets, is an old radio series that Fr. Mitch Pacwa did, The Old Testament Prophets. (You can most easily download it as podcasts from EWTN’s Audio Library, but there’s also a version on YouTube that somebody augmented with picture stills.)

Fr. Pacwa used to be a college professor up at Loyola in Chicago. The series, The Old Testament Prophets, is basically his college course – if college classes only lasted 25 minutes or so. (And since it’s OT prophet stuff, I don’t think you’ll find much difference between Catholic and Protestant interpretations. If it was a course on the wisdom literature of the Bible, maybe not so much.)

It’s very long (59 eps), very thorough, and very easy to understand (if you start from the beginning). He talks about all the stuff you’re interested in: the history of Israel and Judah, the weird imagery, and even what the heck a prophet was and did. If you just listen to the introductory episodes, you will get a lot of knowledge. If you listen to the whole thing, you will have a really good grounding in these books!

The prophets are our friends and teachers, no matter how long ago they lived. Don’t worry; you can get this!

Re: lack of understanding, you know that grace usually builds upon nature. Like the Ethiopian eunuch on the road said to St. Philip, how can you understand unless you have a teacher? Obviously God could just teach every baby to speak like a Shakespearean actor as newborns, which would save a lot of trouble on understanding cries and learning human language. But usually, He wants us to learn through practice and failure, study, memory, discussion, and chewing things over in our own thoughts.


Mitch Pacwa is a smart dude. Thanks for the resource.


If you ever have the chance, take Jeff Cavin’s Bible Study Classes on The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation. He explains the culture, customs, and reasons behind the specific situations. It starts with Genesis and ends with the coming of Christ in Luke. I could take it again and still learn.


4 a secund I thought u sed by john calvin


that would be…interesting???



While it is true that the Holy Spirit will not abide in the sinful person, understanding Scriptures is not about punishment from God.

What is it that you are having problems with?

Maran atha!



This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit