Why do MOST Catholics not know bible well?


Why do MOST Catholics not know the bible well, Protestants usually know it inside and out, forward and backwards. I just was curious what some of you think on this, I’m guilty myself, I don’t knoe a good method of learning it, I read it daily, but I don’t know it.


[quote=dizzy_dave]Why do MOST Catholics not know the bible well, Protestants usually know it inside and out, forward and backwards. I just was curious what some of you think on this, I’m guilty myself, I don’t knoe a good method of learning it, I read it daily, but I don’t know it.

I am Roman Catholic and I know my bible …I hesitate to say I know it well because I am learning all the time.
With regards to other catholics well…it would depend what you mean by know well…some do some don’t…as for our seperated brothers and sisters…hmm…If they knew it so well…they would be catholic. Many can scripture hop with verses to impress their view…but I question their REAL knowledge. :slight_smile:


I don’t really see the value of knowing the Bible inside out or backwards, although these methods do seem to be popular in some circles.

I would challenge the truth of the claim that protestants generally know scripture better than Catholics do. They are certainly more inclined toward compiling a stock of prooftexts that, taken out of context, appear to support their beliefs, the false and the true alike. They may be able to recite a verse or two of selected passages when given a reference like “Romans 5:12” or “the twenty-third Psalm,” but this is no more evidence of knowing and understanding scripture than knowing the call numbers of some library books is evidence of being well-read. But most protestants can’t pull off these party tricks, and it’s been my experience that the Bible remains a closed book to the great majority of Christians of whatever persuasion.


[quote=debtera]I don’t really see the value of knowing the Bible inside out or backwards, although these methods do seem to be popular in some circles.


I agree. Speaking for myself only, I:
*]find all the KJV “thee spake mayest intreat pray thee thine whither wilt thou shalt” very confusing
*]believe prooftexting is more more suited to intimidation and triumphalism than true teaching
*]cannot memorize scripture, but I understand the themes of the mass and know how I should apply it to my own life, although I don’t always.
*]know that Jesus made extensive use of parables, yet I hear no one rattling them off.
*]believe that scripture quotes would be taught in mass and ccd if they were more important than the message.
*]trust the Church to teach me what I need to know.


Good Morning Church

I don’t know the stats today, on how well Catholics know the Bible. However, having taught many Catholic Bible Studies in the past, I know that many did not know it and I think there are several reasons.

First, up until Vatican II, Catholics were not encouraged to read the Bible. Yes, I know, we even gave indulgences for Bible reading but the fact is, Catholics were not taught to read the Bible. Thank God, that changed after Vatican II.

Another reason is that many Priests do not give a good homily. Each time they do not prepare a decent homily, they have missed a wonderful opportunity to teach scripture. They have these terrific readings with so much depth.

I once read that the majority of Catholics have no higher than a 6th grade religious education. Most do not take the time to go to Bible Studies and such. Protestants are encouraged to go to Bible studies. We aren’t.

The Catholics we see in Catholic Answers and other websites like this one, do not represent the average Catholic.


Robertaf…“First, up until Vatican II, Catholics were not encouraged to read the Bible. Yes, I know, we even gave indulgences for Bible reading but the fact is, Catholics were not taught to read the Bible. Thank God, that changed after Vatican II.”

I would like to see documentation to support this oft repeated myth. The Church has always encouraged its members to read the bible. In three years, the bible is read in its entirity in the Mass.

You say that the average Catholic only has a sixth grade education . . . once again, what is your source? And more to the point, so what?

Our parish has a wonderful bible study…and you say that the Catholic Church does not encourage these. Your source, please.

I was raised as a non denominational Christian in a Christian household and came to the Fullness of Faith in the Catholic Church in my mid thirties. I cannot quote scripture. I do however, know the bible.

Your post is a little insulting to me. God Bless you -


[quote=dizzy_dave]Why do MOST Catholics not know the bible well, Protestants usually know it inside and out, forward and backwards. I just was curious what some of you think on this, I’m guilty myself, I don’t knoe a good method of learning it, I read it daily, but I don’t know it.

Although there may be some truth to this, I think it is mostly a myth. Catholics have heard it so often that they believe it themselves.

I grew up in the '50s, and we were always encouraged to read the bible. Not many of us did, and I think one of the reasons was that the translations at that time were not great. The Douay-Rheims had outdated language, the Challoner version was not much better. (The KJV has always struck me as eminently unreadable, except to scholars of the Victorian period.)

Now there are a lot of great translations, and more Catholics are reading the bible for devotional purposes.

But even aside from personal reading, attendance at Sunday Mass exposes the average Catholic to a wider variety of bible readings than Protestants usually get in their worship service, since they tend to emphasize a few verses and then expound on them. And any Catholic who attends daily Mass and then sets out to read the entire bible would find nothing unfamiliar. In fact, a person could be entirely illiterate, yet be quite familiar with the bible just from attending Mass.



Greetings Church

I am a convert as well. I converted in 1955, well ahead of Vatican II. I grew up in the Los Angeles area and became a Catholic there.
My husband is 74 years old and was educated only in Catholic schools in Rochester, NY and Los Angeles, up until Loyola University. He got his BA degree at UCLA and masters at USC, not Catholic Universities.
I taught in the Catholic school system and taught Religion classes for public school kids.
My husbands entire family were Catholic School educated.

This is where I got my information as far as the Church encouraging Bible reading. It is true that Bible quotes were in the Baltimore Catechism but, my experience and my husbands, the Bible, itself was not used.

As far as the statement I made concerning the average Catholic only having a 6th grade RELIGIOUS education, it is something I read when I was teaching. I meant taught in their religion. That would include Bible education. I do not know the source now.

I agree the Church has good Bible studies. I taught them, myself. I said, I do not hear a lot of encouragement for Catholics to take part in them. It is a possibility that some parishes strongly encourage it. I have not seen this, either in Southern or Northern California.

I hope you continue with your Bible study. I think it is great.


Catholics have many “tools” available to assist them in living their faith, plus we get a pretty decent knowledge of the Bible if we pay attention in Church (although we may not really learn which book, chapter and verse it is). Protestants have one “tool” available to them to live their faith–their bible. They have nothing else. Sola Scriptura right? I also feel they have to defend themselves against what is the oldest church around (CC), so they think they had better know their bible if they want to stay Protestant. This is only my take on it.

Catholics have such a rich mixture of Bible, Tradition, and tradition…the bible (and please don’t harp on this analogy because I can’t think up a better one) is almost comparable to a family’s photo album. I don’t remember exactly what picture is in which album or page, but it’s a part of my family history and it’s there when I need it. But I do think I know the bible, I wouldn’t say REALLY well, but okay…I’ll be taking a 4-year Bible study program starting September, so at least I’ll come out of it knowing it pretty well (BTW, it’s run by the Camden Diocese in NJ).



First, of course, there are Catholics who are actually Catholic in behavior as well as name, and have a fairly decent understanding of the faith.

There are also “Catholics-In-Name-Only” who don’t practice the faith and/or really have no understanding of it.

If we are going to compare Bible skills with Protestants, I’d like to focus upon the knowledgeable Catholics to compare to the knowledgeable Protestants. After all, there are also lukewarm, “Christian-In-Name-Only” protestants who don’t know the Bible either.

When comparing those two groups, the committed Protestants usually know their Bible well, and are especially good at citing “Book and Verse”. I understand their great love of scripture, because in one sense, that is all some denominations really have.

On the other hand, committed Catholics usually have a great intuitive understanding of the Bible. We’ve sat in Mass our whole lives and heard of the parables of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Virgins without oil in their lamps, etc. We’ve heard the old testament stories of Moses, Abraham, Elijah, David, Saul, etc.

I am quite familiar with a lot of things in the Bible. I know what is in there and what it means,But do you know what I cannot do? I can’t cite to you the “Book and Verse”.

For example, I was at Eucharistic Adoration earlier this week, and I was thinking about the passage:

7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, 5
10 or a snake when he asks for a fish?
11 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

So I went to try and find it in the Bible. I had to start at the beginning of Matthew and scan through the first 7 chapters until I found it. Now, you’d think I would now know that it is Matthew 7:7-11. But it just took me another 10 minutes right now to find it all over again to cite it as an example.

But I already knew the passage. I knew what it meant. I just couldn’t find it.


Robertaf - I stand corrected in the 6th grade religious education…although I disagree with you.

Our sons are still being catechized and our eldest in a junior in high school. I am still being catechized and I am 52, my husband 64 and he reads the bible every day.

Our priest and our deacon give wonderful homilies, based on the scriptures and tradition. I do not know what Masses you are attending, but if your priest is not doing right by your parish, you may consider finding a parish that is better in the area of religious education and homilies.

God Bless you -


Regarding the controversy over Pre-Vatican II norms regarding the Bible, I can simply speak for my family.

My grandparents were born circa 1900, and my parents and parents-in-law circa 1930 or so. I also have a ton of aunts and uncles from that generation. They were all raised in parochial schools, they were all devout Catholics. My mother and father met in a Catholic College (Marquette, 1948), back when they were still truly Catholic colleges in our country. My parents both studied the required theology courses, back when that meant the “Summa Theologica”.

I have heard them all talk about the Vatican II changes regarding studying the Bible. They were all actively discouraged by their pastors from doing so. It was considered dangerous to their soul if they arrived at their own incorrect Bible interpretations. After all, that’s what Protestants did.

In some sense, VII simply reclaimed that Bible heritage for Catholics, and rightly so.

People who didn’t live in the pre-Vatican II days sometimes have an overwhelming nostalgia for them, and tend to moan about all the changes. Well, we have problems in the Church today, of course. But there were genuine issues back then that Vatican II was trying to address as well.

How many people remember the phrase from back then that a “good” parishioner is one who will ***“pay, pray, and obey”***?


I’m wondering as to what Dave meant by knowing the Bible well. Does he mean knowing the stories, parables, and teachings, or does he mean being able to cite book and verse to give an answer?

I think there are people who can cite book and verse extremely well, but I don’t think that means they know the Bible well.


I went to 12 years of Catholic school and we learned from the Bible, but not nearly enough. I think they concentrate too much on other things in religion class. They had me learning about other religions before I even knew the Bible very well. I remember we had a course called “Death and Dying” in high school, it was an entire semester dedicated to how people of different religions bury thier dead and deal with loss…WHO CARES?! That is a whole semester that could have been dedicated to learning the bible. We did have one class just called “Old Testament” and that was actually pretty cool and I learned a lot, but wish it was a longer class. I also think one of the biggest scams in school is Study Hall when you use up a class period to sit around and work on homework…that is more time that they could use for a class on the Bible and it doesn’t even have to be graded or given homeowork just teach students apologetics type stuff or something.


I agree with Bob and JELane that while many Catholics can’t cite chapter and verse, we know the essentials in the Bible –

Adam & Eve, Noah, Moses, Daniel, the Annunciation, birth of Jesus, Jesus lost in the temple, much of Jesus’ parables and teaching, His passion and death, His resurrection, His ascension, etc.

The Mass itself is filled with passages from the bible. So if we’re paying attention at all, we probably know more than we give ourselves credit for.

Can we learn more? ALWAYS!
Is studying the bible important? YES!
Should we do it every day? YES!
Do we??..

I suggest finding an easy daily format (God’s Word Today, Daily Mass readings, online Catholic sites, etc.) and get in the habit of reading some every day. Having some scriptural commentary for thought is always helpful – brings about insights and historical information we might not know.


I have to admit I didn’t know too much about the bible most of my life. About two years ago I started reading scripture more frequently, but what really helps me now is one of my co-workers. He grew up catholic but now has many of the standard arguments against catholicism like ‘why do we go to confession’, ‘why do we pray to the dead’, etc.
Since he likes challenging me with these things I started reading up on it one topic at a time, looking up the verses that support the catholic point of view. This way it’s much easier to remember and see the context.


I find that many, both Catholics and Protestants do not know the Bible well, or even have a grip on the basics. Last New Years Eve I got into an argument with a cradle Catholic who insisted that St. Francis of Assisi is a person discussed in the Bible. When I pointed out that Francis lived about 1000 years after the last of the scriptures were written, she reluctantly relented. (I am still not sure she was convinced.)

In the past year or so I have started to do some more serious reading about the Bible and Bible study. It has been both enlightening and somewhat disconcerting. I have learned about the times scholars now fix for the writing of the scriptures, the political realities that appear to have governed much of the writing of the Old Testament, the lack of original scriptural writings and the reliance on copies of the “autographs” and much, much more. I am frustrated by my ignorance of Greek. Without a working knowledge of Greek it is, to my mind, practically impossible to seriously study the Bible because all you have to work with are translations, each with strengths and weaknesses.

Given what I have learned, I think now that us ordinary pew sitters have not been even minimally exposed to what serious Bible scholars have learned in the past century or two and that with few exceptions much of the knowledge most of us laity have of the Bible is superficial and, to a degree, outdated.

None of what I have picked up so far is a secret or difficult to find. When you go to a good library you will find a multi-volume Interpreter’s Bible full of information. But those big, dusty tomes (lots of print - no pictures) are forbidding and require serious concentration. That is something not easy for a generation of careless readers (like I am) who want everything packaged for fast, smooth communication and simple conclusions.


I have to say one other thing about the Bible being read at Mass. It is true that the lectionary provides for the reading of the entire Bible over time; however, the way the lectionary is set up with readings for each day of the week and Sundays, much of the Bible is only read on weekdays. Since most Catholics attend Mass on Sundays only (or around here on Saturday nights when there are hot sporting events on Sunday) they never get to hear much of the scriptures read or commented on in church.


Greetings Church

Greetings chimakuni

chimakuni, I am sorry, I missed the last sentence of one of your posts.

You said, “Your post is a little insulting to me. God Bless you -”.

I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to insult anyone. If I did, I must apolgize and beg your forgivness.

I was only trying to say the things I had observed in my experience. It was not meant to be personal.


Never heard this one before, but the more I learn, the more I can see the real beauty of simple statements like this.

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