Interpreting Scripture

In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret it correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors wanted to affirm, as well as what God wanted to reveal by their words.

(CCC 109)

Worthy of Penance …

VATICAN (CR News) — Some people think that, if they examine the words in Scripture (exegesis), they know the meaning of a Bible passage. However, while exegesis is an important part of determining the meaning of a Bible passage, it’s not the whole story. One must also understand “context.” That’s why the Vatican library can be such a big help for Bible scholars.

Keep this in mind — because the Catholic Church is the church Jesus started, she holds all the Sacred Traditions handed to the Apostles by Jesus (she was the only church around when all this happened). She is also the steward of a plethora of writings by the early Church fathers which provide great insight into exactly what the early Church was thinking and doing.

This can be a big surprise for a lot of Bible scholars and theologians not connected to the Catholic Church. But then, God has always seemed to surprise people when He wants to get their attention.

It Is Written

When it comes to interpreting Scripture, the Catechism explains that first, we must know what the men who penned Scripture actually intended (CCC 110). After that, we have to know what God, who inspired those men, intended (CCC 111). Therefore, the interpreter must know:

  • The content and unity of the whole Scripture (CCC 112).
  • The living tradition of the whole Church to whom Scripture was given (CCC 113).
  • The analogy of the faith, which includes the coherent relationship of the truths of the faith among each other within the context of the entirety of the Revelation of the faith (CCC 114).

Life Goes On …

Failing in any of these things opens the door to schisms and heresies. That is remarkably evident in Church history over the last 500 years.

Thousands of would-be prophets claiming to have a new or “the true” revelation of the Holy Spirit have come forward to fix those promises which Jesus (apparently) could not keep — to build and protect his Church from the evil one (Mt 16:16-20).

As a result, the so-called Protestant Reformation (circa 1517) has spawned literally tens of thousands of “churches” and ecclesial groups, all of which were started by ordinary men, to replace the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church Jesus started.

These new churches and ecclesial groups necessarily have two things in common. There are two key points that its necessary to overlook in order to leave Christ’s Church and start a “better” church.

First, the Church Jesus started has God-given authority. She is the pillar and foundation of truth (2 Tim 4:3). And of course, that authority was absolutely necessary because the Church Jesus started did not have the Bible as its source. In fact, this Church was the source of the canon which we call the Bible today. And that is the second point they miss — the Catholic Church is not the church of the Bible.

For more than 300 years, the Church relied entirely on the teachings and miracles of the Christ, and the inspired guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the absence of a Bible. And it was the Catholic Church that gave the world the Bible (circa 400 AD) — all 73 books.

So, the Bible is the book of the Church. The Church started by Christ (the Catholic Church) actually came before the Bible. Churches started by mere men have all come after the Bible.

Sadly, within the first 100 years of the Protestant Reformation, various leaders of the Reformation actually “cancelled” (the beginning of the “Cancel Culture” perhaps) seven of those books and wanted to delete even more.

The Wrap Up …

Let’s wrap this up. If you want to interpret Scripture, start with the entire bible. The Catholic Church has retained all 73 books of the Bible as well as the complete revelation of God in both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

Then embrace “sound doctrine.” The Catholic Church has also retained the summit and pinnacle of sound doctrine, which is the Holy Eucharist, resisting the the temptation to tickle ears (“lights, action, cameras”) which the Bible warned us about (2 Tim 4:3). The Holy Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ with us to this day — his body, broken for our sins, and his blood, shed for the New Covenant. It remains a daily memorial celebrated throughout the world every day (1 Cor 11:24).

God is still full of surprises, even today! If you try to put Him in a box by interpreting Scripture without all that the Church has been given for that purpose, you just might miss something. Trust God! Trust the Church that He started, is building, and protects to this day.

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Vivat Jesus!

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