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Holli Ann wrote:

Hi, guys —

I was brought up Catholic though I didn't practice the faith during my teen years. I'm now 23-years-old and have come back to the Church a lot since my son was born.

I've also been reading the Bible a lot and have always heard criticisms about Catholics not reading the Bible. I talked to my priest about this and found out we don't currently have a Bible study group so I guess my question is:

  • Would it be OK if I read the Bible on my own?
  • How should I go about reading and interpreting it correctly?

Thanks,

Holli

  { Since we don't have a Bible Study in our parish would it be OK if I read the Bible on my own? }

John replied:

Hi Holli,

It's fine for you to read the Bible on your own. As for interpreting it correctly, that's not just something that can be taught in an e-mail reply. We need to understand that while the Bible is God's inerrant word (meaning it contains no errors), God used men to write it. Therefore these men used literary devices, constructs, and expressions to communicate the spiritual truth that God inspired them to write. So there are times when we should interpret the text literally while other times the text is obviously used as a metaphor.

I would start by reading the Gospels and the New Testament and I would also have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, noting paragraphs 101—141. If you're having difficulty understanding something, you can cross reference the Catechism. What you want to avoid is taking a text out of context and developing your own doctrine which contradicts Church doctrine.

Remember, the Bible is part of Church Tradition. It therefore must be understood in that light. We received the Bible from the Church as we know it. It was the Church led by the Holy Spirit, that compiled the Bible, and discerning which books belonged and which books didn't belong so make sure you're reading a Catholic Bible.

I recommend the Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition. Protestant Bibles are missing 7 books from the Old Testament that Martin Luther ripped out in 16th century because he didn't like what they taught.

For a person just starting out, I wouldn't worry about trying to interpret the Bible, just start reading it prayerfully. Read the Gospels, meditate on the words of Jesus and if you want to then start adding in some of the Old Testament, start with the Psalms and Proverbs.

If and when you're ready to start studying the Bible, there are Catholic Bible Studies available. The one I recommend for first time Bible studies is Our Father's Plan by Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins. They are both former Protestant ministers that became Catholic. It's a good Bible study that takes you through Salvation History by reading through only 14 chronological books. The Bible isn't arranged in a chronological order but arranged according to literary forms so this study is really helpful at giving you a bird's eye view.

You can get this study on Amazon.

I hope this helps.

John

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