Did you know that people have been reading the Bible for thousands of years and in a very real sense, we are not sure who wrote it? There are traditions concerning who wrote each of the biblical books, but how are we to know if this is correct? Tradition tells us that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, or the Torah. Jeremiah is said to have written the book of Lamentations, and a little over half the Psalms are attributed to King David. Reading the Bible is an important part of our faith, but there are things we need to know when we read Scriptures.
First of all, the Bible was not written by one person, and it is more of a library than a single book. Catholic Bibles contain 73 books, while Protestant Bibles only contain 66. The difference is that a Catholic Bible includes 7 books called the “Apocrypha” and Protestant Bibles do not. Most of the book of Revelation was taken from the 7 apocryphal books, so Catholics do not consider Revelation to be a prophecy about the end of the world.
In January, I will be presenting a series on the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. Because there are so many authors, there are many different genres in the Bible. Letters, poems, love stories, parables, allegories, myths, prose, suspense, comedy, satire, songs and more are all included in the Bible.
Also, the Bible was written at different times and the authors wrote for different audiences! For example, Mark wrote his gospel in Rome for Gentile Christians and he emphasizes Jesus as the Suffering Servant.
Mathew wrote from Syria for Jewish Christians and emphasizes Jesus as the Teacher. Luke wrote from Greece for Christians of Greek background and emphasizes Jesus as the Compassionate one. John wrote from Asia Minor to Christians of all backgrounds and emphasizes Jesus as God Incarnate. One of the other things we need to keep in mind is that the Bible was not “dictated” to the authors. Inspiration does not mean dictation, it means that the authors were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to write
things down, but God didn’t “fax” them the words!
So what does this all mean? It means that the Bible is the inspired word of God and it tells the story of a loving God at work in human history and in relationship with his people. There are too many things to cover about interpreting Scripture to include here, and there are upcoming discussions about reading and praying with Scripture in the next few months.
In April, we will talk about St. Paul and his letters, and in December, we will discuss
, a way of praying with Scripture. There have been many questions concerning the Bible, such as “Why is the God of the Old Testament so violent?” Did Noah really build an ark? Did God really tell the Israelites to kill people? Did Peter really cause the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts? None of this can be answered fully in this column, but in upcoming columns, I will do my best to help everyone understand how to read the Bible in a prayerful manner.
See you soon! Karen