Wednesday, July 22, 2009

10 points for Fruitful Scripture Reading from the USCCB

Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading from the USCCB site, compiled by Mary Elizabeth Sperry.

1) Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.

2) Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.

3) Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church's complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.

4) The Bible isn't a book. It's a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers' accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.

5) Know what the Bible is – and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.

6) The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.

7) The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God's plan for human beings.

8) You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.

9) What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?

10) Reading isn't enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be "living and effective."(Hebrews 4:12).

Mary Elizabeth Sperry is Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible. Hmmm......I never knew there was such an office. In my mind, particularly with the upcoming publication of the revised NAB, they should consider developing a website dedicated to the NAB. The USCCB has a site currently devoted to the NAB, but the resources could certainly be enhanced and the overall look updated. And it definitely deserves a site of its own.

As for the list, I would be a little careful particularly when it comes to #5. While what she says is true, it is important to go back to what the Second Vatican Council Document Dei Verbum taught in regarding inspiration: "Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation (DV 11)." What that means has been a point of debate over the past 40+ years within the Church. Perhaps Sperry could have said something like: "The Bible is not written in the same way that our modern history or science books are written." Just a thought!

Other than that, I think the list is generally helpful. Perhaps one other thing I would have altered is found in #4. While the Bible certainly is a collection of books, written over a 1000 year period, I would have liked to have seen her add a condensed form of the following from paragraph 102 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.


Theophrastus said...

I think the list is fatally flawed by its omission of the Four Senses of Scripture.

For example, see, CCC 115-119, or better yet Summa Theologicae 1.1.10, or Henri De Lubac's detailed two volume work, or Guibert de Nogent in Liber quo ordine sermo fieri debeat, or Gregory the Great in Epp. 5.53a, or Cassian in De Spiritali Scientia, or Aldhelm in De Virginitate IV, or Hrabanus Maurus in his commentary to Galatians 4:2, or Bede in Historia Ecclesiastica, or John of Salisbury in Policraticus 7.12, or Dante in Convivio Tract. 2 and his letter to Can Grande, or many others.

In particular, your concerns about points 4 and 5 would have been nicely addressed by including a discussion of the Four Senses. (And again -- this is not some wild approach -- it is in the CCC.)

An introduction to the Four Senses is more effective than this list.

jogomu said...

On Narratives Historical only in Appearance in Books of Holy Scripture Historical in Form

June 23, 1905 (ASS 38 [1905-06] 124f; EB 154; Dz 1980)

Is it possible to admit as a principle of sound exegesis that books of sacred Scripture which are regarded as historical, at times do not relate, either wholly or in part, history properly so-called and objectively true, but present only the appearance of history with the purpose of expressing some meaning differing from the strictly literal or historical sense of the words?

Answer: In the negative, except in a case neither easily nor rashly to be admitted, in which the mind of the Church not being contrary and without prejudice to its judgement, it is proved by solid arguments that the sacred Writer intended not to recount true history, properly so-called, but under the guise and form of history to set forth a parable, an allegory, or some meaning distinct from the strictly literal or historical signification of the words.