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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Questions & Answers About the Bible

Is the Bible self-sufficient in teaching us all we need to believe in order to be saved?

Salvation truth is in the Bible; however, sufficiency fails upon the matter of interpretation and translation.

Can non-Catholic Christians be certain of possessing a fully authentic and complete Bible?

Unfortunately, they cannot as has been demonstrated by the various versions in use by Protestants. It should be said that ecumenical overtures have improved this matter, as many of their Bibles now possess the deuterocanonical books. Unlike many truncated Protestant Bibles, Catholic editions contain 72 books.

What prevents Protestants from having a certain set of biblical books?

History itself prevents them. Unlike the Catholic community, they were not present when the original copies were written and collected.

Why can Protestants not be certain of their biblical interpretations?

Their constant fragmentation into various divergent churches and sects is evidence that no universal sense of Scripture exists. They have no divinely protected mechanism of authority and tradition to insure fidelity to Biblical truth. Indeed, what authorities they do contain are at odds with one another, even if each claims a true sense of the Bible.

Would not modern translations from the original languages suffice in giving Protestants a true rendering of Scripture?

While very useful toward this end, there is still the dilemma that except for a few ancient fragments, we no longer have the means to re-examine the original texts. Further, biblical scholars themselves are often at odds with one another on certain points. Some Protestant groups even reject modern biblical scholarship altogether for a favorite and archaic English translation. There are few scholars versed in Hebrew and Greek, and knowledgeable of the dialects, expressions, and cultural circumstances of the biblical people.

Did God appoint an arbiter to preserve and to explain Biblical truth?

Yes, he did. The notion that Christ would establish a Church only to allow it to immediately fall into error is nonsensical. No, God chose St. Peter and his successors to be the supreme teaching authority in the Church. It was the promise of Christ that Peter’s faith would not fail and that the spirit of truth would abide with him forever.

Could it be said that the Holy Spirit inspires every individual in their personal understanding of the true meaning of biblical truth?

No, and there is no evidence for it. If the thousands of ministers in Protestant communities were truly inspired then they would all believe alike. There would be but one Church. Contradiction is not the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

What is the benefit of an infallible teacher to explain the Scriptures?

The benefit should be obvious. Doubts about certain texts and sections of the Bible are readily resolved. Unity in teaching precipitates oneness in the believing community. Without this leadership, there could be as many churches as there are heads. It dispels lingering doubts, maintains the faith, and casts off the errors of rationalism and atheism.

Are Catholics forbidden to read the Bible?

No, although Catholics are warned to avoid those Bibles containing errors. Also, care should be taken for the gullible and uneducated that they will not be led astray by false teachers or for a lack of good commentaries. The Bible can be used for our edification; however, used injudiciously, it can also cause much damage. St. Peter had such an experience. “There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

Is Bible reading encouraged in the Catholic Church?

Most certainly it is promoted. The Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass, make up the principal parts of the daily prayer or Liturgy of the Hours required of clergy and religious, taught in Catholic schools and religious education programs, and encouraged in the home and in study groups.

Are the teachings of the Catholic Church found in the Bible?

The truths of the Catholic faith are essentially found in the Holy Scriptures. There are some doctrines, while not explicitly in the Bible, come down to us through Divine Tradition.

Who explained the Scriptures to Jews during Old Testament days?

The High Priest and the Sanhedrin (a council of seventy-two civil and religious judges) fulfilled this role. Indeed, Deuteronomy 17:8 reveals that the Jews were required under pain of death to obey their decisions in doubtful matters.

When was the canon of biblical books established?

During the first three hundred years of the Christian era, the New Testament existed only as dispersed fragments. Complicating the situation, there were many books and letters in circulation which were named as scripture but which would be deemed otherwise. Such works included the spurious Gospel of St. Peter and the Gospel of St. James and of St. Matthias. In the year 397 AD, the Council of Carthage declared which books were canonical and inspired.

How do we know that the Catholic canon of the Bible is correct?

The present Catholic canon is the same as the list approved in the year 1546 by Pope Eugene at the Council of Trent. This in turn is the same canon published by Pope Gelasius in the year 494. His canon is the same as that of the Latin Vulgate compiled and translated by St. Jerome and approved by the Council of Carthage in 397. This continuity in the Catholic Church is a telling fact in favor of this particular listing.

How did St. Jerome and the Council of Carthage collect the texts and determine the biblical canon?

St. Jerome was one of the few Latin fathers who also knew Greek and Hebrew. He visited the places where the letters and writings of the apostles were preserved. He carefully collected as many as he could find, studied and translated them. His Latin Bible would come to be known as the Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Church.

Why maintain a Latin translation of the Bible?

Actually, when first composed, the Latin Vulgate was written in a living language. However, the languages of men changed over time. The benefit of a so-called “dead” language is real, nonetheless. Such a translation with certain and unchanging word definitions insures a faithful source for all other renditions. It helps to preserve the Bible from erroneous or inexact interpretations.

Is not private interpretation of the Bible permitted?

The Bible should speak to our hearts and minds, finding particular application in our lives; however, as a universal concept, such private interpretation is fraught with dangers. It is responsible for giving us thousands of churches and sects all claiming to be the religion of Christ. The true voice of the Scriptures emerges from the Catholic Church, which has the authority to explain it. Our Lord said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Can a person be saved without reading the Bible?

Of course, in the first three centuries of the Christian era there was no complete collection of the New Testament books. During the first 1,500 years, before the process of printing, Bibles had to be copied with pen. It was not possible for everyone to have his or her own Bible. In any case, many people could not read. The command of Christ is not to take and read the Bible but to hear and respond to the preaching and teaching Church.

But did not Jesus tell us to “search the Bible”?

This was in response to the question of the Jews about his identity. Was he the long-awaited and true Messiah? He told them to search the Scriptures to see what the prophets said about him. Christ never explicitly told us to read the Bible; rather, he pointedly commanded us to hear the Church and to obey her teachings.

What language was used in the first Bible?

Books were variously written in Hebrew and Greek.

Who guarded the integrity of the Bible throughout the centuries?

Long before the reformation churches came into existence in the 1500’s, the Catholic Church preserved and guarded the Bible.

Was Martin Luther’s Bible the first to be printed?

No, a hundred years before the reformation a Catholic had invented the art of printing. This allowed at least fifty-six Catholic editions of the Bible to be published in the continent of Europe. Twenty-one of these were published in Germany, one in Spanish, four in French, twenty-one editions in Italian, five in Flemish, and four editions in Bohemian.

When was the Bible translated into the English language?

The venerable Bede translated the Bible into Saxon which was the language of England in the eighth century. Archbishop Arundle of Canterbury (1394) stated that Queen Anne diligently read the four gospels in English. Sir Thomas More speaks of an English Bible during his time.