A Catechism Of The Bible
By Rev. John O'Brien, M.A.
New York, 1924
Lesson 1. Bible Definitions
Lesson 2. Inspiration of the Bible
Lesson 3. Dates and Division of the Bible
Lesson 4. The Old Testament
Lesson 5. The New Testament
Lesson 6. The Canon of Sacred Scripture
Lesson 7. The Bible and Tradition
Lesson 8. The Languages of the Bible
Lesson 9. The Septuagint Version
Lesson 10. The Vulgate
Lesson 11. The Douay Bible
Lesson 12. The Bible and Science
Lesson 13. The Bible and History
Lesson 14. Interpreting the Bible
Lesson 15. Reading the Bible
Lesson 16. Differences between Catholic and Protestant versions
Lesson 17. Materials used in composing the Bible
The word "Bible" means "book."
From the Latin "Biblia," which in turn comes from the Greek.
In the plural, which means that it should be translated "the books".
They used the plural form because the Bible is not one book but a collection of books.
It is in the singular and, therefore, should be translated "the book".
Because the Bible is the most important book there is, since it is the Word of God.
The Bible contains chiefly a history of God's Revelation to mankind.
In addition, the Bible gives us instructions in faith and morals.
Certain books give detailed instructions for the carrying out of religious worship in the Old Law.
No; the Bible was written by man.
Though written by man, we can truly say it is the written word of God, because it was written under the inspiration of God.
Yes, the inspiration of the Bible is an article of Faith which cannot be denied without sin.
Inspiration of the Bible means, in the first place, that those who wrote the Bible were impelled to do so by God.
Principally that those who wrote the Bible were protected from error while writing what God impelled them to write.
Yes, it is called "biblical inerrancy." It means that there are no errors in the Bible.
The Catholic Church, which is infallible, teaches us so.
Besides those found in the Bible, the Church has many other proofs for its infallibility.
Besides many others, we have Our Lord's constant references to the Old Testament as the word of God, while the early Christian Church testifies to the inspiration of the New Testament.
"For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost ..." (Leo the XIII in Providentissimus Deus, E.B. 124, 127)
Both: It applies absolutely to the originals, and to the translations insofar as they are faithful to the originals.
The Bible was written during a period covering more than 1500 years.
The exact date is not known, but it must have been some fifteen hundred years before Christ, since its author was Moses.
The last book was written about the year 93 A.D.
As a history, the Bible covers a period of many thousands of years.
The creation of the universe.
The life of Christ and early spread of Christianity.
The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments.
It is, since the Old Testament deals with the span of time before Christ's first coming with the expectation for the future Savior, while the New Testament treats of His life and work in this world, or the realization of that hope.
It contains from forty-five to forty-seven books, depending on how the books are divided.
Didactic or Doctrinal, Historical, and Prophetic books.
Yes, the very matter contained in them suggests this classification.
There are the books that contain the teachings of God to man.
Seven: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus.
Because they treat of the Messiah and His life, passion, and death in a prophetical manner.
No; four of these books are called the Greater Prophets because they are greater in length and deal with more important matters, generally, than the other twelve which are called the Lesser Prophets.
The remaining books are so classified because they narrate the history of the People of God and the history of our salvation.
There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament.
These books were written during a period extending from 35 A.D. to 93 A.D.
They were written mainly by the Apostles.
We say "mainly" because some books of the New Testament were written by men who were not the Apostles, i.e., St. Mark and St. Luke.
Like those of the Old Testament, the books of the New may be grouped into three classes.
They are the same classes as with the Old Testament: Historical, Didactic, and Prophetical.
The Historical Books are the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
The Didactic Books are all the Epistles.
There is only one Prophetical Book in the New Testament, namely, the Apocalypse of St. John.
From the New Testament we learn the principal events in the Life of Christ, many Christian beliefs and practices, as well as much history of the early Catholic Church.
No, conversion was done by preaching. The New Testament was written to strengthen the Faith of the people already converted.
Yes: "It seems good to me also, ... to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed" (Lc. I, 3-4).
Seventy-two or seventy-four, depending on the way they are calculated
We know with certainty that the Bible contains only these books because the number is fixed by the "Canon of the Scriptures."
"Canon" is a Greek word that means a standard or rule.
Originally, the Canon of Scriptures meant the qualifications required of a book before admittance into the number of recognized inspired writings; now it means the very collection of these books recognized as inspired.
The Catholic Church decides.
By that of Christ, Who has made her the infallible teacher of faith and morals by both the oral and the written word.
The special mark required was clear proof of its inspiration.
Pope Damasus, at the Roman Council of 382 A.D.
They are known as the Proto-Canonical Books.
They are so called because from the beginning they were recognized as Scriptural; the Greek prefix "proto" has the signification "from the first" or "originally," hence the use of the term "proto-canonical" to describe those books.
They are known as the Deutero-Canonical Books.
They are so called because their recognition as Scriptural came "afterwards"; the Greek word "Deutero" used as a prefix has the signification of "second" or "later."
Tobias, Wisdom, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees (I & II), Judith, Esther (Ch X. v. 4 to end), Daniel (Ch. III, vs. 52-93). The Protestants call them "Apocryphal" Books.
As a whole, the Hebrews stopped admitting these books after the second Century A.D., because they were written in languages other than Hebrew, or were of uncertain authorship.
On the contrary, enven if they did not accept these books as part of the Bible, they were always held in the greatest reverence by the Hebrews.
Under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
We know that she has this guidance because Christ promised assistance to His Church until the end of times (Mt. 29. 19).
Yes; she investigated carefully whether the doctrine taught in the book was in harmony with Tradition and whether the book was of apostolic origin.
We have, but these authors lived in apostolic times and merely recorded the words and deeds of the Apostles themselves.
The Church does not accept any book not of Apostolic origin because the Deposit of Faith was completed with the death of the last Apostle (St. John).
She requires that a book be in harmony with Tradition because the Gospel had already been preached before a word of the New Testament was ever written.
Yes, the Second Epistle of St Peter, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse.
Yes, namely the "Gospel of St. James," the "Gospel of St. Thomas," the "Acts of St. Paul," amongst many others.
They were rejected as spurious. It does not mean necessarily that these books are bad; it simply means that they are not part of the Bible because they were not inspired by the Holy Ghost; they are what we Catholics call "Apocrypha" or "Apocryphal books." The Protestants erroneously give the name "Apocrypha" to the Deutero-Canonical books.
This attitude proves, amongst other things, that the Church sifts everything carefully before approving or rejecting.
By Tradition we mean that body of doctrine which has been handed down to us, alongside the doctrine clearly taught in the Bible.
The Church, through her teaching office (Also called "Magisterium"), has handed down Tradition.
We have the guarantee of Christ in His statement that the Church would not err in teaching.
No, and it was never intended that it should.
There is the fact that Christ commissioned His Apostles to "Preach and teach" (Mt. 28, 19), whereas no mention of "Writing" is found; furthermore, the Gospel was widely spread before a single word of the New Testament was ever written.
The words of St. John that conclude his Gospel, "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written" (Jn. 21, 25).
Protestants hold that all things necessary for salvation are found in the Bible. To quote Luther: "The Bible and the Bible only."
Totally, and in this they are illogical, for it is by Tradition that we know what the Bible contains.
That, while the Bible is the chief source, it is neither the only nor the original source of our knowledge of Revelation.
We may compare it to a professor's textbooks and his lectures; as a professor's lectures in the classroom, and his textbooks clarify each other, so does the Bible clarify Tradition and is clarified by it in turn.
Yes, it has preserved the Bible and has helped the Church to sift the true from the false, and has kept us from false interpretation.
No, besides Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic were used.
Almost all the books of the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Second Book of Machabees and the Book of Wisdom; in the New Testament, all books except the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The Gospel of St. Matthew.
About 220 years before Christ.
Because the Jewish people was dispersed into countries where the Greek tongue predominated, and so it gradually forgot the mother tongue, speaking only Greek. Hence the wish to have the Bible in the Greek tongue.
The translators of the Old Testament were Jewish scholars well acquainted with both the Hebrew and the Greek languages.
It is known as the Septuagint Version.
It is called by that name because it was commonly supposed that seventy scholars were employed in the work of translating.
It was known as the Alexandrian Version to distinguish it from the Hebrew or Palestinian Version.
Because this translation was made in Alexandria, Egypt, which had the biggest and most vibrant Jewish community outside of Israel.
Several; The Septuagint contains more books than the Palestinian version and is about three hundred years older. The Palestinian Version originated approximately around 106 A.D. and is different from the Hebrew texts that were the basis for the Septuagint translation.
The translators had a well-founded belief that these books were inspired.
Yes, but only up until 106 A.D., when the Palestinian, known also as the pharisaic version, became the norm.
It was used not only by the Greek-speaking Jews but also by the Palestinian Jews; Our Lord and the Apostles frequently quoted it.
It helped very much, because Gentiles, particularly the Greek philosophers, had read it, and had knowledge of the prophecies referring to the Messiah, with the result that when St. Paul preached to them, many converts were made.
Hebrew and Greek.
They wrote their Gospels and Epistles in Greek, except St. Matthew, who wrote his Gospel in Aramaic.
As Catholicism spread among peoples of different languages, the demand for the Bible in their various languages grew.
Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, Arabic, and Ethiopian.
Many translations into Latin were made during the early Catholic centuries.
No; many inaccuracies existed, due to errors of the copyists, or errors of translation caused by a poor understanding of the original language.
The best known Latin translation was either the "Old African" or the "Old Italian" (Vetus Itala).
Pope Damasus (Pope from 366 to 384) commissioned St. Jerome to make a new and accurate translation.
He studied carefully the Hebrew and Greek versions, and from these made his new translation.
It is known as the Vulgate Version. Vulgate means common or vulgar in Latin and it was called so because Latin was the common tongue of the Western Roman Empire.
The Council of Trent (Italy) in 1546 declared it to be the only authentic and official version for the Latin Rite: " The same Sacred and Holy Synod ... hereby declares and enacts that the same well-known Old Latin Vulgate edition ... is to be held authentic in public readings, disputations,sermons, and expositions, and that no one shall dare or presume to reject it under any pretense whatsoever." (DZ. 785). It is still the official Catholic Bible today.
Yes, it is the translation known as the Douay-Rheims Version. It was translated from the Latin Vulgate.
Because it was begun at Rheims and finished at Douay in 1582-1609 by a group of English priests exiled in France.
During the Protestant "Deformation" in England many false translations had been made, hence there was great necessity of placing in the hands of Catholics a reliable and accurate translation.
It is not true; the first translation known in England was the translation into Anglo-Saxon made by Venerable Bede in the eighth century. There is a Gothic translation, made by a certain bishop Ulfilas around 380. The first German translation predates Luther by a good fifty years.
Through a mixture of ignorance and bad faith.
It is the version called the "King James," named after the King who commissioned it in 1604. It was finished in 1611. It is still the most popular of the Protestant Bibles in the English speaking world.
Like all the Protestant Bibles, it is incomplete and poorly translated. It is a "Pick and choose" version. Such is the real lack of respect of the "Reformers" for the word of God!
The Bible is not a book of science, and was never intended to answer the purpose of a book of science.
Yes, the Bible mentions many things that have to do with science.
The account of the Creation in the Book of Genesis touches on many branches of science.
Since God is the author of the Bible and also, the foundation of true science, the Bible cannot err when it touches on science.
In many ways, for example: some so-called scientific findings are false; others are mere unsubstantiated theories (Evolution); while still others, when properly examined, do not contradict the biblical narrative.
No, we must remember that the Bible was written in every-day language of the time, not in scientific terms. Even to this day, for example, we speak of sunset even though the sun is not setting anywhere and we know that the Earth is turning around the Sun and not vice-versa.
Yes, there have been and are now many great Catholic scientists, believing firmly in the Bible.
Copernicus (a priest), Pascal, Gauss, Ampere, Pasteur, Marconi, to name just a few.
Nonsense; on the contrary, the Catholic Church has always encouraged science; some of her most eminent children have also been leaders in science.
True science can help Bible study in interpreting some difficult passages.
As a lighthouse helps a ship at sea, so does the Bible help scientists.
The Bible is not an historical book per se; it is primarily a religious book; but it does contain a certain amount of historical teaching, which benefits from inerrancy, like all the rest of the Bible.
A great number of historical facts are intimately united to our Faith in such a way that one cannot deny the historical facts in the Bible, without denying the Faith.
The historical fact of the Resurrection of Our Lord cannot be denied without denying our Faith at the same time, for: "... If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain ..." (I Cor. XV, 14).
There are several reasons which account for these apparent
- Most of the time the apparent contradiction is due, either to a poor understanding of the text, or to a poor understanding of the context.
- When this is not the case and we have historical sources which contradict the Bible, it is the Bible which, time after time, is finally proven right.
Barely two hundred years ago, most of the non-Catholic historians denied the existence of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, because the only known historical references of the time came from the Bible. The archaeological excavations of the last century not only proved the existence of both empires, but located their capital cities: Babylon and Ninive. No self-respecting historian will doubt the existence of these civilizations now.
Yes, it is undoubtedly better to take God at His Word, than any self-proclaimed "Expert historian." Most of the historians who cling to an historical interpretation which contradict the Bible, do so because of their religious prejudices, and not for any serious historical or scientific reasons.
Yes; a good historical background is very useful for a proper understanding of many parts of the Bible.
Yes: both as an historical source and as a guideline to avoid errors.
The Bible is by no means so easily understood: St. Peter himself tells us that it contains many things: "... hard to be understood ..." (II Pet. III,16).
The Catholic Church interprets the Bible for us.
Quite natural, just as in America, we have the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution of the United States. The difference is that the Church is infallible and the Supreme Court is not!
No, for she is under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Through Tradition, the teachings of the Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, and of learned men.
No; Protestants hold that anyone who reads the Bible in the proper spirit will be guided by the Holy Ghost in interpretation.
No; it is against the Bible, against Tradition, against reason.
Because the result of this belief has been that, as many interpretations exist as there are individual thinkers, and many of these interpretations contradict each other; since the Holy Ghost cannot contradict Himself, He cannot be the guide of these interpretations, and therefore, this belief of these Protestants is false.
The constant Tradition of the Church since Apostolic times is that the proper interpretation of the Word of God belongs to the Church founded by Him, i.e., the Catholic Church; and as St Paul tells us, we have to: "... stand fast: and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle. ..." (II Thes. II, 14).
St. Peter warns us that in the Bible, there are: "... things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. ..." (II Pet. III,16). Now, if the Holy Ghost was inspiring personally, every individual reader of Scripture, what St Peter tells us would be impossible, because obviously, no one can read the Bible for their own destruction, and be inspired by the Holy Ghost at the same time. Since it is certain that St Peter was inspired by the Holy Ghost when he wrote that, it means that there is no personal inspiration from the Holy Ghost while reading the Bible; and that this Protestant belief cannot be true, since it contradicts the Bible.
In a material or literal sense, it is true, exactly as in any well-regulated society, nobody has the "freedom" to kill, maim, and loot. In a spiritual sense, it is quite the opposite, for St. John reminds us that: "... the truth shall make you free ..." (Jn. VIII, 32), and thanks to the vigilance of the Church, Catholics do enjoy freedom from error, which cannot be the case with the Protestants.
We are under no obligation to read the Bible.
By no means; on the contrary, all Catholics are urged to read the Bible.
"A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due to the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour." (Enchiridion of Indulgences. Authorized English edition. 1969. Catholic Book Publishers. New York. Page 68. # 50)
During every single Mass of every single day, portions of one of the Gospels and of some other book of the Bible, often the Epistles, are read. Many of the prayers of the Missal come from the Bible.
All those who have received Major Orders, and those belonging to certain orders of monks or nuns, are bound to read parts of the Bible daily.
It is called "saying the Holy Office" or "reciting the Breviary."
In the course of the week the complete Book of the Psalms is read, while in the course of the year a good part of the Bible, together with commentaries of some parts, is read.
The reading of the Bible is most profitable, for such readings elevate our thoughts and lift them nearer to God.
It should be read in the spirit in which it was written, i.e., not out of idle curiosity or for the sake of the language and literature, but humbly and devoutly, for instruction and enlightenment.
No; Catholics are forbidden to read false versions, just as they are forbidden to read bad books. The same principle is to be applied by analogy to many so-called "Modern Catholic" versions of the Bible because they depart considerably from the only official Bible of the Church, which is the Vulgate, and they were written with a Modernist and Ecumenical motivation, more aimed at pacifying Protestants than for the edification of the Catholic faithful.
Either under a professor's guidance or with the aid of a reliable commentary.
Yes, in many ways.
The most noticeable difference is the absence of seven whole books and parts of two others from the Protestant versions.
The Deutero-Canonical Books (See lesson 6).
Because the Protestant versions of the Bible follow the late Palestinian version of the Bible, which also omits these books (See lesson 8).
Many important arbitrary changes are found in the texts of the Protestant Bible. According to some scholars, the most popular Protestant Bibles have literally hundreds of mistranslations, additions and omissions.
They lead to an entirely different interpretation from the one intended by the Sacred Writer.
St Paul says, "... Being therefore justified by Faith ..." (Rom. V, 1), and Luther inserted the word "alone" so that the text reads, "Being therefore justified by faith alone."
They were anxious to change texts to give force to the particular doctrine of their choice.
Yes, what did they believe exactly concerning the Bible? Either they did not believe it was the Word of God, and therefore felt free to change it any which way; or if they did believe it was the Word of God, it took a lot of pride and presumption to correct God's word. In either case, they should be called "Deformers" rather than Reformers.
The King James version has a preference for words of Anglo-Saxon origin whereas the Douay version freely uses words of Latin origin. The Douay version latinizes the name of some books while the King James gives what they thought at the time to be the Hebrew name. Many Protestant versions other than King James omit the Epistle of St. James.
They have been either destroyed or lost.
Many, particularly persecution and the fragility of the materials used, which did not withstand the ravages of time.
Sometimes the Christians themselves destroyed the original to prevent profanation at the hands of the pagan persecutors; some other times they were found and destroyed by the pagans. The persecution of Decius (Roman Emperor from 249 to 251) was particularly vicious in this regard.
We know from Tradition, History and the teaching authority of the Church, that we possess accurate copies of the originals.
Before the invention of paper, papyrus, and vellum or parchment were used.
Papyrus is the substance made from reeds of bull-rushes; a plant particularly abundant in the valley of the Nile in Egypt. Two layers were placed at right angles to each other and glued together. It was used mainly before the Christian era.
The skin of animals, preferably goats and calves, especially prepared for writing.
For writing on papyrus, reeds were used, and for vellum, a stylus or metal pen.
No, they were rolled around a stick, hence we read of Our Lord rolling and unrolling the Scriptures in the Temple. When documents are in that form (rolled), they are usually called scrolls.
Up to around the third century A.D. only capital letters were used. There was no separation between words, no division between chapters, and no division between verses. This style was call the Uncial style.
The style known as the Cursive style. There was still no spacing between words, but capitals were introduced at the beginning of sentences.
This was done by Stephen Langton (+ 1228). Chancellor of the University of Paris until 1213, when he became Archbishop of Canterbury (England).
Even more recently; this was done by the French printer Robert Estienne (1503-1559).
The first book printed around 1455 by Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, was the Catholic Bible in Latin (Vulgate). It has been a best-seller ever since.