The Book

The Bible

The Bible is a Catholic book, so why don’t Catholics read it?

That question is still with me, although I understand why the Church has discouraged personal interpretation of Scripture.

Some misinterpretations of the Bible have caused strife and division in Christianity.

At times, spiritual signposts have been pulled out of the ground of history and used as political weapons.

Understandably, the Catholic Church has been cautious.

But rejecting the Bible is surely an over-reaction.

Catholic friends have told me they don’t need a Bible because it is all in the daily readings.

Well no, it isn’t, and anyway, that’s not the point.

I too am nourished by the daily readings of the Church. They are fruits of my faith. But I also need their context.

I want to know about the branches of the tree that has given me these fruits, and I want to know about the tree’s Jewish roots of the tree now growing strong into the light.

I explore all this in the collection of books we call the Bible.

When I was young, I read the Bible in a fundamentalist way.

Fundamentalism is not an error. It is part of the early journey. We start on a narrow path, with a given map and we tend to worship the map.

How gently Jesus guides us from early belief to the full freedom of faith. The path gets wider as experience makes notes on our map.

All this happens because we do not read the Bible alone.

The Sacred Presence of Jesus is with us, always taking us to a larger place.

There is a great richness of human experience n the Bible:  history, parable, myth, poetry, stories or violence, rejoicing, despair, hope, laws for survival,  songs and sermons.

I’ve found some of the Old Testament boring; some stories filled me with horror.

Yet through it, all humans are finding their relationship with God.

They hungered for God.

When I was young, this was important because I didn’t see that quest in the people around me.

Only the bible addressed my longing for spiritual growth.

To anyone wanting to study the Bible, I would suggest you join a group.

Find out when each book of the Bible was written, why it was written and who it was written for.

This knowledge is important.

Much of the book of Genesis was written at the time of the Babylonian exile when Israelites believed they were taken from their promised land because they had greatly offended God.

The result was a powerful myth about two people, Adam and Eve, who were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Like the story of Rangi and Papatuanuku, this myth holds some human truth.

But Adam and Eve were not historical characters,  and we know that we do not have a punishing God.

So yes, it is important to know when and why a book was written.

It is also important to read the Bible at two levels, with both head and heart.

The head absorbs the historical background of our church and the roots of our faith.

The heart will receive Lectio Divina, the sacred nourishment we need for the day.

I grew up with the Bible and now have eleven translations, each slightly different.

Why eleven? some people ask.

I tell them that stops me from worshipping words.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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