Reading the Bible


Many older Catholics have told me: “We were not allowed to read the Bible.”

If this is true, I can understand why, having seen the different ways people have interpreted scripture.

I grew up in a home where it was believed that every word in the Bible was dictated by God. Reading scripture could be more political than spiritual.

If your haven’t read the Bible, here is some information about that collection of ancient writings.

The Bible is a Catholic book.

It was put together at a time when Christianity was flourishing in a somewhat chaotic way, with many writings, some of them fanciful and far from the apostolic teachings.

The material in what we call the Old Testament spans over 2000 years of Jewish history.

The chapters include laws, teachings, biographies, songs we call the Psalms and a beautiful book about love called “The Song of Songs.”

The Old Testament provides the background to the New Testament which is all about the coming of Christ Jesus and his ministry

I imagine that the hardest task for the Church, was finding authentic Gospels. So much had been written, and groups of worshippers had formed around the writings.

I understand hat there were two mystical Gospels, “John” and “Thomas,” and no one could decide which should be included. Eventually the Gospel of John was chosen because it was the favourite of a certain bishop.

The Gospel of Thomas went into the junk pile.

With the finding that came from the Dead Sea Scrolls and carbon dating, the Syriac version of the Gospel of Thomas has proved to be the earliest of the Gospels.

As a Church, we have not done much to reinstate Thomas, possibly because in the last verses Jesus makes Mary of Magdala one of the Apostles.

However, I am sure our wise Pope Francis has read the Gospel of Thomas.

Our pope made Mary of Magdala “the Apostle of the Apostles.”

So now I go back to those who say there is no need to read the Bible because the important bits are in the Mass.

The last is true.

But it is not the same experience.

Suppose you had always wanted to walk the El Camino. Friends who had done it, showed you photos of different parts of the journey.

This was interesting.

But when you did the walk yourself, it was an entirely different experience.

That’s what it is like sitting down and read a Gospel from beginning to end.

Why not try it?

You may want to choose the Gospel of John which is very spiritual.

Read with your heart.

By that, I mean reading open to the way your body responds to certain words.

Head knowledge is useful for living, but it is that indescribable heart knowledge that effects spiritual growth.

We know this in the beauty of the Mass.

We will also encounter it in the John Gospel.

Reading a Gospel is a beautiful little pilgrimage.

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