In my life, I had never spent allot of time reading the Bible. That was until I returned from a Holy Spirit filled retreat called a Cursillo, or short course in Christianity. I learned that I was like many millions of other Catholics in that I did not regularly read the Holy Bible. I read it, normally, when a well meaning evangelist would shove it under my nose to point out an out of context verse or two to prove his or her point. My wife of seven years at the time, a Catholic here entire life, also never read the Bible with great frequency. I only recently became a Catholic. When I was 12 years old, my mother left a Lutheran church that she deemed too Fundamentalist. I left with her and began to share her views as an agnostic, or one who doubts the existence of God.
I knew the Bible stories about Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. I heard the parables in my Lutheran Sunday school and again while attending the Catholic Mass with my wife. The stories were just that to me, however, stories. They never really came alive to me. They were interesting to me and I listened to the Lectors and Priests. I followed along in the little pamphlets that were available in the Church and enjoyed listening to the homilies. I never really opened up the Bible myself, however, and read the stories first hand.
I began to study the Bible after my Cursillo weekend and continue to do so today with even more fervor. The stories became more to me. They began to live in my mind and then crept down into my heart. I don't memorize text to impress my friends. I read the Bible to give me the base I need to keep my life on track with Christ's teachings. I study it with the help of Catholic Bible study aids, which are necessary to properly understand the context and translation presented in today's modern language versions.
I remembered, however, that when Catholics study their Church and faith, it doesn't concern only the Bible. The key difference between Catholics and many "Bible Christians", rests in the fact that Catholics use other documents and teachings approved by our Church and follow traditions passed down from Jesus Christ and the Apostles through word of mouth. We call this, "Oral or Apostolic Tradition". Martin Luther's supposition, in 1517, that each person can be lead by the Holy Spirit to correctly interpret the Holy Bible, is not accepted by the Catholic Church and for good reason. I will discuss the reasons for this a little later in this paper.
Nevertheless, the Bible is still the basic source of teaching for any Christian faith and the Catholic Church is no exception. Still, due to lack of understanding of the scriptures, a lack of family tradition in Bible reading or general laziness, many Catholics have not attempted to read the Bible. I was no different as a new Catholic convert. I found this could lead to a major shaking of my new found faith. Protestant Evangelical groups along with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons often use Catholic ignorance of the Bible to convert us to their brand of religion.
So, I set about the task of reading the Bible. I am not a fast reader, but I comprehend most of what I read very well. Reading and studying the Bible it seemed, was no easy task. There is an old saying that crops up in my mind when I confront something seemingly ominous or impossible, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
I questioned friends who did study the Bible and read literature on my own about how to study it. I began reading the Bible. I found out that Christians should begin with the New Testament, specifically the Gospels. The Gospels are the first four chapters (called books) of the New Testament. These contain four similar, but unique, accounts about Christ's life on earth. Each book aims at a different audience with different goals in mind. Namely, in order of appearance, they are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Matthew writes about Jesus as the Teacher of Israel and as a fulfillment of Jewish Law, called the Torah. Mark was the first Gospel written in about 65-70 AD and the shortest. Mark writes the story of the Suffering Messiah. Luke writes of Jesus the Universal Savior and contains a more detailed account of Jesus' birth story. John writes in a very symbolic way and tells us about Jesus the Divine Son of God. John concentrates more on the resurrection story that is always heard during the Easter Season in Catholic Mass. The book, Acts of the Apostles, is a continuation of Luke, considered to be written by the same author. Acts continues the story of the apostles after Jesus' death and resurrection. The Pentecost story is first encountered in Acts. Next Page
The story of St. Paul completes this book. Following are the Epistles or Letters of St. Paul and letters from other apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ.
Formation Corner: How to Study The HOLY BIBLE