Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Resources for Bible Study: Don't Catholics Do This?

Dear Fr. Tharp,
It seems some of the Protestant faiths have some type of question/answer books that help them study and learn about the Bible. Why do we as Catholic not have something like this or do we? If there is, where can it be found? Would it not be good for us to have an adult Bible study or “Sunday School,” after Mass, like our fellow Protestant Christians do?
Name withheld
Jones, OK

It is the obligation for every Catholic to come to know the truth of Revelation given to us in the person of Christ. For the Catholic, this one Revelation is transmitted to us in two ways: through the Sacred Scripture and through Sacred Tradition. So when a Catholic desires to become better acquainted with the truth of the Faith, they need to take both parts into account.
As to specific resources for studying the Bible, the best place to start is with a good study bible. I have found the best translations for study are the New American, the Revised Standard - Catholic edition and the Jerusalem Bible. I find the Jerusalem Bible’s page formats make for easier reading while the New American and Revised Standard make study for particular topics easier. You should look for a Bible that has good footnotes and introductory notes concerning each of the individual books. Also, a good commentary can help supplement one’s mastery of a particular text. There is a new series of brief commentaries from Ignatius Press. The commentaries contain the text of the book and can easily be carried in a purse or pocket. Right now, the series only covers the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Letter to the Romans. The Navarre Series is more complete encompassing the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament. This one is more scholarly but yet readable.
For those looking for a program for study, I recently came across a superb program from Saint Joseph’s Communication. The program is called “The Great Adventure” and was created by Jeff Cavins. Cavins for a time defected from the practice of Faith and worked as a Protestant minister. He returned to the Faith and has been a zealous promoter of greater comprehension of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As he observes, so many people try to read the Bible, but they get lost along the way. The names and places are out of context and therefore the reader cannot make the connections necessary to understand what he is reading. Cavins takes the participant through the main historical books of the Bible to give the necessary architecture to hang up the individual pieces of our Biblical knowledge. I recommend it very highly.
While we are growing in our knowledge and love of the Sacred Scriptures, we have to remember to study the full picture of the Faith. We should deepen our comprehension of the Church’s teaching so that we correctly interpret the Scriptures we read. There are several good overviews of the Faith that employ a question/answer format. For young adult readers, Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? by Matthew Pinto comes to mind. It features questions from young people concerning the things of interest to them. A classic among question/answer format works is the Baltimore Catechism. Many people have dismissed this work as old fashioned. I find that people retain information better when they have a specific point to focus the reflection. It is available through Catholic Book Publishers. A more recent work in this vein is Life in Christ by James Kilgallon. It was recently updated and comprehensive treats questions proposed.
As to having Bible studies, you might want to ask your pastor. From my own limited experience, I find that, with an already crowded schedule, it is hard to accommodate the extra study and preparation if I am not confident that there will be a good turnout. In my case, apart from my work in Alva, I have two missions which keep me on the road quite a bit. I would say, that if you and others in the parish are interested in having a regular bible study, having a sign up sheet available will help demonstrate to the pastor that you are committed to further study.


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