Catholics and the Bible
The Bible is a collection of 73 books, which were written by different people at different times and places over thousands of years.
Catholics believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that it is inspired – that God influenced the human writers in a special way so that the message contained within the various literary styles and forms (eg narrative history, prophesy, poetry, wisdom, letter, apocalyptic etc) conveys divine truth.
The Bible conveys a rich treasury of understandings about God’s relationship with humanity and is our primary source for knowing most about the nature and characteristics of God. Although the Bible was formulated and recorded by human hands, it is understood as a ‘living word’ that cuts more finely than a two-edged sword and speaks into the lives of humans yesterday, today and tomorrow. Because it contains God’s truths, the Bible continues to have the power to change our lives for those who are open to drawing upon its wisdom.
The Bible is divided into two parts called the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament, (46 books) and the New Testament (27 books). A testament or a covenant is an agreement, an understanding between two parties.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of God’s personal relationship, loving commitment and faithful promises to the Jews, the Chosen people of Israel. The Hebrew Scriptures was written by members of the Jewish community of faith who preceded the birth of Jesus and the Christian Church and, to this day, are an important part of its history.
The New Testament is the story of the early Christian Church. It consists of the reflections of those who knew and accepted Jesus and entered into a renewed relationship with God. Its writings come to us as portraits of Jesus (the Gospels) and letters from the first Christians, eager to share the ‘good news’ that Jesus, who died and rose again is the Saviour of the world.
Christians believe the Bible is the ‘word of God’ – the story of God’s loving plan for humankind. Catholics also speak of the Bible as ‘the Church’s book’. For Catholics, it reflects the life of a community and takes on its full meaning only in the life of the Catholic community, especially its prayer and liturgy.
Catholics are encouraged to daily read, reflect and meditate on passages from the Bible, so that they can deepen their understanding of God’s action in history and in our world. The Bible, especially the Gospels, is a source of wisdom, prayer and inspiration for Catholics to live a life modeled on the example of Jesus.