BY Edward Sri
This book aims to teach lay Catholics how to read and understand the Bible in a way that allows the Scriptures to truly deepen their faith in God. Sri aims to equip the reader with the background knowledge and literary insight necessary to allow them to have a personal experience with God through the Scriptures and interpret the Bible in line with Church teaching. He does this by addressing fundamental questions about the Bible, its origins, its development and its trustworthyness. He also provides readers with five "keys" that can allow them to interpret the Bible in line with the teachings of the Catechism and the Magisterium. These "keys" include consideration for the Author's Intention, the Unity of Scripture, the Living Tradition of the Church, God's Revelation and the use of the Four Senses of Scripture. He then ends the book by explaining some considerations about Biblical geography, history and archaeology, outlining the "Big Picture" of God's revelation and salvation throughout the books of the Bible and ending with practical tips about translations and praying with Scripture.
Divine Revelation: The Unveiling of God
Chapter 1: Is the Bible really inspired by God?
The various books of the Bible are considered one great book as they have the same author in God, and throughout the books of the Bible he spells out his dramatic plan for the salvation of mankind. God is the primary author of the Scriptures and he "breathed" his words the authors of Scripture. Mankind was also involved in the process, employing their own knowledge and creativity whilst acting as writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is both fully human and fully divine (like Jesus), having been written by mankind under the inspiration of God. Through each human author's own personality and understanding, God wrote exactly what he wanted to, aligning the human intention of the author and God's divine will. If God created the world, then He should be capable of acting within it, and He could very well therefore communicate with us through human writers. Given that our finite minds are unable to fully understand the infinite nature of God, it follows that He would reveal Himself to us and communicate with us via human authors through the Bible. If He did not do this, we would never be able to come to any proper understanding of Him.
Chapter 2: Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium
There are two ways to know reality. The first is our natural reason (our human intellect), which can allow us to understand laws about our world, including basic moral laws (eg. murder is wrong) and the fact that there must be a God who created the world. The second way to know reality is called "the order of divine Revelation", which allows us to know things about God which we could not possibly come to know through our own reason alone. An example of something leanrnt in this way is the concept of the Trinity, revealed through the self-Revelation of Jesus Christ. These revealed truths are "mysteries of faith", and faith and reason work together in theological understanding. These truths are like the answers given at the back of maths textbooks, for they allow us to work backwards in order to learn how to arrive at the right answer. For instance, whilst human reason alone could not contrive the Doctrine of the Trinity, with the divine revelation of this truth we can "work backwards" and employ faith to recognise the reasonable nature of the Trinity. God uses the Bible to reveal Himself to each of us in an intimate manner. The doctirnes and moral precepts of the Church all bear witness to God's unveiling of Himself to us. Divine Revelation is intensely relational, as He reveals Himself to us so that we might enter into an intimate relationship with Him as out Father. He thus reveals Himself to us so that we might respond to His love and become His children. Right doctrine alone does not lead us to God; we must also respond to His invitation to love Him.
God reveals Himself by "deeds" and "words". God not only speaks in the Bible (eg. God talking to Moses), but he also acts, and often. His actions speak louder than words. For instance, He tells Moses that He loves the Israelites, but his deliberate action of liberating them from slavery proves this just as clearly. We should thus pay close attention to both the words of God spoken though prophets and the Bible and to His actions in salvation history. God also reveals Himself to mankind slowly and gradually in the Old Testament. He prepares Israel for the coming of the Messiah through the prophets, which culminates in the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fullness of divine revelation.
The revelation of Christ was intended to be handed on to all humanity in subsequent generations. Christ's apostles thereby handed on His self-relevation in two ways: orally and in writing. Sacred Tradition is the oral method of passing on the Gospel, whereas the written method is called Sacred Scripture. The Church's Magisterium (teaching authority) is the authentic guardian and interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Tradition. You need Scripture, Tradition and the Church's Magisterium in order to understand God's Revelation.
Five Keys for Interpreting Scripture Correctly
Introduction to Part 2
There is an objective meaning of Scripture in regards to its literal and historical composition. Personal meanings and applications one might draws from the Bible must fit within certain parametres. The Bible must be read in the same Spirit in which it was written in order to be interpreted properly. We must know the intentions of both the author and of God in order to understand the Bible correctly. The follows five chapters spell out five "keys" which must be used in order to interpret the bible accurately.
Chapter 3: The First Key: Discover the Author's Intention
The first principle for proper Biblical interpretation is to consider the intention of the human author. Scripture was written by real human beings who were trying to communicate a certain message to a specific audience. We may not fully understand the original meaning of a Bible passage is we fail to consider the writer's intention, historical setting and audience. In order the discern the author's intention, we must first consider the text's historical context (time and culture). When we read texts divorced from their original context, we make mistakes. The next way to discern the writer's intention is to consider the literary genre being used to write the passage. The Bible employs many different literary forms, including historical narratives, poems, psalms, laws, proverbs, prophetic literature and epistles. We need to understand any work's literary genre if we are to interpet it correctly. For instance, reading a history textbook as a poem would result in a very bad poem. The same is true of any Bible passage. A third way to discern the author's intention is to consider modes of speech, thought, emotion and narration used in Biblical times. The way that history, stories and letters were recorded in Biblical times were very different from how we record them today. They were often less straightforward and included elaborate literary techniques like allusions, repetition, parallelism and alliteration. Understanding these literary techniques makes us far better equipped to decipher the message that the original author was trying to communicate.
Chapter 4: The Second Key: Be Attentive to the Unity of Scripture
The Bible needs to be interpreted in line with the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit with which it was written. It is God's timeless word and has relevance for all generations. The Bible is a personal word from God spoken to each new Christian.
Chapter 5: The Third Key: Real Scripture within the Living Tradition of the Church
Chapter 6: The Fourth Key: Read Scripture within the Symphony of God's Revelation
Chapter 7: The Fifth Key: Use the Four Senses of Scripture
Where did the Bible come from?
Chapter 8: The New Testament Cannon and the Gnostic "Gospels"
Chapter 9: Why are Catholic Bible bigger? The Old Testament and the Deuterocanonical Books
Chapter 10: Taking God at His Word: Is the Bible Trustworthy?
Chapter 11: Archaeology, Geography, and History
Chapter 12: Knowing God's Story: The Twelve Periods of Biblical History
Chapter 13: Getting Started: Translations, Resources and Methods
Chapter 14: Lectio Divina: Praying Scripture
Edward Sri. The Bible Compass, The United States:Ascension Press, 2016