Questions about the Bible Answered
What is the best translation of the Bible?
Everyone (unless you know ancient Hebrew or Greek) reads the Bible in translation. The best translation for YOU is one that YOU can read and understand. That being said, some translations are more readable than others, and some translations are closer to the original text.
The New American Bible (NAB) is the translation we use at mass & was translated under the direction of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is a very readable translation and uses modern American English.
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) was translated around the middle of the last century by a group of ecumenical scholars. It is known for being the most accurate translation but is more difficult to read than the NAB because of word choices. Look for a Catholic Edition or your Bible will be missing books.
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is an updated version of the RSV with inclusive language and a more readable style. Again, look for a Catholic Edition.
How do I look up passages in the Bible?
Looking up scriptures can be daunting unless you know what the numbers and letters mean. Let’s use Luke 10:38-42 to break the code.
In this reference, “Luke” is the name of the book within the Bible. The Bible is actually a small library containing many different books. The name in a scripture reference is always the name of the book for which you are looking.
The first number is the chapter number within the book. In this reference, you are looking for chapter 10.
The numbers after the colon refer to the verse numbers. The first number is your starting place. The last number is your ending place. Numbers separated by a hyphen mean start at the first verse listed and read through until you finish the last verse listed. (In our example, read verses 38 through 42.) If the numbers are separated by a comma, that means read just the verses listed. (If we write our example like this: Luke 10:38, 42 then we just read verse 38 and verse 42.)
If a reference is written like this: Luke 10:38-11:4, that means you will start at Luke, chapter 10, verse 38 and read through to Luke, chapter 11, verse 4.
References for this week’s daily readings can be found on the first page of our bulletin.
How do I practice Lectio Divina?
Lectio divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. The practice is resurfacing today as a wonderful way to meditate on God’s Word. The Latin phrase “lectio divina” may be translated as “divine reading.” As one reads and invites the Word to become a transforming lens that brings the events of daily living into focus, one can come to live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily in the events of each day. The method of lectio divina follows four steps: reading, meditation, contemplation, and prayer.
1. Read a short Scripture passage, pausing on a single word or phrase that resonates with the mind and heart.
2. Reflect upon what was read, especially words which seem to jump out at you.
3. Open your heart to experience God and discover the insights God is giving you through this Scripture passage.
4. Pray about what was read, heard, or experienced or about the questions that have arisen in the depths of your being.
What is the best way to begin reading the Bible?
The worst way to begin reading the Bible is by starting with Genesis and trying to read cover to cover. Most people who begin this way get bogged down in the laws of Leviticus and the genealogies in Numbers and soon abandon reading the Bible.
A better way to introduce yourself to daily Bible reading is by beginning with the Psalms. The Psalms express every conceivable human emotion, and the book is comprised of 150 mostly short chapters; there is something to interest everyone in the Psalms. The Gospel of Mark is another great place to begin. The action in Mark moves swiftly, and because the book is short, you can get the overall story very quickly. Also consider starting by reading the daily mass readings which are printed each week on the first page of our bulletin.
How can I better understand the Bible?
Study Bibles provide notes on each passage explaining not only the text but customs, culture, history, and language of the biblical world. Joining a weekly Bible study is a great way to delve deeply into specific passages, books, or topics in the Bible. We have 2 weekly Bible studies in our parish. They meet Mondays at 7:00 p.m. in the St. Joseph Parish Center and Thursdays 10:00 a.m. - noon in the parish office.
What is the difference between BCE, CE, BC, and AD?
For centuries, Christians using the Gregorian calendar, invented by Pope Gregory the Great, defined time in reference to the coming of Christ. The terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini – year of our Lord) were used. In today’s scientific world, including the world of biblical scholars, the more inclusive terms BCE (before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are used. Dates remain the same as BCE and BC or CE and AD are used interchangeably.
What is the difference between the Torah, Pentateuch, and the Books of Moses, and how are they related to the Bible?
These are all names given to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Torah is the name given to these books in Jewish tradition. Pentateuch is the word used by biblical scholars, and the term “Books of Moses” is actually a misnomer given because at one point people thought all five books had been written by Moses.
What are the major and minor prophets?
The major prophets are the longer books of the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The minor prophets are all the other, shorter books of the prophets, one of which is only one chapter long.
Are there really “hidden” or “lost” books of the Bible?
The Catholic Bible contains all the books that were ever part of the official Christian canon of scripture. However, before the canon was closed by the Council of Hippo in 393 CE, there were other books used in some churches. These books were not included in the Christian canon because they had fallen into disuse, were not as popular as other books, or did not express the church’s theology as well.
Are the Dead Sea Scrolls part of the Bible?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of scrolls found in caves located around the Dead Sea in Israel in 1962. The scrolls date no later than the first century CE. Most are copies of biblical texts currently found in the Hebrew Bible/Protestant Old Testament. The non-biblical scrolls in the collection are unique texts presumably written for the nearby community at Qumran and include inventories, rules for community life, and an apocalyptical text known as the War Scroll.
Why are there more books in the Catholic Bible than in Protestant Bibles?
The answer to this question is a bit long, but very interesting. The books which are in the Bible were not the only books of their kind written, nor were they the only books ever used as scripture by Jews or Christians. However, by the time Jesus was born at the beginning of the first century, there was a commonly used group of texts which were used in the Jewish community.
In Jerusalem and the area immediately surrounding the city, called Judea, Jews spoke and read Hebrew and used the scriptures which were written in Hebrew. However, because of the Babylonian Exile (587-539 BCE), many Jews lived in the outside the Holy Land and no longer spoke Hebrew.
The commonly used Hebrew texts had been translated into Greek around 285-246 BCE. Added to the translated Hebrew texts were the works written originally in Greek. Altogether they formed the collection of biblical books known as the Septuagint. Jews living outside Jerusalem, and then Christians, used the Septuagint as their holy scriptures until after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
After the Temple was destroyed, both Jews and Christians had to figure out how to continue their faiths traditions without the Temple as the focal point for their religions. The leading rabbis of the day met in a city called Jamnia in 90 CE. At this point the rabbis making the decisions for the Jewish community decided to use only the scriptures originally written in Hebrew. The list of Jewish Holy Scriptures, called the Jerusalem canon, became a closed, final list.
Christians, however, were still writing the uniquely Christian scriptures (known now as the New Testament), and were still using the Septuagint because the majority of Christians spoke and read Greek. Churches throughout the Mediterranean area collected letters written to the various churches. Soon lists of preferred epistles appeared, and those epistles on the lists were copied and more widely distributed. A number of gospels were written, including the four now in the Christian canon.
The first list of authoritative Christian scriptures did not appear until 150 CE. Other lists appeared over time, but it wasn’t until 325 that the Council of Nicaea affirmed a list of books for the New Testament. In 367, Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, suggested a list of canonical books which included the entire Septuagint as the Old Testament and the New Testament that had been confirmed at the Council of Nicea. This list, which included all the books which are now in the Catholic Bible, was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 at which point the Christian canon of scripture was closed, and no books were to be added to or deleted from it.
By the time of the Council of Hippo, the Greek Septuagint had been translated into Latin by St. Jerome and his assistants, Marcella, Paula, and Eustochium. This translation was called the Vulgate, and it remained the only Christian Bible until the Protestant Reformation began in 1517. Martin Luther, after his break with the Catholic Church, decided to use the Jerusalem canon (which didn't contain the books written in Greek) for the Protestant Old Testament. Luther also wanted to delete the Epistle of James from the Protestant canon, but his advisors warned against any changes to the New Testament. Hence, the Protestant Bible has fewer books in its Old Testament than the Catholic Bible while their New Testaments remain the same.
The books in the Catholic Bible which do not appear in Protestant Bibles are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and certain passages in Esther and Daniel.