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Sacred Scripture

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

Is the Bible the sole authority and teaching of our Catholic religion?
As Catholics, everything we believe and practice is not just exclusively restricted to the Bible. The Bible itself never claims to be the sole teaching and authority of our faith. St. John the Apostle stated at the end of his Gospel that not everything Jesus said and did were written down. “But there are also many other things which Jesus did which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

God chose to reveal Himself to all humanity in two modes, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. These two modes make up the one single Word of God or Deposit of Faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church 74-83). St. Paul taught the importance of abiding by both modes of the Word of God. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

In the first letter to Timothy, St. Paul teaches that the Church is the foundation of truth. “But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The task of interpreting the Word of God, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, belongs to the Magisterium of the Church, the pope and the bishops in union with him (CCC 84-95). Therefore, we look ultimately to the pope and the bishops in union with him for guidance and proper understanding of our Faith.

Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules on interpreting the bible?
The Church has so many rules on interpreting the bible because the Church has been given the task of interpreting the Deposit of Faith, and desires it to be interpreted authentically and faithfully so that everyone can come to know, love, and serve the Lord and enjoy eternal life in Heaven with Him.

The Church asks the interpreter of Scriptures to take into consideration what the human authors intended and what God wanted to reveal to humanity. The interpreter of Scriptures ought to consider the culture, literary genres, modes of speaking and narrating at the time that the particular biblical writing was written. The reader or interpreter of Scriptures should read and interpret being mindful that it was authored by the Holy Spirit, there are seventy three books that make up the one book called the Bible, how the Church practices the faith, what has been taught before us, and the consistency of the truths of the faith (CCC 109-114).

Should the bible be taken literally?
The Sacred Scriptures should be interpreted within the two senses, literal and spiritual, in which the Church has laid out for us. “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis… All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal." (CCC 116) There are three sub-senses under the category of the spiritual senses, allegorical, moral, and anagogical. The allegorical sense is recognizing the significance of people, places, things, and events in Scripture as they relate to Christ. The moral sense is viewing the people, places, things, and events in Scripture to help us to act justly. The anagogical sense is looking at “realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem" (CCC 117).

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