The Scripture Source Book for Catholics
by Rev. Peter Klein
(Our Sunday Visitor Curriculum Division, 2008)
Simply put, this book is for Catholics who want to know more about Scripture. It explains the many aspects in which the Church is scriptural. Its two broad areas – Scripture from the Catholic perspective and Scripture in the life of the Catholic Church – are covered in seven chapters.
Scripture from the Catholic perspective
- Word of God – Revelation
God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve, then by His covenant with Noah, by His promise to Abraham, by His freeing of the Israelites from slavery through Moses and by the Incarnation of His Son, from Whom we receive the “ultimate” revelation of God’s Word. From then, it has been the responsibility of the missionary Church to transmit this divine revelation. This is done through Sacred Scripture and Tradition, what was handed down to the Apostles and through them. Along with Tradition and Sacred Scripture stands the Magisterium of the Church – “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20).
- Words of People – Sacred Scripture
Klein notes that “Christianity is not first of all a religion of the book but of a person” and that for the early Christians, what was “canonical” was what Peter, James and Paul preached, “in continuity with what Jesus had proclaimed”.
After years of depending on oral tradition, people began to write and document so that the teachings could be passed down in a concrete and “accurate” way. The books of both the Old and New Testaments were put together by the communities and edited over many years.
Only “fragments” of written works date back to the time of the Exodus, and these include the Song of Miriam and the Song of Deborah. It was around the time of David’s establishment of his capital at Jerusalem (1000BC) that written records were produced in great earnest.
The earliest Christian Scriptures were the letters of Paul and the others, the first complete one being 1 Thessalonians (around AD50). A first version of the Gospel (Mark’s) emerged around AD70. By around the 300s, the 39-book Old Testament canons were “widely recognised” and by around 400, the 27-book New Testament was “generally accepted”.
There was also other early Christian literature, such as letters, sermons and the Didache.
- Book of Covenants – Moral formation in the Old and New Testaments
The Old Testament can “stand on its own” and it “prepares for the New”. The New Testament reveals the fulfilment of God’s divine plan and Jesus’ role in our salvation. Therefore, the Gospels are “the heart of all the Scriptures”. One significant thread that ties the Old and New Testaments is typology, by which Jesus (as well as other New Testament people or events) is revealed in the Old Testament through “types” or prefigurations.
- Journal of God’s People – The Word of God
The Church’s mission is: first and foremost, message (kerygma, coming from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition), followed by fellowship (koinonia) and service (diakonia). The Church’s stewardship of the message includes translating, interpreting and analysing the Scriptures, and producing commentaries. Here, the Magisterium functions as “servant” of the word: “it teaches only what has been handed on to it… listens to it devoutly, guards it reverently and expounds it faithfully”.
Scripture in the Life of the Church
- The Lectionary – Liturgical catechesis
Scripture is organised in the Lectionary (“collection of readings”) for liturgical proclamation. The three-year cycle of Gospel readings for Sunday Masses provides a “semi continuous” reading of a particular Gospel in the assigned year. Scriptures specific to Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are thematically organised for those liturgical seasons.
On top of this, Scripture features significantly throughout the Mass, from the first Sign of the Cross and greeting, to the end of Mass.
The sacraments are founded on Scripture and so “preaching of the Word is an essential part of the celebration of the sacraments”. Sacramentals, such as anointing, and the use of candles, incense and ashes, also have scriptural foundation.
- Prayer Book of the Church – Integration of daily prayer
The Liturgy of Hours “consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times”. It includes hymns, antiphons, psalms, Gospel canticles, Scripture reading and prayers, with Fridays, Sundays as well as feast days and liturgical seasons given a “special character”.
- Light of the Faithful – Personal prayer life of the faithful
The Scriptures underlie devotions such as the Sacred Heart devotion, the Way of the Cross, Litanies, Holy Hours, Novenas and the mysteries of the Rosary. We are also encouraged to pray with Scripture. For example, we might use the Lectio Divina method (reading, meditation, responding, contemplation) or pray prayers from Scripture.
If you happen to read this reference book from cover to cover (which I did!) you will find yourself at the end of it at four very interesting appendices:
– The Four-fold sense of Scripture (literal, allegorical, moral, anagogical)
– Figures of speech in Scripture
– Words & phrases with a Scriptural origin or allusion
– A history of the translation of Scripture into English.
So much to learn!
God dwells in His Word
♫ How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place