04 October 2015

Thoughts on reading the Bible

 In exploring how the evangelicals think, I learned to read the Bible in its entirety. We Roman Catholics still, to this day, are not taught to do this.  It is one of the great unmentioned scandals of the implementation of the "spirit" of Vatican II that, despite the frequent assurances from Those In Charge that we use more Scripture in our worship, we are actually being starved of the Word through targeted selection and, in America and to some degree in England and Europe, Bible translations that are frankly dodgy, at best.

As an example of how Protestants immerse their thoughts in Scripture, Robert Murray M'Cheyne prepared a Bible reading plan which I have used for some years.  Many are the times that two or more of the readings speak to one another, deepening my awe for the "scarlet thread of redemption" that can be traced through our Bible.  While M'Cheyne's plan does not encompass the Deuterocanonical books (the Apocrypha), one could do worse than to follow it as a daily practice.  For Catholics, it is important to do so in a reliable Catholic translation, of course.  For this purpose, the RSV-CE version is my preference.

However, Catholics would benefit from proper Bible study materials.  By that I do not mean long articles written from the leftist viewpoint about this or that aspect of the Bible.  I own a great many Bibles (it's been 40 years, after all), and, at one time, I had a NAB Study Bible.  No more, and never again.

To get a feel for how Protestants (those who are recognizably Christian) get their bearings in Scripture, the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is a good resource.  Its premise is that the Bible can speak of and to itself.  There are no doctrinal articles.  I have used it for many years and have found nothing that is blatantly anti-Catholic.  It works with the text only to group verses by topic and to set out things like the prophecies realized by Jesus' life.  The Thompson has not been published using a USCCB-approved translation, but I think a fairly literal version like the New American Standard Bible or the New King James Version would be safe for use.

In my experience, it is downright dangerous to trust mere men in the matter of what scriptures to read.  It is foolish to restrict one's exposure to the Bible to the smattering of verses presented in the liturgy through the three-year cycle, or even the Liturgy of the Hours (as revised after Vatican II, of course), in which alert readers have discovered the intentional omission of verses that are "uncomfortable" for some in today's environment.  The Episcopalians did this in their daily reading plan in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  For example, in the second reading for the Daily Office Year One, Wednesday of the Week of 2 Lent, the reading from Romans 1 goes from vv. 16-25.  The reading on the next day, starts at Romans 1:28.  Two verses were left out, Romans 1:26 and 1:27.  Was it just an oversight?  Let's see.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
There's another gap, ironically also from the readings for the same time of year (Lent!).  Look at Daily Office Year 2, Week of 2 Lent, this time between the Wednesday and Thursday.  Wednesday's second reading does from I Cor. 5:9-6:8, while Thursday's picks up at 1 Cor. 6:12.  What could be in vv. 9-11?  Can you guess?

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
In practical terms, this means is that, even if an Episcopalian is honest, devout enough to at least include the readings from the Daily Office in the day's spiritual diet, he or she would never see those verses.  In the case of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, that's really spiritual malpractice, because they show the effect of grace that redeems the sinful soul.

If a priest or any minister does not "spend time in the Word", may he not end up preaching tripe like, "the point of the multiplication of loaves and fishes is that everybody shared"?  Really, the Church would be healthier if such absurdities had resulted in people leaping to their feet and yelling "Get out of here!" and running him off the property.  In Protestant churches where the Bible is read searchingly and thoughtfully, this kind of thing is not unheard-of.

The Protestants are more or less sharply divided these days between those who search the scriptures to find out what's true about God, and those who prefer their own ideas.  The churches where the Scriptures are taken seriously are multiplying with stunning speed; the others are dwindling into oblivion.  Sadly, the most devout Reformed Protestants still categorically deny even the possibility that what Jesus said in John 6 is simply what Jesus meant to say, and convey, no more and no less.  I'll write about that in a different post sometime.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  -- G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World Part I, Chapter 5, “The Unfinished Temple.”

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