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Scripture Study Resources for Catholics

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BASIC INTRODUCTIONS TO THE BIBLE


Everyone comes to Bible study with questions that an introductory book answers. Getting your initial questions answered gives you a solid foundation for beginning your relationship with Scripture.

A comprehensive Catholic introduction to the Bible will:

  • Address typical fears Catholics have about reading the Bible and offer ideas for getting beyond them.
  • Explain how to choose a Bible, including information on translations and the differences among Christian Bibles.
  • Present a short overview of what's in the Bible and how the biblical books and the Bible as a whole came to be.
  • Teach you the basics of Bible study tools, such as using your Bible's notes and cross-references and using Bible atlases, concordances, and dictionaries.
  • Present basic methods for Bible study and Bible prayer.
  • Help you understand what the Church means by revelation and inspiration when referring to the word of God, and the place of Scripture in the life of the Church.
  • Describe in a simple way how Catholics read the Bible and explain some of the Bible's problem texts.

Each Bible introduction addresses questions like these in different ways and to different depth. Look at a few introductions to see which addresses your questions best.


Another type of introduction to the Bible focuses on an overview of the Bible's sections and books, giving a sense of how the parts fit together and how the Bible came to be. It expands what you'll get on this topic in a comprehensive introduction.


Sometimes, getting an overview of what's in the Bible is the first thing people want to do when they begin Bible study. Some people want a longer overview of the Bible after they've studied awhile.


Both types of introductions are valuable and serve different needs. It all depends on you.


Whichever introduction you choose, be sure to get a book produced by someone with training and experience in the modern Catholic approach to interpreting Scripture.


RESOURCES: Comprehensive Introductions

The Bible Blueprint: A Catholic's Guide to Understanding and Embracing God's Word

by Joe Paprocki Loyola Press (2009)

An enjoyable and easy to read book (with cartoons and quizzes!) that addresses questions most Bible beginners have: how to overcome “bibliaphobia;” how the Bible is organized (with highlights of each book); how to use footnotes and cross-references; and how numbers are used in the Bible. It also offers a good, simple description of how Catholics read and interpret the Bible and advice on beginning a Bible program in your parish. Includes a salvation history timeline, Bible bookmarks, and an annotated bibliography for Catholic Bible study.

Can easily be used with middle school and high school youth. A great resource for catechist training, for informal Bible groups, or for anyone who wants a quick, easy way to get started with the Bible. A good "nuts and bolts" book.

A Catholic Guide to the Bible (Revised)

by Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M.

Liguori Publications (1998)

What I would call a hybrid introduction to the Bible: Part I (40 pages) presents essential topics such as Bible translations, Bible study tools, the Bible's divine and human authorship, and how Catholics read and interpret the Bible, all in a personal and inviting way. Parts II and III (150 pages) offer what the author describes as a "guided tour" of the Bible, with basic background information and helps for interpretation, summaries, and selected passages for each section and book of the Bible. Every page of this book shines with the author's deep relationship with the Bible, and he aims his book at beginners who have obstacles to developing their own relationships with Scripture. Each chapter ends with simple reflection questions and excellent activities that help the reader relate Scripture to his or her life.

An excellent resource for a parish or neighborhood Bible study group, working through the book (and the Bible) over the course of a year. The thoughtful reflection questions and activities would guide the group's discussions. A separate workbook is also available from Liguori.

Introduction to the Bible: An Introduction to Sacred Scripture for Catholics

by Stephen J. Binz The Liturgical Press (2007)

A more in-depth introduction by a biblical scholar who has authored books and Bible study programs aimed at average Catholics, this book addresses large questions in a thoughtful, clearly written way. It offers excellent information for choosing a Bible and a chapter that helps you explore your Bible. Its special strength, however, are the chapters that address deeper questions, such as what is revelation, the word of God in Christian life, how the Bible has functioned in the Church, and how the Catholic approach to Scripture compares to biblical fundamentalism. (Students read this book before entering the Biblical Institute of the Diocese of Joliet.)

Recommended for those who want to start with a more in-depth introduction, or for Catholics who've been reading the Bible for a long time and realize they need what a Bible introduction offers. This book is also an excellent resource for anyone in a Catholic ministry that emphasizes Scripture.

NOTE: Little Rock Scripture Study has developed a 7-week beginner-level study program for this book. See Bible Study Programs.


RESOURCES: Overviews of the Bible

Getting to Know the Bible: A Catholic Guide to Studying Scripture

by Rev. Melvin L. Farrell, S.S., rev. by J. McHugh

ACTA Publications (2003)

This book introduces the Bible in a different way: it leads you through the Bible section-by-section, offering an overview of the theological stories of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and how those two stories fit together. The overview recognizes the connection of each book to the people, time, and place out of which it arose (part of the Catholic approach to Scripture). It also presents Christianity to a large extent in continuity with Judaism rather than superceding it (which is an older view). The book includes good, simple chapters on whether or not Christ's coming was foretold in the Bible, how the Old Testament came to be, and the Jewish setting for the New Testament books. With this introduction, you'll get a solid sense of both the history behind the biblical books and the larger theological story the Bible tells. Includes a biblical timeline. Recommended for anyone who wants to begin Bible study by learning what the Bible is about, or for those who've been reading parts of the Bible and want to understand the whole.

If you're in parish ministry and are asked, "What's the Bible all about?" this is the book to have in the library!

Essential Guide to the Holy Bible

by Msgr. Pietro Principe (translated from Italian)

Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2010)

This short guide, produced by the Vatican, is available from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It serves more as a brief reference than a real introduction to the Bible, with sidebar summaries on topics such as the historical mentions of Jesus and lectio divina, a paragraph describing each biblical book, and a glossary of biblical persons (without biblical citations). Its strength is its presentation of ideas from the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum).

CHOOSING AN INTRODUCTION

TO THE BIBLE


1. First, admit you need an introduction to the Bible, even if you've been reading and praying the Bible a long time!

2. Look for Catholic introductions that address your questions at the level of detail suitable for you.

3. If you're studying with a group, choose an introduction that meets the group's needs.

4. Use the points on this page to evaluate possible choices.


ACTIVITY

In your neighborhood or parish, begin a Bible study designed to introduce the group to the Catholic Bible.

Read one chapter a week from the introductory book you select. Do the questions in the book or discuss your own questions when you meet.

Later, with the same group, do a Bible study focused on one book of the Bible. Use what you learned from the introductory study.

As you progress, talk about ways that study helps you understand the biblical book.