Introduction to the Bible

The whole point of reading and understanding the Bible is to encounter God, understand the revelation he has given us and grow in faith.

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But, we do not read alone. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of those who have gone before us. As long ago as the 5th century, St. Jerome, a Father and Doctor of the Catholic Church insisted that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ!”

How the Bible speaks to Catholics

Catholics believe that there are different ways to understand the Bible:

  • the literal sense: the meaning of Scripture is conveyed by the words and discovered by critical explanation or interpretation of a text, following the rules of sound interpretation. All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.
  • the spiritual sense: In light of the unity of God’s plan, not just what the text of Scripture says literally; realities and events about which it speaks can also be signs.
  • the moral sense: the events we read in Scripture should lead us to act justly and fairly to live morally.
  • the allegorical sense: we can find a more profound understanding of events by seeing their significance in Christ. An example of this would be the crossing of the Red Sea – seen as a sign of Christ’s victory and of Christian baptism.
  • the anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”): the realities and events in the Bible, in terms of their eternal significance, lead us home to God. So the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.

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