RCIA Session Revelation Scripture-14

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Revelation, Scripture and The Bible

Opening Prayer

Your Word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path. PS 119:105
"Let your Word, Father be a lamp for our feet and a light to our path, so that we may understand what you wish to teach us and follow the path that your light marks out for us." (LOH Wednesday week 3 daytime prayer) May our discussion this evening lead us to a new experience of Scripture as the light of the faithful.
We ask this in the name of your Word, our Redeemer and our Brother. Amen


The Creed

I believe

in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Getting familiar with the Bible

The bible is not a single book but rather a collection of books
Listing of books USCCB, NAB

  • Old Testament: Catholic 46 books, Protestant 39 books
    • The Pentateuch - Torah 5 books
    • The Historical Books - 16 books
    • Wisdom Books 7 books
    • The Prophets - 18
  • New Testament
    • Gospels - 4 books
    • Apostolic History - Acts of the Apostles
    • Pauline epistles - 13 books
    • General Epistles - 8 books
    • Revelation
  • Finding a passage in the bible
    • Abbreviations, Book Chapter:verse-verse e.g. Eph. 1:9-15
    • Index: Alphabetic, Canonical
    • Tabs
    • Psalms in the middle

The sources of religious knowledge

The sources from which religious knowledge can be sought... nature and revelation

It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make know the mystery of his will. cf. Eph. 1:9


Nature has often been perceived as a manifestation of God, and most of the classical arguments for the existence of God start from nature. We call this natural knowledge of God by reason.

Nature Speaks of God

In their vital, experimental interactions with the world around them, and in their simple, untrained musings, people have instinctively sensed that there must be some kind of Supreme Being.

All of the considerations fall into the perspective of St. Thomas's fifth way, often called the argument from design. In this perspective, the question of God (or divinity) reduces to the question, whether the actual world is simply the result of the chance interaction of all of the factors involved in it, or whether some kind of intelligence is at work in it.

If there are things that cannot be the result of mere chance but must have come about by design, some sort of intelligence must have produced them.

Chance presupposes multiple lines of causality, each operating according to its own inner necessity. It is when two or more such lines intersect, without this intersection being intentionally planned, that we speak of a chance event.

Can our world have come about simply by the chance interplay of the elements that make it up; or must there not lie an intelligent design behind it?

There is not therefore some evident master plan of the universe that argues for the existence of God. Instead, what we are asking here is whether, in a world that is largely the domain of contingency, there are not marks of intelligent design indicating amid all of this randomness, the work of a purposeful agent. Tradition of Judeo-Christian is characterized by the claim of having received revelation from God himself. This might be referred to as a supernatural revelation as opposed to a natural revelation. We call this Divine revelation.

The church maintains that the human reason is indeed capable by itself of attaining the knowledge God: but that the revelation given to through Jesus Christ and the prophets is nevertheless very useful. The First Vatican Council (1870) declared:

God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certitude from created things by the natural light of human reason... But God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, has seen fit to reveal himself and the eternal decrees of his will to the human race in another way - one that is supernatural...

It does not say that the existence of God can be demonstrated. St. Thomas Aquinas formulated the most stringent arguments of the existence of God. His Suma Theologia gives five ways, each starts from a different observation of the natural world.


Divine revelation is absolutely indispensable in that God has by free "decree," call man to "participate in the divine goods, which utterly transcend human understanding." That is to say, mankind has a vocation that is supernatural, beyond the reach of mere natural human powers.

  • The Word
    • The Word of God - Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. This was primarily an oral tradition.
    • Christ - After God had spoken many times and in various ways through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to by his Son. Heb. 1:1-2
    • Preaching - The preaching (not the writing) of the Apostles. Christ commanded the apostles to preach the word to all peoples. They accomplished this through oral tradition.
    • Scripture - This was one by those apostles and others associated with them, who under the same Holy Spirit, committed that message of salvation to writing.

Belief in Revelation

If revelation is the act by which God communicates to us the inner secret of his divinity, faith is the response by which we accept what he reveals. The terms of faith and belief designate the fact that in this act, one gives assent to doctrines, the truth of which omen is not able to see for oneself or to demonstrate.

    • What leads a person to make such an act of faith? .. two important factors: signs presented to the rational mind to convince it, and grace by which God touches us in the hidden depths of our being.
    • It is normal for the prophet to offer signs as a guarantee that he has been sent by God. ...God gave him miraculous signs to work.
    • Another sign used by the prophets consists of foretelling future events which could not have been foreseen naturally.
    • Such signs confirm the prophet's claim to speak in the name of God.. ... God to whom past, present, and future are all equally present, is vindicating the word of the prophet. They make faith reasonable, even when it assents to doctrines beyond the reach of reason. If a man claims to speak in the name of God, and produces signs that can come only from the power of God, it is reasonable to believe in him.
  • Miracles today - But with great difficulty with some of this evidence it is remoteness from us. We today are not able to see the miracles or hear the predictions...
    • The fact is that miracles have not ceased: it could indeed be argued that they are ore abundant and more spectacular in the twentieth century than ever before. Lourds for example, is the site of numerous miraculous healings ...
    • No saint is canonized without several miracles having been worked through his intersession.
    • The tilma of Guadalupe, bearing a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin
  • The church as a sign - The church appears as so extraordinary a phenomenon that one must ask whether recourse to some superhuman power is not necessary to explain it. ... human flaws make the miracle all the more evident. Do we not find the the more we are in the church, the closer we are to God and the truer we are to our own identity; whereas insofar as we withdraw from the Church, we loose contact with God, our fellowman and with our own true self?
  • Scripture as a sign - Finally, Scripture is a sign of immense value for faith. Scripture is its own best witness.
    • ...on reading the New Testament, many people find in it a goodness, wisdom, and holiness that convince them of its profound truth and divine origin. Anyone who gives serious consideration to the Faith must examine its main piece of evidence.
  • How to seek faith - It is not necessary to find a single, absolutely convincing sign that suffices all by itself; the whole complex of signs occurring in an individual's life go together to give him the "evidence" he needs of divine

The Grace of Faith

Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me (John 6:44f) This hidden witness of the Father is the decisive element in Christian faith, giving an absolute conviction, far beyond what we could get from an miracles or other sings taken by themselves.

  • The Father's witness - ... in St. Peter's famous profession of faith. When Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!" replied Jesus, "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:15-17). He was in light of an interior grace. Peter was able to perceive the true sense, and recognize Jesus as the Christ.
    • Faith is essentially a living, personal response to God. If someone does not have faith you cannot prove to him that God is speaking to him. Each one has to "hear the voice of the heavenly father in his own heart for himself.
  • Human witnessing - In matters of faith, although we may be able to show the reasonableness of what we believe, we can never properly proof it. Faith is not a function of our learning or intelligence; the uneducated and dull-witted have just much access to faith as brilliant geniuses. On the other hand, neither is faith an irrational, emotional act; it is a judgement of the mind, and requires that we use our minds, considering the signs and evidence, resolving problems, etc.
  • The sin of unbelief - ...the sin of unbelief is not just ignorance or mistaken judgement; it is a closing of one's mind to the light, that is, to the Father's witness.
  • Freedom of faith - Most people find faith within themselves or fail to find it. The decision has taken place in their subconscious, and has resulted from many little decisions to do the right or the wrong: to love the good or abandon it. ...falling away from the faith is seldom due to the reasons or problems we consciously declare; it is usually the result of living in discord with the faith we profess.
  • The claims of other religions - ...if Christianity is authentic, Islam cannot be, for it contradicts the other. Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God, reducing him to the status of a prophet.


  • Prophecy -
    • The prophet is enlightened so as to perceive the truth directly; others are enlightened so as to acknowledge what is uttered by the prophet. the prophet has the role of articulating in human language the divine mysteries which other accept or reject as formulated by the prophet.
    • But if we look attentively at their prophecies, we find them mostly concerned with the present, not the future, declaring God's judgment upon the people. And Jesus, although he came as the Messiah foretold in the old testament, was himself the greatest of all the prophets because he, more than any others, declared the divine mystery in the language of men.
    • What makes a person a prophet is not the content of his message - it is the fact that it originates not from him but fro God. The prophet is sent by God to speak in God's name.
    • Inspiration literally means "to breath into".
    • Inspiration theologically means "to communicate or suggest by divine influence".
    • Scripture is the word of God in human language. "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit (Dei Verbum #9)
    • The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Dei Verbum #11)
    • God guides us most often not by mystical experiences on high, but by the down-to-earth common sense of the Church, the Body of Christ.
    • Not Divine Dictation
    • Scripture is inspired by God, and it is the Word of God.
    • Many preachers spoke of the Holy Spirit as dictating words to the inspired author. Such an understanding of inspiration is not peculiarly Christian; we meet in the Muslims of the seventy century and the Mormans of the nineteenth. It dominated the thinking of most of the Protestant Reformers, and is still held by Fundamentalists today. The dictation concept leads to an extremely liter interpretation of Scripture, and makes it impossible to accept many of the conclusions and insights of modern biblical scholarship.
  • Human factors influencing Scripture - The intense investigations of the text and background of Scripture during the past two centuries have made it evident that a long, historical process and many human factors went into the composition of the sacred books.
    • Sometimes the same story (such as the create or the flood) was recorded by several authors living in different communities, and their diverse accounts were subsequently combined.
    • The writings of one prophet were often added to by others cam later e.g. the Psalms of David or the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.
    • The religious literature of other Near Eastern peoples =- contains striking parallels to the Hebrew Scriptures.
    • The four Gospels were composed by men whose personality and culture obviously affected their writing.
  • The Catholic position - The Catholic understanding of inspiration, although rooted in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and taking its key notions from St. Thomas Aquinas ... can be summarized in two theses: (1) God is the principal author of Scripture; (2) the human writer is a subordinate but genuine author.
    • Scripture is a true word, a communication of the heart and mind of one person to others. God is its author because God is the one who primarily and properly speaks what is said.
    • The prophet or inspired writer articulates the divine message in human language.
    • The human author is subordinate to God and acts as his instrument not only in receiving the message but also in the very act of articulating it. Only thus can the word that is produced properly be called God's word.
To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this taks, made full use of their powers and faculties so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written and no more. (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, no. 11)
    • In summary, Scripture is an authentically human word, and truly divine word. Human because the writers who composed it - for example, Isaiah of St. Paul - wrote out of their own mind and will, senses, sentiments, and experiences, like any other author, Divine, because they were used by God to convey a message that originates in him, gets its authority from him, and, in the last analysis, is his more than theirs, although it remains truly theirs.
  • Divine, human collaboration Providentissimus Deus
  • Inspiration and revelation - Note also that inspiration is not the same as revelation. ...revelation means God communicating a "secret" which would otherwise remain hidden. Inspiration means God compelling someone to speak, write or act.
    • When St. Paul tells the story of his early years as a Christian or when the author of 2 Samuel recounts the adventures of King David, there is no need for revelation, for they had seen with their own eyes the things they are writing about.
    • The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture does not imply that all inspired writings have been collected into Scripture but only that the Scriptural writings themselves are inspired. It is often suggested that the Incarnation of Christ or the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius... are divinely inspired.

Scripture and the Church

What is the place of scripture in the life of the Catholic Church?

  • Scripture is the word of the Liturgy
  • Scripture is "the prayer book of the church"
  • Scripture is the "light of the faithful"

Some of the many prophets wrote down their messages or had scribes write for them. The resultant literature has been collected in the volume we now call the Bible, or sacred scripture. The bible is therefore not one book but a library - a collection of writings composed over a period of a thousand years. The "Old Testament" contains those scriptures accepted as sacred by both Christians and Jews; the New Testament, the distinctively Christian Scriptures.

The Canon of Scripture

  • The Cannon of Scripture
    • Out of the all of the books available, the church selected the books that were consistent with it's beliefs.
    • It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books (CCC 120).
    • The Greek word kanon comes from the Semitic word meaning "reed", a measuring stick, used by carpenters and masons. A standard or a norm.
    • Protocanonical (first cannon)
    • Duterocanonical (second cannon) books.
      • Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2, Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch and sections of Esther and Daniel.
      • It does not mean the books are less inspired than those in the first cannon.
      • These Jewish books, uniquely were preserved in Greek, not in Hebrew or Armamaic.
      • The Greek translation of the old Testament known as the Septuagint was done by the Jews before the time of Christ and was commonly accepted as the Bible of the Early Church
      • St. Jerome, in the fifth century, included the deutercanonical books in the Vulgate (his latin translation of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament).
    • The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947-1956) supports the view that there was no uniformity among Jews in the first century BC and the first century AD about the books in the cannon.
    • The councils of Hippo in 393, Carthage III in 397, and Carthage IV in 419 plus a letter of Pope Innocent I in 405, all agreed on the canon of 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the new.
    • In 1546 the Council of Trent, responding to the Protestant questioning, promulgated a statement "so that no doubt may reman as to which books are recognized," that listed the 73 books in the Bible are sacred and cononical and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Interpreting Scripture

  • Oral tradition - The texts of the Bible are the expression of religious traditions which existed before them. The mode of their connection with these traditions is different in each case, with the creativity of the authors shown in various degrees. In the course of time, multiple traditions have flowed together little by little to form one great common tradition. The Bible is a privileged expression of this process: It has itself contributed to the process and continues to have controlling influence upon it. (Pont. Bibl. Comm. III.A.)
  • Literalist vs. literal interpretation - Biblical literalism (also called Biblicism or Biblical fundamentalism) is the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to scripture—the historical-grammatical method—and is used extensively by fundamentalist Christians, in contrast to the historical-critical method of liberal Christians. The essence of this approach focuses upon the author's intent as the primary meaning of the text. Wikipedia
  • CCC 109 -ff
  • Personal study
    • The Catholic View - The Spirit is, assuredly, also given to individual Christians, so that their hearts can "burn within them" (Lk. 24:32) as they pray and prayerfully study the Scripture within the context of their own personal lives. This is why the Second Vatican Council insisted that access to Scripture be facilitated in every possible way (Dei Verbum, 22; 25). This kind of reading, it should be noted, is never completely private, for the believer always reads and interprets Scripture within the faith of the church and then brings back to the community the fruit of that reading for the enrichment of the common faith. (Pont. Bibl. Comm. III.B.3)
    • Sola Scriptura - Sola Scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone") is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.
  • Catholic Principles for Interpreting the Bible (Lukefahr)
    1. Sacramental Principal - In order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, we should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. We must go back to the time, place, way of life, mode of thinking, and manners of expression of the biblical authors.
    2. We must interpret a given passage in light of other passages that relate to it. e.g. Mt. 26:26-28 Jesus said over the bread and wine "this is my body, this is my blood" vs. John 6, where Jesus proclaims himself to be the "bread of life"
    3. Attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture. In particular, the Old Testament ought to be read and interpreted in light of the New.
  • The senses of Scripture
    • Literal, spiritual, allegorical, moral
  • Problems raised by critical studies
    • until about the 19th century statements that seem to conflict with what is known from science or history. e.g. the sky is a dome with waters above it Genesis 1:6.
    • Scriptures seem to contradict one another
      • How long Noah was in the ark (Genesis 7:13 - 8:13)
      • St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith appears at first to slight or contradict St. James's teaching that "a person is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24)
    • Scripture sometimes narrates things which seem patently impossible, absurd, or legendary, such as Jonah's survival intact for three days and three nights in the belly of the "big fish" or Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt because of her curiosity.
  • Scholarship confirms historicity - The overwhelming effect of historical and archeological research has not been to create problems for the historicity of the Bible but rather to confirm it. Once it was not uncommon for scholars to treat the Bible as containing little by myth and legend.
  • The Church affirms truthfulness
  • Idiom not affirmation - The term affirm has been chosen precisely to indicate that not everything said in Scripture is actually affirmed. Any author is likely to employ ideas that are current in his culture without intending to vouch for them himself. The statement that "God set the stars in the firmament (Genesis 1:17) was obviously not a pronouncement about celestial architecture but rather that it was God who brought all this about.
    • To interpret any human content rightly we must read it with a certain sincerity; and the presence of occasional ambiguities does not keep us from profiting from what is intelligible in the work.
    • The second Vatican Council avoids saying that nothing is erroneous whatsoever had crept into the text.
    • Clearly Scripture was written not satisfy human curiosity but to present "that truth which is for our salvation". It was not written as a scientific treatise on astronomy, geology or world history.
  • Scripture intended as history - The writers of scripture were dong "popular" as opposed to "academic" or "scientific" history. Only what was considered memorable was passed on; the rest was forgotten.
    • The transmission was mostly by word of mouth, in stories told over and over "around the campfire" or in the marketplaces.
    • They were often arranged to heighten the dramatic effect. Things got out of sequence or into a wrong context. The ancient historians made little effort to adopt the detachment and objectivity prized by modern historians.
    • One characteristic of the biblical writings which often disturbs the modern reader unprepared for it is its free use of pseudonyms. Much of the writings ascribed to Moses, David, Isaiah and others was composed centuries after their time. In the new Testament, it is freely debated whether any of the Gospels were actually written by the man whose name they bear. Similarly for some of the epistles.
  • Diverse literary types - Diverse types of literary form are to be found in Scripture. While some books are genuinely historical, others are not properly historical at all. This is obvious in the case of hymns such as the Psalms; likewise moral maxims such as Proverbs.
    • It is legitimate to suppose that some of the sayings attributed to Jesus by the Gospels are really concoctions of the early Church put back on Jesus' lips in order to give them more authority.
    • To say that the early christians, in reciting the teachings of Jesus, sometimes used language and expressing that belonged to their time rather than his is to attribute to them a very natural and legitimate transformation that occurs all of the time in popular literature.
  • Unsolved problems and faith This leaves us with some unsolved problems;
    • The church has the conviction that is grounded on something deeper than a rational solution to objections; namely on a mysterious encounter with God that takes place mysteriously in the depths if the heart through reading of his word.
    • The church does not disregard these difficulties, nor does it claim to have the solution to all of them; but it does have the assurance that the truth of Scripture is unassailable, and that solutions are somewhere to be found, even if not yet available.
    • Each book, and sometimes each particular part of a book, must be judged according to criteria immanent in the work itself.

Tradition and Pastoral Authority

In dealing with religious questions, a Catholic looks not only to what Scripture says but also to the beliefs and practices of the Church, especially to decisions that have been made by the teaching authority (magisterium). The Classical protestant approach, on the contrary, regards only the scriptural teaching as authoritative.

    • Scripture alone has authority for them in matters of faith whereas, for Catholic thought, the Church has an authority of its own.
  • Jesus did not write a book The first basic fact they Jesus himself never wrote a book; all of his teachings was by word of mouth.
    • The Christian community lived for a generation without any of the New Testament and, as we have seen, for some centuries before compilation of the full New Testament.
    • Secondly, not even the apostles made a book on the basis of the churches they founded. Most of them never wrote anything so far as we know.
  • New Testament grew out of tradition - The writings of the New Testament cannot be set in opposition to tradition, since they themselves arose out of the tradition which preceded them. One of the major achievements of modern Scripture studies has been the realization that the Gospels cannot be understood rightly unless they are seen as a pepsin of the traditions of the early church.
    • In his second letter the Thessalonians, St. Paul tells them that they must hold fast to "the traditions which you were taught by us, either in word of mouth or by letter (2:15); he condemns those who do not live "according to the tradition received from us" (3:6).
    • Church teaching is also Gods word. We see that the Church is not founded on a book. It was by the oral teaching of living apostles that Jesus arranged for his doctrine to be passed on. The documents that came to be written later under the inspiration of his Spirit are precious aids for the instruction of the Church of subsequent ages.
    • To take "Scripture alone" as the basis of faith is to alter the regime established by Jesus and to contradict Scripture itself.
  • Religious traditions Sacred tradition therefore is not merely a human reality but a product of the Holy Spirit's secret fermentation in the Church.

Reading Scripture

The church has the conviction that is grounded on something deeper than a rational solution to objections; namely on a mysterious encounter with God that takes place mysteriously in the depths if the heart through reading of his word.


Homework for next session