How Are We to Read the Bible?
In a homily a priest advised us to read the Bible from the perspective of the Church. I can see this is possible with the New Testament, but how can I relate being a member of the Catholic Church to the practices of the laws and people of the Old Testament? Please help me understand. SG Blom
When you, as a member of the Church, read the sacred Scriptures, you are not on your own.
As soon as you begin to read, you must see yourself as an involved member of a community, a people, whose recorded history is in the text right there on the pages before you, a community stretching back into the times of the Jewish people of the Old Testament. As a Christian, you are in fact reading about your own community.
You wonder how you can feel any connection to this ancient community of Jews, God’s chosen people.
Chapter 8 of John’s gospel reveals a fascinating battle of wits between Jesus and the Pharisees who idealised themselves as the real descendants of Abraham. Jesus does not dispute this but tells them: Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day.
St Paul, having become a Christian, says he is a descendant of Abraham (Rom 11:1).
You can immediately gather from these words that there is an important developmental link between Abraham and his descendants and Christ and his Church.
The storyline of the Old Testament books is an account of God’s direct dealings with humanity, the history of monotheism.
Abraham is called by God who promises to make his descendants a great people. Then God makes a covenant with them through Moses. They will be God’s people and observe his commandments. In time they become a kingdom. Their kings are not loyal to God, who sends his prophets to warn them to adhere to his laws because a bright future awaits them.
This future contains the assurance of a messiah king, a perfect king descended from David, whose reign will be everlasting. There is a gradual understanding that Christ will come to redeem the people and make a new covenant with them. There is now a continuous forward movement preparing the way for Christ. All the Old Testament’s histories, prophecies, writings and poetry are not perfectly clear until they are synthesised and clarified in Christ and his Church.
So, when reading these, bear in mind that the situations, laws, prophets and setbacks all have a reference to the coming of Christ and his Church. Look among the texts to discern the plain and the obscure roads that lead to Christ.