Bible-Reading Catholics

May 9th, 2012 | By Tom Riello | Category: Blog Posts

A number of people are understandably concerned that becoming Catholic means neglecting the Bible, with many being taught by their Pastors or teachers that the Catholic Church either forbids the reading of the Bible or, at the very least, does not encourage it. Many former Catholics, due either to poor formation or indifference, often perpetuate the story that the Church encourages only the priest or bishop to read and interpret the Bible for Catholics. Even some Evangelical scholars present Catholic teaching this way: some because they are truly ignorant about such things and others because it helps them score “beauty points.” These caricatures are not helpful, but they do live in the minds of many who are outside the Church and, I must admit, even inside the Church. If you are thinking about the Church, this is a legitimate concern. Certainly, if the Catholic Church did teach that we should neglect the Bible, or even more, forbade the reading of the Bible, or only encouraged the clergy to read the Bible for us, that would be a problem, to say the least, and you would be right to question becoming Catholic. The fact, however, is the Church teaches no such thing, as demonstrated by the following quotation, “Our one desire for all the Church’s children is that, being saturated with the Bible, they may arrive at the all surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Spiritus Paraclitus #69). Here Pope Benedict XV states that it is the prayer of the Church that her children be completely nourished by the Bible and so come to a deeper knowledge and intimacy with Jesus Christ. The Pope’s words call us to read Scripture not just to learn about Jesus Christ, but to know Jesus Christ as He is revealed to us on the Sacred Text.

I venture to say that many people would have been more likely to guess that an Evangelical preacher penned the above words rather than a Pope, let alone a Pope who ruled from 1914 – 1922, some forty years before the start of Vatican II. In fact, one caricature that we can safely put to rest is that the Church before Vatican II did not encourage the faithful to read the Bible. The simple fact is that in a fifty year period, three Popes wrote three significant encyclicals on Scripture. One used such descriptive language about the Bible as, “a Letter, written by our heavenly Father, and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country” (Providentissimus Deus #1). Another exhorted the faithful to, “read daily the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles, so as to gather thence food for their souls” (Spiritus Paraclitus #43). Still yet another reminded the faithful that the Scriptures were, “given by God . . . in order that these Divine Oracles might ‘instruct us to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus’ and ‘that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work’” (Divino Afflante Spiritu #49).

So what is the point of mentioning caricatures, the Bible, and the Church? I shall offer two reasons: (1) easing the fears of those becoming attracted to the Catholic faith but who are concerned about the things told to them that Catholics are said to believe, especially about the Bible; and (2) explaining why becoming Catholic will deepen and vitalize your reading of the Bible.

First, the process of becoming Catholic can be downright frightening for the convert. It is quite typical for a convert to the Catholic Church to be surprised that they are moving toward Rome. Often times, the thought is, “any Church but that Church.” For the would-be Catholic, such practices as devotion to Mary and the Saints, the Sacraments, obedience to the Pope, and other “suspicious” beliefs and practices only but confirm in their minds their worst fears about Catholicism. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was right when he said, “There are not more than a hundred people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church. . . . As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.” Thus, when dealing with the issues of conversion to Christ and His Church, many potential coverts are wrought with fear at best, and outright hatred at worst, at the mere thought of becoming Catholic. Add to the mix what spouses, parents, children, cousins, friends, fellow church members and mentors may think about such a move, and you have a recipe for paralysis by analysis. G.K. Chesterton observed, I think rightly, “It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it.” Those considering the claims of the Catholic Church have a vested interest in keeping their guard up against conversion to the Church.

This is why stories of those who come into the fullness of the Catholic faith never grow old for me. Many give up so much on the temporal level, from the fracturing and loss of family relationships, the sacrifice of professional esteem, and in many cases, added to that loss, is the forfeiting of employment and loss of income. While none of us should base our faith commitment on someone else’s conversion story alone, the fact is, conversion stories do have a place in helping us process our own journeys, not least of which is to help us ask the right questions. In just the last handful of years there have been many notable scholars who have entered the Church, such as Bruce Marshall, Rusty Reno, J. Budziszewski, Douglas Farrow, Reinhard Hutter, Frank Beckwith, and Mary Moorman, to name just a few. And over the past decades, the list includes such luminous figures as Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. John Bergsma, Dr. Kenneth Howell, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Dr. Robert Louis Wilken, the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, Father Richard John Neuhaus, and Father Louis Bouyer. The list could go on.

Now some might say: “What of Catholics becoming Protestants?” Certainly many Catholics leave the Church and become Protestant but what I want you to consider is that in many cases the Protestant convert to Catholicism risks more than the Catholic leaving the Church when you look at it from the temporal realm alone. Take clergy converts, for starters. If a Protestant clergyman leaves his communion, he loses his employment, in many cases also his home (because in some pastoral calls a house is provided), his family, if his wife and children are not on board, professional disapproval and loss of friendships. He also does not have any guarantee that moving forward will mean that he would get to do what he loves, teach the faith. In the tragic case of a Catholic priest leaving the Church, consider what is not lost on the temporal level. Typically the Catholic priest adds a wife, he adds income which is not too difficult because the average diocesan priest does not exactly make a lot of money, he can be more discriminating in accepting a job because he will usually not have the income demands of a Protestant cleric, who needs to provide for his family, and you can add that he also gains the ‘freedom’ to travel and go where he wants, no longer tied to a diocese. In fact, when you compare the converts most well trained in theology in both Protestantism and Catholicism, it is the Protestant who is more likely to convert. A priest, a close friend of mine, put it this way, “The best prospects out there to become Catholic are Protestants who take their faith very seriously. They want to know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of faith and if they continue to be open to a deepened faith, they will begin, at some point to ask the right questions. Before people can ever get the right answers, they must first learn to ask the right questions. Committed Protestants are often closer to the truth of the Catholic faith than many Catholics. That is why they add such vitality when they join the Church established by Jesus Christ.”

For those who are considering the Catholic faith, ask yourself this: Are all these scholars, pastors, and teachers deceived? Why would such converts give up, in so many cases, the comforts of family, employment, and friends? In other words, from a temporal, this-world-only perspective, they lose, and in many cases, they will never make up what they lost. It is possible that they are wrong but at the very least, this “counting of the cost” corresponds with what Jesus Christ demands of His disciples (Luke 14:28).

As for the reverse of Catholics leaving the Church for Protestantism, often, though not always, to be fair, it is the poorly catechized Catholic who grew up in a home where the faith was not central to life, or in other cases, a marital impediment (divorce, remarriage etc…) is the reason for leaving. Rarely does the Catholic leave the Church because he has discovered in his studies that the Church is wrong about contraception or that the early Church did not believe that the ministry of Peter is the visible sign of unity in the Church. In fact, those questions do not ordinarily arise in the minds of most people, let alone Catholics. Usually a Catholic leaves the Church because his Catholic upbringing was mostly nominal, therefore, it did not resonate with his lived experience. The extent of his knowledge of the faith usually did not exceed that of an adolescent because for many Catholics, tragically, the sacrament of Confirmation is understood as a graduation from Church and not an entering into a deeper commitment to Christ and the Church.

To those considering the Catholic faith, I encourage you to continue down that path. You should count the cost, and you should continue to study. If the Catholic faith is the true faith, you should not be afraid to continue seeking. What is there to fear? It may be hard, and it will be. It may cause great stress, no doubt. It may make you feel overwhelmed, to be sure. But what is there to fear in searching out and knowing the truth? Jesus commands us not to fear (Matthew 10:24-33). In his introduction to the world’s stage, Blessed Pope John Paul II offered hope to a worried world with the words, “Do not be afraid.” Why should we not be afraid? Because Christ has overcome the world. St. Basil the Great offers us wise insight on putting things in their heavenly and eternal perspective:

If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me, since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labor, and to Whom I hasten.

That being said, I want to stress that becoming Catholic is not only about what you are giving up. Becoming Catholic is also about what you are gaining. This leads to my second point about Bible reading. I can say that becoming Catholic has enriched my reading of the Bible, not lessened it — renewed it, and not stunted it. I suspect that this is surprising for some. Why would becoming Catholic lead to a more substantial engagement with the Sacred Text? The reason for this is the Magisterium, the very authority that many claim makes reading the Bible superfluous for Catholics. Quite a few Evangelicals believe that the Magisterium provides all the answers for the Catholic, and as a result, Catholics have no need to read the Bible or can gain very little from such reading. The former Cardinal Ratzinger is quite helpful in explaining what it means to be obedient to the Magisterium:

The Magisterium, as representative of the universal Church, can claim the respect, indeed the obedience of the preacher . . . the presumption of correctness, so to speak, is in favor of the Magisterium. That does not mean that the Christian conscience has been disengaged, it can very well come to the judgment that this directive or that declaration does not really represent the universal Church. Accordingly, it is true that the weight of the Magisterial statements corresponds to the degree of the universality . . . the limit of obedience to the Magisterium, which does in fact exist . . . does not mean that someone can in principle appoint himself judge over the Magisterium: it should cost something before one thinks he may decide otherwise (Dogma and Preaching, p. 35).

Leaving aside the fact that the Magisterium does not “provide all the answers for a Catholic,” and does not demand that a Catholic disengage his conscience as the current Pope pointed out, how does the Magisterium help deepen one’s Bible reading? I can answer simply that the Magisterium provides the Catholic interpreter with the guidance and direction necessary to explore the Bible by its proposal that the Bible is to be read in both its literal and spiritual senses, of which there are three spiritual senses: allegorical/typological, moral and anagogical (CCC paras. 116-117). The Magisterium also directs us to read the Bible in light of the following three-fold criteria: being attentive to the content and unity of the entire Scripture, reading the Bible within the living Tradition of the whole Church, and being attentive to the analogy of the faith (CCC paras. 112-114). This direction frees the Catholic to navigate the riches of the biblical story as an individual but not in isolation. Rather, because the Catholic does not have to determine what the faith is, deciding what is or is not “biblical,” he has a foundation on which to build when reading Scripture. If I may offer a helpful illustration: Parents will tell their children where they can and cannot go when playing in the yard. They might want to build a fence to keep their children safe. This fence, while setting limits, actually provides the children a safer environment in which to play and explore. Who would think that these parents were limiting the freedom of their children? The same goes for the relationship between law and freedom. Law, in its proper use, is a gift given by God not to restrict freedom but to allow human freedom to flourish. In fact, this illustration is not merely a hypothetical. It is what we experience in contemporary society. Many people assume that the law is an imposition on freedom. The average person thinks freedom is the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want. True freedom, however, is freedom for moral excellence. The Magisterium functions in some sense like the fence in the backyard or the proper use of law in society, providing the fertile ground that allows biblical studies to flower.

Non-Catholic exegetes often argue over what is the best method of biblical interpretation. Some advocate the grammatical and historical method. This method seeks to get at the grammar of a text and its historical background in order to derive the right interpretation. There certainly is truth in this method, but if this view is the exclusive method, the biblical text risks being reduced to a history lesson, an event of the past disconnected from the present. The redemptive and historical approach is another method that is praiseworthy. The exegete aims to understand how the text reveals the redemptive action of God in the story. Thus, the story of David and Goliath is not about overcoming the Goliaths in your life, as one Reformed writer is prone to remind us, but about how God, through David, defeated Israel’s enemies. This method, if left unchecked, tends to push to the side the moral lesson that the text provides.

However, as in many things, the Catholic is not faced with an “either/or” dilemma. Instead, the Catholic exegete is able to glean many different meanings from the same passage or story. For example, to continue with the David and Goliath story, he can and should look at the historical context of the story. He then should go on to explain how in this story God is acting through David to defeat Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, through their representative Goliath. The exegete does not have to stop there, because he could see in this story a type of what is to come, namely, Jesus Christ’s defeat of Satan. And most certainly, the story has a moral message, encouraging the believer not to fear whatever circumstance that comes his way because Christ has overcome and He has given us and continues to give us the graces necessary to overcome any obstacle.

The Magisterium provides the guidance that prevents the interpreter from either focusing exclusively on the literal sense, or from over-spiritualizing everything. The story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39 gives us a glimpse of the necessity of guidance in understanding the meaning of the Scripture. The eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah when Philip came upon him. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading, to which the eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” The eunuch asked Philip if the prophet Isaiah was referring to himself or someone else. Philip then told him about Jesus. The story informs us of the necessity of guidance when reading Scripture. It also demonstrates the need for a spiritual and typological hermeneutic. If Philip only had recourse to the literal, then how could he help guide the eunuch to understand that this story was pointing to Christ? In fact, it was typology that empowered the early Church to fight against the gnostics, on the one hand, who denied the legitimacy of the Old Testament story, and to make the case to the Jews, on the other hand, demonstrating that the Church’s message was truly Israel’s message now fulfilled in the Person of her Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Typology, guided by the Magisterium, also connects the Ark of the Covenant with Mary, especially in the travel narratives in 2nd Samuel 6 and Luke 1, the Royal Steward of Isaiah 22 with the promise to Peter in Matthew 16, the Twelve tribes of Israel with Twelve Apostles, and the people of Israel with the Church (1st Peter 2).

In closing, we began talking about the fears that come upon us when it dawns on us that we find ourselves moving toward full communion with the Catholic Church. Those fears are normal and are to be expected. However, those fears must not paralyze us from moving forward. You should continue down the path of study that you have begun. You might consider acquiring some excellent books that demonstrate the depth and riches of Catholic biblical interpretation. I recommend that you look at Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper and Hail, Holy, Queen, Father Aidan Nichols’ Lovely Like Jerusalem or John Bergsma’s Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History to help you get started. While the Catholic is to have a deep reverence and respect for the Scripture, and is to take seriously its warning about twisting Scripture (2nd Peter 3:16), hopefully you have come to see that the Catholic has no reason to fear Scripture. Instead, Scripture’s proper home is the Church, and in particular, the Sacred Liturgy. Listen well to the words of Jesus Christ, who tells us, not to fear. How can we fear the Church, when it is His Body?

Tags: Bible, Conversion

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  1. Hi there.
    Absolutely corking piece!

    I’d vouch for all the books listed as I’ve read them, and they’re excellent. John Bergsma’s is the easiest for non-specialists and his approach is great. I’d also suggest Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture as a very readable introduction to Salvation History, being a more in-depth treatment of John Bergsma’s new book (but without the great illustrations!).

    Scott Hahn and ‘his team’ at the St Paul’s Center for Biblical Theology also have some free courses up on their website:

    Hope this helps anyone not sure of which to choose if a non-theologian!

  2. Great post, very helpful. I wish you had posted this before I became Catholic though, it would have been even more helpful then :) There are many Protestants that say the problem is the Catholic Church kept the Bible in Latin and the mass in Latin in order that the laity might not know what it says because the Catholic Church is unbiblical. Of course, I do not believe this, but this one of the objections some of my friends and family members have with the Catholic Church. I have some arguments against these claims but I’d be interested in hearing what other Catholics have to say. Can anyone recommend any books or articles refuting these claims?

  3. You say: For those who are considering the Catholic faith, ask yourself this: Are all these scholars, pastors, and teachers deceived? Why would such converts give up, in so many cases, the comforts of family, employment, and friends? In other words, from a temporal, this-world-only perspective, they lose, and in many cases, they will never make up what they lost. It is possible that they are wrong but at the very least, this “counting of the cost” corresponds with what Jesus Christ demands of His disciples

    What does this mean “it is possible that they are wrong”? This could be in a certain context but it brings uncertainty, because I believe that while we cannot have 100 percent rational assurance, we are sure that it is the Catholic Church founded by Christ. In my case I became assured with other helps, like inner evidence of being true, with the life and miracles of the saints, authentic exorcisms etc.
    Today because of exaggerated ecumenism Catholics don’t stress this, as it seemed to them a kind of arrogance and superiority. But it is either true or it is not, there is no middle ground. If I had read this some time ago when I was more suspicious I would have had a serious problem with this kind of a statement, not for the statement in itself, but the way it can be taken if it is not qualified and explained. Overall a great post!

  4. Leonard,

    I agree with what you say about this statement, if not explained, could be used in a way that I did not intend. So let me clarify. I am, for the sake of the argument, saying that in and of itself the fact many of these scholars and Pastors gave up a lot does not mean that they are automatically right in their conclusions but the fact that they did do something, like give up the security of their livelihoods, everything that they held (and in the case of families hold) dear, should at least give one pause when considering the Catholic claim. Today, I got word from someone who attended a recent Scott Hahn conference. The person did not know much about Hahn before having heard him speak that day. He purchased Rome Sweet Home and has been unable to put it down. He is amazed that a man would risk so much in order to become Catholic. This individual had been considering the Church for a little while but hearing Hahn speak and then reading his and his wife’s story has moved him to desire to enter RCIA this fall in order to consider the Catholic claims more fully.

  5. Great post. As a recent Evangelical Protestant convert this post certainly resonates with me. Sadly, many Protestants do have a “vested interest in keeping their guard up against conversion to the Church.” I know in my own experience there is often a bit of intellectual dishonesty in which one feels compelled to discredit or overlook information that contradicts one’s own Protestant tradition. My initial reaction to Catholicism a few years ago was to live in a state of denial refusing to acknowledge and pursue certain questions and information that I knew would led me to question and re-examine my Protestant faith. Like in the Chesterton quote above, openness led to listening and listening quickly led to fondness of the Catholic faith. It’s hard not to at least admire Catholicism once you remove all the smog of biases, lies, and half truths. It is quite true that “The best prospects out there to become Catholic are Protestants who take their faith very seriously.” Interesting enough, the reverse situation is not the case.

  6. Hi Leonard,

    I appreciate your addition to this dialog. I am Protestant and I thought I would had to give up the bible and extra biblical writers, because I figured there was no reason to be a Berean any longer. But if that holds true for Catholics is must also hold true for Protestants who have their own tradition that is “somewhat” dogmatic. I was thrilled to read Joseph Ratzinger’s, Jesus of Nazareth, to see how fruitful study can be.
    Because I am Protestant I was surprised to hear you go to the opposite end of the spectrum with your more subjective determinates. You said:” In my case I became assured with other helps, like inner evidence of being true, with the life and miracles of the saints, authentic exorcisms etc.”
    I need this aspect too; boy do I need it! So I will give this evidence credence in my decision making.

    I do think that it helps to hear about the conversions of bright and commited Protestants who gave up all that they hoped for and worked towards in order to follow Christ. It’s just another piece of the evidence.

  7. Thanks for clarifying. I already mentioned that it must be related with the proper context but now I see clearly what you meant. But the same expression has been used in another setting.

  8. Hi Pio (Re: #2)

    When discussing how the Church has “repressed” the reading of scriptures, I know many who like to point out the burning of bibles (unauthorized translations?) in the early reformation. (For instance, the burning of Tyndale’s “first” translation of the Bible into English).

    Tom pointed out some good examples of the Church encouraging Catholics to read the Bible in the last two centuries. If someone has examples of the Church encouraging the personal reading of scripture during the Protestant reformation and before that, I would like to hear these examples.

  9. Jonathan,

    Bruce Vawter writes that “at least sixteen translations of the complete Bible into German had already appeared before Luther’s, all of them with ecclesiastical approval. To a greater or less degree, the story was the same in most of the other countries of Europe” (The Bible in the Church, p. 26).

    That’s just a start, and I hope others with more specific knowledge on this point will jump in, but the implications of that datum alone are quite significant.


  10. Hello Jonathan,

    Yeah, I believe I’ve read that quote, or one like it at least, before. The question our Protestant brothers would ask is: why then did Luther translate the Bible into German if there were already German translations?


  11. And, they would ask, why was the mass kept in Latin before 1960? Granted there have been missals in the past with translations of the mass, but this hasn’t always been the case. Again, I’m not defending Protestants, I’m Catholic, but I am pointing out the questions they would ask, and do ask. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  12. I was able to find the following notable translations for the bible throughout the centuries as offered below. The information is taken from Wikipedea and I know that sometimes Wikipedea is sometimes not all that reliable, however I believe that this will satisfy most readers as to various translations. I have included the sources in this post.


    Western Continental Europe
    . The first French translation dates from the thirteenth century, as does the first Catalan Bible, and the Spanish Biblia Alfonsina. The most notable Middle English Bible translation, Wyclif’s Bible (1383), based on the Vulgate, was banned by the Oxford Synod of 1407-08, and was associated with the movement of the Lollards, often accused of heresy. The Malermi Bible was an Italian translation printed in 1471. In 1478, there was a Catalan translation in the dialect of Valencia. The Welsh Bible and the Alba Bible, a Jewish translation into Castilian, date from the 15th century.
    Translations of individual books of the Bible and verse adaptations survive from the twelfth century, but the first prose Bible collections date from the mid thirteenth. These include the Acre Bible, an Old Testament produced in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, likely for King Louis IX of France,[19] the Anglo-Norman Bible and a glossed, complete translation of the Paris Bible known simply as the “Thirteenth-Century Bible” or “Old French Bible,” often referred to by the French title “Bible du XIIIe siècle” first coined by Samuel Berger.[20][21][22]
    Completed with prologues in 1297 by Guyart des Moulins, the Bible historiale was by far the predominant medieval translation of the Bible into French throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It translates from the Latin Vulgate significant portions from the Bible accompanied by selections from the Historia Scholastica by Peter Comestor (d. ca. 1178), a literal-historical commentary that summarizes and interprets episodes from the historical books of the Bible and situates them chronologically with respect to events from pagan history and mythology. In many copies, Guyart’s translation has been supplemented with some individual biblical books from the ‘’Bible du XIIIe siècle’’.[23]
    An Old High German version of the gospel of Matthew dates to 748. In the late Middle Ages, Deanesly thought that Bible translations were easier to produce in Germany, where the decentralized nature of the Empire allowed for greater religious freedom. However, these translations were seized and burned by inquisitors whenever they were found.[24] Altogether there are 13 medieval German translations before the Luther Bible.[25] In 1466, Johannes Mentelin published the first printed Bible in the German language, the Mentelin Bible, one of the first printed books in the German language and also the first printed vernacular Bible. The Mentelin Bible was reprinted in the southern German region a further thirteen times by various printers up until the Luther Bible. About 1475 Günther Zainer of Augsburg printed an illustrated German edition of the Bible, with a second edition in 1477.
    Eastern Europe
    The first translation of the whole Bible into Czech, based on the Latin Vulgate, was done in 1360. Some fragments of the Bible were probably translated into Lithuanian when that country was converted to Christianity in the 14th century. A Hungarian Hussite Bible appeared in the mid 15th century (only fragments remain).
    Other Germanic and Slavonic languages
    The earliest translation into a vernacular European language other than Latin or Greek was the Gothic Bible, by Ulfilas, an Arian who translated from the Greek in the 4th century in Italy.
    The translation into Old Church Slavonic by Cyril and Methodius dates to the late 9th century though whether Cyril had to invent the Glagolitic alphabet for the purpose remains controversial. Versions of Church Slavonic language remain the liturgical languages of the Slavic Eastern Orthodox churches, though subject to some modernization.
    In the 10th century, Saadia Gaon translated the Old Testament in Arabic. Ishaq ibn Balask of Cordoba translated the gospels into Arabic in 946.[26] Hafs ibn Albar made a translation of the Psalms in 889.[27]
    Poetic and pictorial works
    Throughout the Middle Ages, Bible stories were always known in the vernacular through prose and poetic adaptations, usually greatly shortened and freely reworked, especially to include typological comparisons between Old and New Testaments. Some parts of the Bible stories were paraphrased in verse by Anglo-Saxon poets, e.g. Genesis and Exodus, and in French by Hermann de Valenciennes, Macé de la Charité, Jehan Malkaraume and others. Among the most popular compilations were the many varying versions of the Bible moralisée, Biblia pauperum and Speculum Humanae Salvationis. These were increasingly in the vernacular, and often illustrated. 15th century blockbook versions could be relatively cheap, and appear in the prosperous Netherlands to have included among their target market parish priests who would use them for instruction.[28]
    Historical works
    Historians also used the Bible as a source and some of their works were later translated into a vernacular language: for example Peter Comestor’s popular commentaries were incorporated into Guyart des Moulins’ French translation, the Bible historiale and the Middle English Genesis and Exodus, and were an important source for a vast array of biblically-themed poems and histories in a variety of languages. It was the convention of many if not most historical chronicles to begin at Creation and include a few biblical events as well as secular ones from Roman and local history before reaching their real subject; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle follows this convention.
    [edit] Notes
    . ^ Walther & Wolf, pp. 242-47
    . ^ Parts of the Book of Daniel and Book of Ezra
    . ^ For instance, see Roberts, Jane (2011). “Some Psalter Glosses in Their Immediate Context”, in Palimpsests and the Literary Imagination of Medieval England, eds. Leo Carruthers, Raeleen Chai-Elsholz, Tatjana Silec. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 61-79, which looks at three Anglo-Saxon glossed psalters and how layers of gloss and text, language and layout, speak to the meditative reader, or Marsden, Richard (2011), “The Bible in English in the Middle Ages”, in The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception and Performance in Western Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), pp. 272-295.
    . ^ Deanesly, Margaret (1920) The Lollard Bible and Other Medieval Biblical Versions. Cambridge University Press, p. 19
    . ^ Lampe (1975)
    . ^ Gustave Masson (1866), pp. 81-83.
    . ^ Deanesly (1920), p. 24
    . ^ Kienzle, Beverly Mayne (1998) “Holiness and obedience”; pp. 259-60.
    . ^ Biller (1994)
    . ^ Deanesly (1920), p. 34.
    . ^ Boyle, Leonard E. (1985) “Innocent III and vernacular versions of Scripture”; p. 101.
    . ^ Boyle, pg. 105
    . ^ Boyle (1985), p. 105.
    . ^ McGerr (1983), p. 215
    . ^ McGerr (1983)
    . ^ Lampe, G. W. H. (ed.) (1975) The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2: The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, p. 366.
    . ^ Chris Grocock has some calculations in Mayo of the Saxons and Anglican Jarrow, Evidence for a Monastic Economy, according to which sheep required only one third as much land per page as calves. 1,600 calves seems to be the standard estimate, see John, Eric (1996), Reassessing Anglo-Saxon England, Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 14, ISBN 0-7190-5053-7
    . ^ Lindisfarne Gospels British Library
    . ^ Nobel (2002)
    . ^ Berger (1884)
    . ^ Sneddon (2002)
    . ^ C. A. Robson, “Vernacular Scriputres in France” in Lampe, ‘’Cambridge History of the Bible’’ (1975)
    . ^ Berger (1884), pp. 109-220
    . ^ Deanesly (1920), pp. 54-61.
    . ^ Walther & Wolf, p. 242
    . ^ Ann Christys, Christians in Al-Andalus, 2002, p. 155
    . ^ Ann Christys, Christians in Al-Andalus, 2002, p. 155
    . ^ Wilson & Wilson, especially pp. 26-30, 120
    [edit] Sources
    Berger, Samuel. (1884) ‘’La Bible française au moyen âge: étude sur les plus anciennes versions de la Bible écrites en prose de langue d’oï’’l. Paris: Imprimerie nationale.
    Biller, Peter and Anne, eds. (1994). Hudson. Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    Boyle, Leonard E. (1985) “Innocent III and Vernacular Versions of Scripture”, in The Bible in the Medieval World: essays in memory of Beryl Smalley, ed. Katherine Walsh and Diana Wood, (Studies in Church History; Subsidia; 4.) Oxford: Published for the Ecclesiastical History Society by Blackwell
    Deanesly, Margaret (1920) The Lollard Bible and Other Medieval Biblical Versions. Cambridge: University Press
    Kienzle, Beverly Mayne (1998) “Holiness and Obedience: denouncement of twelfth-century Waldensian lay preaching”, in The Devil, Heresy, and Witchcraft in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey B. Russell, ed. Alberto Ferreiro. Leiden: Brill
    Lampe, G. W. H. (1975) The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2: The West from the Fathers to the Reformation. Cambridge: University Press
    Masson, Gustave (1866). “Biblical Literature in France during the Middle Ages: Peter Comestor and Guiart Desmoulins.” ‘’The Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record’’ 8: 81-106.
    McGerr, Rosemarie Potz (1983). “Guyart Desmoulins, the Vernacular Master of Histories, and His ‘’Bible Historiale’’.” ‘’Viator’’ 14: 211-244.
    Nobel, Pierre (2001). “Early Biblical Translators and their Readers: the Example of the ‘’Bible d’Acre and the Bible Anglo-Normande’’.” ‘’Revue de linguistique romane ‘’66, no. 263-4 (2002): 451-472.
    Salvador, Xavier-Laurent (2007). ‘’Vérité et Écriture(s).’’ Bibliothèque de grammaire et de linguistique 25. Paris: H. Champion.
    Sneddon, Clive R. (2002). “The ‘Bible Du XIIIe Siècle’: Its Medieval Public in Light of its Manuscript Tradition.” ‘’Nottingham Medieval Studies’’ 46: 25-44.
    Walther, Ingo F. and Wolf, Norbert (2005) Masterpieces of Illumination (Codices Illustres), Köln: Taschen ISBN 3-8228-4750-X
    Wilson, Adrian, and Wilson, Joyce Lancaster (1984) A Medieval Mirror: “Speculum humanae salvationis”, 1324-1500 . Berkeley: University of California Press online edition Includes a full set of woodcut pictures with notes from the Speculum Humanae Salvationis in Chapter 6.

  13. Tom,

    Thank you for writing this piece, brother. So much of it resonates with me, both in terms of misconceptions that I once had about the Church’s teaching (even as a Catholic, sadly!) and in terms of what I came to later, finally, *rightly* understand about that teaching (in 2009-2010, in the process of returning to the Church from Calvinistic Protestantism).

    Now that I have been a Catholic “revert” for almost two years, I am still thankful for the many good things that I learned as a Protestant. I learned much about the Bible, faithful Christian living, and the importance of *daily* (not just on Sunday) Christian community in the lives of believers.

    I do think that some of the more “radically traditionalist” Catholics (such as the ones, for example, who seem to like to bash Vatican II itself, rather than the *misinterpretations* of it!) would do well to be a bit less triumphalistic with Protestants. The Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, and I do pray and work for the reconciliation of Protestants with the Church, but that does *not* mean that Catholics have nothing good to learn at all from Protestants.

    Pope Benedict XVI, himself, has stated the objectively good things which are to be found in many Protestant ecclesial communities are there to serve (at least partially) for the renewal of Catholics.
    Not that the Pope is telling Catholics to leave the Church for Protestantism– not at all! However, many Protestants do have insights into the Christian life from which we Catholics can learn.

    Of course, as a Catholic, I affirm that wherever any branch of Protestantism differs with the official teaching of the Catholic Church, it is the Church who is correct. Having spent many years as a Protestant though, I cannot regret the very good things that I gained from those years. I also wish, very much, that I had never left the Catholic Church in the first place. It’s a tension and a paradox with which I live every day of my life. In the end though, I am truly glad and thankful to be back in the Catholic Church– not least of all because she wrote and canonized the Bible, as guided by God!

  14. Christopher,

    I always look forward to your comments, they radiate a generous and winsome approach, combined with substance! Your comment reminded me of the beloved Father Neuhaus’ words that nothing that he affirmed as a Lutheran that was good and right is rejected and that nothing in the economy of God is ever wasted! I love his Becoming the Catholic I always was piece he wrote upon his coming into the Church founded by Christ.

  15. Tom,

    Thanks so much for your kind words about me. I do try. It can be hard sometimes– pray for me (and thank you in advance)! :-)

    I agree with you completely about Father Richard John Neuhaus and his affirmations (of the objectively good things in his Lutheran past) in that great piece that he wrote after joining the Catholic Church. For anyone who wishes to read it, here is the link to “How I Became the Catholic I Was”:

  16. I understand the gratefulness that Christopher expresses and many other ex-protestant converts, we for sure should be open to learn. But though there are extremities among “traditionalists”, like those who embrace feeneytism, we should realize that what it seems like a radical approach toward Protestantism (never to individuals among them) is related not with mere opinions but on the classical view toward them which is ingrained in the infallible dogma.
    We can appreciate the faithfulness of many protestants and need to give its due appraisal, but not forgetting the reality, within the historical background of the truth regarding the Church and the truth. Sometime because of what Michael Davies describes as “ecumania” so prevalent in our age”, we easily go beyond our normal and legitimate appraisal, forgetting to see Protestantism in relation to the Church founded by Christ. And for this these quotes from Fr. Mueller can help:

    “There are, no doubt, Protestants in large numbers who hold the principal Christian mysteries as taught by the
    Church and handed down by tradition; but they, as we have said, hold them, not as Catholic truth, but as
    opinions, which do not bind the intellect or conscience, and which they are free to hold or reject as suits their pleasure, their convenience, or their caprice”
    “There are, we like to believe, among Protestants, many individuals who are far superior to their Protestantism, who have not yet learned to distrust reason, who hold that truth is obligatory, that religion is the law of conscience, who are honest, upright, kind-hearted, and benevolent according to their light, and who mean to be true Christian believers. These can be reasoned with and be more or less affected by argument; but they are not
    genuine Protestants. They may not very well understand the doctrines retained from the Church by the early reformers, but they believe them to be revealed truths, which it would be sinful in them to deny, not mere opinions which one is free to hold or not, hold according to his pleasure.
    “That Protestants, that so-called orthodox Protestants at least, profess to hold, and claim as belonging to their Protestantism, many things that are also held by Catholics, nobody denies; but these things are no part of Protestantism, for the Church held and taught them ages before Protestantism was born. They are part and
    parcel of the one Catholic faith, and belong to Catholics only. Protestants can rightfully claim as Protestant only those things wherein they differ from the Church, which the Church denies, and which they assert; that is, what is peculiarly or distinctively Protestant. We cannot allow them to claim as theirs what is and always has been ours; we willingly accord them their own, but not one whit more. All which they profess to hold in common with us is ours, not theirs. Adopting this rule, which is just and unimpeachable, nothing in fact is theirs but their denials,
    and as all their denials are, as we have seen, made on no Catholic principle or truth, they are pure negations, and hence Protestantism is purely negative, and consequently is no religion, for all religion is affirmative.
    “Nor is this all. We have seen that the Protestant denials, in both their logical and historical developments, lead to the denial of all dogmatic religion, of all objective truth, and reduce the truths of reason and of revelation to mere personal opinions, and therefore involve the denial of those very doctrines which Protestants profess to hold in common with us. The immense majority of Protestants will give up these doctrines, or consent to hold them simply as opinions with no objective authority, sooner than desert the Protestant movement or reject the denials which are the essence of Protestantism, if we may speak of the essence of a negation, which has no
    being in itself or elsewhere”.

  17. Leonard,

    I understand and agree with your words, as I am confident that Christopher does as well (though he can speak for himself). We must always be careful in ecumenical discussions of religious indifferentism, which if one is not careful, is easy to do. We most certainly never want to communicate that Protestantism is a legitimate alternative to the Church. Bryan’s latest post actually demonstrates the weakness of Protestantism to deal with matters relating to the faith and the public square: /2012/05/two-questions-about-marriage-and-the-civil-law/

  18. Yes I dont doubt that he or any other here does not agree or that he or other quotes like those from Kreeft or Fr. Neuhas implies such endorsement of the heretical implications, but wanted to draw it to attention, so that we preserve a balanced view of our appreciation toward the protestants, because after all for this is what this blog is about. Telling the truth but with love and understanding

  19. Tom, Leonard, and anyone who may be reading,

    I’m sick and resting, for the most part, today, but I did want to say (quickly) that you are both correct that I do *not* support religious indifferentism– whether about the ecclesiological/theological disagreements between Catholics and Protestants, or about religious truth claims in general.

    A Protestant friend just asked me if, in my experience, Catholics care more about helping Protestants to “reconcile” with the Church, or about sharing Christ with those who do not (explicitly) know Him, period. That is a very good question! Part of my answer is, *both* are important– and for Catholics, ultimately, presenting Christ to non-Christians , *and* engaging in true ecumenical dialogue with Protestants, should lead to presenting the distinctive claims of the Catholic Church.

    After all, the Catholic Church does not claim to be simply one Christian denomination among many, but rather, the Church which Christ Himself founded, with apostolic succession that *He* intended and began, going all the way back to his ordination of Peter and the original apostles. This is a very serious claim, and tragically, many Protestants today are not even aware of it. Their lack of awareness on this matter is tragic because, in part, it helps to keep them in a framework of sincerely but mistakenly thinking that Protestant denominationalism, based on the principle of “Sola Scriptura” is simply the ecclesial/theological model which God has left to us. As Jeremy Tate argues in this wonderful essay though, God loves us more than to leave us in such a state of ecclesial/theological fragmentation and confusion: /2010/01/the-authority-of-divine-love/

    It is an act of Christian love to share with Protestants (and atheists, and Buddhists, and Hindus, and Muslims, and *all* human beings!), the fact that the Catholic Church does not understand herself, and from the 1st century A.D., has *never* understood herself, to be simply a Christian “denomination.” Our separated Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, and *all* human beings, need to know that well before Christians were ever given the finished New Testament (as a collection of twenty-seven divinely inspired, infallible books, completing the Bible), we were given a visible Church, with visible teaching authority from Christ Himself. Our Protestant brothers and sisters need to know that it is this Church which is (humanly, yet as guided by God!) responsible for Christians even *having* the New Testament today.

    For more of the “visibility” of the Church which Christ left for us, I commend anyone who is interested (whether he or she is a Protestant Christian, an atheist, a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or of some other belief system!) to this article by Bryan Cross: /2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    Now, back to resting and trying to recover from this illness! :-)

  20. I am a Protestant revert (after being in the Catholic Church for several years), and I can just say that the Catholic parishes I attended didn’t offer anything in the way of Bible study at the parish level. Nada. So I decided to try to be admitted into the several-year-long Catholic Biblical School program. Even though I’ve been to seminary, I wanted the ongoing spiritual and intellectual stimulation of interacting with others who were intensely interested in deepening their knowledge of the Scriptures.

    When I went to the screening interview, I was told that potential students who believed that, for example, the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis is an actual historical account or who believed that the book of Jonah is a factual account were not welcome. I was told pointedly that such notions are “fundamentalist” and that the Catholic Church “knows better” and teaches that these narratives are mythical accounts and not history. Since I hold that the accounts in Genesis and Jonah are historical accounts, I was barred from entering the program.

    Needless to say, I am relieved to be back in a Protestant denomination where belief in the historicity of the biblical narratives is not denigrated and belittled.

  21. Daniel,

    I cannot speak for the parishes that you attended but I can most certainly speak for the Catholic parishes of the River Region of central Alabama that there are many opportunities for Catholics to explore the Scriptures in very solid, and orthodox Bible studies. I also have friends in other areas of the country who can testify to the same thing. It would appear to me that one should not leave the Church because Bible studies are not offered in the parish they attended. One should be and remain Catholic because it is the Church founded and established by Jesus Christ. I recommend that if a Catholic finds himself in a parish where Bible studies are not offered that he offer to start one and put the information in the bulletin.

  22. In ref. to Tom’s reply to Daniel – I’m very sorry to hear about Daniel’s experience, and should also add that as far as I’m aware, the historicity of Adam and Eve as real persons is a “de fide” belief in the Catholic Church as promulgated by a number of Church documents, including the Council of Trent, Humani Generis, and Vatican II. I pray that the Church would not be judged by those who actively disobey and seek to undermine its authority, such as this “Catholic” institution that Daniel mentions, but by official Church teaching and those who adhere to that teaching. We would certainly not want to judge Reformed theology solely by examining, for example, Reconstructionists or the PCUSA; may our Protestant brethren offer us the same charity.

    On an unrelated note, Tom – thanks so much for your contributions to this website – your articles and podcasts played an important role in my conversion to the Catholic Church, Easter 2011 in the Arlington Diocese. cheers.

  23. Casey,

    Thanks for your kind words, welcome to the Church!!! You make a very important point about looking to the official teaching of the Church and I hope Daniel, if you are still here, will take a look at some of the mentioned Encyclicals I mentioned to see what the Church really does teach.

  24. Daniel, yikes! That sounds positively awful, though not too surprising given the state of American Catholicism today. But, c’mon, as terrible as that experience was (and by golly does it sound terrible), none of it changes the reasons why Catholicism is true.

  25. Brian,

    Well, as I’ve mentioned on some other threads, this wasn’t the only reason I left Roman Catholicism. I was deeply disturbed (after moving to another state for employment reasons) that I was no longer allowed to drink from the common cup at daily mass at my new parish. It seems that I had not realized that sharing in the sacrament of Christ’s blood in the RC church is a “privilege” rather than a right. (Sigh.) (Of course, I’m not talking about cases where the sacrament is forbidden to those in mortal sin, etc.) After reflection, I came to realize that if I had lived during Reformation times, I would have been clearly on the side of the Reformers. I would have been for communion in both kinds, against mandatory clerical celibacy, for justification by grace through faith alone, etc. I realized that I was indeed Protestant. Admittedly, the RC church has adopted some of the reforms proposed by the Reformers (worship in the language of the people, allowing Scriptures to be published in languages other than Latin are two examples). Still, the RC church has a long way to go in order to become an apostolic church. A real “light bulb” moment came for me was when I was at adoration. I was kneeling with the other parishioners, watching the priest place the unbroken round host into the circular glass case that’s inside the sun-ray beams of the monstrance. So far, so good. Then someone assisting the priest performed the final touch by plugging in a small desk lamp and placing the lamp in front of the monstrance so that the light shined on the host. If Jesus is himself the Light of the World, how is it that He needs the light of a tiny, pitiful lamp to be shone on Him? I came to realize that adoration of the host is a clever, sophisticated way to introduce idolatry into the church. I came to realize that the Protestant churches were much more apostolic than the RC communion of churches.

  26. Daniel,

    In what sense could you say that the Protestant churches were/are more apostolic than the Catholic Church? I would encourage you, if you haven’t done so, to read Bryan Cross’ excellent article /2009/07/ecclesial-deism/

  27. Daniel,

    Just as a minor point of information, it’s a myth that the Church didn’t allow the publication of scripture in vernacular. This has been debunked time and again, but it won’t seem to die.

    And your comment about Adoration is…odd. Jesus is the light of the world, but it’s part of His humility that he allows himself to be illumined by others. St Augustine made this point with regard to John the Baptist, whose witness to Christ he compared to a lamp illumining the sun.


  28. Tom,

    The Protestant churches are more apostolic in the sense that they more fully adhere to apostolic practice and doctrine. (By Protestant, I mean the historic Reformation churches.) The Roman church indeed has a direct pedigree from the apostles, but they haven’t maintained apostolic practice and doctrine. A good comparison would be with the history of Israel. The nation had the pedigree from Abraham to be sure, but because of idolatry, God declared that “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

  29. John,

    The RC church certainly in the past has discouraged the laity from reading the Scriptures, considering such an activity dangerous. But the church has become more Protestant since Vatican II.

    Regarding adoration: If, at the Last Supper, Jesus had taken a spotless host and carefully placed it in a monstrance, where should the apostles have directed their worship: toward the host in the monstrance, or toward Jesus himself?

  30. Hi Daniel,

    You say that if you had been alive during the Reformation period you would have been on their side re: justification by faith alone. I don’t understand how you get to that conclusion seeing as it never say’s in the Bible that we are justified by faith “alone”. That was one of Martin’s own inventions. Just curious is all.


  31. Daniel,
    Following John S., I want to point out that this statement of yours is way off. I mean like Da Vinci code off:

    (the Catholic Church not…)”…allowing Scriptures to be published in languages other than Latin…”

    In the original preface to the King James Bible the Protestant translators themselves refute this myth. I recommend you read this: XI

    I believed this line when I was a Protestant as well, so I know where you are coming from. But it is so false that that perhaps you should ask yourself what else about Catholicism is being misrepresented to you?

  32. That last link was meant to be for chapter XI only: XI

  33. Daniel,

    As John pointed out #9, there were a plethora of Bible translations in German long before there was a Martin Luther. Please read, if you want to learn the reality of the situation, this from Dr. Phil Blosser’s site,

    When you write what you do in #29 about Bible reading and the Church, I have to wonder, with all due respect, did you read my post? Before there was Vatican II there were three Papal Encyclicals on the Bible and Bible reading written from 1893-1943 (not including various other documents from the Church about the Bible during this time).

    As to the laity and the Bible, St. Thomas More was a layman, who wrote quite a bit on Scripture, which is surprising to people because, as you know, St. Thomas More lived during that most dark time in the Church, the Reformation. Just a few years after St. Thomas More, there was the great Doctor, St. Francis DeSales, whose Introduction to the Devout Life is simply glorious to read, for its simplicity and depth! St. Francis, in that wonderful work, spoke of the various states of life, and, not surprising to Catholics, but surprising to non-Catholics, the great Saint says that all followers of Christ, including the laity have the call to holiness, to sanctity, and the path to sanctity is to follow what God has called them, to; whether as a wife, mother, husband, father, priest, religious, etc…

    To be sure, Daniel, you are free to accept or reject the claims of the Church as the Church founded by Christ. I pray you reconsider, but you are free. But, what you are not free to do, is invent your own historical narrative, or accept as historically true, things that are patently not true, like the German Bible translations, the Church becoming more Protestant after Vatican II as regards encouraging the laity to read the Bible.

  34. Dear Daniel,

    I have to admit, your question about the Last Supper seems to me unnecessarily tendentious. But I’ll entertain it. The reservation and public adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is something that makes sense as a prolongation of Eucharistic worship, overflowing from the celebration of Holy Mass and leading back to it. This is appropriate for the post-Ascension Church where, as Pope St Leo I put it, “what was to be seen of our Redeemer [in His Incarnation] has passed over into the Sacraments” (Sermon 74.2; cf. the trenchant exegesis of John 14.28 and 20.17 at 74.4).

    At the Last Supper, when it was Christ’s intention to institute the Priesthood of the New Covenant and the Most Holy Eucharist, in order to provide for His Bride during His imminent bodily absence, it would have made little sense for Him to have produced a monstrance for adoration. If, however, we were to go about granting inappropriate hypotheticals about what Our Lord could have done but didn’t do, then the answer is fairly clear that both the physical body of the Lord and the Eucharist in His hands were adorable. The act of worship terminates in a Person, and the selfsame Divine Person of the Word was substantially present in both, though in different modes, just as He continues to be substantially present both in His Body, seated at the right hand of the Father, and in the Blessed Sacrament, on altars, in tabernacles, and even in monstrances in poorly lit rooms, where His beloved faithful use such homely, pitiful things as candles or electric lamps as they strain their homely, pitiful eyes and prostrate their homely, pitiful bodies in loving worship of the One who came to redeem their bodies and souls.


  35. re 29


    I had the opportunity so I sat down and spent a lot of time trying to understand the issues about scripture that you put forth. The word cleric indicated someone who was educated, that is someone who could read. At the time of the Reformation, Latin was still the official language of both the Church and educated men, although the vernacular was coming into wider use. A lot of people were not educated. A lot of people could not read, whether it was Latin or the vernacular. If you can’t read, you can’t read.

    As noted above, many countries had multiple versions of scripture available to them (if they could read) in both Latin and in the vernacular.

    Then, as you are aware, the Reformation happened. During the Reformation, Luther met with Zwingli because they had come to different conclusions about what scripture was saying. To use the current polite position, they agreed to disagree. Then Calvin disagreed with Luther and Zwingli. The disagreement over what scripture meant is a recurring theme in Protestantism. Your local Yellow Pages under Church will attest to that fact.

    Now there is another, relatively new attempt to bridge the gap inside of Protestantism (under the book title Your Church Is Too Small, which is under another thread in C2C). It is having the same success as the other attempts to arrive at the fundamentals necessary for salvation, that go back to nearly the beginnings of Protestantism. In other words the current effort is going nowhere.

    The problem is a question of who the authority is. In evangelical churches, nominally it is the congregation, but in fact the individual is the authority. No buy in by the individual and he/she/they depart for another location which more seemingly matches their position.

    A great deal of scripture is plain. God was not obscuring His work as expressed in His book. He was not hiding His motives. That issue was mine as an evangelical. I was obscuring His motives by avoiding the plain meaning of His scriptures. His motives did not fit with my motif for how things should be. I was in the position of telling God what to do. I guess I was interested in saving Him by limiting Him and having Him conform to my position. That recurring theme looked at me through the mirror of my Christian life, and I knew it was wrong. It was not my job to save God, rather it was His job to work in me to bring me to salvation.

    It was when I surrendered to the idea that He is in charge, and I let Him be in charge (over and over and over and over, etc), that I discovered how willing He was to bring me home to Him. Short of sending me Balaam’s ass, He has been quite disposed to pull, push, and call me – whether I am amenable or not. Providence is active in my life, and often unexpectedly so.

    No surprise. I am a Catholic. Everything that was good and right as an evangelical Pentecostal is still good and right now. It is those other things, things I was not willing to accept, that I discovered were the underpinnings of the Christian life, beginning with the Church through Which Jesus works, offering us Himself tangibly. I had told Him He could not, but in fact He does and was doing so without regard for my denials. Now He is doing it for me. Thanks be to God.




  36. Nelson (#30),

    Sorry, but justification by faith alone is not one of Martin’s “inventions.” It happens to be one of Jesus’ inventions, which he personally taught to his apostle, Paul. This core teaching was also being rediscovered by other Catholics before Martin discovered it. I’m surprised that Catholics seem to think that since the word “alone” is not explicitly stated, that the teaching is not there nonetheless.

  37. Tom and David,

    Let’s say you’re right for the sake of argument and that the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages actively printed bibles in the vernacular. The point is that the church actively discouraged the reading of the Scriptures by the laity. So having bibles in the vernacular did not help the people. The church only recently has become more “protestantized” by encouraging the reading of the Scriptures.

  38. Donald (#35),

    Luther and Zwingli were actually very close in doctrine. At the Marburg Colloquy, the participants all were agreed on 14 out of 15 doctrinal issues. On the 15th issue, they were agreed on 5 out of 6 points. They all agreed that in the Eucharist there still indeed exists bread and wine after the consecration (because Scripture says so). They also agreed that there is a union sacramentally of the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ. What they couldn’t agree on his how this mystery takes place.

  39. John S.,

    The physical body of Jesus is, of course, adorable. But not the sacrament. Do you think that the disciples at the Last Supper 1) worshipped what Jesus gave them? 2) were afraid that a crumb might fall to the ground or that someone might spill the cup? 3) stuck out their tongues to receive so that their “defiled” hands would not touch so holy a thing? 4) should have refused the cup and told Jesus, “Don’t bother. I already have the blood by means of concomitance.”? Many church fathers over and over state that the sacrament consists of antitypes of the Lord’s body and blood, not the Lord’s actual substantial body and blood. Why are these holy men wrong?

  40. Daniel,

    As regards your #37, we do not have to assume for the sake of argument because the fact is the Church did print and publish Bibles in the vernacular. It would be helpful if you read the link I gave to Dr. Phil Blosser’s post on that very topic. Also, regarding the fact that the Church actively discouraged the reading of the Scripture by the laity, again I would ask you to consider the fact that St. Thomas More wrote extensively on the Bible as a member of the laity. St. Thomas More was not a post-Vatican II Catholic, that was, as you say, more “Protestanized”. As you know, this great Saint lived in the midst of the very period that people claim was the height of the Bible being kept from the laity. The very point of my post was to put to rest the very caricatures you are claiming. Read St. Francis DeSales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, if you think that the Church discouraged the laity from reading Scripture. Again, this Doctor of the Church, was not a post-Vatican II Catholic, but a contemporary with Theodore Beza, so much so, that he actually visited the successor of Calvin. Also, I would encourage you to check out Bryan Cross’ post on Ecclesial Deism because you claim that the Protestant Reformation has maintained the Apostolic Faith rather than the Catholic Church, and that article would be really helpful for you to reevaluate your position. Also, if you want to actually read what the Church has to say and not what others claim the Church says, get a copy of the Catholic Church and the Bible: The Official Documents of the Catholic Church by Fr. Dennis J. Murphy.

    Also, it would be helpful if we keep this discussion focused on the content of the post. Discussing Adoration or Justification, or any other doctrine would be better discussed at other posts on this site, like the Ecclesial Deism post or David Anders’ post on Calvin and Baptism.

  41. Daniel (#39):

    Many church fathers over and over state that the sacrament consists of antitypes of the Lord’s body and blood, not the Lord’s actual substantial body and blood.

    Surely you mean types?? The antitype is the thing the type represents.

    I am puzzled. Who are the fathers that said the the Sacrament is not the Lord’s substantial body and blood?


  42. Tom (#40),

    All you have to do is ask Catholics who grew up in the pre-Vatican II church. They will tell you, generally, that the reading of the Scriptures was not encouraged, and often was discouraged. You can bring up all kinds of exceptions, but the fact remains: Only recently have the laity in the RC church–in general–been encouraged to read the Scriptures. And I have to tell you: I was Roman Catholic for about 10 years. During that time I lived in three different U.S. states. Never once in any parish that I went to was bible study offered (except, as I already mentioned, at the Catholic Biblical School, which I was not permitted to enroll in because I held that Genesis and Jonah were historical accounts).

  43. John (#41),

    No, I mean “antitype.” You’re thinking of the term antitype as it’s commonly used in typology. The fathers I’m thinking about used the term “antitype” to mean something like a mystical symbol of the actual thing.

    For example, Macarius of Egypt (Homily 27, section 17):

    “In the Church is offered bread and wine, the antitype of his flesh and blood, and they that are partakers of the visible bread, do spiritually eat the flesh of the Lord.”

    Another translation of this passage renders it this way:

    “In the church bread and wine should be offered, the symbol of his flesh and blood, and that those who partake of the visible bread eat spiritually the flesh of the Lord.”

  44. Tom,

    Actually, a correction. I can think of one parish in Texas I went to that offered a Bible study lecture. It was at the University of Dallas. Every other parish I attended had zero in the way of Bible study. Compare that with almost any Protestant church.

  45. Tom (#40),

    Francis de Sales in his “Introduction” seems to be annoyed that Christians (especially boys and girls) in Geneva were singing metrical versifications of the Psalms, in of all places (gasp!) shops and fields. How uncouth (he thinks) for the rabble to be singing God’s praises in such common places? Such singing, he asserts, should be reserved to trained singers in Roman sanctuaries. What in the world?? It shows you what the Reformers were up against.

  46. Tom,

    Correction again. I’m thinking of de Sales’ The Catholic Controversy (not Introduction to the Devout Life).

  47. Daniel (#43):
    Thanks, OK, I didn’t know that Macarius used the word that way. Yes, I am thinking of its use in Biblical typology.

    But this quote doesn’t deny the Sacrament to be the Lord’s substantial body and blood. It is true that he speaks of ‘visible bread’ – but that seems consistent with the more philosophical language of St Thomas referring to the ‘accidents’ of bread still being present. It seems to me hard to find a denial of the Real Presence (in the Catholic sense) here. I mean, if this were part of a general discussion on exactly that topic – whether the substance (again, in the Thomistic philosophical sense) of the elements were changed or not, then Macarius might be taken as denying it. But given the whole general trend of the Church towards a realistic understanding of the Sacrament, it seems to me equally – and perhaps more – possible to take his words as consistent with that.

    In short, his words are ambiguous, and given the many times, from Ignatius of Antioch on, when the fathers talk about the Sacrament in terms at least far from Zwinglian, and the growth of the belief in what came to be called transsubstantiation, it seems to me the burden proof would be on those who claim that any significant number of fathers actually denied the substantial Real Presence. To affirm a spiritual presence is not, it seems to me, tantamount to denying a substantial presence.



  48. Daniel,

    Regarding your #43 comment please read Tim Troutman’s /2010/12/church-fathers-on-transubstantiation/

    And, if you are inclined, you may comment your thoughts on the Eucharist under that thread.

    As to your experience about Bible study, I have no doubt that was the case for you and that is a problem. And, I know that many Catholics, as I point out in my post, think that the Church does not encourage Bible reading. My point in the post was to make clear that there is not a single Magisterial document that discourages Bible reading, and, in fact, the Church, long before Vatican II, encouraged the laity to read daily the Sacred Text and so be nourished and saturated in the Bible.

  49. DanielNo Gravatar May 18th, 2012 11:58 pm :

    Nelson (#30),

    Sorry, but justification by faith alone is not one of Martin’s “inventions.” It happens to be one of Jesus’ inventions, which he personally taught to his apostle, Paul. This core teaching was also being rediscovered by other Catholics before Martin discovered it. I’m surprised that Catholics seem to think that since the word “alone” is not explicitly stated, that the teaching is not there nonetheless.

    But the teaching is NOT there, which is the point.

    Justification by faith alone contradicts Sacred Scripture, and the passage that demonstrates that fact is the only passage in the Bible where the phrase “sola fides” actually appears: James 2:24. “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (KJV).

    If Saint Paul actually taught justification by faith alone, one would expect him to have said so. The fact is that he never taught such a doctrine.

    Martin Luther added the word “alone” to the Epistle to the Romans when he translated it into German, which is how he “discovered it.” If Luther thought Saint Paul actually taught the doctrine, there would have been no need to add the word “alone” to the Bible, but that’s what Luther did. It’s disingenuous, at best, to think otherwise.

    Falsifying the inspired text of Almighty God is an act of hubris if there ever was one.

  50. re #38


    Exactly and thank you for proving my point. Luther and Zwingli were close but could not come to an agreement. They agreed to disagree, and protestantism can certainly make that claim as my phonebook attests.

    I kept reading. A split followed a split followed a split and even when the closeness of the language was nearly agreed upon, it was insufficient to bind those wounds and heal that rift. Or, if you prefer, one could agree on this but not on that. If one can bend to the other, good. If not, see you around.

    Then Luther’s followers stopped agreeing with Luther, and Zwingli’s followers stopped agreeing with Zwingli, etc….. Zwingli was the authority, until he wasn’t. Luther was the authority, until he wasn’t. Calvin was the authority, until he wasn’t. That was my problem inside of Protestantism. I was the authority, deciding who I would follow, if anyone. However because my authorities weren’t really the authority, and I was free to follow them, free to ditch them, free to make my binding decisions about what to believe and what to disbelieve because I was the authority, I did.

    Which led to a new problem. Whatever I was, I was not the authority. Virtually nothing depended on me to be true, and a great deal was true quite in spite of me. God in His generosity had leveled me and I found myself humbled. I was no longer sitting down trying to decipher what God meant according to my lights, He was telling me (and had been telling me for a long time through the very scripture I was perverting) what He was doing and even how He was doing it. Since my mind was closed and my mouth was open, I was having a difficult time hearing Him.

    As I noted in #35, I am a Catholic. Everything that was good and right as an evangelical Pentecostal is still good and right now. It is those other things, things I was not willing to accept, that I discovered were the underpinnings of the Christian life, beginning with the Church through Which Jesus works, offering us Himself tangibly. I had told Him He could not, but in fact He does and was doing so without regard for my denials. Now He is doing it for me.

    Was Zwingli right? Was Luther? Both of them are outside the Church, as was I. Inside is inside, outside is outside. They claimed to be reforming the Church, but you cannot reform something you are outside of. St Francis of Assisi and St Dominic reformed the Church, from the inside. The Jesuits and the Council of Trent reformed the Church, from the inside.

    Outside the Church, reformers split from other reformers, a sequence which continues through our day. Honest impression? Nothing is being reformed outside the Church. In some instances, coffee houses are being opened. I like good coffee but I have something better to do going to weekday and Sunday Mass. When that is finished, then I can enjoy a good cup of coffee, but would note that coffee is not a sacrament and I am not looking for spiritual direction at Starbucks or Caribou. When I go there, I merely want a good cup of coffee. It appears that my head is on straight. Spiritual direction from the Church. Coffee from Starbucks. (An aside: My parish serves wretched coffee, but then that is not why I go there.)



  51. Dennis,

    Justification by grace alone through faith alone does not contradict Scripture, but is in accordance with it. You are mistaking the word “faith” in James with the word “faith” in Romans. They are semantically different. In James, “faith” refers to an intellectual assent or belief in something. The demons “believe” in God (that there is a God) and tremble. In Romans, “faith” refers to a trust in a promise made by God. This the demons will not do. You have to be careful not to mix apples an oranges.

    As to Luther, he simply created a more “dynamic” translation. This is a perfectly acceptable translation practice (for instance, the Jerusalem Bible is a more “dynamic” translation than the RSV). The interesting and important thing to note is, that justification by faith alone is still found in the scriptural text, with or without the insertion of the more dynamic “alone.” Besides, Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, the Catholic theologian, was teaching the truth of justification by grace through faith alone before Luther understood it from the Scriptures. And he came to this conclusion through examining the text in the original language.

  52. Hi Daniel

    You stated that Jaques Lefevre Detaples was a catholic who also found the truth of “Justification by Grace alone”. As Martin Luther did.. You did not consider the fact that his interpretation was also condemned by the Church and that he stopped teaching it and remained in the Church to help reform it.

    Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples or Jacob Faber Stapulensis1. [1] (c. 1455 – 1536) was a French theologian and humanist. He was a precursor of the Protestant movement in France. The “d’Étaples” was not part of his name as such, but used to distinguish him from Jacques Lefèvre of Deventer, a less significant contemporary, a friend and correspondent of Erasmus. Both are also sometimes called by the German version of their name, Jacob/Jakob Faber. He himself had a sometimes tense relationship with Erasmus, whose work on Biblical translation and in theology closely paralleled his own.[2]
    Although he anticipated some ideas that were important to the Protestant Reformation, Lefèvre remained a Roman Catholic throughout his life, and sought to reform the church without separating from it. Several of his books were condemned as heretical, and he spent some time in exile. He was, however, a favorite of the king of France, Francis I, and enjoyed his protection.

    The Doctrine of Martin Luther was in fact his own novel invention as the Church had not taught that innovation for the past 1500 years of Her history. We are still Justified by the Grace of God and Charity (agape love). Martin Luther taught that we were Justified by faith “alone” without love (works). And he changed his interpretation of the Bible to reflect his own teaching. Your subject was right in obeying the Church and abandoning his position with the Reformers.


  53. Daniel and Nelson,

    It would be better to have this conversation on one of the many posts on justification. Daniel, I recommend that you listen to this wonderful presentation from Dr. Lawrence Feingold on St. Paul and Justification.


  54. Frustrating post. No one would deny there were early Catholic translations. The problem was (and is) people are told to look to the the priest instead of thinking for themselves. “Father says….” still rules the day. Witness the forced adherence to the NAB, because “the Bishops say.” If Catholics are all about Bible reading, how come they are not all about Bble translating, which they most obviously are not… All of which is to say, certainly the modern Church has come a long way, but to act like the Reformers’ charges were all a sham is ridiculous, just as it would be crazy to say the Church needed no modernizing at Vatican II. Of course the Catholic Church discouraged individual Bible reading! Individualism was discouraged across the board in the Old World: society was very communal. The Reformers were he first wave of Modernity. And of course they had abuses too. But God used them to bring a corrective in terms of a less clericalized Church. Why do converts have to so fully vilify former allegiences? Kreeft is a breath of fresh air in that he bucks this trend. God likewise is using Evangelicals today to break the hold of liberal Biblical scholarship that has a vice grip on the modern Catholic Church. All of the studies that are making tracks in CAtholic parishes are being mounted by converts from Evangelicalism, it seems like. That is because cradle Catholics typically just have not been taught to read the Bible. It remains primarily a Protestant emphasis, whereas the Catholic emphasis, as encountered at the parish level, is going to Mass and praying to Mary. hat is the reality of lived experience, for better or worse.

  55. Joe,

    When you asked “why do converts have to so fully vilify former allegiances?” it surprised me for the simple reason, I do not believe I nor any member of Called to Communion has vilified our former ecclesial commitments.

  56. […] is a really good link at Called to Communion titled “Bible-Reading Catholics.” Much food for thought here. An […]

  57. Joe –

    I’ll do my best to respond piece by piece, though I’m sure others will chime in.

    No one would deny there were early Catholic translations.

    Believe it or not, some people do deny this and are often surprised to find that there were vernacular translations of the Bible before the reformation.

    The problem was (and is) people are told to look to the the priest instead of thinking for themselves. “Father says….” still rules the day.

    Not sure about this. Just the other day at daily Mass I encouraged my parishioners to discern what they hear from the pulpit because priests can make mistakes. Furthermore, it seems to me that evangelicals place far more trust in their pastors than Catholics put in their priests. So I’m not sure this criticism is valid at all, in practice. In protestentism, “Pastor such and such says…” still rules the day.

    Witness the forced adherence to the NAB, because “the Bishops say.”

    What do you mean by forced adherence? I use the Revised Standard Version for my private reading, as do my parishioners. In fact, the Bible I recommend is the Revised Standard Version. It is only in the liturgy, however, that we use the NAB. I often will refer to other translations. So do many other priests I know. The reason that we use one translation is so that all Catholics in the country here the same translation. It points to the universality of our faith. The NAB is translated accurately, yet accessible to modern ears. For this reason, it is appropriate to use in the liturgy.

    If Catholics are all about Bible reading, how come they are not all about Bble translating, which they most obviously are not…

    Not sure what you mean by this.

    ll of which is to say, certainly the modern Church has come a long way, but to act like the Reformers’ charges were all a sham is ridiculous, just as it would be crazy to say the Church needed no modernizing at Vatican II.

    Do people really act like the Reformers charges were all a sham? Even in Luthers day the Catholic church did not believe that they were a sham. If they did, I doubt they would have held a council and actually reformed themselves according to some of the reformers objections. I’ve said before that if I were a monk in Luther’s community in his day, I probably would have been persuaded by his arguments. They seem rational. It is only as they’ve played out in history that I think we have sufficient evidence to conclude that he was wrong. (See any of the articles here that point out Sola Scriptura’s inherent inability to maintain unity in the Church)

    Of course the Catholic Church discouraged individual Bible reading! Individualism was discouraged across the board in the Old World: society was very communal.

    Did the Church really discourage individual Bible reading? I think there is an argument that it didn’t promote it (why promote it if so many people can’t read?) There also might be an argument that the Church discouraged individual, personal Bible interpretation, because individuals can and do misinterpret the Bible all the time, which isn’t good. But discouraged individual reading? Not sure about that one.

    I agree society was more communal then and more individualistic now. Do you believe this is a good thing? I don’t think it is.

    The Reformers were he first wave of Modernity. And of course they had abuses too. But God used them to bring a corrective in terms of a less clericalized Church.

    How do you define Modernity? Is Modernity always good? Is Modernity always better than its opposite?

    Yes, the reformers brought corrective to a Church. Should they have returned to it after these corrections were made? How would they have known when to return?

    God likewise is using Evangelicals today to break the hold of liberal Biblical scholarship that has a vice grip on the modern Catholic Church. All of the studies that are making tracks in CAtholic parishes are being mounted by converts from Evangelicalism, it seems like.

    Not entirely sure what you mean here, but I would certainly agree that evangelical converts are bringing many good things with them into the Church when they convert. Thankfully, many evangelicals are entering the Church and they aren’t ceasing to be evangelical. They are maintaining all the good things of their evangelical tradition and applying them to the Catholic tradition. A lot of good fruit is happening now that these evangelicals are in union with the Church Christ founded.

    That is because cradle Catholics typically just have not been taught to read the Bible. It remains primarily a Protestant emphasis, whereas the Catholic emphasis, as encountered at the parish level, is going to Mass and praying to Mary.

    Won’t deny it, though the assertion begs some more explanation. But what is the solution? Leave the Church? Or help Catholics learn the Bible. It makes no sense to me that because there is a problem in a parish that we should leave the parish.

    For what its worth, I tell my congregation to read their bibles just about every day.

  58. Hi Joe,

    Why do you find this post frustrating? Because Catholics turn to the Priest for the translation of the Scriptures? That’s not quite true. We turn to the Magisterium for the official teachings. Many Priests have been wrong in their private interpretations of Scripture. As witness Martin Luther, for one,who was a priest.

    We are not forced into any particular translation of the Bible. There are many catholic translations out there any one of them may be used if we so wish. If you mean By how come Catholics are not into private translations of the Bible it`s because Catholics adhere to the Churches interpretation and not our own interpretation of Scripture. Look at what private interpretation has done for Protestantism.

    No one states that there wasn’t a reason for Church reformation during the middle ages as there was for certain corruption within Her. Nor were the reformers charges of this a sham ( as you say). But the corruption was within the administration of the Church not in the teachings of the Church.

    When you say that individual Bible reading was discouraged by the Church in those times you are quite correct in some ways. Most people were quite poor and could not read. There were translations of the bible approved for private reading if you could afford to buy them and they were approved by the Church. There were also many bibles not approved by the Church and attempts were made to keep people from reading these, for the simple reason that they were flawed translations. There were other factors involved at that time that were political in nature that involved both Church and State. Today those factors do not exist and therefore there is much more freedom of religious and political expression. We can see in our modern day just what the reformers “modernity” as you call it, has done for Church Unity and private interpretations of the Bible.

    If there are some “converts” to the faith that behave badly I will agree with you that it is very un-Christian like of them. Peter Kreeft is a great writer and I have read most of his books. You say that reading the Bible is more of a Protestant disposition than a Catholic one and that it is the Mass that is more important to the Catholic and of course the worship and praying to Mary.

    I do not know if you have ever attended a Catholic worship service or not. But if you do and you paid attention you will notice that the Catholic Mass is completely concerned with the “Bible” and that Mary and other saints are only mentions once or twice in the entire service. That being to ask for their prayers for us.

    I hope that this will help relieve some of your “frustrations” with us.


  59. All good retorts. I will laughingly admit that “Pastor says” is just as prevalent in many Evangelical circles.

    My reaction was primarily an emotional one… I simply find many devout Catholics lump Luther with much more secular souls as the source of all evils. And while I can agree he opened a Pandora’s box, I do not think everything is traceable back to Protestantism, or that Protestantism was by any means all bad. And I think recent Popes and Vatican II bear this out. I also think Frank Sheed was refreshingly honest when he talked about how Biblically illiterate Catholics had been until forced out of that mind frame at the Reformation when they were sort of beat senseless by others brandishing *their* book. So when someone writes, “Hey, what do you mean Catholics were discouraged from reading their Bibles?!,” but Sheed talks about how revolutionary-sounding more modern Popes exhortations to read Scripture sounded, I simply find the former a bout hollow. I can appreciate a convert’s newfound zeal, as well a mild disdain for the less-informed type of Fundamentalism, but I still believe that many of Evangelicalism’s criticisms of Catholic culture (I will distinguish it from official teaching) as very much warranted. Simply my (of course very individualized) perspective. Although I know it is not this site’s purpose, I think with so many PCA expatriates, a nice piece would be “[Good] Take Way Lessons for Catholics form the PCA”! Anyway, thanks for the courteous and helpful replies. I have to side with Neuhaus when it comes to the NAB, but that’s another little argument!

  60. Joe (#54),

    I certainly understand your frustration. And I especially understand your frustration about Catholic liberal scholarship. I (when I was still haplessly enamored with the Roman church) decided to pick up an NAB Catholic Study Bible from Barnes & Noble. I didn’t look at the Readers Guide carefully in the front matter before purchasing, and it was quite a shock when I did. The Readers Guide seemed deliberately designed to destroy one’s faith. I was depending on the infallible Magisterium to protect me from works of this kind. They failed me utterly.

    You’re absolutely right about RC parish life. It is indeed all about doing your mass obligation and praying to Mary. Bible study is almost never offered.

    Also, during mass, I noticed, when the NAB was being read by the lector, that the lectionary left out “objectionable” and “not-politically-correct” portions of Scripture, especially the Psalms. In the Anglican church, we read the psalms straight through, with no editing.

  61. Joe (#54),

    For Catholics, there’s also a wonderful benefit that comes from reading the Scriptures. Protestants, of course, only experience the spiritual blessing of having “the word of God dwell in you richly” when they read the Scriptures. Catholics receive much more. They receive the full remission of temporal punishment due for their sins which have already been forgiven.

    This from Catholic Answers:

    Question: Can I receive a plenary indulgence for reading the Bible?

    Answer: The Handbook of Indulgences states, “A partial indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who read sacred Scripture with the veneration due God’s word and as a form of spiritual reading. The indulgence will be a plenary one when such reading is for at least one-half hour”.

    Keep in mind that there are several requirements for acquiring a plenary indulgence. The Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences explains,

    To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent. If this disposition is in any way less than complete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be only partial. . . .

  62. I think Fr. Bryan and Nelson hit two good points: first, a lack of emphasis on the reading of the Scriptures is poor grounds for leaving the church. If the church has misinterpreted Scripture and taught heresy that is another question altogether, but we shouldn’t give up on the church because there is a lack of Bible study. The Catholic church is at once holy and in need of purification. Certainly the church could do a better job at promoting the reading and study of Scripture, but its another thing altogether to say that the church has repressed the reading of Scripture.

    Second, the mass is saturated with the Scriptures in ways that are often lacking in most Protestant churches (at least in my experience). As an Evangelical Protestant I read the Bible privately on a daily basis which was certainly a practice of immense value. However, I do think this practice can tend to reinforce the primacy of the individual in the interpretation of Scripture over the authority and universal traditions of the church. Now as a Catholic I still meditate on the Scriptures daily, although this practice is no longer centered on individual, private reading but on the communal and public proclamation of the Scriptures in the mass. There is something to be said about the public reading of the Scriptures, of which Paul exhorted Timothy to devote himself to in the church (1 Tim. 4:13).

    Word and sacrament go together and nowhere so beautifully as in the mass. When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus he not only explained to them the Scriptures, but also opened their eyes to his presence with them in the breaking of the bread at the table (Luke 24:13-35). Perhaps this boils down to the fact that this side of heaven our most intimate encounter with Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, is in the Holy Eucharist. Since Protestants don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it would make sense that the private reading of the Scriptures would take priority over the mass.

  63. Joe re #59

    Since I read my way into the RCC, leaving evangelical Pentecostalism to do so, I’d have to take issue with a great deal of what you stated. I did so using a Protestant Bible, short a few books.

    When we lived in Minnesota, my wife and I used to go to St Pauls in Ham Lake where Jeff Cavins was delivering his bible studies, and being videotaped in the process. Great bible studies. If you haven’t taken one, I can recommend them for the depth of scholarship and clarity for the non-professional. Worth whatever shekels are being asked.

    So, I knew scripture before I came into the Church, and I found some excellent bible studies being offered once I was in the Church.

    The St Joseph edition of the bible I was given had the indulgence for bible reading published in the front of the bible.

    Lastly, while I have an RSV/CE, when I just want to read for the joy of reading, I still have a copy of the Jerusalem Bible, which I have found to be the most “readable” in English. My impression was and is that someone who genuinely loved scripture also loved English. There are places where the prose soars in bringing forth the glory of God. I find that particularly true in Isaiah and in places in the gospels. The language attempts to be as elegant and brilliant as what it is attempting to describe. It is literally a joy to read when God is being exalted. I don’t read Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, but I do read English and can be amazed repeatedly when I see it properly expressed.



  64. I think Tolkien was one of the translators of the JB. I have no doubt Cavins is good, but I wish more priests were enticing guides to Scripture. Hahn is wonderful, but uy get the feeling no one in the hierarhy would touch his take on inspiration with a barge pol, sometimes. I too read my way into the Church, so my complaints may be misleading you as to my final judgements. But I still feel that no new Bible translations in years is a sad situation, and the widespread embrace of the NRSV is curious too given Rome’s apprehension. The difficulty is the Church is very VERY human and imperfect. Esp. for those of us who read their way in, you often wonder if that Church only exists on paper. Probably the same reality exists in Protestantism, but when one converts that always expect the Celestial City. Instead, I found “We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all sea sick”! (GKC) Ah well… Life is more challenge and trial than anything else, whcih Is uppose is why the greatest saints art the martyrs!

  65. Donald (#63),

    Yes, the Jerusalem Bible is excellent in places, as is the Revised English Bible (1989).

    Tell me, how did you read your way (from the Bible) into believing in indulgences, say, or the Immaculate Conception?

  66. Tom Riello, and any other CTC writer with a conservative Reformed background who wishes to help,

    Recently, a close Protestant, Presbyterian friend of mine, who is quite “Catholic-friendly” (and who has also decided, after much study, to stay Presbyterian), has shared with me that he has found more than a bit of my writing on Protestantism and Catholicism to be offensive, unfair, and especially, potentially damaging to non-Reformed peoples’ perceptions of Reformed Christianity.

    I am all too aware that I am very imperfect as a writer, and I am certainly open to self-examination, and “God-examination,” about where I may have failed in both accuracy and charity, as a Catholic, in writing about Reformed Christianity and Catholicism. This is why I am writing to ask for help here.

    Particularly, this friend feels that I have portrayed much of conservative Reformed Christianity (particularly Presbyterian Christianity) in America unfairly, in terms of current American Reformed attitudes toward Catholicism. I was shocked, as I have tried to be very careful to regularly clarify that, while *my* former ecclesial communities (i.e. Reformed Baptist and “non-denominational” five-point Calvinist) do teach that “Catholicism does not have the true Gospel,” and accordingly, that these communities discipline and disfellowship members who become Catholic, it is still happily the case that not all Protestants, by far, or even, all Reformed Christians have *nearly* such negative perceptions of Catholicism and/or individual Catholics.

    For example, in my theologically-oriented postings on Facebook, even as I do compare the anti-Catholic thinking and understanding that I was taught in my former communities with the actual teachings of the Catholic Church, I also express thankfulness for my Protestant friends (Reformed and otherwise) who still accept me as a brother in Christ, and I also state that I *understand and empathize with* my Reformed Baptist friends who no longer speak with me, since my return to the Catholic Church. I can appreciate their position, even as I disagree with it, because I have been where they are, at least as *strongly* as they are, if not more so.

    Sadly, because of the pronounced anti-Catholicism in my last two ecclesial communities, only a few of my old Protestant friends do still seem to accept me as a brother in Christ, but at least to my knowledge, I have never tried to create the impression that this is the common view among most Protestants, or even, most Reformed Christians, in America regarding Protestants who either become Catholic or return to the Catholic Church. I’ve also written, with thankfulness, of the more ecumenical spirit of certain Reformed authors, such as the more recent work of J.I. Packer in “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” and the writings of Mark Knoll on Catholicism.

    Notwithstanding these attempted clarifications, my friend still feels that I have been unfair in my portrayals (in his perception) of American Reformed Christianity, in its (various) attitude(s) toward Catholicism and Catholics. The reason that I am writing here is to ask for help from anyone with a conservative American Presbyterian background, particularly from the PCA and/or EPC. My friend claims that in his lifetime of experience in conservative Presbyterian churches in America, for the most part, the anti-Catholicism that he has encountered, at least in the extreme terms of denying that Catholicism “has the Gospel,” accusing Catholics of “worshiping Mary,” and such, has not come from cradle Presbyterians (either clergy or laity) but only from former Catholics who became Presbyterian.

    Honestly, I don’t know, and don’t claim to know, what the situation is, in the above regard, in the PCA and other conservative Reformed denominations in America. I do know that, historically, many well-known Reformed authors have claimed that the official teachings of the Catholic Church are in contradiction to the Biblical Gospel, from the original Westminster divines to (in the 20th century alone) Cornelius Van Till, R.C. Sproul, and Michael Horton. However, I don’t claim to know what *most* contemporary conservative Reformed Americans (clergy and laity) believe about Catholicism– which is, again, part of why I’m writing here.

    Tom Riello, with your background of having been a former PCA minister, I would be particularly grateful for your insight into the thinking that you encountered, regarding Catholicism, in the PCA. Tom Brown, David Anders, Tim Troutman, Fred Noltie, and any and all CTC writers who have backgrounds in the PCA or other conservative Reformed denominations in America— I would also be grateful for your help here. Please feel free to contact me privately on Facebook, if we are connected there, or by e-mail. (I *don’t* want to take the comboxes for *this* article off-topic for any kind of extended length– which would happen, by definition, if we discussed these matters here.) I do not want to be unfair or uncharitable to my Reformed brothers and sisters, in any regard, including in terms of what they believe about Catholicism and how they relate to Catholics. I would deeply appreciate any insights that you may be able to offer from your conservative Reformed backgrounds. (Having been a “Reformed Baptist” myself, I am very aware that many Presbyterians don’t consider R.B.’s to even *be* “Reformed”– which is one more reason that I want the straight story on this matter from Catholic converts and reverts who were once “truly Reformed.”)

  67. Hello,
    I’m confused about this issue concerning the Catholic church NOT discouraging people from reading the bible.

    When I was a young man, my mother told me that the church DID discourage bible reading
    due to people not understanding it.

    In my eyes there is a definite contradiction here. But since she’s no long alive I cannot discuss this with her further. Obviously, I will never resolve this issue, and it bothers me. I know she wouldn’t have lied to me.

    Thank you for your time.
    Bob (St. Louis, Mo)

  68. Hi Robert (#67),

    Thanks for the comment.

    When I was a young man, my mother told me that the church DID discourage bible reading
    due to people not understanding it.

    In my eyes there is a definite contradiction here. But since she’s no long alive I cannot discuss this with her further. Obviously, I will never resolve this issue, and it bothers me. I know she wouldn’t have lied to me.

    So, in one sense, it is very hard to answer your question/comment – I didn’t know your mother, and I don’t know what she exactly meant by her comment. Furthermore, your comment that “she wouldn’t have lied” to you immediately personalizes this, because anything I write in response to your comment could be inferred to suggest I am calling your mother a liar. We try to avoid that kind of language/discussion at CTC, because it’s unhelpful at getting to the truth of the matter. My deceased father grew up Catholic and left the Church, and he said and believed some things about Catholicism that were in error – I don’t think he was a “liar,” just misinformed.

    That issue aside, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that Catholic people told your mother not to read the Bible (though, closely examining your comment, it’s unclear if your mom was Catholic? Was she speaking as a non-Catholic about what she witnessed or heard herself?). Plenty of people can speak as authorities on Catholicism, and speak in error. Maybe a Catholic priest, a CCD teacher, or a very nice, Mass-attending Catholic layperson told her this. I have no clue. Alternatively, there has been plenty of Protestant rhetoric since the Reformation claiming that the Catholic Church has been opposed to individuals reading the Bible – Luther himself argued that this was the case.

    However, the Church since the early centuries has promoted the reading of Scripture. For example, St. Jerome noted famously that “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” and that the Bible was the means “by which God speaks every day to the faithful.” Jerome encouraged laypersons to read the Scriptures.

    Furthermore, laity since the early centuries have either read or heard the Bible, preached or in the liturgy, in order to form their own spiritual life. The Venerable Bede, an eighth century English clergyman, translated Scripture into Saxon, while in Luther’s own era there were no fewer than 56 editions of the Scriptures in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Flemish, and Bohemian. Likewise Thomas Arundel, Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, praised Queen Anne, consort of Richard II, for her “diligence in reading the four Gospels.” Erasmus, a Catholic layperson, was a prominent interlocutor with Luther over the meaning of Scripture (which would be odd if Catholics weren’t supposed to read Scripture). Sir Thomas More likewise affirmed that there was in his day an English version of the Scriptures, “by good and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently read.” Fast forward to the 19th century, and Pope Pius VI likewise recommend the laity to read Scripture.

    The Church has never taught that the laity should not be familiar with Scripture, but rather that such familiarity should be united to what tradition and the Magisterium have taught regarding the sacred word. Cardinal Gibbons, a prominent 19th century American Catholic apologist, affirmed, “be assured that if you become a Catholic you will never be forbidden to read the Bible.” in Christ, casey

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