More On Reading the Bible

A common theme in most articles posted to this board is an appeal to Scriptures. Christian writers cite from the inspired books of the Bible to support our arguments. We urge readers to open their Bibles and discover for themselves the truth God caused to be written there.

I do not think it unusual that Christians look to the Scriptures as their guide in doctrinal matters. It is, after all, the user's manual for our faith. The Author, God Himself, included in it everything we need to know for salvation. He also included a synopsis of His interactions with our spiritual forefathers and a useful troubleshooting section. The Book is not all-inclusive. It does not provide a laundry list of do's and don'ts covering every possible situation that could confront the Child of God, but it does provide guidelines for living a godly life.

Important as they are, I doubt every believer reads in the Scriptures every day, or even many days, of his life. We should, for they were given to help us live as we should.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. -- 2 Timothy 3:15-17, KJV

I wonder. Do many Catholics in this day and age read in the Bible? When I was a kid, I gave my father a Catholic Bible one Christmas, but I do not recall either of my parents reading in it. I know that I never read in it. For that matter, I do not recall any of my grandparents, devout Catholics though they were, ever reading a Bible. I do not even know if they owned Bibles.

Some of my Catholic relatives own Bibles but I only am aware of one who reads in her copy of the Scriptures. Interestingly, this once-devout Catholic sister-in-law, who used to pray five decades of the Rosary every evening and attend Mass unfailingly, is going through some changes. Since she began reading Scripture for herself, as opposed to receiving an edited version through readings during Mass, she has begun to question several aspects of her Catholic faith. She not only no longer believes it a sin to miss Mass; she sometimes worships with a congregation of the Evangelical Free Church. After her first service in a Christian church, she was bubbling over with excitement. She had never before experienced an expository sermon. For the first time in her life, a minister had explained, in detail, the meaning of a passage and it's application to her life.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -- John 8:31-32, KJV

Many Catholics I have encountered appear to sense no need to read the Scriptures for themselves. They are confident the Magisterium will ensure they know what they need to know. When confronted, some of these can quickly cite references to passages in Scripture that support the RCC position. This is not difficult, given that the Catechism and the church bulletin are well-salted with such references as Mt 16:19, Jn 6 and the like. I wonder, how many of those Catholics who cite passages have ever actually read them?

There is a fantasy, promoted by the RCC and liberal non-Catholic churches, that by following an ecumenical lectionary, the Bible will be read to the faithful over a course of three years of faithful attendance at worship services. I have been informed, by ardent spokesmen for the Roman cult, that there is no need for the Catholic to read the Bible, for the entire Bible is read to him in Masses over the course of three years. And I am convinced they believe this to be the case – which gives witness to the degree they have been deceived by the body they look to for salvation.

Let's take a little look at the “three-year-cycle.” In 1992, an ecumenical group calling itself the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT) came up with a document they called the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL)

The Revised Common Lectionary (1992 and revised in 2002) is a calendar and table of suggested scripture readings for a three-year cycle. The readings for each Sunday and holy day--typically one each from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels--are meant for the weekly service of worship on Sunday. It provides a systematic approach to the use of Scripture in worship.

I think a look at the membership of the CCT might be enlightening:

The Episcopal Church USA,
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
Liturgy & Life (American Baptists),
The United Church in Canada,
The Christian Reformed Church,
The United Methodist Church,
The Christian Fellowship of the Unitarian Universalist Association,
The Presbyterian Church (USA),
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy,
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops,
The Presbyterian Church in Canada,
The Church of the Brethren,
The Anglican Church in Canada,
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada,
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,
The United Church of Christ, and
The Polish National Catholic Church.

Well, just because the National Conference of Catholic Bishops signed off on the RCL doesn't mean that it is acceptable to Mother Church. In fact, it seems there has been a bit of turmoil within the higher halls of the Roman church concerning lectionaries – particularly when it comes to which Bibles might be read from. Seems Rome has been bothered by 'gender' difficulties of late.

Let's compare the readings in the RCL for January 3, 1999 (Epiphany) with those read in the Holy Name of Mary Parish (Croton on Hudson, NY) on that same Sunday.

RCL: Isaiah 60:1-6. Psalm 72:1-7,10-14. Ephesians. 3:1-12. Matthew 2:1-12

Holy Name of Mary: Isaiah 60:1-6 Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 Matthew 2:1-12

Hmmmm! Seems the Catholic lectors came close to the RCL guide, but fell short. Well, let's check the following Sunday, (Baptism of the Lord), Cycle A, January 10, 1999, just to be certain.

RCL: Isaiah 42:1-9. Psalm. 29. Acts 10:34-43. Matthew 3:13-17

Holy Name of Mary: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 Acts 10:34-38 Matthew 3:13-17.

Pretty close, but no cigar!

Some of the verses left out of thereadings in the Catholic church are interesting choices. Take Isaiah 42:8, for example:

I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images

Then there were these verses:

And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. -- Acts 10:39-43

And these:

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. -- Ephesians 3:7-12

Interesting that the Roman Lectionary approximates the RCL that the bishops signed off on, but conveniently eliminated those passages that might lead people to wonder about some of the teachings and the authority of the Magisterium. No doubt this was nothing more than coincidence.

Now, do you reckon that the CCT, many of whose member communions do not hold daily worship services, designed the RCL so that it could be used with equal effectiveness by those communions that meet on Sundays only, or perhaps just a few days a week, and those that meet daily? Seems to me that would have been a virtually impossible project, particularly when you consider that the product of their deliberations is called the Revised COMMON Lectionary.

Well, everyone knows that Rome has her own way of doing things. Let's see what Rome did with her version of the Sunday Lectionary. Frank P. Quinn, OP, of the Aquinas Institute of Theology, wrote the following concerning the Sunday Lectionary:

The post-Vatican II Roman Lectionary represented a profound break with the past. Not only were the readings organized according to a plan whereby a richer fare of scripture was read in liturgical celebrations, in contrast to the medieval lectionary where the choice of readings was simply helter-skelter, but for the first time in history the Sunday lectionary covered a period of three years, each year being dedicated to a particular synoptic author--Matthew, Mark, or Luke. A fourth year was not dedicated to the gospel of John because readings from this gospel permeate the sacred seasons, especially the latter part of Lent and most of Easter”--Frank P. Quinn, The Roman Lectionary and the Scriptures Read in Church. Originally printed in the NCR, Volume 31, no. 5 (November 18 1994), pp. 6-7. - New Additions August 3, 1998

Oh! Did I read that correctly? “…for the first time in history the Sunday lectionary covered a period of three years, each year being dedicated to a particular synoptic author--Matthew, Mark, or Luke…” Golly, seems like the RCC spin-off, if that is the case, of the RCL doesn't appear to cover the entire Bible in three years of Sunday readings.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S.A. issued a document they called A Pastoral Statement for Catholics on Biblical Fundamentalism. In that document, the bishops wrote:

“…For historical reasons the Catholic Church in the past did not encourage bible studies as much as she could have. True, printing (the Latin Bible was the first work printed) was not invented until the mid-fifteenth century, and few people were literate during the first sixteen centuries of Christianity. But in the scriptural renewal the Church strongly encourages her sons and daughters to read, study and live the Bible. The proclamation of the Scriptures in the liturgical assembly is to be prepared for by private bible study and prayer. At the present time two decades after Vatican II, we Catholics have the tools needed to become Christians who know, love and live the Holy Bible. We have a well-ordered Lectionary that opens for us the treasures of the books of the Bible in a three-year cycle for Sunday and Holy Day Masses, and a more complete two-year cycle for weekday Masses. Through the Lectionary the Catholic becomes familiar with the Bible according to the rhythm of the liturgical seasons and the Church's experience and use of the Bible at Mass...”

Did you notice that? “We have a well-ordered Lectionary that opens for us the treasures of the books of the Bible in a three-year cycle for Sunday and Holy Day Masses, and a more complete two-year cycle for weekday Masses.” Gee! If I read that correctly, seems the good ole boys in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S.A. don't seem to believe the entire Bible is covered in the three-year-cycle of Sunday readings, OR in the “more complete” two-year cycle of weekday readings.

I would think it must be a bit embarrassing to present oneself as a know-it-all and then be found to be talking through one's hat.

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the new RCC Sunday Lectionary (the weekday versions are still in the works), can check it out at the Catholic Book Publishing Co., homepage. The folks there tell potential customers that this new volume is:

“Approved for use in the dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See “

Did you see? This “new” Sunday lectionary is approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. They're the same folks who signed off on the Revised Common Lectionary.

Gets confusing, doesn't it?

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