Notes on Session 1 – Introduction to the Bible

  1. Opening prayer for bible study:

Lord, inspire me to read your Scriptures and to meditate upon them day and night. I beg you to give me real understanding of what I read, that I in turn may put its precepts into practice.

Yet, I know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So I ask that the words of Scripture may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into my heart. Amen.  (Origen, 184-253 AD)

  1. Why should we read the Bible?

Scripture itself tells us:

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.“  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.“ (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105)

  1. Why should we read the Bible cont.?

Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium)

“The study of the sacred scriptures must be a door opened to every believer. It is essential that the revealed word radically enrich our catechesis and all our efforts to pass on the faith. Evangelisation demands familiarity with God’s word, which calls for dioceses, parishes and Catholic associations to provide for a serious, ongoing study of the bible, while encouraging its prayerful individual and communal reading. We do not blindly seek God, or wait for Him to speak to us first, for “God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us”. Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word.”

  1. Why should we read the Bible cont.?

St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

  • It is the living Word of God.

There are many ancient texts in the history of the world. but what sets the Bible apart?  It is the living Word of God. It has no equal, and it is as relevant today as it was in the early church. Further, the Word of God is Christ: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (Jn. 1:1 ) Thus, every encounter with Scripture is an encounter with Christ.(ii) .

  1. (ii) Sunday isn’t enough. 

Yes, the Mass is full of Scripture. We hear the Word proclaimed from the Old and New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospel. We hear the Word sung in our hymns. The prayers at Mass are full of Scriptural quotes and references. And yet … it’s not enough. It’s easy to miss parts of the Word as it’s proclaimed as Mass: we get distracted, the Word is not proclaimed well, we don’t quite hear it. In order to prepare well for Mass, we should “read ahead:” find the readings for Mass and read them prior to Mass. How are they connected? What is God’s message for His people today?

  1. (iii) God’s Word keeps us grounded. 

It is very easy, in the midst of our busy, stress-filled days, to lose touch with who we are: God’s children. Taking time to read Scripture every day keeps us grounded, reminds us of who we are, and helps us to recall, every day, that Christ is with us – even in the sloppiness, the busy-ness, the stress.

  1. (iv) Scripture reminds us of God’s covenant.

God made a promise to our forefathers in faith, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” God’s promise is eternal. A covenant is unbreakable, because it is God’s truth.

Then, through Jesus, we received a new covenant: “This is My Body and this is My Blood. Whoever eats and drinks of it shall have eternal life.”

The Bible, from start to finish, is the story of God’s unbreakable promise to us.

  1. (v) Reading Scripture helps us to pray better. 

Prayer is our lifeline to God. Scripture can help us to pray better. We understand Jonah’s reluctance to do the job God has set before him. We rejoice, laugh, cry and challenge God with the psalmist. We understand the shame of the woman about to be stoned. We tremble with fear, abandoning Christ, just as most of the Apostles did when He most needed them. To enter into God’s word helps us to see, hear, feel and understand basic human responses … and then do better. We rise above our fears, our sorrows, our shame, because we know God is with us. Always. He never abandons us. Scripture is the story of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.

  1. What is the Bible?

The Bible  (“the books”) s a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians Jews and others. These texts include historical accounts, hymns, prayers, proverbs, teaching, parables,  poetry, and prophecies.

  1. How the Bible came into being…….1400–400 B.C. Books of the Hebrew Old Testament written c. 250–200 B.C. The Septuagint, a popular Greek translation of the Old Testament, produced

A.D. 45–85? Books of the Greek New Testament written 90 and 118 Councils of Jamnia give final affirmation to the Old Testament canon (39 books) without Apocrypha

140-150 Marcion’s heretical “New Testament” incites orthodox Christians to establish a NT canon

303-306 Diocletian’s persecution includes confiscating and destroying New Testament Scriptures  c. 305-310 Lucian of Antioch’s Greek New Testament text; becomes a foundation for later Bibles

397 Council of Carthage establishes orthodox New Testament canon (27 books)

400 Jerome translates the Bible into Latin; this “Vulgate” becomes standard of medieval church. 1546 Council of Trent – Roman Catholics officially defined the Catholic Canon which include the Apocrypha

11 Apocrypha – Books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, Judith, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees and portions of Esther and Daniel. Books included in the Canon were selected based on: Authenticity. Divine authority and inspiration.

12 Jews 39 books; Roman Catholic 73 books; Protestants 66 books

13. Books in the Catholic Bible (73)

Old Testament (46)

Pentateuch : Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Historical books : Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees

 Wisdom Books : Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song Of Solomon, Wisdom Of Solomon, Sirach

Prophetic Books : Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Of these books, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, parts of Esther and parts of Daniel are Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical.

New Testament   (27)

The Gospels : Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Historical book : Acts

Pauline Epistles : Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews

General Epistles : James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

Revelation

  1. Bible Language Translations

Hebrew – Greek – Latin – English

  1. Example of Biblical manuscripts

(i)  Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the north-western shores of the Dead Sea. They are approximately two thousand years old, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, with a smaller number in Aramaic or Greek. Most of them were written on parchment, with the exception of a few written on papyrus. The vast majority of the scrolls survived as fragments – only a handful were found intact. Nevertheless, scholars have managed to reconstruct from these fragments approximately 950 different manuscripts of various lengths.The manuscripts fall into three major categories: biblical, apocryphal, and sectarian. The biblical manuscripts comprise some two hundred copies of books of the Hebrew Bible, representing the earliest evidence for the biblical text in the world. These can be seen in the Israeli Museum, Jerusalem. https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls

(ii) Codex Sinaiticus

Codex or “Sinai Bible” is one of the four great uncial codices, ancient, handwritten copies of a Christian Bible in Greek. The codex is a historical treasure. Scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the most important Greek texts of the New Testament, along with the Codex Vaticanus (See below). The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although parts of the codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript is held today in the British Library in London, where it is on public display. While large portions of the Old Testament are missing, it is assumed that the codex originally contained the whole of both Testaments. About half of the Greek Old Testament (or Septuagint) survived, along with a complete New Testament, the entire Deuterocanonical books, the Epistle of Barnabas. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/codex-sinaiticus

(iii) Codex Vaticanus

The Codex Vaticanus is one of the oldest copies of the Bible. The Codex is named after its place of conservation in the Vatican Library, where it has been kept since at least the 15th century.It is written on 759 leaves of vellum in uncial letters and has been dated palaeographically to the 4th century. Most current scholars consider the Codex Vaticanus to be one of the most important Greek witnesses to the Greek text of the New Testament, followed by the Codex Sinaiticus. Until the discovery by Tischendorf of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus was unrivaled. The most widely sold editions of the Greek New Testament are largely based on the text of the Codex Vaticanus. Codex Vaticanus was regarded as “the oldest extant copy of the Bible” before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. https://vatican.com/The-Codex-Vaticanus/

(iv) Also see the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin

With biblical texts written in Armenian, Church Slavonic, Coptic, Ge’ez, Greek, Latin and Syriac, the collection’s Christian material comes from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. The papyrus codices in the Chester Beatty are some of the earliest surviving Christian artefacts in the world. In addition, a significant proportion of the rare printed books and prints are also Christian in focus. https://chesterbeatty.ie/explore/christianity/