The Bible is a curious collection of texts. Whether you've read any of it or not, you know some basic stories and quotes that are in there. Who hasn't heard of Adam and Eve? Who hasn't heard of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And if you know anything about Jesus, you know at least something about the Gospels. Now granted, I don't actually believe that every single person has had some familiarity with the aforementioned biblical features, but if you've chosen to read a blog with the word "Bible" in the title, I presume you've brushed up against at least a few rudimentary things contained in the Scriptures.
The Bible, for all of its archaic obscurity, has withstood the test of time, not only as a source of Truth and Divine Revelation, but also as a fount of symbols, archetypes, lessons, and verses that remain in our imaginations and find their way into popular culture. Allusions to Scripture are made in movies like Pulp Fiction, Red Dragon, and The Matrix, and songs by Lady Gaga, Mumford and Sons, and Adele ("reap just what you sow," yeah, see Galatians 6:7). I'm still baffled by the John 3:16 signs at sporting events, but there you go – another way in which the Bible creeps in to our daily lives.
Despite all of this, the Bible still remains for many of us to be, well, archaic and obscure. That doesn't keep people from quoting it left and right with "The Bible says this!" and "The Bible says that!" It's no wonder it can be an intimidating piece of work. How are we expected to be moved and shaped by the Word of God when we either can't understand it or are beaten over the head with a verse here and a verse there? Before I began to take Scripture courses in college, I didn't really find it to be that significant in my life. I had read a good portion of the Old Testament and all of the Gospels, and of course I had heard the readings from Scripture proclaimed at Mass, but it still did not seem all that accessible. As a religious studies major, I only took my first Scripture course because it was a requirement. Yet from then on I was hungry to learn more – more about the historical context, the literary character, the relationship between the audience and author. I even spent three semesters studying Hebrew (two studying Greek, but that was a bust) in pursuit of understanding the Bible better. And in fact, even though I was learning things about the Bible that challenged my preconceived notions about it, I was not only unfazed but found my faith strengthened.
As you can see on the sidebar, the name of this blog comes from an old profession in which a man guided people through the dark streets of Venice with a lantern. For me, all of my biblical professors were like codegas of Scripture. They shined a light, however small or bright, on these sacred texts that gave me some confidence in reading them and brought to light some of the deep and beautiful mysteries within them. While this blog remains a humble endeavor, for Sacred Scripture should always be approached with humility, I hope that it can be like a codega for you as you engage the Scriptures. Some material out there on the Bible is purely scholarly. Other sites and periodicals have a more heart-centered focus. For me, learning about the Bible on a rational level has been the channel through which the Scriptures have touched my heart. Perhaps, through this blog, this same method of shining a rational light on the Bible will move you in your faith.
Each week I will post some basic biblical hermeneutical information ... Wait. Herme-what!? Don't worry. It's far more interesting than it sounds and slightly less painful. I will post some basic guides for biblical interpretation (that's what hermeneutics is about) that might help you in your biblical reading. For the first couple of weeks I just want to point out what's all in there. I mean, there are 73 books in the canon of Scripture used by Catholics. It might be a good idea to get some sense of what those 73 books are. From there I'll spend a post or two on how the Bible came to be compiled and canonized. It seems a lot of folks have questions about that. And it's worth noting where the Bible comes from if we are ever going to take it seriously. After that... well, it is wherever the Spirit moves us.
I should also mention, if you haven't noticed, that this blog will have a definitively Catholic character. After all, I'm a Franciscan friar, and if I wasn't writing from a Catholic perspective (on the World Wide Web of all places), I think my superiors would be a little annoyed with me. That isn't to say that this blog is only for Catholic readers. I encourage anyone to read and comment. That this blog has a Catholic perspective simply means that I will at times make reference to the Church's teaching about Divine Revelation and will draw connections from the Bible to Catholic tradition and liturgy. I have the utmost respect for biblical scholars in other faith traditions who have paved the way of biblical scholarship. The Catholic Church and its biblical scholars are indebted to them.
With that being said, I greatly encourage questions and comments. It will help me find out what it is you want to know about the Bible. Take note of the "No Pearls Before Trolls" policy though. But even more so than questions or comments, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and read it for yourself or with another person sometime. This blog is all about cultivating biblical literacy. With each post I will offer some recommended passages for you to reflect upon, which might help facilitate reading the Bible.
Lastly, here is my challenge to you. Try to have a conversation about what you've read and reflected upon with another person or group. I presume that if you're in a Bible study or something of the like then you already do that. But if not, start some kind of informal Scripture-based faith sharing with your friend, your spouse, a sibling, someone from your parish, etc. The reading of Sacred Scripture shouldn't always be a solitary spiritual exercise. You will benefit a lot more from it if it is a shared activity. In the words of Fanny Brice: "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world" (Funny Girl). But importantly, let us not forget the words that Jesus spoke: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Basically I just want to point out that reading/sharing Scripture with other people is ideal. Don't be afraid to give it a try.
I hope you will find your way back the Bible Codega again. Subscribing always makes that easier though! Until next time,
Peace and all good!