40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Catholics Don’t Read the Bible

bibleFirst a disclaimer, SOME Catholics don’t read the Bible.  Neither do some protestants.  Some Jews don’t read the Torah and some Muslims don’t read the Koran.  But a blanket statement that Catholics don’t read God’s inspired word is just wrong.

One thing that makes it appear that we are Bible-less is that we don’t bring our Bibles to mass.  Unlike many protestant denominations, the Church provides us with a handy book called a “missalette” that contains all the Scripture readings for each week.  All we have to do is to open the book to today’s date and there’s all you need.  Many protestant churches, on the other hand, expect their members to tote their Bible with them to church.  Then the preacher will tell them where to turn in the Good Book to follow along with him.

So, when a non-Catholic brother or sister accuses you of not knowing “chapter and verse” he or she may be right.  But it doesn’t mean you don’t know the Bible, it just means that you don’t know which book is where.  I think we all know the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  We probably also know that Acts of the Apostles comes right after John.  But most of us don’t know the order of Paul’s letters and we sure don’t know where to find all those Old Testament books, especially since we have seven more than they do.  (More on this in a future post.)

I remember growing up in the Baptist church that it was considered a real milestone when you learned to name all the books of the Old and New Testaments in order.  It was an important skill to learn because when Pastor Bob tells you to turn to the third chapter of First Corinthians you’d better be quick about it.  If not, he’ll go on without you.

As far as day-to-day reading of Scripture goes, the Church encourages us to spend as much time at it as we can.  Whether you do or not is up to you.

Another rap you may hear on the Church is that she used to chain the Bibles down in the Church.  That one’s actually true.  But here’s the deal.  Before Gutenberg invented movable type all Bibles were copied by hand.  It took a very long time and a local church was lucky to have one.  They couldn’t just be left lying around where someone might steal them.  The other thing is that most people couldn’t read.  If you can’t read you really don’t need a Bible (or any other book).  Remember that Gutenberg and Martin Luther came along at about the same time, so the Churches that were chaining down the Bibles were Catholic Churches because in those days Catholic meant Christian and Christian meant Catholic.

If you’ve ever studied a Catholic Bible you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of footnotes; a lot of explanations.  That’s because the Bible, like any other book is open to interpretation.  Printed words (like this post) may be read more than one way.  Plus, unless you read Greek or Hebrew, the Bible that you’re reading is translated from its original language.

So, to make sure that people were following an accurate translation, and that they were getting the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, the Church preferred that the people got their scripture at mass, not from some weird translation.  Yes, at one time some translations of the Bible were on the Church’s list of banned books.  These were inaccurate translations usually missing those seven books I talked about earlier.

So, it’s too late to make this long story short, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that yes, Virginia, Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible.  Some may be more faithful readers than others, but most of us read it and enjoy it.  Even if we don’t read the book ourselves, over the course of a three year cycle, regular attendees will have the entire Bible read to them at mass.

Coming up:  About those seven books.
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