The Bible

Read ~ Chapter 5: The Bible

Father Anthony Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)

 The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially the First and Second Vatican Councils, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Saint Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican 

Errors in the interpretation of the Bible 

Claiming to interpret Holy Scriptures: Many sects and individuals claim to have the right interpretation of the Bible, pretending to have received it directly from the Holy Spirit. These interpretations often contradict each other and are inadequate. How can the One Holy Spirit of Truth inspire two contradictory interpretations? It goes against the human logic that two individuals who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit would still pretend their interpretations to be truthful, even though these interpretations are contradictory. The truth is exclusive by character. Two opposite realities cannot co-exist in the same entity (the fact that a house is blue eliminates the possibility of being red).

The errors of the human mindOne can’t just claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit and randomly interpret the Bible the way they feel like. Because the human mind is subject to errors and delusions, Jesus entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter in order to protect the Church from capricious interpretations of God’s Word. In this regard, St. Paul urges Timothy to be careful about false teachings and interpretation of the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:14-26). St. Peter too states: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

An example of personal interpretation of Holy ScripturesThe following example illustrates the danger behind random individualistic interpretations: One claims to be filled with the Holy Spirit by understanding John, 6 (Jesus talking about his Body and Blood as true food and drink) to be symbolic. The Church, filled with the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised, reads this chapter as pointing to the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:66 relates that many disciples left Jesus because he kept insisting it is his actual Body and Blood). The One Holy Spirit of Truth cannot inspire two contradictory teachings: one must be truthful and the other one false. 

Quoting the Bible has no value if the meaning is twistedQuoting the Bible does not mean anything because the devil, when he was tempting Jesus, quoted the Bible too. Jesus corrected the devil’s wrong interpretation of the Bible (Matthew, 4). It is of capital importance to quote the Bible in the Spirit in which it was inspired. It is better not to quote the Bible then twisting the meaning behind the Word of God that is interpreting it in a false way. EWTN has a series of shows pointing the frequent errors in the personal interpretation of the Bible: EWTN

Interpretation of the Bible in the Catholic Church 

The Holy Spirit inspires the Church to interpret Scripture: Jesus Christ has fully and completely revealed God. However, the understanding and the interpretation of the Divine Revelation (contained in Scripture and Tradition) will still progress and improve in the Church until the end of time. The Holy Spirit will continue to clarify the content of the Divine Revelation to the Church as Jesus confirmed to the Apostles: “when he comes, however, being the Spirit of truth he will guide you to all truth.” (John 16:13) In fact, for centuries the Fathers of the Church, the Magisterium, and experts in Holy Scriptures have uninterruptedly sought to interpret the Word of God according to what the Holy Spirit intended to reveal. Understanding the Bible is a historical dynamic process that will keep taking place until the end of time.

Interpretation of the Bible under the watch of the Magisterium: Since Jesus established the Catholic Church and sent the Holy Spirit to continue to teach her the truth about God and the world, the Catholic Church has the prerogative of interpreting Scripture according to the sense intended by her founder, Jesus Christ. It has been like this since the beginning especially when people in the early Church interpreted the same passage of Scripture in a very different way. The Apostles were the criteria of how to interpret Scripture in the right way (we see this in the Council of Jerusalem where the Apostles confirmed that pagan converts don’t need to be circumcised for their own salvation: Acts 15). 

Since her birth, the Catholic Church had adopted, taken, analyzed, studied, read, contemplated, and meditated the Word of God. Under the auspices of the Magisterium, whose main task is to guard the Word of God against false interpretations, the Catholic Church has developed the scriptural theology we have today. With its twofold tasks of guarding the deposit of faith and teaching it in Christ’s authority, the Magisterium is intimately connected with the Deposit of Faith (CCC 95 and 2049). The Magisterium cannot add or subtract from the Deposit of Faith; its main task is to serve as its guardian through all generations until the end of time. The Holy Spirit guarantees that the Magisterium will always teach the truth of the faith as promised by Jesus. Pope Benedict VI harshly rejects “the tendency to read and to interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church.” (Pope Benedict VI, Dominus Iesus, 4)   

The New Testament fulfills The Old Testament

Old and New Testaments are both the Word of God (against Marcionism): Since Her birth on Pentecost Sunday, the Church has always taught that both Old and New Testaments are the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the principle author of Scripture; the human writers wrote only what the Holy Spirit intended to communicate to them (see CCC, 105-108).

Old Testament is still the Word of God, even though it is imperfect and provisional: Even though the Old Testament is a preparation for the New Testament, it does have its own value and is still the work of God. It is like a foundation for the house: when the house is completed people live inside the house not on its foundation. But without the foundation, living inside the house is impossible. In this sense the Great St. Augustine says: “The law (OT) was given that grace (NT) might be sought; and grace was given, that the law might be fulfilled.” (De Spiritu et Littera, 19, 34)

The long historical process of establishing the Old Testament shows how God had to deal with the mindset of the tribes in Israel. If the Old Testament is the Word of God, why is there so much violence? The historical context suggests that Israel had to be aggressive in character in order for the tribes to survive in the midst of the pagan world. Yes, the Old Testament is still the Word of God, but it must be read in the historical context of that society. The Revelation of the Ten Commandments was the first step God made to change the violent mindset of the tribes into a moral code of not killing. God’s revelation of his Word in the Old Testament was a historical process.

New Testament fulfills Old Testament: The Word of God in the Old Testament needed to be fulfilled in the New Testament when Jesus revealed the true and full content of God’s Word. Jesus perfects the revelation and the moral code of the Old Testament. Jesus teaches the Apostles: “you have heard that it was said to the men of old (Old Testament) ‘you shall not kill…’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-23) It was hard for the Apostles of Jewish descent to step up to a new moral code that goes way beyond the rigid rules of the Old Testament. The Old Testament prepares the New Testament; The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament (See Pope Benedict VI, Jesus of Nazareth, 4-6). 

The Old Testament is a shadow; The New Testament is a reality: The Old Testament is a shadow; the New Testament is the reality. The Old Testament is the Word of God; the New Testament is the Word of God made flesh. If I am walking in the sun, my shade is like the Old Testament, my body is like the New Testament. St. Augustine said: “The New testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” (PL 34: 623)  Since the Word of God of the Old Testament was made flesh, Jesus Christ becomes the Word of the Father. Jesus Christ in person, his words, actions, presence, death, and resurrection, is what the Father wanted to say to the world once and for all (see Sermon of St. Pope John Paul II addressing the world youth in Chile).

Analogy of faith secures the unity of Scripture: The Old and the New Testaments are very different, even though they both constitute the one Word of God. The early Christian writers saw an analogy (proportion) in the manner in which the New Testament complements the Old Testament and in which each particular truth contributes to the inner unity of the entire Christian revelationWe call this the Analogy of Faith: it guarantees the intimate relationship between Scripture and Tradition; it explains Scriptural passages in such a way that the sacred writers will not be set in opposition to one another or to the faith and teaching of the Church (see CCC, 80).

Determining the Canon of ScriptureThe process of determining which books are the Word of God (Canon of the New Testament) was confirmed by the Catholic Church at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419). The final list of the Canonical book was confirmed in the Council of Trent in 1546. There are 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament that the Catholic Church determined are inspired by God.

Non-inspired booksThere are several non-inspired books that were written in the first few centuries that claimed to be the Word of God. They gave us a historical idea about many elements of the Church’s life and faith but they were rejected by the Church to be the Word of God. They are considered historical witnesses with a certain value [such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement (the fourth pope) to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd]. 

The Bible: The Word of God written in human words through a historical process 

God’s Word expressed in human words: God abides outside of space and time and consequently his Word too. The Word of God is not subject to composition or syllables; it is One Word spoken eternally once and for all. The eternal Word of God must be communicated to us in human words, because we abide in space and time. But human words take place in a certain culture that has political, social, religious, linguistic, and anthropological settings. Therefore, God’s eternal Word must have a time sequence when expressed in human words.

God’s Word expressed in human words is authentic: The Word of God can still be authentically communicated to us respecting the human limitations and time sequence. The expression of God’s Word in human words is true, authentic, and valid because it respects God’s status in comparison to ours. The compatibility between the eternal Word of God and its expression in the Bible is also based on the fact that God truthfully wanted to communicate his Word to us. Since God does not lie, that expression is legitimate even though it cannot capture God’s very essence. Pope Benedict VI states: “The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God.” (Dominus Iesus, 6)

The Bible does not contain all truths about God, the world, and the human person: The Bible has always been the most read book ever in the history of humanity. Unlike Fundamentalism, the Catholic Church believes that the Bible does not encompass all aspects of all truths about God and the human person. At the end of John’s Gospel, we read, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”. (John 21:25) Therefore, the Church must come up with answers to questions whose answers are not in the Bible.

Magisterium continue to explain God’s Word throughout historyThere are many verses and sections of the Bible that are still subject to theological research. Even though the Bible is the Word of God, its understanding and interpretation will continue to progress as time goes on. The Holy Spirit will constantly offer the Church’s Magisterium and theologians new inspirations, new meanings, new interpretations of the content of Holy Scriptures. As she read and reread the Bible, St. Theresa of Lisieux said: “I am always finding fresh lights there; hidden meanings which had meant nothing to me hitherto.” (ms. autob. A 83v.)

The Bible is not a static book; it is a life giving Word that the Spirit will constantly revive in the Church. As the Holy Spirit continues to inspire the Church about understanding God’s Word, the content of that interpretation is what we call Tradition. Vatican II summarizes the work of the Magisterium in this way: “This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” (Dei Verbum, 10)

The Four Ways of Interpreting the Bible

There are four ways of approaching the Bible that we need to keep in mind when we read it. An over simplistic personal interpretation is not adequate because we have to take into consideration the Holy Spirit who inspired Scriptures. It is this Spirit who has been teaching the Church since her birth how to understand the true meaning of God’s Word. Add to that the different cultures and times during which the Bible was written. 

The Literal Sense: Some passages of the Bible should be read and interpreted literally with no symbolic meaning behind them. These are historical events that indicate exactly what they say. Some examples are the last supper (take and eat this is my body, take and drink this is my blood), Jesus walked on the water, Jesus went up to the mountain, Jesus prayed to the Father, etc… When we analyze the literal meaning, we must take into consideration the social, cultural, political, anthropological, religious, and philological context in which Sacred Scriptures were written. We call this exegesis (CCC, 116).

In short terms, exegesis is the use of literary forms and techniques to convey the message of the sacred text. Because the Bible is God’s Word written in human words, these techniques are indispensable for understanding the meaning of the Bible. They were instruments placed at the service of God’s transcendental message in the Bible. it is very important, however, not to get stuck in these techniques and reduce the Word of God to a message in the past: The Word of God must always be read in light of the Church’s teachings and Tradition because of its unity (we call this the analogy of faith).  

An example of exegesis is Mark, 6 where 4 “brothers” of Jesus are mentioned. When a person living in the United States today reads the word “brother”, they immediately think that Jesus Christ had physical brothers from the same mother and father. In Mark, 6, this is not the case. A person from the Middle East who understands its culture would comprehend immediately that Jesus did not have blood brothers. Several reasons:

  • Mary has always been called “the Mother of Jesus” or “his Mother.” There are no other titles in the New Testament except these two. The 4 brothers mentioned in Mark, 6 have a different mother, the Mary mentioned twice at the end of Mark’s Gospel. (See Mark 15:40 and 47).
  • After his resurrection, Jesus told the women to ask “his brothers” (the Apostles) to meet him in Galilee. The Apostles as we all know are not Jesus’ blood brothers.
  • In the tribal system of life during the time of Jesus, all children of the patriarch and the matriarch lived in a tribal system of tents and everyone called everyone “brother”. (Abraham called Lot his brother even though Lot is his nephew.)
  • In Jesus’ culture of honor and shame, Jesus would have never entrusted his mother to John at the foot of the cross if Jesus had brothers. It just does not happen in that culture.

“Canonical Exegesis”Right after the Second Vatican Council, the Church started to adopt “Canonical Exegesis” which reads individual texts in the context of the whole Bible. The historical study of the biblical text should lead to a coherent theology attuned with the Catholic faith of the Church. 

Allegorical Sense: The second sense of Holy Scriptures is allegorical. This approach is symbolic in the sense that a historical event is read in light of Christ. Symbolism is necessary because the Bible has many levels of meaning, and because of the divine and human dimensions of God’s Word. To connect both dimensions, we need images and symbols. For example, the Hebrew’s passing through the Red Sea led by Moses is symbolic of our baptism and our salvation (the human race passing from the land of slavery to the land of freedom or from death to life). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:”We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ.” (CCC, 117)

Moral Sense: The third way of reading Scripture is the moral sense behind the message. From the very beginning of the calling of Israel, God gave the Ten Commandments as the moral code to be followed. This code is as an obligation to the Hebrews. In the New Testament, Jesus perfected the moral code of the Old Testament. Our actions required by Christ, should be the expression of our faith in his Gospel values. Especially in Matthew 5, Jesus confirms the moral act that goes beyond the rigid rules of the Old Testament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The events reported in Scripture are to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written ‘for our instructions’.” (CCC, 117)

Anagogical sense: The fourth sense is anagogical. Everything written in the Bible leads us to our Salvation. All our actions intend to orient us to eternal life. The Church refuses the mere human practices of nirvana and new age where the actions of the human person are reduced to ‘it is good to be good’, with no eternal rewards or reflections on our acts (In these practices the being of the human person becomes nothing after death).

If there is no eternal life, there is no need to carry the cross and no need to do everything that we are doing in our spiritual Catholic life. The Catholic Church believes in the fullness of being after death. Our entire journey with Christ brings us to the perfection of our being in heaven when we share God’s glory. In heaven, the being of the human person will receive its ultimate perfection based on what we have done on earth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland. Thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.” (CCC, 117)

Summary of the four senses: “The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.” (CCC,118)

The Bible is the soul of TheologyOne of the accomplishments of the Second Vatican Council is to invite the Church to go back to the sources of her spiritual life: the celebration of God’s Word. Pope Benedict comments: “The liturgy of the Word had to be restored: the proclamation of the Word of God once more had to call and speak to man.” (Pope Benedict VI, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 32) The Second Vatican Council brought back to life the reading of Holy Scriptures to the point of stating that “the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord.” (Dei Verbum, 21). One last word to invite you to read the Word of God on a daily basis: “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 25)

Dangerous interpretations of the Bible and Important Notes

Inadequate Fundamentalism: Fundamentalism interprets every passage of Scripture literally, ignoring the context of that specific passage. Their approach is inadequate because so many verses in the Bible seem to contradict each other. You read in John 3:16 “God so loved the world….”, and then you read in the letter of St. James (James 4) that those who are lovers of the world are haters and enemies of God. These 2 verses seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. One needs to be very careful in situating passages in their correct context. Therefore, reading Scripture is a life long journey in which one needs to be aware of thousands of years of Tradition, the Fathers of the Church, the Popes, and theologians who contributed to a healthy understanding of the Bible.

When interpreting the Bible using the four senses mentioned above, keep in mindAll the authors of the Bible who used these methods, did not speak as private, self contained subjects. They spoke in a living community and lived in historical moments and were led by higher power, God. Their words, consequently, cannot be reduced to historical messages of the past. Their words transcended the historical moment and opened up “possibilities of its future, of the further stages of its journey.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, XX) The words of these authors transcended themselves in the sense that they contained within themselves a meaning that went way beyond the historic moment and time in which they were written. It is of great importance, as one uses these four senses to interpret the Bible not to lose sight of its dynamic character.

When analyzing the Bible using exegesis, keep in mind: Exegesis analyzes a text in its historical settings: social milieu, language, images, political life, and anthropological context. It “seeks to discover the precise sense the words were intended to convey at their time and place of Origin.”  (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, XX)  However, this approach should not isolate a specific biblical text from the rest of Scripture and should not reduce it to a piece of literature in the past. The Words of the authors may have contained a “deeper value” then what they intended. Those words “transcends the moment in which it is spoken.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, XX)

Reference: Scott Hahn Catholic Bible Dictionary: Catholic Bible Dictionary

By Fr. Anthony Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)

Capítulo 5: La Biblia

 Las enseñanzas en este capítulo se basan en las Escrituras Sagradas, la Tradiciones de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica (CCC)), los Padres de la Iglesia (especialmente San Thomas Aquinas y San Agustín) él Magisterio de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente San Papa Pablo VI, San Papa John Paul II y Papa Benedicto XVI).  

Afirmando a Interpretar las Escrituras: Por siglos, han habido diferentes enfoques para interpretar la Palabra de Dios. Muchas sectas y individuos demandan a tener la interpretación correcta, afirmando haberlo recibido del Espíritu Santo. Estas interpretaciones se contradicen frecuentemente y son inadecuados. Cómo puede inspirar el único Espíritu Santo two interpretaciones que se contradicen? Va contra la lógica humana que dos individuos que dicen ser inspirados por él Espíritu Santo siguen pretendo que sus interpretaciones son justificados, aunque estas interpretaciones son contradictorios. La verdad es exclusiva por carácter.  

La Interpretación de la Biblia de la Iglesia Católica: Jesucristo se revelado completamente a la Bendita Trinidad. Nadie podrá añadir o quitar de esta revelación divina. Sin embargo, el entendimiento y la interpretación de la Divina Revelación seguirá progresando y mejora en la Iglesia hasta el  fin del tiempo. El Espíritu Santo seguirá a clarificar el contenido de la Divina Revelación a la Iglesia. Es por eso que Jesús le dijo a los Apóstoles que cuando él Espíritu Santo viene él se llevará de lo que es mio y los enseñara. Ya que Jesús estableció la Iglesia Católica y mandó el Espíritu Santo a continuar a enseñarle la verdad sobre Dios y el mundo, la Iglesia Católica tiene la prerrogativa de interpretar la Escritura de acuerdo la sientido intendido por su fundador, Jesús. De hecho, por siglos los Padres de la Iglesia, el Magisterio,y expertos en las Escrituras Sagradas han ininterrumpidamente buscado a interpretar la Palabra de Dios de acuerdo a lo que el Espíritu Santo quiso revelar. Entendiendo la Biblia es un proceso histórico que siguiera tomando lugar hasta el fin del tiempo.  

Reclamos Individuos de Interpretar las Escrituras: Por los últimos dos mil años la Iglesia Católica ha adoptado, tomado, analizado, estudiado, liedo, contemplado, y meditado de la Palabra de Dios. Debajo los propicios del Magisterio, que tiene la tarea principal de proteger la Palabra de Dios contra interpretaciones falsas, la Iglesia Católica ha desarrollado una teología espiritual que tenemos hoy.

Uno no puede simplemente reclamar ser lleno del Espíritu Santo y de repente interpretar la Biblia en la forma en que ellos siente. Porque la mente humana es sujeto a los errores y delusiones, Jesús encargó a la Llaves del Reino a San Pedro en orden a proteger la Iglesia de la interpretaciones caprichosas. Le como San Pablo impulso Timothy (2 Timothy 2:14-26) ser cuidadoso de las enseñanzas falsas y interpretaciones de la Palabra de Dios. Un ejemplo para ilustrar el peligro detrás de interpretaciones individualistas. Un ejemplo para ilustrar el peligro detrás de interpretaciones individualistas al azar. Uno afirma estar lleno del Espíritu Santo y entiende que Juan, 6 (Jesús habla de su Cuerpo y Sangre como comida y bebida verdadera ) es simbólico. La Iglesia, que afirma ser llena del Espíritu Santo, le este capítulo apuntando al verdadero cuerpo y la sangre de Jesucristo (Juan 6:66 relata que muchos discípulos dejaron a Jesús porque insistía en que era su cuerpo y su sangre). El Solo Espíritu Santo de la verdad no puede inspirar dos enseñanzas contradictorias. Uno debe ser sincero y el otro falso. Ya que Jesucristo estableció la Iglesia Católica y derramó su Espíritu Santo sobre ella, la Iglesia tiene las interpretaciones correctas. 

           El Antiguo y Nuevo Testamentos son la Palabra de Dios: Desde su nacimiento en Domingo de Pentecostés, la Iglesia siempre ha enseñado que él Antiguo y Nuevo Testamento son la Palabra de Dios. El proceso de determinando cuáles libros son la Palabra de Dios(Libros Canónico de la Biblia) fue confirmado en varias juntas muchos siglos después de la resurrección de Jesús. Libros Apócrifo que fueron escritos en los primeros siglos afirmaban ser la Palabra de Dios. Ellos nos daban ideas históricas sobre los elementos de la vida y Fe de la Iglesia pero fueron rechazados por la Iglesia de ser la Palabra de Dios. Son considerados testigos históricos con cierto valor. El largo proceso histórico de estableciendo el Antiguo Testamento enseña cómo Dios tuvo que lidiar con la mentalidad de los tribus de Israel. Este proceso no fue fácil porque la influencia del paganismo fue tan fuerte para que Israel aceptara que exista un Dios que quiera que Israel seguía un código moral. Por ejemplo, si el Antiguo Testamento es la Palabra de Dios, ¿Por qué hay tanta violencia? El ambiente histórico sugiere que Israel tenía que tener carácter agresivo para que las tribus sobrevivan en medio del mundo Pagano. Sí, el Antiguo Testamento sigue siendo la Palabra de Dios, pero se debe leer en el contexto histórico de esa sociedad. La revelación de los Diez Mandamientos fue el primer paso que Dios tomó para cambiar la mentalidad violenta de las tribus en un código moral de no matar.

           La Palabra de Dios en el Antiguo Testamento necesitaba ser cumplido en el Nuevo Testamento cuando Jesús reveló el contenido verdadero y completo de la Palabra de Dios. En el capítulo 5 de Mateo, escuchamos a Jesús decir: “has oído lo que está escrito en el Antiguo Testamento, no mates, pero te digo, también pecas cuando te enojes con tu hermano”. Fue difícil para los Apóstoles de la descendencia Judía seguir un código moral que va más allá de las reglas rígidas del Antiguo Testamento. Este simple ejemplo aclara la complejidad de la interpretación de la Biblia si realmente tenemos la intención de leer en su contexto histórico. 

El Antiguo Testamento es una Sombra y El Nuevo Testamento es la Realidad: El Antiguo Testamento es una Sombra (Palabra de Dios). El Nuevo Testamento es la realidad (Palabra de Dios hecha carne). Si estoy caminando al sol, mi sombra es como el Antiguo Testamento, mi cuerpo es como el Nuevo Testamento. El Antiguo Testamento prepara el Nuevo Testamento; El Nuevo Testamento cumple el Antiguo Testamento. Ya que la Palabra de Dios del Antiguo Testamento se hizo carne, Jesucristo se convierte en la Palabra del Padre. Jesucristo en persona, sus palabras, acciones, presencia, muerte y resurrección, es lo que el Padre quiso decir al mundo (Sermón de San Juan Pablo II dirigiéndose al mundo de la juventud en Chile).  

La Palabra de Dios Escrita en Palabras Humanas: Dios permanece fuera del espacio y el tiempo y, en consecuencia, su Palabra también. Esto se expresa tantas veces cuando leemos en la Biblia que “la Palabra de Dios es eterna”. Entonces, como lo confirma el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica, la Palabra de Dios no es sujeta a composición o sílabas. Es sola Palabra hablada eternamente de una vez por todas. La Palabra eterna de Dios debe ser comunicada a nosotros en palabras humanas, porque permanecemos en el espacio y el tiempo. Pero las palabras humanas tienen lugar en una determinada cultura que tiene escenas políticos, sociales, religiosos, lingüísticos y antropológicos. Esto nomas puede suceder cuando usamos el principio de analogía, solamente antológicamente se pueden las palabras humanas expresar la  Palabra de Dios. Esta expresión es verdadera, auténtica y válida porque respeta el estado de Dios en comparación con el nuestro. Esta compatibilidad entre la Palabra eterna de Dios y su expresión en la Biblia también se basa en el hecho de que Dios sinceramente quería comunicar su Palabra y Dios no miente. 

La Biblia no Contiene Todo Sobre Dios y la Persona Humana:  La Biblia siempre ha sido el libro más leído en la historia de la humanidad. A diferencia del fundamentalismo, la Iglesia Católica cree que la Biblia no contiene todos los aspectos de todas las verdades sobre Dios y la persona humana. Al final del Evangelio de San Juan, por ejemplo, leemos que Jesús hizo y dijo muchas cosas que no estaban escritas en este libro; si fuera escrito el mundo no podría mantener lo que Jesús dijo y hizo.
Hay muchos versículos y secciones de la Biblia que aún están sujetos a la investigación teológica, porque a pesar de que la Biblia es la palabra de Dios, su comprensión y interpretación continuarán progresando a medida que pase el tiempo. El Espíritu Santo constantemente ofrecerá al Magisterio y teólogos de la Iglesia nuevas inspiraciones, nuevos significados, nuevas interpretaciones del contenido de las Sagradas Escrituras. La Biblia no es un libro estático; es una Palabra que da vida que el Espíritu renovará constantemente en la Iglesia.

Las Cuatro Formas de Interpretar las Sagradas Escrituras: Hay cuatro formas de acercarse a la Biblia que debemos tener en cuenta cuando leemos. Una interpretación demasiado simplista no es adecuada porque tenemos que tomar en consideración al Espíritu Santo que inspiró las Escrituras, así como al esfuerzo de la Iglesia de miles de años de la iglesia dirigidos desde el principio a comprender el significado detrás de la inspiración del Espíritu. Agregue a eso las diferentes culturas y tiempos durante los cuales se escribió la Biblia.    

El Censo Literal: Algunas partes de la Biblia deben leerse y interpretarse literalmente sin ningún significado simbólico detrás de ella. Estos son eventos históricos que indican exactamente lo que dicen. Otros ejemplos son la última cena (toma y come esto es mi cuerpo, toma y bebe esta es mi sangre), Jesús caminó sobre el agua, Jesús subió la montaña, Jesús oró al Padre, etc. Cuando analizamos el sentido literal , debemos tener en cuenta el ambiente social, cultural, político, antropológico, religioso y filológico en el que las Sagradas Escrituras fueron escritos. Llamamos esto exégesis. 

Un ejemplo de exégesis es Marcos, 6 donde se mencionan 4 “hermanos” de Jesús. Cuando una persona que vive en los Estados Unidos lee la palabra “hermano”, inmediatamente piensan que Jesucristo tenía hermanos físicos de la misma madre y padre. En Marcos, 6, este no es el caso. Una persona de Medio Oriente quien entiende su cultura comprendería de inmediato que Jesús no tenía hermanos de sangre. Muchas razones:

  • María siempre se ha llamado “la Madre de Jesús” o “su Madre”. No hay otros títulos en el Nuevo Testamento, excepto estos dos. Los 4 hermanos mencionados en Marcos, 6 tienen una María diferente mencionada dos veces al final del Evangelio de Marcos. La madre de los 4 hermanos es una María diferente
  • En la cultura de honor y vergüenza de Jesús, Jesús nunca habría confiado a su madre a Juan al pie de la cruz si Jesús tuviera hermanos. Eso simplemente no sucede en esa cultura.
  • Después de su resurrección, Jesús le dijo a las mujeres que le preguntaran a sus “hermanos” (los Apóstoles) que lo encontraran en Galilea. Los Apóstoles son todo que conocemos de los hermanos de sangre de Jesús.
  • En el sistema tribal de la vida durante el tiempo de Jesús, todos los hijos del patriarca y la matriarca vivían en un sistema tribal de carpas y se llamaban uno al otro “hermanos” (Abraham llamaba a Lot su hermano a pesar de que Lot era su sobrino). 

           Censo Alegórico: La segunda forma de leer las Escrituras es la alegoría. Este acercamiento es simbólico en el sentido de que un evento histórico se lee a la luz de Cristo. El simbolismo es necesario porque la Biblia tiene varios niveles de significado y debido a las dimensiones divinas y humanas de la Palabra de Dios. Para conectar ambas dimensiones, necesitamos imágenes y símbolos. Por ejemplo, el paso por el Mar Rojo de Moisés y los hebreos es un símbolo de nuestro bautismo y nuestra salvación (la raza humana que pasa de la tierra de la esclavitud a la tierra de la libertad). El Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica dice: “Podemos adquirir una comprensión más profunda de los eventos al reconocer su significado en Cristo”. 

Censo Moral: La tercera forma de leer las Escrituras es el sentido moral detrás del mensaje. Desde el comienzo de la vocación de Israel, Dios dio los diez mandamientos: son el código moral que debe seguirse como la obligación de los hebreos en el Antiguo Testamento. En el Nuevo Testamento, Jesús perfeccionó el sentido moral del mensaje del Antiguo Testamento. Un joven vino a Jesús y le preguntó qué debería hacer para heredar la vida eterna. Especialmente en Mateo, 5 Jesús confirma el acto moral que va más allá de los roles rígidos del Antiguo Testamento. El Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica enseña: “Los eventos reportados en las Escrituras nos llevan a actuar con justicia. Como dice San Pablo, fueron escritos ‘para nuestras instrucciones'”. 

Sentido anagógico: El cuarto sentido es anagógico. Todo lo que está escrito en la Biblia nos lleva a nuestra salvación. Todas nuestras acciones tienen la intención de orientarnos hacia la vida eterna. La Iglesia rechaza las meras prácticas humanas del nirvana y la nueva era donde las acciones de la persona humana se reducen a “es bueno ser bueno”, sin recompensas ni reflejos eternos sobre nuestros actos (en estas prácticas el ser de la persona humana se convierte en nada después de la muerte). Si no hay vida eterna, no hay necesidad de llevar la cruz y no hay necesidad de hacer todo lo que estamos haciendo en nuestra vida Católica espiritual. La Iglesia Católica cree en la plenitud del ser después de la muerte: nuestro viaje entero con Cristo nos lleva a la perfección de nuestro ser en el cielo cuando compartimos la gloria de Dios. En el cielo, el ser de la persona humana recibirá su máxima perfección en base a lo que hemos hecho en la tierra. El Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica enseña: “Podemos ver las realidades y los eventos en términos de su significado eterno, guiándonos hacia nuestra verdadera patria: así la Iglesia en la tierra es un signo de la Jerusalén celestial”. 

El Sumario de los Cuatro Sentidos: La Carta dice de los andanzas; Alegoría a la fe; El Moral de cómo comportarse; Anagogia nuestro destino.

Fundamentalismo Inadecuado: El fundamentalismo literalmente interpreta cada pasaje de las Escrituras ignorando el contexto de ese pasaje específico. Su enfoque es inadecuado porque tantos versículos en la Biblia parecen contradecirse. Cuando uno lee en Juan 3:16 que Dios amó tanto al mundo y luego le en la carta de San Pedro, los que son amantes del mundo son aborrecedores y enemigos de Dios. Uno debe ser muy cuidadoso al ubicar los pasajes en su contexto correcto. Entonces, leer las Escrituras es un viaje de toda la vida en el que uno debe conocer 2,000 años de Tradición, los padres de la iglesia, los Papas y los teólogos que contribuyeron a una comprensión sana de la Biblia

By Fr. Antoine (Anthony) Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)