Bible Catechism – Lesson 17

Materials Used In Composing The Bible

1. What has become of the original copies of the Bible?

They have been either destroyed or lost.

2. What were the causes of destruction or loss?

Many, particularly persecution and the fragility of the materials used, which did not withstand the ravages of time.

3. How was persecution a cause for the loss or destruction of the originals?

Sometimes the Christians themselves destroyed the original to prevent profanation at the hands of the pagan persecutors; some other times they were found and destroyed by the pagans. The persecution of Decius (Roman Emperor from 249 to 251) was particularly vicious in this regard.

4. If the originals have been lost, how do we know whether what we possess now are accurate copies?

We know from Tradition, History and the teaching authority of the Church, that we possess accurate copies of the originals.

5. What material was used in the writing of the Bible?

Before the invention of paper, papyrus, and vellum or parchment were used.

6. What is papyrus?

Papyrus is the substance made from reeds of bull-rushes; a plant particularly abundant in the valley of the Nile in Egypt. Two layers were placed at right angles to each other and glued together. It was used mainly before the Christian era.

7. What is parchment or vellum?

The skin of animals, preferably goats and calves, especially prepared for writing.

8. What was used in lieu of a pen?

For writing on papyrus, reeds were used, and for vellum, a stylus or metal pen.

9. Were the books of the Bible bound as are our books?

No, they were rolled around a stick, hence we read of Our Lord rolling and unrolling the Scriptures in the Temple. When documents are in that form (rolled), they are usually called scrolls.

10. What style of writing was used?

Up to around the third century A.D. only capital letters were used. There was no separation between words, no division between chapters, and no division between verses. This style was called the Uncial style.

11. What style was used after the third century A.D.?

The style known as the Cursive style. There was still no spacing between words, but capitals were introduced at the beginning of sentences.

12. When were the books divided into chapters?

This was done by Stephen Langton (+ 1228). Chancellor of the University of Paris until 1213, when he became Archbishop of Canterbury (England).

13. When were the chapters divided into verses?

Even more recently; this was done by the French printer Robert Estienne (1503-1559).

14. What was the first book printed after the invention of the printing press?

The first book printed around 1455 by Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, was the Catholic Bible in Latin (Vulgate). It has been a best-seller ever since.

Bible Catechism – Lesson 16

Lesson 16:
Differences Between Catholic And Protestant Versions

1. Does the Catholic version of the Bible differ from Protestant versions?

Yes, in many ways.

2. What is the most noticeable difference?

The most noticeable difference is the absence of seven whole books and parts of two others from the Protestant versions.

3. What books are not contained in the Protestant version?

The Deutero-Canonical Books (See lesson 6).

4. Why are the Deutero-Canonical Books Omitted by Protestants?

Because the Protestant versions of the Bible follow the late Palestinian version of the Bible, which also omits these books (See lesson 8).

5. Name another difference between the Catholic and Protestant versions.

Many important arbitrary changes are found in the texts of the Protestant Bible. According to some scholars, the most popular Protestant Bibles have literally hundreds of mistranslations, additions and omissions.

6. To what do such changes of text lead?

They lead to an entirely different interpretation from the one intended by the Sacred Writer.

7. Give an example of this change of text.

St Paul says, “… Being therefore justified by Faith …” (Rom. V, 1), and Luther inserted the word “alone” so that the text reads, “Being therefore justified by faith alone.”

8. Why were the Reformers so anxious to change texts?

They were anxious to change texts to give force to the particular doctrine of their choice.

9. Should that behavior of the Reformers raise some questions in our mind?

Yes, what did they believe exactly concerning the Bible? Either they did not believe it was the Word of God, and therefore felt free to change it any which way; or if they did believe it was the Word of God, it took a lot of pride and presumption to correct God’s word. In either case, they should be called “Deformers” rather than Reformers.

10. Name other differences between the King James version and the Douay version.

The King James version has a preference for words of Anglo-Saxon origin whereas the Douay version freely uses words of Latin origin. The Douay version latinizes the name of some books while the King James gives what they thought at the time to be the Hebrew name. Many Protestant versions other than King James omit the Epistle of St. James. 

Bible Catechism – Lesson 15

Lesson 15:
Reading The Bible

1. Are we under any obligation to read the Bible?

We are under no obligation to read the Bible.

2. Are Catholics forbidden to read the Bible?

By no means; on the contrary, all Catholics are urged to read the Bible.

3. Besides ordinary benefits, what do those gain who read portions of the Bible every day?

“A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due to the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour.” (Enchiridion of Indulgences. Authorized English edition. 1969. Catholic Book Publishers. New York. Page 68. # 50)

4. Is the Bible ever read for Catholics?

During every single Mass of every single day, portions of one of the Gospels and of some other book of the Bible, often the Epistles, are read. Many of the prayers of the Missal come from the Bible.

5. Who is bound to read the Bible daily?

All those who have received Major Orders, and those belonging to certain orders of monks or nuns, are bound to read parts of the Bible daily.

6. What is such reading called?

It is called “saying the Holy Office” or “reciting the Breviary.”

7. What portions of the Bible are read by those who are bound to it?

In the course of the week the complete Book of the Psalms is read, while in the course of the year a good part of the Bible, together with commentaries of some parts, is read.

8. Is the reading of the Bible profitable?

The reading of the Bible is most profitable, for such readings elevate our thoughts and lift them nearer to God.

9. In what spirit should the Bible be read?

It should be read in the spirit in which it was written, i.e., not out of idle curiosity or for the sake of the language and literature, but humbly and devoutly, for instruction and enlightenment.

10. May Catholics read any version of the Bible they choose?

No; Catholics are forbidden to read false versions, just as they are forbidden to read bad books. The same principle is to be applied by analogy to many so-called “Modern Catholic” versions of the Bible because they depart considerably from the only official Bible of the Church, which is the Vulgate, and they were written with a Modernist and Ecumenical motivation, more aimed at pacifying Protestants than for the edification of the Catholic faithful.

11. How is the Bible read most profitably?

Either under a professor’s guidance or with the aid of a reliable commentary. 

Bible Catechism – Lesson 14

Lesson 14:
Interpreting The Bible

1. Is the meaning of the Bible so clear that anyone reading it, can readily understand it?

The Bible is by no means so easily understood: St. Peter himself tells us that it contains many things: “… hard to be understood …” (II Pet. III,16).

2. Whom do we have to interpret the Bible for us?

The Catholic Church interprets the Bible for us.

3. Is it natural that we should have a guide in interpreting the Bible?

Quite natural, just as in America, we have the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution of the United States. The difference is that the Church is infallible and the Supreme Court is not!

4. So the Church cannot make mistakes in interpreting the Bible?

No, for she is under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

5. How does that guidance manifest itself?

Through Tradition, the teachings of the Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, and of learned men.

6. Do Protestants acknowledge the interpretation of the Church or of any other authority?

No; Protestants hold that anyone who reads the Bible in the proper spirit will be guided by the Holy Ghost in interpretation.

7. Is this belief of Protestants a sensible one?

No; it is against the Bible, against Tradition, against reason.

8. How is it against reason?

Because the result of this belief has been that, as many interpretations exist as there are individual thinkers, and many of these interpretations contradict each other; since the Holy Ghost cannot contradict Himself, He cannot be the guide of these interpretations, and therefore, this belief of these Protestants is false.

9. How is it against Tradition?

The constant Tradition of the Church since Apostolic times is that the proper interpretation of the Word of God belongs to the Church founded by Him, i.e., the Catholic Church; and as St Paul tells us, we have to: “… stand fast: and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle. …” (II Thes. II, 14).

10. How is it against the Bible?

St. Peter warns us that in the Bible, there are: “… things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. …” (II Pet. III,16). Now, if the Holy Ghost was inspiring personally, every individual reader of Scripture, what St Peter tells us would be impossible, because obviously, no one can read the Bible for their own destruction, and be inspired by the Holy Ghost at the same time. Since it is certain that St Peter was inspired by the Holy Ghost when he wrote that, it means that there is no personal inspiration from the Holy Ghost while reading the Bible; and that this Protestant belief cannot be true, since it contradicts the Bible.

11. Is the accusation that Catholics have no freedom of interpretation in biblical matters true?

In a material or literal sense, it is true, exactly as in any well-regulated society, nobody has the “freedom” to kill, maim, and loot. In a spiritual sense, it is quite the opposite, for St. John reminds us that: “… the truth shall make you free …” (Jn. VIII, 32), and thanks to the vigilance of the Church, Catholics do enjoy freedom from error, which cannot be the case with the Protestants. 


Bible Catechism – Lesson 13

Lesson 13:
The Bible And History

1. Is the Bible an historical book?

The Bible is not an historical book per se; it is primarily a religious book; but it does contain a certain amount of historical teaching, which benefits from inerrancy, like all the rest of the Bible.

2. Why would historical teachings benefit from inerrancy?

A great number of historical facts are intimately united to our Faith in such a way that one cannot deny the historical facts in the Bible, without denying the Faith.

3. Give an example of such a connection between our faith and history.

The historical fact of the Resurrection of Our Lord cannot be denied without denying our Faith at the same time, for: “… If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain …” (I Cor. XV, 14).

4. How are we to account for the apparent contradictions between the Bible and history?

There are several reasons which account for these apparent contradictions:
– Most of the time the apparent contradiction is due, either to a poor understanding of the text, or to a poor understanding of the context.
– When this is not the case and we have historical sources which contradict the Bible, it is the Bible which, time after time, is finally proven right.

5. Give an example of the Bible being proven right against historians.

Barely two hundred years ago, most of the non-Catholic historians denied the existence of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, because the only known historical references of the time came from the Bible. The archaeological excavations of the last century not only proved the existence of both empires, but located their capital cities: Babylon and Ninive. No self-respecting historian will doubt the existence of these civilizations now.

6. So the Bible is always historically correct?

Yes, it is undoubtedly better to take God at His Word, than any self-proclaimed “Expert historian.” Most of the historians who cling to an historical interpretation which contradict the Bible, do so because of their religious prejudices, and not for any serious historical or scientific reasons.

7. Can history be of any help to the study of the Holy Scriptures?

Yes; a good historical background is very useful for a proper understanding of many parts of the Bible.

8. Is the Bible helpful in the study of history?

Yes: both as an historical source and as a guideline to avoid errors. 


Bible Catechism – Lesson 12

Lesson 12:
The Bible And Science

1. Is the Bible a book of science?

The Bible is not a book of science, and was never intended to answer the purpose of a book of science.

2. Does the Bible teach anything that has to do with science?

Yes, the Bible mentions many things that have to do with science.

3. Name one biblical account that touches on science.

The account of the Creation in the Book of Genesis touches on many branches of science.

4. Does not the Bible contain many things that science has proved false?

Since God is the author of the Bible and also, the foundation of true science, the Bible cannot err when it touches on science.

5. How, then, are we to account for the apparent contradictions between the Bible and science?

In many ways, for example: some so-called scientific findings are false; others are mere unsubstantiated theories (Evolution); while still others, when properly examined, do not contradict the biblical narrative.

6. Is not the Bible statement that the sun stood still in the heavens (Jos. 10, 13) an example of obvious error?

No, we must remember that the Bible was written in every-day language of the time, not in scientific terms. Even to this day, for example, we speak of sunset even though the sun is not setting anywhere and we know that the Earth is turning around the Sun and not vice-versa.

7. Can one be a great scientist and still be a firm believer in the Bible?

Yes, there have been and are now many great Catholic scientists, believing firmly in the Bible.

8. Name some scientists who, at the same time, believed firmly in the Bible.

Copernicus (a priest), Pascal, Gauss, Ampere, Pasteur, Marconi, to name just a few.

9. Does the Catholic Church discourage the study of science as being opposed to the Bible?

Nonsense; on the contrary, the Catholic Church has always encouraged science; some of her most eminent children have also been leaders in science.

10. Can science be of any help to Bible study?

True science can help Bible study in interpreting some difficult passages.

11. Is the Bible helpful in the study of science?

As a lighthouse helps a ship at sea, so does the Bible help scientists. 


Bible Catechism – Lesson 9

Lesson 9:
The Septuagint Version

1. Who were the translators of the Old Testament?

The translators of the Old Testament were Jewish scholars well acquainted with both the Hebrew and the Greek languages.

2. By what name is this translation known?

It is known as the Septuagint Version.

3. Why is it called by that name?

It is called by that name because it was commonly supposed that seventy scholars were employed in the work of translating.

4. Was it known by any other name besides that of the Septuagint?

It was known as the Alexandrian Version to distinguish it from the Hebrew or Palestinian Version.

5. Why was it known as the “Alexandrian Bible?”

Because this translation was made in Alexandria, Egypt, which had the biggest and most vibrant Jewish community outside of Israel.

6. Is there any other difference between the Septuagint and the Palestinian version, besides their language?

Several; The Septuagint contains more books than the Palestinian version and is about three hundred years older. The Palestinian Version originated approximately around 106 A.D. and is different from the Hebrew texts that were the basis for the Septuagint translation.

7. Why does the Septuagint have more books than the Palestinian version?

The translators had a well-founded belief that these books were inspired.

8. Were these added books accepted by the Hebrews?

Yes, but only up until 106 A.D., when the Palestinian, known also as the pharisaic version, became the norm.

9. Was the Septuagint Version much in use in Our Lord’s time?

It was used not only by the Greek-speaking Jews but also by the Palestinian Jews; Our Lord and the Apostles frequently quoted it.

10. Did this Greek translation of the Bible help to spread Christianity?

It helped very much, because Gentiles, particularly the Greek philosophers, had read it, and had knowledge of the prophecies referring to the Messiah, with the result that when St. Paul preached to them, many converts were made. 

Bible Catechism – Lesson 11

Lesson 11:
The Douay Bible

1. Is there a Catholic translation of the Bible in English?

Yes, it is the translation known as the Douay-Rheims Version. It was translated from the Latin Vulgate.

2. Why is it called “Douay-Rheims”?

Because it was begun at Rheims and finished at Douay in 1582-1609 by a group of English priests exiled in France.

3. What happened in the sixteenth century to cause the publication of a reliable and accurate translation?

During the Protestant “Deformation” in England many false translations had been made, hence there was great necessity of placing in the hands of Catholics a reliable and accurate translation.

4. Is it true that the Bible was never translated into vernacular languages before the Protestant Deformation?

It is not true; the first translation known in England was the translation into Anglo-Saxon made by Venerable Bede in the eighth century. There is a Gothic translation, made by a certain bishop Ulfilas around 380. The first German translation predates Luther by a good fifty years.

5. Why do Protestants assert that the Bible was never translated before the Deformation?

Through a mixture of ignorance and bad faith.

6. What is the most well known of the false English Protestant translations?

It is the version called the “King James,” named after the King who commissioned it in 1604. It was finished in 1611. It is still the most popular of the Protestant Bibles in the English speaking world.

7. What is wrong with the “King James” version?

Like all the Protestant Bibles, it is incomplete and poorly translated. It is a “Pick and choose” version. Such is the real lack of respect of the “Reformers” for the word of God! 


Bible Catechism – Lesson 8

Lesson 8:
The Languages Of The Bible

1. Were all the books of the Bible originally written in one language?

No, besides Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic were used.

2. What books were written in Hebrew?

Almost all the books of the Old Testament.

3. What books were written in Greek?

In the Old Testament, the Second Book of Machabees and the Book of Wisdom; in the New Testament, all books except the Gospel of St. Matthew.

4. What books were written in Aramaic?

The Gospel of St. Matthew.

5. When were the books of the Old Testament, that were originally written in Hebrew, translated into Greek?

About 220 years before Christ.

6. Why was the translation from Hebrew into Greek made?

Because the Jewish people was dispersed into countries where the Greek tongue predominated, and so it gradually forgot the mother tongue, speaking only Greek. Hence the wish to have the Bible in the Greek tongue. 

Bible Catechism – Lesson 7

Lesson 7:
The Bible And Tradition

1. Do we not have in the Bible books written by authors, other than the Apostles?

We have, but these authors lived in apostolic times and merely recorded the words and deeds of the Apostles themselves.

2. Why does the Church not admit any books except those of Apostolic origin?

The Church does not accept any book not of Apostolic origin because the Deposit of Faith was completed with the death of the last Apostle (St. John).

3. Why does the Church require that a book should be in harmony with Tradition?

She requires that a book be in harmony with Tradition because the Gospel had already been preached before a word of the New Testament was ever written.

4. Are there in the Bible any books whose inspiration was doubted by some for a time?

Yes, the Second Epistle of St Peter, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse.

5. Are there any books not found in the Bible today which for a time were thought by some to be inspired?

Yes, namely the “Gospel of St. James,” the “Gospel of St. Thomas,” the “Acts of St. Paul,” amongst many others.

6. What happened to these books once thought to be inspired?

They were rejected as spurious. It does not mean necessarily that these books are bad; it simply means that they are not part of the Bible because they were not inspired by the Holy Ghost; they are what we Catholics call “Apocrypha” or “Apocryphal books.” The Protestants erroneously give the name “Apocrypha” to the Deutero-Canonical books.

7. What does this attitude of the Church prove?

This attitude proves, amongst other things, that the Church sifts everything carefully before approving or rejecting.

8. What do we mean by Tradition?

By Tradition we mean that body of doctrine which has been handed down to us, alongside the doctrine clearly taught in the Bible.

9. Who has handed down Tradition?

The Church, through her teaching office (Also called “Magisterium”), has handed down Tradition.

10. What guarantee have we that Tradition is not false?

We have the guarantee of Christ in His statement that the Church would not err in teaching.

11. Does the Bible then, not contain all Christian revelation?

No, and it was never intended that it should.

12. What proof do we have that the Bible does not contain the complete Deposit of Faith?

There is the fact that Christ commissioned His Apostles to “Preach and teach” (Mt. 28, 19), whereas no mention of “Writing” is found; furthermore, the Gospel was widely spread before a single word of the New Testament was ever written.

13. What further Scriptural proof have we that the Bible does not contain the complete Deposit of Faith?

The words of St. John that conclude his Gospel, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written” (Jn. 21, 25).

14. What view do Protestants hold about the Deposit of Faith?

Protestants hold that all things necessary for salvation are found in the Bible. To quote Luther: “The Bible and the Bible only.”

15. Do Protestants ignore Tradition?

Totally, and in this they are illogical, for it is by Tradition that we know what the Bible contains.

16. What is the Catholic view of the Bible and Tradition?

That, while the Bible is the chief source, it is neither the only nor the original source of our knowledge of Revelation.

17. To what may we compare the relation between the Bible and Tradition?

We may compare it to a professor’s textbooks and his lectures; as a professor’s lectures in the classroom, and his textbooks clarify each other, so does the Bible clarify Tradition and is clarified by it in turn.

18. Has Tradition aided the Bible in other ways?

Yes, it has preserved the Bible and has helped the Church to sift the true from the false, and has kept us from false interpretation.