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?
– 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most of the non-Catholic historians denied the existence of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, because the only known historical references of the time came from the Bible.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?
2 Samuel 5:1-3
David is anointed king.
Enter the house of the Lord rejoicing.
Hymn to Jesus as the first-born of all creation.
Jesus is crucified under the title King of the Jews.
Gospel LK 23:35-43
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today as a Church, we conclude our liturgical year and celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel we proclaim shows the great mystery of our faith: In the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus is shown to be King and Savior of all.
Luke’s Gospel has been loaded with surprises: the poor are rich, sinners find salvation, the Kingdom of God is found in our midst. Here we see the greatest surprise of all. We are confronted with the crucified Jesus, whom faith tells us is King and Savior of all. The irony is that the inscription placed on the cross, perhaps in mockery, contains the profoundest of truth. As the leaders jeer, the thief crucified by his side recognizes Jesus as Messiah and King, and finds salvation.
Jesus is King, but not the kind of king we might have imagined or expected. His kingship was hidden from many of his contemporaries, but those who had the eyes of faith were able to see. As modern disciples of Jesus, we, too, struggle at times to recognize Jesus as King. Today’s Gospel invites us to make our own judgment. With eyes of faith, we, too, recognize that Jesus, the crucified One, is indeed King and Savior of all.
Understanding today’s Feast of Christ the King may be particularly challenging. While we may not have a direct experience of kings or royalty, we have some sense of what these mean. We know that royalty have sovereignty over their kingdom. We know that those who are subjects to royalty offer them allegiance and honor. Christ is King in a way that is different from traditional understandings of royalty. Christ’s kingship extends to all places, all people, and all times. Christ manifests his kingship through his death on the Cross, in which he offers salvation to all.
Recall with your children stories that you may have read about royalty. Talk with your children about what they have learned from these stories about what it means to be a king. Talk about what they have learned from these stories about what it means to be a subject.
Tell your children that this Sunday is the last Sunday in the Church Year, and on this Sunday, we celebrate a special feast called the Feast of Christ the King. Read today’s Gospel, Luke 23:35-43. Reflect together on how the various people in this Gospel respond to Jesus on the Cross. Who in this Gospel recognizes Jesus as King? (the thief) What does Jesus promise the thief as a result? (The thief will be with Jesus in paradise.)
Talk about how your family will recognize and honor Christ the King. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to help your family to act in ways that show you recognize and honor Christ as King.
Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings
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?
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
Jewish martyrs give witness to their faith, even unto death.
The just person will live in God’s presence.
2 Thessalonians 2:16—3:5
Paul encourages the Thessalonians and asks for their prayers.
Jesus answers a question from some Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead. (short form Luke 20:27, 34-38)
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out ‘Lord, ‘
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”
Background on the Gospel Reading
In today’s Gospel, we hear about an encounter between Jesus and some Sadducees. The Sadducees were a party of Judaism active in Jesus’ time, descended from the priestly family of Zadok. They were literal interpreters of the written Law of Moses, which means that they were in disagreement with the position of the Pharisees, who offered an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses.
The Sadducees are described in this Gospel as opponents to the belief in resurrection. In the dialogue presented here, we see an example of the means of disputation that was common in first century Judaism. The Sadducees use the example of Levirate marriage, found in the Law of Moses, to disprove belief in the resurrection. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, if a man died without producing an heir, the man’s brother should marry his wife and the offspring of this union would inherit the property and carry on the name of the man who had died. The Sadducees use this as an example to challenge belief in the resurrection.
Jesus argues from the same written Law of Moses to show that there is resurrection. Using the texts from the Book of Exodus (Chapter 3) that describe Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, Jesus shows that God is the God of the living, not the dead. Here Jesus uses the same method and texts of the Sadducees to counter them. As the Gospel text suggests, he beat them at their own game!
More importantly, in this discourse Jesus shows the limits of our imaginations when it comes to eternal life. The Sadducees argued against resurrection because of the limits of earthly existence. They did not imagine another possibility for existence and relationship with God. Jesus proposes that the possibilities of resurrected life are beyond our imaginations. Jesus’ conclusion suggests something else as well: To spend time worrying about resurrected life is to miss the point. The point is eternal relationship with God is possible, for God is the God of the living, “. . . for to him all are alive.”
Children in our culture often know very little about death, dying, and eternal life. Take this opportunity to talk with your children about their thoughts, beliefs, maybe even their fears, about death and dying.
In the Gospel this week, Jesus tells us that after we die, we will not need the same things we did when we were alive, but we will continue to have a relationship with God. You could use the example of a tree to help your children understand what Jesus tells us. When a tree is alive it needs water, soil, and sunlight. When the tree is used to make a table, a toy, or something else it has a new purpose. The tree no longer needs water, soil, or sunlight. Read together the short form of the Gospel, Luke 20:27, 34-38. Tell your children about your hope and faith in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God. Pray together for those in your family who have died and conclude by praying today’s Psalm.
Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings