Scripture, says the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (Dei Verbum 21), is “food for the soul”. Our bodies require a steady diet of good, nutritious food with the array of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs and flavor to discern how God works. As fast food is the death of the human body, so is the lack of knowledge and love for the Scriptures. In the Eastern Church such as our Melkite Church, you can have a steady diet of Scripture by attending the Divine Liturgy, participating in Vespers, or reading Scripture in daily prayer and Lectio Divina.
Through the sacred Scriptures we connect with Christ. Bible study takes seriously the 5th century Church Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Jerome’s maxim: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Hence, we imbibe and abide in the Scriptures. It is no exaggeration to say that every liturgical service of the Catholic Church is full of Scripture; every time we pray the Divine Liturgy or Vespers we pray with God’s Word. Worship, prayer, study and action are intimately connected. There are several things come to mind with regard to the study of the Bible but there is one point in particular that Pope Benedict XVI articulated in a 2010 exhortation on the Word of the Lord which is highlighted below:
We need, then, to discover ever anew the urgency and the beauty of the proclamation of the word for the coming of the Kingdom of God which Christ himself preached. … The Lord offers salvation to men and women in every age. All of us recognize how much the light of Christ needs to illumine every area of human life: the family, schools, culture, work, leisure and the other aspects of social life. It is not a matter of preaching a word of consolation, but rather a word which disrupts, which calls to conversion and which opens the way to an encounter with the one through whom a new humanity flowers.
Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 93
Some resources on the New Testament may be found here (a deeper look at particular books).
Some resources on the Old Testament may be found here (a deeper look at particular books).
Resources for your biblical study (Bibles and studies)
Orthodox Study Bible (2008): This Study Bible is an Eastern Christian published by Thomas Nelson. This edition of the Bible includes commentary drawn from Church Fathers, liturgical readings, icons, maps, book summaries, and a subject index.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament (based on the Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition).
Work with a Bible Dictionary, and not merely with Wikipedia. Words carry a history, specific content/meaning giving a particular direction. Biblical theology, history and culture is thousands of years in the making. Consider these options for your library: Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary or Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index.
The St. Paul Center is a nonprofit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study from the heart of the Church.
The goal is to be a teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of priests who are fluent in the Bible and lay people who are biblically literate. For us, this means more than helping people to know their way around the Bible. It means equipping them to enter into the heart of the living Word of God and to be transformed and renewed by this encounter.
We read the Bible from the heart of the Church, in light of the Church’s Liturgy and living Tradition. In this way, we hope to help people experience the heart-to-heart encounter that Jesus’ disciples experienced on that first Easter night, when they knew Him in the breaking of the bread: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (see Luke 24:13-37)
Consult biblical commentaries as companions. Some options:
1. Lawrence Farley‘s multivolume series on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Plus, he has works on the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus, the Letter to the Hebrews, and the catholic, or general, epistles of the “other apostles” –James, Peter, Jude, and John. You could also work on the OT’s Song of Songs and the Book of Daniel with Farley.
2. Paul Tarazi has written on Genesis, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (including his letters), Paul’s letters (with full volumes on Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Romans, I Thessalonians, and Galatians, along with introductions to the Old and New Testaments.
3. Jeff Cavins and his colleagues at Ascension Press have excellent biblical studies.
May our praying with Scripture, may we be better able to hear what God is saying to us here and now!