One of Bevil Bramwell‘s books entitled Catholics Read the Scriptures is a commentary about Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini. In this book, the author-priest unpacks the meaning and importance of the scriptures to the people so they can familiarize their content.

Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation that deals with how the Catholic church and its people should approach and connect with the Bible. Its readers are reminded about their relationship with God and how it depends on growing familiarity with His word, thus posing why Christians need to read or be familiar with the Bible. The Bible is a complex compilation of stories and teachings of Jesus. Nowadays, Christians use the Bible to guide them on how they can live their lives in the way God would want them to.

According to Pope Benedict’s exhortation, these scriptures can’t be appropriately understood outside the church. Its interpretation isn’t a personal matter, and doing so may lead to misconceptions. Everyone is free and encouraged to read the Bible since it was written for the people of God. So, how should you read it?

First, choose a version

The Bible was originally in Hebrew and Greek. Today, to cater to a more significant population, there are already many translated versions of the original. The downside is that readers need to decide what kind of translation they prefer. Some Bibles are more precise, while others are more watered down and translated for easier readability. As readers, one needs to choose which version they can understand and read easier correctly.

Pick a specific book to read

Once readers have chosen which version of the Bible to read, it’s now time to choose where to focus. The Bible, as mentioned, is composed of multiple books by multiple writers – each with varying stories and teachings. If one is a beginner, reading the Bible might become intimidating once presented with such a selection.

But the good news is, one doesn’t necessarily have to start from the very beginning and finish the whole Bible until the end. From the many books, they can choose which they’re most interested in or the particular book that resonates with them and focus on finishing that before proceeding to the next book.

Try to read it every day

When reading the Bible, rather than the quantity, what’s important is that the reader understands and puts what they are reading to heart. With this, sometimes less is better, especially since one can understand more by reading less.

Reading the Bible every day is better than reading a lot of it in one night. One can also add it into their routine by allotting a specific time of the day and practicing to do it habitually. One should choose the most convenient time, so reading won’t feel like a burden or something that makes their day more difficult.

Pray before reading

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek and find me if you seek me with all your heart.”

If one reads the Bible to seek God for guidance, it’s better to pray sincerely and call Him before opening the Bible. If one has troubles, the Bible can be one of the places they can run to. It’s filled with God’s words and teachings to help direct or re-direct its readers. If one sincerely asks Him for help, the Bible can be one way for Him to reach out and answer.

Given these, some Christians believe that circumstances and teachings in the Bible are unchanging and, therefore, can be applied directly in all situations in today’s generation. Christians assume that they need to abide by everything reflected in the Bible and believe that this will judge them in the afterlife.

However, as Pope Benedict mentioned, there can be instances where personal interpretations of the Bible are wrong.

One of the significances of the Bible in its reader’s life is that they can gain lessons from the stories narrated in the material. But, most of the time, it isn’t easy extracting the moral to these stories unless it’s indicated in the text. This can lead to misconceptions about these stories. For instance, God’s guidance of the Israelites through the wilderness can be misinterpreted as a similar way he guides the reader to achieve a particular opportunity in their life. Some stories shouldn’t be interpreted and directly applied to one’s life.

There are instances when these narratives are perceived as established ways or methods rather than merely descriptive stories. The stories in the Bible tell us what happened before, not what should have happened or what needs to happen in our lives today. For example, how Christians before lived in the Bible isn’t necessarily the proper way to live now. The Bible mentions that the first believers met every day in temples. This doesn’t mean that today’s Christians also need to meet and worship in one place and that failure to do so is a sin against God.

While it’s God’s means of communicating to us, the Bible shouldn’t be strictly and directly applied to people’s lives. While Catholics need to rely upon God’s words to grow closer to Him, this custom still has limitations.

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