A Blast from the past: While I'm on vacation I am reposting some of my old posts. This post about the Bible had a comment that was very interesting and I responded in another comment. Enjoy!
I love the Bible (I also like to call it Scripture). It is the inspired word of God. The truths of my faith are reinforced by it. The Bible began as a collection of ancient texts that our Jewish brothers and sisters used in their prayer, study and worship. In the beginning of the Christian church, the same texts were used (the Old Testament) and then the New Testament came along: letters from Paul and others, the Gospel accounts (according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). In fact, at some point, the leaders of the church got together and, based on the faith being practiced (Tradition), decided which books should even be in the Bible and in what order. It did not just fall out of thin air. The writings come from many different authors in many different time periods. These are the ancient texts and teachings of my faith, but they are not the only source of God’s word and revelation.
As a Catholic, I have three sources that outline my beliefs. These sources never contradict each other but they do help to explain each other: 1. Scripture (the earliest writings at the beginnings of Christianity), 2. Tradition (the practice of faith that is passed down but not necessarily written), 3. Teaching Authority (the teachers of the church such as cardinals and bishops).
The Bible is written by humans in a specific time and place. There are truths in the Bible because it is the inspired word of God. However, I don’t believe it was dictated by God and so every word is not necessarily the absolute TRUTH. It is important to understand the historical and cultural context of the words written in order to better understand their meaning. A friend of mine described it as looking through muddled glass. God, as pure light, shines through the muddled glass of the human writing. Sometimes the words can be shaded a little bit, other times God shines right through.
How can I decide what is Truth and what may be muddled by human interpretation when I read or hear Scripture?
That’s the job of Tradition and the Teaching Authority. The teachers of the church study Scripture and Tradition to make sure everything lines up and makes sense according to God’s final, and full revelation (what Jesus taught on earth).
With this understanding of the Bible, I can still read and interpret Scripture for myself in a personal and prayerful way, and I do. I just don’t base all my beliefs on that one source.