To the Editor:

“Born-again” Christian preachers demonstrated at Georgetown’s front gates last Wednesday, warning of the dangers of Catholicism and its inability to lead us to salvation. The event didn’t really draw my attention, except for one thing: a pamphlet they were distributing titled “What Roman Catholics Find When They Study Their Own Bible.”

Catholicism is different from other Christian denominations in that it favors exegesis, or critical interpretation, over the literal reading of Scripture, but this does not hinder our understanding of revelation. Rather, this Catholic approach to the Bible, historically honored by the Jesuits, strengthens my faith by painting a more complete picture

While Luther called for a faith based solely on Scripture, Catholics call on outside sources of knowledge to complement our reading, for varying reasons. One example, recently cited by Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., is that we citizens of the 21st century are far removed from the first-century Hebrew realities of the people Jesus spoke to. Another is that, because the Gospels were written much after the events they describe and have been translated so many times, sometimes we must call on the etymologies of words, as Jesuits frequently do when they preach, to understand the true undertones of the messages that Jesus and the prophets have conveyed across millennia.

As a science student, I’ve learned to think critically about sources and when to trust them, so naturally in some instances I question the Gospels, especially when something doesn’t seem to fit with what I’ve learned about Jesus. This critical approach has really has made a difference in my spirituality; it has strengthened my faith and made me feel more connected with Jesus, the person. My reply to these preachers calling for Catholics to read “their own” Bible is: “Sure! What else should we take a look at?”

Carlos A. Miranda
COL ’17

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One Comment

  1. You are incorrect to claim that your approach is exclusively Catholic. The important thing is to recognize when contextual interpretation crosses over into extrapolation. Have you ever been in a book discussion where people start over-interpreting the literature past the author’s likely intention? That’s what we want to avoid.

    However, if the pamphlet you read is the same as the one I found online, then you are missing the point. The implication is that Catholics don’t read the Bible thoroughly. They go to Mass, read that week’s two short passages from the Old and New Testament, and listen to the Priest interpret them. Independent study and group discussion are not all that widespread. Therefore, the more casual Catholics tend to miss some of the conflicts between the Bible and Catholic Doctrine.

    If you are a Catholic who is aware of the points of conflict (The dubious legitimacy of apostolic succession, for example, or the lack of spiritual mediators between God and humans) and has a strong theological and scriptural rebuttal, then good for you. But for many Catholics, this kind of questioning and study never comes up. Not like I am a fan of people yelling at individuals through the megaphone, but they had a point. As a Catholic who does study Scripture, why was it “disturbing” to read about someone else’s interpretation of the Bible?

    I would like to respectfully question one more point.

    “As a science student, I’ve learned to think critically about sources and when to trust them, so naturally in some instances I question the Gospels, especially when something doesn’t seem to fit with what I’ve learned about Jesus.”

    As another science student, do you see the potential for confirmation bias here? If what you have learned about Jesus didn’t come from the Bible, then it came from Catholic teaching. So when you find a poor fit between the Catholic vision of Jesus and his portrayal (at face value) in the Bible, you believe that the former is the more “authentic” Jesus. Why?

    Best,

    A Christian Convert

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