By Vic Scaravilli

Most people take the Bible for granted. They just assume that it is just something only read at mass without realizing that when we study its history and contents, we are able to learn more about God and his unending love for us.

The Bible, or the Greek word meaning books, is God’s divine love letter to us. It is the story of our family history that shows the fall and return to God by his people. Scriptures are the inspired, or free from error, words from God written in the words of men.

In order to really appreciate this book, we must first understand its history. It was written approximately between 2000 BC to 100AD. The first half of the Bible is called the Old Testament (OT) because it was written before the coming of Christ and it contained the story of God’s people and how it became his chosen family. The OT became a collection of 46 books that was called the Septuagint and was the Scriptures that was used by Christ and his apostles.

The New Testament (NT) was written after Christ ascended back to heaven. The early church did not have any NT writings to operate on as we do today and only used the Oral Tradition of the apostles to know the truth that was taught by Jesus. The authors began to write down what they were taught by Jesus many years after the resurrection. The inspired writings that later became the NT were written approximately between 40 and 100AD. During that time, however, there were hundreds of writings circulated among the early churches. Unfortunately, there was not a unanimous consensus among the churches on which writings were actually inspired.

In order to determine exactly what writings were the inspired Word of God, several church councils met in the latter 4th century to resolve this matter. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Christ promised to his church, these councils determined the 27 books of the NT and re-ratified the 46 books of the OT. Therefore, at the end of the 4th century, the canonized Bible consisted of 73 books and is the same today for Catholics.

It was the Catholic Church, under the leadership of its bishops who met, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who determined what books were to be included in the Bible.

The NT consists of 4 gospels that teach us the story of Christ and his teachings, Acts of the Apostles that give us the history of the early Christian church, the Epistles mostly written by Paul with letters to different churches and the Christian people in different areas, and Revelation that give us John’s vision of the struggle between Christ’s church and Satan that leads to the final victory of the Kingdom of God.

Since the Liturgy of the Word consists half of the mass, a large emphasis is placed in the reading of the Bible in church. Although non-Catholics have accused Catholics of not placing a great emphasis on the Bible, we hear three readings from Scriptures every Sunday. The first reading is usually from the Old Testament while the second reading is from one of the books of the New Testament other than the gospels. The gospel reading is always from one of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. We also have a psalm between the first and second readings. In the course of three years, the entire Bible is read if one were to attend mass every day.

Since readings from the Bible are all throughout the mass, we know that it is of great importance in our understanding of God. Great reverence is given to Scriptures in the mass. The Scriptures are held high for everyone to see when the celebrants enter the church, it is kissed at the end of the gospel reading and we proclaim, “Thanks be to God” at the end of the first two readings and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” at the end of the gospel.

The Bible is the primary source of God’s revelation to us. Our other two sources of revelation, Tradition and the Magisterium, help us to better understand the Bible. Scriptures came from the church that wrote, canonized, produced, and preserved it throughout our salvation history.

Since the Bible is God’s love letter to each one of us, let’s read our Bibles so we can have an intimate relationship with him. Whenever we read Scriptures, we know that God is talking to each one of us on an individual basis.