My Writings. My Thoughts.
Where did the Bible come from? Can we depend on what we have in ours today? And why do some bibles not contain the 7 books found in the Catholic Old Testament? We begin by considering two statements made by Our Lord, namely: that the Spirit of truth will lead us into all truth, and Jesus’ hope that we might all be “one” (John 16 and 17). In this Spirit, we consider the decision by Pope Damascus to officially proclaim the divinely inspired books (382 AD). We also consider when and how those 7 books, disputed by many, came to be removed from non-Catholic Bibles. For additional information on this subject, see “The Origin of the Bible” by Dr. Brant Pitre, CD #3.
Have you ever received an inheritance or gift, and only later discovered its true value? At times, this can be the case with our sacred inheritance. We each own a Bible, for example, but do we revere it? By considering the Bible’s origins, we can deepen our appreciation for this gift from God! Did you know that at the time the canon was determined the divinely-inspired books were together with many other works, like diamonds among cut-glass crystals? If the collection of writings we have today is correct, the decision process reveals to us special qualities of the decision maker. We begin the presentation by highlighting the debate among the Jews at the time of Jesus. They had not decided which books were divinely inspired when the Apostles and others began writing. Later, there were also Christian writings by saints and noteworthy theologians. How was the early Christian Church to decide which should be included in the canon of Scripture? This is our focus. Material for this presentation is based “The Origin of the Bible” by Dr. Brant Pitre.
Has anyone ever asked you “where is that teaching found in the Bible?” It can be a common question and suggests that if a teaching is not found in the Scriptures, then it does not have authority to teach us about faith and morals. Yet, where do the Scriptures come from, and how do we know that they are reliable? Knowing the source, however, will provide insight into the question of authority. Furthermore, how do Catholics explain the presence of 7 books included in their version of the Old Testament? These “disputed books” are not found in Protestant Bibles. Did the Catholics add them or did the Protestants remove them? This further underscores the importance understanding the source of authority. Afterall, what prevents any one of us from removing books that we do not agree with? Understanding the history and development of Sacred Scripture will provide us with confidence and joy as we discover God’s hand in bringing us the Bible. In two subsequent talks, both the formation of the New Testament and the decisions made during the Reformation will be discussed. For a complete presentation on this subject, refer to “The Origin of the Bible” by Dr. Brant Pitre at: store.catholicproductions.com
Tonight’s program concludes our encounter with Our Lord in the Book of Revelations. Chapter 21 describes the New Jerusalem. This city is beautiful and magnificent to behold with its streets of gold, clear as glass. Amazingly, God does not stop there. We are described in Scripture as God’s “holy temple” (1 Cor 3: 16-17), and as “living stones” (1 Pet 2: 4-6). As such, as people of God with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we become part of the God’s holy city, shining with the beauty of the precious stones described here.
During the difficult moments in life, do we take full advantage of our circumstances and draw closer to Our Lord? In the Book of Revelations, after peace is removed from the earth and amidst other grave difficulties, many people are still unwilling to come to him (Rev 9: 20 – 21). Upon this scene, however, appears the Ark of God’s covenant. From Scripture, we know that this is Our Lady and she is there to offer refuge from the attacks of the evil one – refuge for those “who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” (Rev 12: 17). We also consider here those Companions of the Lamb described in Rev 14 and the role of our baptism in this “companionship”.
Have you ever wondered why there were 10 Plagues in Egypt? What did God know about the Egyptian people and Pharaoh? For those of us who believe in God, we may wonder why it took Pharaoh so long to become convinced. Yet, if we have ever been asked to reconsider a life-long belief, we know how challenging it can be to be pursuaded of the truth. This is the situation on earth during the time of The Apocalypse. All those who believe have already been sealed (Rev 7). But what about those who do not believe? Does not God also want them in heaven? Of course he does! And to reach them, he has to overcome many grave obstacles in their minds and hearts. He also has to help them understand the choice they are making – love and life on the one hand, versus hatred and death on the other. This program also considers the Two Witnesses (Rev 10) that proclaim God’s truths and asks: are we also called to be witnesses?
Is it possible to be encouraged by the events recorded in the Book of Revelations? Does God will our suffering? Certainly not. Yet, he will allow it if it means we might turn to him and be saved. He knows the alternative is far worse. For the believer, we may readily understand this or be able to accept it on “faith”. However, for those who do not yet know the love of God, or who do not believe he is important in their lives, they must first recognize his presence – that he is not just an “idea” in the minds of believers. This is what the Lamb seeks in opening the 7 Seals (Rev 5 – 7).
Then, in order to save those who now perceive him, but who have not been close to him, God reveals to them, by calculated increments, what life will be like if they choose to remain distant from him (Rev 8 – 9). The 7 Trumpet blasts beckon to the people of the Earth, inviting them to reconsider where they are heading so that they might choose salvation, that they might be with God and enjoy his love. There are strong parallels with the 10 Plagues preceding the Exodus from Egypt, and equally wonderful is the effect upon the non-believer. For just as in Egypt, the great crowd was comprised of a “mixed multitude” (Ex 12: 38) – Egyptians as well as Israelites – so too does God will that all people, of every faith and culture, come to him by these dramatic events.
Is it truly a unusual to look for hope in the Book of Revelations? Let us consider what we find there before answering too quickly. We have many symbols in Sacred Scriptures, no few of which are in the Book of Revelations. These contain meanings beyond their simple descriptions. They are perhaps like the Church’s great icons that reveal hidden truths with each encounter. In looking for hope in Revelations, we may also reflect on what we know about God. Are we to suppose that after opening a door for us and calling us inside, God wants to frighten us? Would he not, like any parent, rather seize his opportunity, pull us close, hug us tenderly, and give us something special as a sign of his love? This is some of what St. John sees in his vision. In Revelations, chapters 4 and 5, we consider the symbols found there in the light of God’s desire to bring us hope in him.
For a list of symbols, see: Symbols of the Apocalypse.
The word “Apocalypse” itself may give us pause. Popular images of the Book of Revelations are fraught with vengeance, violence and death. Yet, is this really what God wishes our understanding to be? Can God actually be like this? In the fourth chapter of Revelations, we are treated to an “open door” into heaven. At this threshold, and led by St. John’s own hand, we glimpse God’s throne. We become aware that God also is imploring us to enter. Yet, once inside, and maybe to the surprise of some, God gives us an opportunity to view things from his perspective. John too encourages us. “Caught up in spirit” on the sabbath, John reminds us that our prayer life, our closeness with God, and the vitality of our faith in Him are important to our entry. Sacred Scripture can come to our aid for all of these needs and more.
Have you ever received a letter from God? We may be familiar with his many encouragements and teachings found in Sacred Scripture. But, what about a personal letter from God, one addressed to you? In the Book of Revelations, in this great book that we are often tempted to avoid, we find seven letters from Our Lord. These are the letters written to the seven churches in Asia. However, they are also letters to each of us. We look for evidence in the Sacred Texts about who is writing these letters, and what their structure reveals to us. Did you know, for example, that they each include affirmation for the good work we are undertaking? Are you aware, also, that in each letter God makes us a beautiful promise? Only with these graces does God then, with the gentle hand of a Loving Father, exhort us to be all that we can be!