Scripture and the Church

Amir Kazmi
Preternatural Mt. St. Mary's Student &
Assistant Web Master

"The broad span of biblical history and the fact that the Bible is a collection of various books signal its rich diversity…The presence of various literary forms or means of expression in the Bible also complicates the issue of the historical value of the Bible"

The above passage points to the complexity of understanding in the Bible which can be sought through the process of excogitation over the unique balance between the Catholic Church, the Bible and tradition. In this paper I aim to unveil the difficulty involved in the balancing of a serious, personal attempt to find what Scripture really means and how the Church's part in the task of interpreting the Bible is intertwined. Furthermore, I shall show how the Church's position toward new things informs its teachings in new ways. In view of the above question I will also attempt to explain how the historic tradition of the Church works and why it is justified.

In order to seek answers to the above questions we must first understand the history of the Bible. Since the Bible came into existence, it has "been an object of intense study, prayerful reading, and heated debate"

The Bible is a multivolume book written by several authors over a long period of time and history. The Bible is a codex containing unique revelations and an account of the oral traditions. It is tradition that plays a fundamental and vital role in human society and impacts people's choices and thoughts in life. Tradition makes one unique as it gives a person a cultural relationship and identity. Tradition develops over time and is subject to change as it is "open to dialogue".

Tradition provides the framework for future contemplation. One of the most famous traditions is the Catholic faith. According to William Portier, "Catholicism has been called the longest-lived intellectual tradition in the west" . It is through the church that the Catholic tradition carries on. The church has developed and complimented the faith for many centuries. Therefore it is only fair to say that Christianity is rooted in the tradition of the Church.

It is the Church that collected the Bible when it was separated in numerous parts. Even as late as the Renaissance it was very expensive to print and difficult to obtain the Bible. The Bible was written down by hand and hidden for 3 centuries as it was illegal and forbidden. Through the scribes errors in copying, many variation of the Bible were formed. It is the church that has collected and researched the canon of scriptures. Unlike Islam where it is believed that the Quran descended from heaven and the scripture will remain the same for all time, Christianity sees the Bible as changing, which it has since its existence.

Portier points out, "It is important for every Catholic to realize that the Church produced the New Testament, not vise-versa. The Bible did not come down from heaven, whole and intact, given by the Holy Spirit". The Church exists as the organized body before the Bible. The Bible is the Church's book as it is put together by the Church. Therefore the Bible is grounded in the tradition of the Church.

The Church realizes that tradition is not enclosed but rather open to change; the Bible too has witnessed many changes which have enhanced the tradition. These changes have lead to a better comprehensive book that is unified but subject to interpretation. One reason for these different interpretations is the fact that the Bible is not meant to be read literally, which opens the door for many interpretations by individuals.

Since the Bible is rooted in the traditions of the Church, one seeks his/her understanding through the Church and the community who share a common faith. Through years of being a member of the Christian community and sharing the experiences such as singing the

hymns or celebrating Easter, one seeks an understanding of his/her faith. The other main reason for these different interpretations is due to two forms of inspiration, author- centered and church-centered inspirations. In the author-centered view of inspiration "God inspires the author".

Research tells us that the authors "worked with already existing traditions, both oral and written, and reinterpreted them to suit new situations". The fact that the ancient authors worked with their traditions adds to our understanding of the Church's position. The author-centered view is hard for the community at large to relate to as it is limited in experience to those certain individuals who experienced the miracles and certain writers. The Church-centered view is one that is affirmed by the Catholic Church.

The Church-centered view affirms the author-centered view and expands on it by placing the Church at the center of tradition for interpretation in the modern world and throughout time. It is the Church that is to carry on the tradition and modernize the Bible for individual people to relate to and understand the faith. The New Catholic Bible also emphasizes that when one reads the Bible he/she should attempt to seek the intent of the writer as oppose to the literal meaning due "time and culture". The Bible is limited in inerrancy, which focuses on the content of the words rather then the exact words themselves. The Bible can be misinterpreted as tradition varies significantly from the time of its original writings. Due to difference in today's culture and time it is harder for one to personally attempt to find what scripture really means. We cannot easily connect our individual lives to the prophets such as Noah and Moses, or even Jesus, who we are to follow as ideals. Therefore, we look toward the Church to help in closing this gap of time and tradition.

The Church has an inescapable part in interpreting the Bible as both the Bible and the Church are intertwined. The Bible is rooted in the tradition-centered view, which is the church-centered view of inspiration. Interpreting the Bible is part of a big picture as Irenaeus would point towards the "apostolic tradition" in which the basic structure of the Church goes hand in hand with apostolic writings. Throughout time the Church has fostered the religion and improvised its context. After all, the Church compiled the Bible and brought us the New Testament. The Church is a living evidence of the long tradition of Catholicism. It is the Church which is the very foundation of the Catholic people.

Without the Church many would feel lost and everyone would be following his or her own interpretation. Even though it's important for individuals to be able to apply the teachings to their personal lives, it goes in hand with a community that fosters those teachings. So without a common prayer and worship, the faith would crumble. Due to the Church's historic tradition and its delivery of the New Testament it has the power to teach new things as it sees fit. After all, an organization is only as good as its value structure. The Church is the only organization that would be fit to teach its new view and understanding of the faith, which would further develop the legendary Catholic tradition.

In conclusion I would like to add that religion strengthens through experience and faith. Religion is binding and an everlasting commitment to God. Each individual must seek his/her personal interpretation of the Bible along with that of the community and the Church. One must also come to agreement with the ever-developing tradition of the Church. Furthermore the people living in a non-religion centered community must strive

harder to seek this delicate and unique balance between the teachings of the Bible in view of the Church and their personal interpretations of scripture.

Read other Articles by Amir Kazmi