I recently finished up teaching high school Scripture this past May. Some of my students complained when I started the Old Testament as to why I was going to the New Testament to better understand passages like the Temptation in the Garden or the Passover event in Exodus. I responded whimsically, “I ensure you I do not have Bible ADD, I simply want to show how the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament and how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament!” I had to mention this many times to lackadaisical students because I think we as a Church have lost a sense of the Bible as containing an over-arching story line–God’s plan of salvation to help humans overcome our pride and selfish desires.
So while technically speaking, we should not let ourselves get distracted and overwhelmed by the many books of the Bible, after further consideration of my silly saying about not having Bible ADD I think that is a perfect way to capture how Catholics must approach the Bible.
This being an introductory post on understanding the bible in a contextual way I will not go into too detailed of an example. But I do think a starter example will aid in how a Catholic needs to approach the Bible. For example, to best understand the reason for Jesus’ death we have to turn the pages to Genesis 3 which features the fall of humanity out of God’s grace. Thus, knowing that humanity is not in favor with God the life and death of Jesus makes more sense.
Now, when I use my term “Bible ADD” I am not saying that Catholics should scan the pages of the holy text in a frenzied hyper-squirrelly way without any regard for order and thought. I am using this term because I have been told by several young people that this way to describe a contextual reading of the Bible appeals to them. They can remember the importance to look at the entire Bible as a whole and not in fragments. Furthermore, Catholics have to be wary of a fundamentalist viewing of the Bible which limits passages to a single-literal meaning. Some passages [I will demonstrate this in future posts] are meant to be taken symbolically because they are poems or parables.
Words have the ability to contain multiple meanings and the inspired authors wrote with the ability for their words to be interpreted to meet the needs of our current situation today. However, just like a rubber-band has limits to how far it can stretch, so too passages in the Bible must be interpreted in light of Church Tradition and make sense in light of the whole context of the Bible.
I guess to go back to my above example to properly read the Bible as a Catholic is to have Bible ADD. I should qualify that to say we should avoid moving to having a Bible ADHD because our theological “rubber-band” might break. We will jump into the Bible with concrete examples later.