Reflections on New Catholic Bible

CRUX declares, “New Bible aims to bridge the Catholic ‘scripture gap’.” The Catholic Church is quietly declaring a Scripture War against the Protestants: “It’s no mystery that Protestants often embarrass Catholics in terms of mastery of scripture.” Ascension Press – not the Vatican, which publishes the official Catholic Bible – has raised the stakes in this holy arms race.

The Great Adventure Catholic Bible, published by Ascension Press, utilizes color coding, maps, timelines, articles and charts to make the Gospel more accessible.” It doesn’t mention pictures, but I suspect they are also present, as they are in the official Catholic Bible.

Mary Healy was a general editor for this new bible, and is also a member of Pope Francis’s Pontifical Biblical Commission. She said, “As Catholics we’ve not had a culture of studying the Bible. Many Catholics were brought up with the idea that reading the Bible is something more Protestant.” In fact, for more than a century, New Testament scholars were overwhelmingly Protestant.

While the early Catholic Church stressed the Scriptures, both "old" and "new," it changed after it became the state religion. It stressed the clergy’s authority, along with Church rituals and relics. Reading scripture posed a potential challenge to clerical authority, and was soon discouraged. The Church claimed that only priests were granted divine understanding of Scripture, just as only they could transform bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood. Laymen reading the Bible were likely to be afflicted by demons. Later, this was actually criminalized.

Ms. Healy stresses the use of the Bible for proselytizing: “If I’m weak in my knowledge of the Bible, I’ll be compromised in my ability to bring the good news to others.” Similarly, “The time is ripe for Catholics to boldly, unabashedly, joyfully propose once again the glorious good news of Jesus Christ, and … to do it in a way that answered the needs of our contemporaries.”

Ms. Healy carefully avoids the possibility that reading the Bible might cause laymen to challenge Church teachings, which often have the flimsiest of Scriptural support, and at times seem to contradict Scripture. But that was a major concern both prior to and especially subsequent to the Protestant Revolution. For centuries, it was forbidden for laymen to own a Bible. Furthermore, the only authorized version of the Bible was the Vulgate, in Latin – which had long been a dead language. Owning a Bible in the original Greek, or more importantly, in a language that people actually spoke and understood, became a capital crime.

Historical Perspective

The Catholic Church persecuted any of its flock who owned a Bible they could actually understand. It is not clear how many were killed or imprisoned or just fined for this crime. These are the kinds of records that the Church has a way of losing or burning. But in its halcyon days, the Church wasn’t about to let anything dilute its power – and that includes the Bible. Anyone reading the Bible might question Church policy. So they made it a capital crime. They covered up their crimes enforcing that policy, and later covered up the policy itself. In the unlikely event that Catholics actually read this new Bible and actually understand Scripture, those ancient fears of the Catholic Church might come true.


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