God working within the people and events of humanity to restore our lost union with Him.
The Bible consists of various types of literature that, when read and studied as a whole, reveal God’s saving love and plan for our salvation.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE BIBLE, BIBLICAL INSPIRATION & INTERPRETATION
The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to write what God wanted us to know for our salvation.
The Holy Spirit did not take over the biblical authors’ humanity when they wrote. Thus the authors were subject to natural human limitations, and they also used their human creativity in their writing. Scripture is the Word of God in human language, it can only be understood by coming to grips with both its human and divine aspects.
Catholics understand that the Bible is without error in communicating what God wants us to know for salvation without having to be historically and scientifically correct in every detail. This is the dogma of biblical inerrancy.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE BIBLE
The Bible is an anthology, a collection of individual books written at different times by different people. Its arrangement is by category rather than chronology and is best studied, with the help of the Church.
THE OLD TESTAMENT (46 BOOKS)
The Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
These five books are the core of the Old Testament. They tell about Creation, sin, and the origin of God’s Chosen People.
The Historical Books (Joshua through 2 Maccabees)
These books tell how the Israelites settled in the Promised Land. They also tell about the Israelites’ great – and-not-so-great – kings.
The Wisdom Books (Job through Sirach [Ecclesiasticus])
These are books of poetry and the collected wisdom of the Israelites.
The Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)
These books are the collected speeches and biographies of Israelite prophets. The prophets spoke for God against idolatry and injustice. They also spoke God’s words of comfort and promise when the Israelites were suffering for their disobedience.
THE NEW TESTAMENT (27 BOOKS)
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
These four books are the most important books for Christians because they convey Jesus Christ’s teachings and the meaning of His life, death, Resurrection and Ascension.
The Acts of the Apostles
This book is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke (they were written by the same author as a two-volume set) and tells about how the early Church spread.
The Epistles (Romans through Jude)
These are twenty-one letters, written by Paul and other Church leaders. They give teachings and guidance to individuals and the first Christian communities.
The Book of Revelation
This book records the visions of an early Christian named John. The visions are about the battle between God and Satan and God’s triumph over evil.
God’s plan of salvation can be read in Scripture starting with Creation in the book of Genesis and culminating with the coming of Christ and His Church in the New Testament.
There are 12 periods in the narrative of salvation history. This linear story of salvation can be read in 14 books:
1. THE EARLY WORLD
(Gen 1-11) God creates the world, including human beings as the crown of creation. In the garden, Adam and Eve dwell in harmony with one another and in communion with God. But their disobedience leads to a series of tragic consequences. In the Fall, humanity sought “to be like God but without God” (CCC 398). Immediately after the Fall, God makes His first promise of redemption (Gen 3:15).
2. THE PATRIARCHS
(Gen 12-50) The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons are the fathers of ancient Israel. God promises to Abraham a great nation (land), a great name (kingdom, David), and worldwide blessing through his lineage (fulfilled in the New Covenant, Jesus Christ). Jacob’s name is changed to “Israel,” and his twelve sons will engender the twelve tribes of Israel.
3. EGYPT & EXODUS
(Exodus) Jacob’s descendants, called the Israelites, become oppressed and enslaved. Key events are the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Law (Moses, Ten Commandments), covenant (Mount Sinai), and the building of the tabernacle. (prefiguring of Baptism and the Eucharist)
4. DESERT WANDERINGS
(Numbers) Israel departures from Mount Sinai and continues with their wandering in the desert for forty years on their way to the Promised Land. This period is marked by the people’s repeated rebellions against God and Moses. (40 years, a whole generation)
5. CONQUEST & JUDGES
(Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel 1-8) The Israelites finally enter the Promised Land under Joshua and conquer much of the territory, dividing the land among the twelve tribes of Israel. The book of Judges takes us into the next phase, recounting Joshua’s death and Israel’s subsequent unfaithfulness. The people fall into a continual pattern of sin, which leads to enemy oppression, at which point they cry out for help. God then sends a deliverer (“a judge”). It is a recurring cycle of sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, and forgetfulness.
6. ROYAL KINGDOM
(1 Samuel 9-31, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11)
Israel transitions from judges to kings. Israel wants a worldly kingdom “like all the other nations.” Samuel warns against it; the people refuse to listen. The request is granted and we learn of kings Saul, David, and Solomon.
The kingdom in the time of David and Solomon becomes a prototype of the kingdom Jesus will establish. In this period, the Davidic king rules over all twelve tribes of Israel and the surrounding nations; he rules with the wisdom of God; and he builds a Temple that is the dwelling place of God on earth. (Christ is the son of David ruling over a universal kingdom, the wisdom of God incarnate, the new living Temple)
7. DIVIDED KINGDOM
(1 Kings 12-22, 2 Kings 1-17) After Solomon’s death the kingdom divides. The Northern Kingdom is called Israel, the Southern Kingdom is called Judah. The Davidic line continues to rule in Judah, where the Jerusalem Temple is located. The unfaithfulness of the Northern Kingdom leads to their exile.
Significance | Sin and Exile:
The ultimate aim of the curses and exile that came from covenant breaking was to bring the people of God to repentance. In this dynamic of Israel’s history, we see the connection between sin and exile, which sets the stage for a deeper understanding of exile – not merely being removed from the land, but alienation from God. The original “exile” is Adam and Eve’s removal from the garden, from God’s holy presence. Israel’s story is a recapitulation of humanity’s larger story, a story of exile and hope of return. Jesus enters both of these stories – that of humanity and that of Israel – leading us out of the real exile that stems from sin.
(2 Kings 18-25) After the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria, Judah comes under the dominance of the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonians take dominance next, destroying the temple and sending the people into exile for seventy years. A decree from the Persian king Cyrus permits the return of the Jews to their homeland.
(Ezra, Nehemiah) The Jews return after the exile. The period is one of rebuilding the Temple, the walls of Jerusalem and a renewed reverence for God’s Law. Overseeing these aspects are three key individuals who lead the way in the return efforts – Zerubbabel (the Temple), Nehemiah (the walls), and Ezra (the Torah).
10. MACCABEAN REVOLT
(1 Maccabees) Greek dominance enters the land with Alexander the Great. After his death, rule of the kingdom divides among his officers and oppression from the Greek culture seeking to eliminate the national and religious identity of the Jews becomes severe. Mattathias and his sons, who come to be called the Maccabees, with their fellow Jews revolt and against all odds are victorious, reclaiming their land and Temple and reestablishing Jewish independence for about a hundred years. This independence ends with the Roman conquest of the Holy Land.
11. MESSIANIC FULFILLMENT
(Luke) As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus enters the story of Israel and the story of humanity. He calls twelve apostles and gathers numerous other disciples, as He proclaims the Good News of the kingdom, teaches, and heals many in Israel. His work climaxes on the Cross, as He offers His life to save us and reconcile us to God, and the truth of His claims and teaching is demonstrated by His Resurrection.
12. THE CHURCH
Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.