As the Church observes Ordinary Time, Christian believers are invited to go deeper in their discipleship. The faithful are encouraged to hear the Gospel again and recommit themselves to the Lord Jesus and his way of love.
While Ordinary Time can be lost to the hustle and bustle of life at different times of the calendar year, this portion of Ordinary Time falls in the summer, when things tend to be a little quieter. Such an opportunity begs for the Christian believer to use Ordinary Time well.
What aspect of our discipleship is lacking? What can we take on for the Lord Jesus?
The answers to such questions are abundant: work on my prayer life, serve the poor, give more time to the lost and abandoned, make a good Confession, participate more in my parish community, and the list goes on. Such a list could also include joining a Bible study or reading the Bible on our own.
While there is much to be done to be a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus, and there’s always room for growth in any area of our discipleship, it might be good for us to take this opportunity to look at the Bible.
Since many people have a summer reading list, perhaps the Bible could be included in this cultural practice.
As we read our share of other books, why not include the sacred narrative of the Bible in our reading plan?
Once such a suggestion is made, it might seem overwhelming. It can feel as if a large winter jacket has been placed over our otherwise free-spirited reading plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many times, believers will avoid picking up the Bible because they don’t have a basic understanding of its inner structure. Without such knowledge, the Bible can appear daunting. Once some basic information is given, however, believers can grow in their comfortability with the Bible. They can even seek it out and look forward to their time with the Bible.
As a general help, therefore, here is some basic information on the Bible. By having such introductory information, it’s hoped that the Bible will be eagerly added to the summer reading lists of many people.
The Bible is called by many names, including Bible (“book”), Sacred Scripture (singular to designate its unity), Sacred Scriptures (plural to designate its diversity of books), “the Word,” and “the Good Book.”
The Bible is the Word of God. It is not merely ancient literature. When believers read the Bible, God is speaking to them.
The Bible can be viewed as a type of library since it contains multiple books of different types and styles of literature from different time periods and diverse authors.
The Bible consists of two major parts: the Old Testament and New Testament.
The Old Testament prepared the way for the long-awaited Anointed Savior (the Messiah). The New Testament shows us Jesus of Nazareth as the Anointed Savior and tells us about his life and teachings.
The Old Testament has 46 books, while the New Testament has 27 books.
The Protestant tradition only has 39 books in the Old Testament. For theological and historical reasons, this is different from the official list of books in the Catholic Bible.
The books of the Bible are not ordered to be read in chronological order. This is a huge point to emphasize. While the Bible is the singular Word of God, it is a collection of different books that are each self-contained with their own histories, themes, and points of emphases. Although it can be read from cover to cover, the Bible is not structured to be read in such a way.
If you’re not sure where a book of the Bible is located, you can reference the Table of Contents at the beginning of most Bibles. Sometimes a particular Bible will use abbreviations for books. These abbreviations are also provided at the beginning of most Bibles.
The Bible consists of narrative books and supplemental books.
The narrative books give the base story line of salvation history. The catechetical tradition has different lists of narrative books. There is no set list. Different lists emphasize different aspects of salvation history.
The supplemental books develop a specific part or theme of salvation history.
When a citation of the Bible is given, such as John 3:16, the book is given first (“John”), the chapter is second (“3”), and the verse is third (“16”). The chapters are usually large numbers (sometimes in bold) within the book. The verses are the small numbers within a chapter.
This basic information is given to guide many to become new regular Bible readers, especially in this season on Ordinary Time when we are all invited to grow in our discipleship.
Parts of today’s column were taken from my new book, Understanding the Bible: A Catholic Guide to Applying God’s Word to Your Life Today (Our Sunday Visitor).