"...all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind."
2 Timothy 3:16-17
For Catholics, the Bible is the Word of God. The Church believes that the books of the Old and the New Testaments were "written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 105)
As such, Catholics believe that the Scriptures "firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which of God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." (CCC 107)
Just as in the early church, Catholics use the Bible in the context of worship. Almost 30% of the Mass comprises texts from the Bible.When Catholics go to mass they hear a reading from the Old Testament, they say or sing one of the Psalms, then they listen to a reading from the letters of the Apostles (also known as Epistles), then a Gospel reading. Catholics follow a three year cycle of Scripture reading so a Catholic who goes to church faithfully will–over the three years–hear almost all of the Bible read. Furthermore, the responses, and the words of the prayers are almost all from Scripture.
Catholics are actively encouraged to study the Bible on their own. The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 133)
Catholics also use Scripture to determine doctrine and moral principles. As Paul gave Timothy the apostolic authority to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2.15), so Catholics believe their bishops have inherited the authority of the apostles to teach doctrinal and moral truth faithfully. They base this on Paul’s clear instructions to Timothy, ‘the things you have heard me say …entrust to reliable men so that they may in turn teach others.’ (2 Timothy 2.1-2) Therefore, it is the bishops—living, praying and working in a direct line from the apostles– who use the Bible to determine Christian doctrine and moral principles.
If you would like to find out more about the Bible, the Biblical Apostolate of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore runs courses and events aimed at cultivating a personal encounter with Christ through praying with the Scriptures. Please visit their website for more information on courses and other events available:
The Office for Catechesis also runs a course for Catechists and others interested in an overview of Scripture from a catechetical perspective. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Helpful books to get you started:
Pheme Perkins, Introduction to the New Testament
Lawrence Boadt, Introduction to the Old Testament
New Jerome Biblical Commentary
Church documents regarding Sacred Scripture:
Divino afflante spiritu, On Promoting Biblical Studies, Pope Pius XII, 1943
Dei verbum, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Second Vatican Council, 1965
The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1993