The Book of Books

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Ah, the Bible, if only it were read as often as it is acclaimed,by Christians.  It offers all the types of literature known to Man, from historical texts, to poetry, short stories, songs, letters, and so much more.  It has texts that are sui generis to it, the Gospels, which are, unsurprisingly, unlike anything else contained in human literature.  Novices in reading the Bible would do well to start with the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament.  The Old Testament should be read as it is normally organized in most Bibles, from Genesis to Malachi.  This order starts out with the Pentateuch, the first first five books, and the historical texts of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, giving a solid background of the history of the Jewish people, and setting the scene for the wisdom books and the prophetic books which follow.  The only alteration in order I would suggest is to read the historical texts of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees after Nehemiah.  There are also historical passages among the prophetic books, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, but they can be read in their proper order without much loss in context.  An atlas is handy when reading the Bible, and fortunately the internet can rapidly supply an endless amount of maps.  Catholic convert Scott Hahn, has an excellent list of Catholic commentaries, go here to read the list. for new mariners setting sail upon the vast sea that is the Bible.

 

Since my parents purchased a Bible for me, at my request, for Christmas 1970, I have read a chapter from the New Testament and a chapter from the Old each night.  What a magnificent collection of books the Bible is!  Prophecies, histories, court chronicles, songs, gospels, letters, codes of laws and so much more.  The Bible is a boundless sea on which the human mind and soul can glimpse the eternal voyage.  Choosing one’s favorite books of the Bible is rather like picking one’s favorite children, but here goes.

In regard to emotional and intellectual impact nothing in the Old Testament moves me more than the book of Job where Man stands before his creator and realizes that God truly is I AM, the ultimate reality:

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

The longer I sojourn in this Vale of Tears the more I understand the truth and wisdom of this passage.

In the New Testament nothing can surpass the beginning of the Gospel of John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

A lifetime of study could only scratch the surface of this magnificent introduction to the Second Person of the Trinity.

These are my favorite books of the two Testaments.  What are yours?

 

 

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One Comment

  1. My favorite book is the Bible. Normally I read the Scripture selections for daily Mass each morning, and the Scripture selections for the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours each evening. But I don’t read just the truncated verse excerpts from whatever chapter is designated for reading. I go through the entire chapter to ensure it’s read in context. I hate the way these excerpts chop out verses in the middle or at beginning or end. And some parts (like Romans 1:18-32) are omitted altogether lest delicate protected people (like homosexuals) are offended. I hate that. But I digress.

    My favorite books in the Bible? Genesis in the Old Testament and Romans in the New Testament. Why? Because the whole history of mankind is summarized in Genesis – how he came to be, how he rebelled, what the solution is, and his reaction to that solution. Nothing has changed between today and what we read in Genesis about people before the Great Flood, or people at the Tower of Babel, or people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Even modern events like the slander against Brett Kavanaugh we see in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. All humanity is seen in Genesis.

    And Romans? That’s the pinnacle of Christian theology at its eloquent best. And Romans 7:13-25 has a special meaning for me as a recovering alcoholic. What St. Paul describes is what every addict and alcoholic goes through.

    But I also have a special liking for what Protestants call the the Apocrypha and Catholics & Orthodox the Deuterocanonicals. Having been raised Pentecostal, I was always told that Catholics added those books – Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, Baruch and 1st & 2nd Maccabees. I never knew that certain Church councils in the 4th century selected all the Greek Septuagint Old Testament as well as the 27 New Testament books for the sacred Canon, and it was the Protestant rebellion of the 16th and 17th centuries that rejected these books on the authority of mere mortal man contrary to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Nothing was explained to me how 1st & 2nd Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache got rejected for inclusion in the Canon, and that selecting Hebrew, Jude and Revelation was hotly debated. The idea that the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit determined the Canon was never ever mentioned in the Pentecostal church of my youth, and that there was NO Bible per se before the 4th century AD, just random collections of books. That right there – the Church determined the contents of Sacred Scripture – is what more than anything else convinced me that the Church (NOT Scripture) is the pillar and foundation of truth as 1st Timothy 3:15 states. Sola Scriptura is a false doctrine. Nevertheless, no book is more sacred or to be esteemed more than the Bible. But we don’t worship the Bible any more than we worship the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary) or any more than the Jews worshiped the Ark of the Old Covenant. Jesus is the Word made Flesh, NOT the Bible. Sadly this line of reason is absent from Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, though we should emulate in our knowledge of the complete 73 books of the Bible their knowledge of the incomplete 66 books of the Bible.

    I love the Bible more than any other book – the WHOLE Bible. I have about every English translation there is (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) in my collection, as well as the Hebrew, Greek and Latin. I have a wide variety of commentaries and study Bibles across the board, all the way from the Navarre Study Bible to Matthew Henry’s Commentary to the Orthodox Study Bible. I find modern Protestant Scriptural scholarship generally better Catholic (modern Catholic scholarship except for ones like Scott Hahn’s is too contaminated with social justice crap and historical relativism), but Protestant study notes sometimes have big gaping holes in understanding key passages. However, nothing beats Father George Haydock’s 19th century Study Bible for its Catholic orthodoxy – it’s among the best. I’ll stop for now. It’s just that I could write on and on and on about my all-time favorite book, the Bible.

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