By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY — Two problems may face readers of Scripture, about 80 people were told during the Davenport Diocese’s August Gathering Aug. 6: locating stories and passages, and understanding those passages’ meaning.
Joe Paprocki addressed both challenges at St. Patrick Church during his daylong presentation, “Building with the Bible Blueprint.” Author of “The Bible Blueprint: A Catholic‘s Guide to Understanding and Embracing God‘s Word,” he explained Church teaching on Scripture during the diocese’s annual event designed to bring Catholics together to further explore their faith.
Early in his presentation, Paprocki noted the Bible summarizes God’s effort to reveal himself to us. “We’re here today not so much to become experts in the Bible, but because Scripture is one of the ways we enter into a relationship with God.”
Catholics’ Bibles have “collected dust” for too long, but in the past couple decades Catholics have begun to re-emphasize Scripture’s importance, Paprocki said. To help “break up” the Bible, he laid out the following four sections of the Old Testament, which in Catholic Bibles has 46 books:
• Pentateuch, which includes the five books of Genesis through Deuteronomy and captures the beginnings of the relationship between God and the people of Israel;
• History, which includes the books of Joshua through 2 Maccabees and tells the story of the people of Israel fighting under various judges and rulers to establish and keep the promised land;
• Wisdom, which includes the books of Job through Sirach and offers the wisdom and teachings of the people of Israel collected over thousands of years; and
• Prophets, which includes the books of Isaiah through Malachi and tells of prophets who called people to return to fidelity to God and maintain hope for the future.
In its entirety, the Old Testament offers the roots of New Testament theology, Paprocki said.
The presenter also explained four sections into which the New Testament can be divided:
• The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which tell of Jesus’ life, teachings, miracles, passion, death and resurrection;
• Acts of the Apostles, a book that is the sequel to Luke’s Gospel and relates the story of the Holy Spirit and the early Church;
• Letters, which includes the books of Romans through Jude. The letters, about half of which are attributed to St. Paul, were written to Christian leaders to teach, admonish, encourage, correct and update various churches.
• Revelation, a book about the eternal struggle between good and evil. “This is possibly the most misunderstood book of the Bible” and falsely used to predict the world’s end, Paprocki said.
He offered bookmarks outlining each section and suggested using them to divide up the Bible. “Get to know one section at a time,” he said. But like training wheels on a bicycle, the bookmarks should eventually be removed, he added.
Later, Paprocki addressed how to understand Scripture. He said that Catholics believe that while everything in the Bible is true, it’s not necessarily fact. Authors of biblical books, especially in the Old Testament, often used figurative language. And science clearly shows that some biblical passages — such as Genesis’ description stating the world was created in seven days — are not factual.
But though the scriptural story of creation isn’t meant to teach science, it communicates truth, Paprocki said: God authored all creation; everything he made is good, and men and women were made in God’s image.
We can embrace both creationism and evolution, the presenter said. Science shows how God brought the world into being.
So how can we know when Bible passages use figurative language? Footnotes, commentaries, Bible dictionaries and concordances help, Paprocki said. He also pointed to the Vatican document “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church,” whose text is available online.
Paprocki later discussed the difference between Catholic and Protestant Bibles, which vary in translation, support materials and number of books. A Catholic Bible is signified by an imprimatur followed by a bishop’s name on the copyright page.
Wrapping up, the speaker noted Scripture isn’t meant to be read as a textbook, encyclopedia or novel. “Ultimately, the Bible is meant to be prayed.”
Paprocki’s presentation was “wonderful” for Christine Lenninger, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. “I’m one of those Catholics who years ago didn’t get a lot of Bible study, so I’m glad to learn everything I can now,” she said.
Doug Goodner, a member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, said he found the day very informative. He also appreciated that Paprocki stressed Scripture isn’t necessarily meant to be taken literally.