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Posted February 3, 2004

Book: One Hundred Question & Answers on The Bible
Author: Raymond E. Brown
Paulist Press, New York, pp. 147

An Excerpt from Jacket:

In his long career of lecturing on the Bible, Raymond Brown may have responded to ten thousand queries in question-and-answer periods. For this book he chose 101 of the most commonly asked questions on the Bible and arranged them topically.

101 Questions and Answers on the Bible covers a wide range of subjects:

- reasons for reading the Bible;

- the virginal conception;

- the inspiration and historicity of the Bible;

- what Jesus knew;

- the resurrection of Jesus;

- the founding and structure of the early church;

- the role of Peter, and more.

All people who have read or reflected on the Bible will find questions here they have wanted to ask, along with the concise responses of a noted biblical scholar.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Q. 18 What would you give as the most important reason for reading the Bible?

Perhaps I should distinguish a theological response and a practical response. Theologically, the clear response is that the Bible is God’s word in a unique way that is not true of any other human composition. Catholics have often been accused of giving the Bible a low level of appreciation; and yet the Second Vatican Council stated that the church is not above the word of God but serves it, and that we owe the word of God in the Scriptures a reverence similar to the reverence we have for the Word of God enfleshed in the eucharist.

That theological reasoning may seem a bit remote to many people, and I would like to offer a practical and personal reason that I have found most important in reading the Bible. As a Christian, I seek God’s direction for my life in the situations I face. As a priest, I am concerned with God’s direction for the church. The Bible offers such a broad range of the experience of the people of God seeking the divine will in diverse circumstances that inevitably I can discover therein a situation analogous to my own situation or to the church’s. In many spiritual books one encounters the contact of a particular soul with God. In the biblical record one has almost two thousand years of contact with God in very different situations, personal and collective. One of the great thrills of reading the Bible and one of its most attractive features to people who “discover” it is the recognition that the biblical situation is similar to our own. What God demanded by way of response in times past, He is still demanding today.

Table of Contents:

Questions 1-4: Translations of the Bible: Which one to read; popular translations; Protestant and Catholic Bibles.

Questions 5-10: Genuine and apocryphal books of the Bible: Protestant and Catholic differences; apocryphal gospels.

Questions 11-14: How to read the Bible: straight through or selectively; notes and commentaries, or can we be independent of scholars.

Questions 15-17: Church guidance; private interpretation; scholarly freedom in interpreting.

Questions 18-22: Why read the Bible; the word of God or a human library; is the Bible inspired.

Questions 23-27: Is the Bible literally true; how literal are the Adam and Eve and other stories; does archaeology confirm Bible history.

Questions 28-30: Biblical criticism; difficult biblical books; the Apocalyspse (Revelation) as the most difficult book.

Questions 31-33: Biblical fundamentalism and how to counteract it.

Questions 34-37: How literally true is the New Testament: Pual’s letters – did he write them and, if not, how authoritative are they.

Questions 38-44: The Gospels: How reliable or historical; are they lives of Christ; if not, who wrote them and what are they; what spiritual difference does it make.

Questions 45-51: Jesus’ words and deeds: Can we be sure of his exact words and of his miracles; what value have his miracles, especially driving out demons; is there a devil.

Questions 52-53: Jesus’ resurrection: Did Jesus rise bodily or physically from the grave.

Questions 54-60: Jesus’ birth: How reliable are the stories of his birth and youth, or are they just folklore; how do they agree and disagree; did angels appear and are there angels.

Questions 61-68: Mary: How important biblically; the virgin birth; the Immaculate Conception and Assumption; did Mary remain a virgin; who were the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Questions 69-76: Jesus’ knowledge: Did he know he was God, know all things, know he would die, know the future.

Questions 77-78: Foundation of the church: Did Jesus found it or know how it would develop.

Questions 79-85: The sacraments: Did Jesus institute them, especially the eucharist and baptism; what did these sacraments mean for early Christians.

Questions 86-88: Early Christians and the Jews: How were they related and how did they separate; did Jews persecute Christians.

Questions 89-92: Early Church administration: Who “ran” the church; the Twelve Apostles; where did bishops come from and were they successors of the apostles.

Questions 93-96: Who celebrated the eucharist; when and how did specific Christians become recognized as priests.

Questions 97-100 Peter and the popes: Was Peter head of the church or bishop of Rome, or the first pope.

Question 101: How much has the church changes since New Testament times.