Carol Brennan King
July 26, 2022
Did you ever read a book by a Catholic, a Catholic priest? For the first forty years of my life, I avoided anything written by a Catholic like the plague. But I was not afraid of just Catholics; I was fearful of anything not very conservative Baptist. Yet. a week ago, I recommended Franciscan priest Richard Rohr’s Essential Teachings on Love to a friend with one caution – read it with discernment.
I felt like my friend, a missionary linguist, and translator with a Ph. D. could do that. Read with discernment. After all, as a translator and language consultant, she has spent her adult life studying words in the Bible, researching far more deeply into their meaning than I ever had. But you don’t have to have that kind of education to read the Bible with discernment.
I recommend the book because it gave me a fresh perspective on God’s love for me and how to love Him back. I felt as though I had to read it slowly, writing down what I was learning about God’s love. Honestly, I never got beyond one and a half pages at a sitting and writing more than that in my journal as I really wanted to “get it”.
Anyway, when I cautioned her to read with discernment, I was encouraging her to examine the book with careful, thoughtful reading, making sure that she understood what the passage meant. Biblical discernment simply means comparing this new thing that you are reading with other Scriptures (Bible passages) that speak to the subject.
My friend and I grew up as conservative Baptists and were taught or absorbed the idea that anything written by a Catholic writer was probably dangerous. Certainly, we absorbed the idea that Catholic writing veered from sound theology. That was a long time ago when my independent conservative Baptist training dictated what was safe to read and what was full of error, if not lies.
To avoid error, I didn’t read anything other than writers recommended at church or the college I was attending. Until I began teaching the Bible.
For many years I had watched my husband study the Bible. I can still see him on the living room floor (we had no study back then), Bible study books spread out all around him. He would plow through books like Strong’s Concordance, Thayer’s Bible Dictionary, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, and Matthew Henry’s Commentary, dozens more reference books, and study Bibles like Scofield’s and my still beloved Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Then he would fill pages, writing in his tiny printing, pages of notes. At the end of his study, he would gather up his work and go over to our pastor’s house, at that time in Newark Valley, N.Y. for further counsel.
And I learned to use Jim’s books and never to settle for the English words, but to explore what the Hebrew or Greek root words could mean. My point is this: by the time I hit forty, when I was introduced to Catholic writers like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, G. K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien, I had some tools to filter every word I read or heard from these writers through.
By then, we had moved into the computer age, and I found www.blueletterbible.com and https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/ and a passel of other resources at https://betterbibleteachers.com/2015/01/10-easy-use-bible-study-websites/.
My husband likes https://e-sword.net/ All of that to say that when you are reading the Bible or hear someone quote from it, and you are not quite sure what they are saying, go check it out.
Look those passages up, to learn what happened before that verse and what happened next. That’s what we call getting the context for the word. Check the words out at an online Bible dictionary – Blue Letter Bible will help here, to find the definition and see how that Greek or Hebrew word is used in other places.
We do have to remember that we are reading a translation of words written 2000 or more years ago originally in Hebrew or Greek primarily. Those manuscripts were then translated into other languages, including English. Today we have many English translations, but it always helps to look at the original languages, not just comparing English with other or newer translations
So there you go. Don’t be afraid of the Bible. Or any other book with new ideas or words. Read closely, with discernment. Look the words up. See how those words are used and what they mean. Don’t be afraid of what you might find out. Be freed to discover the truth of God’s love story. He is my final authority, but I can learn from others who have studied His Word.
Well, there we go. Something new to think about.