Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


13. Roman Catholic Biblical Interpretation

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. How has the Roman Catholic approach to biblical interpretation developed over the centuries, and particularly in the last century or so, especially as this development is manifested in the Church’s key documents on Scripture?
  2. Since the Second Vatican Council, what have been some of the features of the role of Scripture in Catholic prayer and liturgy and in official Catholic teaching?
  3. How has the field of professional biblical studies, and the publication of resources for both popular and scholarly study of the Bible, developed since the Second Vatican Council?
  4. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what are three major characteristics of Catholic biblical interpretation?
  5. According to the chapter, what are the principles of interpretation that flow from these three major characteristics found in the Catechism? How, in particular, does the Roman Catholic Church view the relationship between the Bible and Tradition/official church teaching?
  6. How does Roman Catholic biblical interpretation differ from the approach to the Bible found in fundamentalism?
  7. What are some of the current challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church with respect to scriptural interpretation?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Ronald Witherup makes in this chapter (p. 253): “While there is a distinctive Roman Catholic approach to Scripture, expressed in official Church documents, much that Roman Catholics believe about the Bible they also share with other Christians. Roman Catholics will join with other Bible-believing Christians in trying to apply the Bible judiciously to the challenges that await as the third millennium advances.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what way(s) has the Roman Catholic approach to Scripture evolved over the centuries?
  2. Why is a fundamentalist approach to the Bible incompatible with a Roman Catholic approach?
  3. How do Scripture and Tradition relate in Roman Catholic thought? What is the magisterium, and what role does it play in Roman Catholic biblical interpretation? How are these aspects of biblical interpretation distinct from the teachings of other Christian denominations?
  4. What might non-Catholics learn from Catholic approaches to the interpretation of Scripture?