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Read the Bible or the Gospel?

  • 15-01-2024 6:37pm
    Registered Users Posts: 2,113 ✭✭✭

    Should practising Christians read the Bible regularly or should they be better of reading the Gospel?

    The Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ. Why not focus purely on that?


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Well, I have to point out that the gospels are part of the bible; they are not something separate and apart from the bible. So the question really comes down to, should Christians read the whole of the bible, or just the part of it that deals directly with the life of Jesus Christ?

    The Christian tradition is that all of the scriptures are inspired. We tend to read all the other scriptures in the light of the gospel, but we do read them. God inspired them for reasons; why would we ignore them?

    (Or, if you want a justification that doesn't appeal to supernatural claims, the gospels presume a knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures, or of what is in the Hebrew scriptures. If you're unfamiliar with the Hebrew scriptures you can't properly understand the gospels.)

    Post edited by Peregrinus on

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,043 ✭✭✭martinedwards

    The Old testament is the back story. Its how Jesus came to be.

    The Gospels are the life story.

    The rest of the New testament is how to react to the life story.

    read it all!

  • Registered Users Posts: 893 ✭✭✭Jellybaby_1

    Doesn't the Old Testament prophesy the coming of Jesus? The prophets foretold what was coming. Jesus himself quoted them. Why not read the OT? That's where we read the Ten Commandments. Lots of great stories there too, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Esther to name a few. Surely you gotta get the whole story. I learned a lot of Bible stories as a young child both OT and NT. Sorry for all the questions, I just can't understand why any practising Christian wouldn't read the whole, or the greater part of the Bible. You will I'm sure receive better replies from those more qualified than I am.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,113 ✭✭✭Danye

    Thanks to you all for your replies.

    I know that the Gospels are part of the Bible. The question I was pondering is why do Christians place so much emphasis on the Bible overall, rather than the story of their Prophet.

    I myself have read the Gospels and I loved it. Regardless of what someone's faith may be, I think it is fair to say that Jesus Christ is a great person and role model the way he lived his life and treated people. I have attempted to read the Bible and I personally think it's contains some weird and dark stories, some of which don't align with the message Jesus wants to convey.

    My understanding of Christianity is that it is based on Jesus Christ. He is the savior. We have to live as he lived and do as he said to be saved. If so, why not read his story only?

  • Registered Users Posts: 893 ✭✭✭Jellybaby_1

    Well it certainly is the best story to start with for a new Christian, but I feel when Christ himself quotes the prophets then why not check 'em out too.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Why do we need saving? What are we being saved from? What does "saving" mean, anyway? You only have to pose those questions to see immediately why Christians might consider the Old Testament and the letters of Paul to be relevant and important.

    Post edited by Peregrinus on

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    Read it all.

    But ask yourself why you are reading it.

    And is there something else you ought to be knowing first, I.E. basic catechesis. Tradition matters.

    If one has limited time, I figure get the basics of faith down first, then go read. Baltimore, Penny, St. Pius X, even the council of Trent one is good.

    I agree the 27 NT books tend to be more important but note there are lots of beautiful books and verses you will miss out on if you leave out the rest. The Pentateuch is fascinating. Psalms. Wisdom, Ecclesiastes.

    Be careful which bible translations you read. Try and learn some Greek and Hebrew and the history of the bible. It’s truly a journey. Which is why you do the catechesis first.

  • Registered Users Posts: 893 ✭✭✭Jellybaby_1

    Learn Greek and Hebrew?? If I'd had to do that I never would have read it in the first place.

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    Not everybody has all the time.

    If one doesn’t, then I think (my opinion, and just mine) do the basics first.

    The deed dive is only if one really has the time. Basics always first.

    The original languages can give one a slightly better understanding how translations work. And how many manuscripts there really, variations and then may inform you how you want to read it. NA27 apparatus etc.

    For example Mark 9:29 why are there variation just something at the top of my head. (I would follow the more conservative one).

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    Doctrinally, I would suggest The RSV (Catholic) edited by Scott Hahn et al, btw “Ignatius study bible” also available as an app. Nice hardback New Testament book with extensive footnotes. the OT is more barren but they are working on footnotes on them too on the online version.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Mk 9:29 is rendered in different translations as "this kind can only be driven out through prayer" or "this kind can only be driven out through prayer and fasting", or some variation of one or other of these statements. (The statement is about driving out demons.)

    A knowledge of Greek is not going to help you decide which of these two versions is the more authentic. The statement exists in two forms because some early manuscripts have one version and some have the other. We have no certain way of knowing whether the original text had "and with fasting" and it was later dropped, or didn't have it and it was later added. Scholars discuss which of these two events is more likely to have occurred and why, but there is no proof, either way.

    Older translations - the Authorised Version, the Douay - tend to have "and with fasting"; it's (some of) the newer translations that omit it. But this just reflect that the manuscripts that don't have it were the later to come to light. That doesn't mean they are inauthentic; they are just as ancient as the manuscripts which don't.

    To some extent, the translator's choice tends to follow their theological background or preference. Translations from Protestant sources - e.g. the NIV - are more likely to omit "and through fasting", because this version aligns with a Protestant emphasis on justification by faith alone, and the vanity of works. But this isn't an inflexible rule; the New American Bible, a Catholic translation, has "This kind can only come out through prayer", with a foonote to tell the reader that there is a variant reading with "and through fasting".

    I am interested that rs232 says that he prefers "the more conservative version". I'm genuinely uncertain which reading he considers "more conservative", and why.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,112 ✭✭✭homer911

    To be clear, as Peregrinus makes it sound like the NIV translation is biased in some way. The NIV translation also includes a footnote which is typical when source materials are not in complete agreement. I would expect that the translation would reflect what is recorded in the majority of unique source manuscripts with the footnote reflecting what is in the minority of manuscripts.

    A translator's choice should never follow their theological background or "preference" - this is why translations are reviewed and validated by scholars of various backgrounds to ensure accuracy - anything else is simply a lie.

    As an aside, I really don't see a relationship between justification by faith alone and praying and fasting. Fasting is not unique to any Christian denomination and is mentioned many times in the Bible.

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    Everytime a translation is made, there is always potential for bias.

    If one knows more than one language, one may appreciate this more.

    Even knowing the original languages today, some words are problematic. Some words only occur once or twice and we’re left trying to figure out what they really mean based on similar roots from other Semitic languages.

    Personally, if you ask me, if you really take everything apart, you may find yourself staring at the abyss of extreme doubt. I suppose some people want that.

    I’ve been there, didn’t like it, figure I’ll just going to double down on being conservative. Tradition and traditional ways of looking at things. I’ve indicated which translation I prefer ;)

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    P.S. OP, you can have your cake and eat it, free of charge thanks to these providers. - Vulgate (Clementine), DRB, Knox. Easy to use interface. - gospel/propers of the day. I’m new here seems like someone’s also posting the Sunday propers here too.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    "Prayer and fasting" is in fact what's in the great majority of manuscripts, and it's probably a relatively straightforward "go with the majority" policy that led to older translations — both Catholic and Protestant — preferring that version. Later scriptural scholarship has more nuanced ways of evaluating textual discrepancies like this, and a lot of scholars are of the view that, more probably than not, the minority of manuscripts that omit the reference to fasting are more reliable — hence the trend to just have "prayer" in the primary text, with a footnote about "fasting" being in some manuscripts.

    I'm not the first to suggest that, in the NIV, theological considerations — specifically, Protestant and Evangelical theological perspectives — have influenced translation choices. In fact, a revised NIV was issued in 2011, aiming to address some of those criticisms.

    The specific issue here is not just that there's a reference to fasting — as you point out, there are many such in the Bible. The issue is that the text makes a claim — attributed to Jesus Christ, no less — that fasting is efficacious. That's theologically problematic for some.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,112 ✭✭✭homer911

    We seem to be going down a rabbit hole here. I'm no biblical scholar so I'm not going to pursue this and will bow to your apparent greater knowledge. I'm not a fan of the NIV2011 either as it has replaced many words in an effort to introduce "inclusive" language, which imo detracts from the original meaning. I guess we all have our favourites..

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    I think for most ordinary Christians in the pew, which bible translation to use is not a huge issue. Use the one that's to hand, or the one that you like for aesthetic reasons, and don't fret about it. The translation and adaptation issues that the scholars debate among themselves are not likely to be dealbreakers for you, and in any case few of us are really equipped to say which of the competing scholars is more correct.

    If you want to go into things a bit more deeply, rather than learning Greek and Hebrew as rs232 suggests, I think a more realistic approach is to get, and compare, a few different translations, preferably including some with good explanatory notes about textual and translation issues. That'll give you a good sense of the range of meaning and nuance that's embodied in the earliest manuscripts of the original texts.

    Post edited by Peregrinus on

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    There is definitely wisdom in not overthinking it.

    This is where tradition comes in.

    Although that itself is under threat in my house, figuratively speaking.

    Consider what some scholars today (maybe many) think of today’s gospel reading. Interpolation? Or not?

    So be careful, caveat emptor.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,179 ✭✭✭Thinkingaboutit

    The Gospel is in the bible, although the pericope seen at Mass might on occasion bring together verses that are at some distance from each other in the bible. Undoubtedly, the epistle and Gospel or just the Gospel are well worth reading, a source of spiritual growth. A way could be to read the verses before and after the readings at Mass, but if someone is pressed, the Gospel alone is excellent. It helps etch it in memory.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,113 ✭✭✭Danye

    Update - I have started to read the Bible. Started on Page 1 and read through it.

    It’s a mad read. Murder, slavery, incest. Bizare.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,026 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Not to put you off, but the cracking pace and lurid plotting are not maintained. As you go on it you'll find it getting a bit duller. A lot duller, in fact.

  • Registered Users Posts: 893 ✭✭✭Jellybaby_1

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,443 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

    Been reading it 40 years.always something that makes more sense. Always a deeper understanding of the One it's about

  • Registered Users Posts: 22 rs232

    Nope. Disagree. For anyone with an analytical mind, caveat emptor.

    There is lots duplication, welhausen etc. kings vs chronicles.

    I believe we were meant to use what we have now, but how they came to be? Be careful what you read. Ah, you’re going to read it anyway. Caveat emptor.

    Rely on our supernatural tradition. You’ll be ok.