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The Bible

"I believe that the Bible is true. But my friend does too, and she thinks that many passages in the Bible mean things that my church disagrees with. And her version of the Bible is different from mine. If it is the Word of God, how can this be?"

The Church knows that the writings of the Bible were inspired by God. But the Bible is composed of English language words, which were translated from Hebrew and Greek language words. Language words are not the same thing as the Word of God. This is an all important distinction that is missed by many people. The Word of God is unchanging and has but one meaning, one meaning that is the same for all people everywhere.

Language words have many meanings, and people will argue about what they mean. Words, sentences, paragraphs—all can have many different meanings to different people. Language is frequently ambiguous and inexact. Lawyers can argue that even the simplest of sentences can have a meaning that no one but themselves would assign to it. ("That depends on what you mean by "is.")

You know that the interpretations given by one pastor or church are often different from the ones given by others. One person can read the Bible and conclude that Christ was indeed God; others will read the same words and insist that they prove that Christ was only a great prophet, perhaps the Son of God, but not God. Both of these conflicting beliefs cannot be the Word of God.

In addition, words change very much in meaning over time. Did you have to read Chaucer in school? It is almost impossible to understand today, because so many words have changed their meanings in English. All languages are like that. The English that was being spoken in 500 AD would sound like a foreign language to us today. The ancient Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek that was spoken in Christ's time is vastly different from anything spoken today.

So we have to be very careful of what the interpretations of the translations of the ancient original Biblical texts really say—what they really mean, what they really tell us about God and ourselves. One group will say it means one thing, another will say it means another thing. How can this be? Would God allow total confusion about His eternal, never changing Word? If He would, why would He have bothered to give it to us in human language at all?

It quickly becomes obvious that if the Word of God is contained in a book of language words (and it is—the Bible) then some one person or institution has to have the authority to say clearly what those language words actually mean. Two people can disagree, and since there is just one truth, this is not possible. If we all think that we can interpret them ourselves, there is mass, total confusion. Everyone will have their own version of the Word of God. But this is impossible; there is only one Truth.

We are not free to assign any interpretation we please to the language words of the Bible. If that were the case, every time two people disagreed about meaning, there would be two contradictory Truths. Do you see the problem here? The difficulty is in determining what the single authority is that has the right to read the language words of the Bible, and then explain in a fuller and clearer way just what the closest approximation in language there is to the Word of God (which is not a human language, English or otherwise).

There can obviously be only one such authority. Two or more will not do, there cannot be two Truths. We cite the Gospel of St. Matthew:

"Thou art Peter, and upon this 'rock' I will build my Church. And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:17-20)

The Apostle Simon, and here called Peter--or "rock" in Greek--was thought of by Christ as the foundation rock that His Church is to be built on. All structures must have a good solid foundation, and Christ knew that St. Peter had unshakeable faith in His message. Upon Christ's death and resurrection, Peter assumed his role as the leader of this new Christian, Catholic (universal) Church. St. Peter was not the prolific letter writer that St. Paul was, but he was the most influential bishop of the new Church at the time.

So it was to St. Peter and his successors in the Church that Christ gave the absolute authority to interpret all matters spiritual. Of course, this naturally includes interpretation of what He said, as written down in the Gospels, and what St. Paul and other early Catholic Christians wrote in letters and diaries, and later gathered together by the Church in a single "Bible."

The Church has always taken this responsibility very seriously. It will not rule on matters of doctrine and faith unless not only the leader of the Church (the Pope) says so, but also only after the Pope has gotten agreement with all the other important bishops and leaders. Great councils are held, and much argument is made before a consensus is reached. This happens very infrequently.

The Church cannot misinterpret the words of the Bible. Whatever the Church says the Bible means is what God binds in heaven as to what it means. Period. No matter what some Christians claim it means. It says so right in the Bible, the book they claim they believe in.

When each person is free to read any meaning into the language words of the Bible, it is easy for the devil himself to quote scripture for his own purpose. The Word of God is unchanging, and is quite different from the many meanings possible of the English or Greek or Hebrew language words that the Bible is written in.

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