January 26-27, 2019
The Inspired Word of God must be shared!
From Fr. Anthony Ligato
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We don’t often think about how all the scriptures were brought together to create the book we know as the Holy Bible. We know that the scriptures are the inspired Holy Word of God and that many different people received this inspired Word from God. Beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God spoke to those whose hearts were open to the voice of God. The communication of the Holy Word of God began as an oral exchange of God’s revealed plan of salvation. From the earliest days of the oral tradition, it began to be shared in written form. But it would not be until the Israelites were taken into captivity that the first written set of holy scriptures appeared.
In the late Seventh century B.C. the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians and while in captivity they put together the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures known as The Pentateuch, in Jewish tradition it is known as the Torah. The word Pentateuch means five scrolls which contain the law, from the Greek. These first five books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Those five books give the law to the Jewish people and help to order their lives.
From these first five books came other inspired scriptures such as the Psalms of King David which are songs of prayer and exhortation along with prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of petition. The words of the Prophets called the people of Israel back to faithfulness and reminded them of the law which is found in the first five books as well as the future promise of a Messiah. These are the scriptural writing the first century Church used along with the witnessing of the Apostles.
The entire collection of those writings of the Hebrew Scriptures was called the Septuagint which was the Hebrew Scriptures translated into the Greek. This would be the basis of the Christian Bibles Old Testament. The Septuagint contained all the books of the Old Testament that are in Catholic Bible, such as the Book of Wisdom and the Song of Songs. These books along with others were disputed as inauthentic by the Protestant Reformation. Thus, when the first Protestant Bibles were written, these books were not included. It would not be until the Twentieth Century that
these books would be proven authentic with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. All the books that are included in the Catholic Bible were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, confirming their authenticity as true Hebrew Scriptures.
The history of the compiling of the New Testament Scriptures can be read in today’s Gospel, Luke 1:14, 4:1421. Luke states, “ Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided after investigating everything accurately anew, to write down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.” Luke wrote his compilation around 75 A.D., this includes The Acts of the Apostles. Luke wanted to communicate to his readers the universal call to salvation which Jesus Christ proclaimed through his life, death and resurrection. The themes of mercy and forgiveness and a constant concern to help the poor, the sinner and the outcast. The knowledge of this message fills all those who hear this Gospel with joy. The joy comes from the knowledge of God’s love and mercy through Jesus’ teachings and his healing action.
All this occurs within the narrative structure of the journey, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. The inspired witnessing of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which Luke compiled has led people for 2000 years to share this word with the same motivation which guided Luke. Along with St. Paul’s letters which were all written between 45 A.D. and 60 A.D. and The Gospel of Mark written around 65 A.D., Matthew written around 70 A.D. and John written around 90 A.D. which also would include the letters of John and the Book of Revelation which were written in that same period by the community of John, these inspired holy writings would become known as the canon of the New Testament and were in wide circulation by the early second century.
What we know as the Bible has been handed down to us from generation to generation because those inspired by God such as St. Luke knew it was essential to pass on our faith to the next generation. We also have the inspired Word of God living in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Eucharist which is God’s Living Word in His Body and Blood. We bring the living word of God to all the world, for as Luke reminds us; we all share in the universal call of salvation.
Yours in Christ,