What does the Bible really say?

A few days ago Benedict XVI received as a gift to the Holy See from some Americans one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels. the 14-15 Bodmer Papyrus (P75), dated between AD 175-225. The Egyptian papyrus contains about half of each of the Gospels of Luke and John. It might have been originally for liturgical use. It contains the older version of the Our Father.

Scripture is our life’s blood as Catholics, together with Tradition and the Magisterium. Catholics hear more Scripture in the liturgy than just about any other Christian group might hear or imagine.

Translations of Scripture affect our liturgical prayers. Think, for example, about the terrible damage inflicted on the English speaking Catholics of the world because of the odd approaches to translation we endured in the past. Think of the "pro multis" controversy, now happily resolved. Translating texts can be difficult and of vast importance for the life of the Church. Think of what we understand about the Blessed Virgin because of the Greek word kekaritomene in Luke 1:28!

Today’s German language Kathpress Online-Tagesdienst has a little blurb that the Bible has been translated into at least 2426 languages. Makes you wonder how much confusion of doctrine and interpretation can result.

Thank God we have a solid God-guaranteed point of authoritative reference in the Catholic Church! Catholics do not fall into the trap of the un-Scriptural theory of sola scriptura which most protestants hold.

Nevertheless, Scripture is of decisive importance.

Bibel weitweit in 2.426 Sprachen übersetzt
Stuttgart, 24.1.07 (KAP) In 2.426 Sprachen können
einzelne Schriften der Bibel oder die ganze
Heilige Schrift gelesen werden. Wie die Deutsche
Bibelgesellschaft am Mittwoch in Stuttgart mitteilte,
kamen im vergangenen Jahr 23 Sprachen
neu hinzu. Die vollständige Bibel sei in 429 Sprachen
übersetzt. Das Neue Testament gibt es in
1.145 Sprachen. Die Bibel bleibe damit das am
häufigsten übersetzte Buch der Geschichte seit
Erfindung des Buchdrucks mit beweglichen Lettern
durch Johannes Gutenberg.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. David says:

    Father, what is the latest research on the age of the Gospels? Can we still say that they were actually written by the Evangelists? Or do they date from much later?

  2. Fr. D says:

    Fr. Z,

    Totally off topic and I apologize but might you be able to send me your e-mail address? I’d like to send you a link related to your thread on lay ministry.

    Fr. D
    Midwest priest

  3. AC says:


    This is off topic but can you address this? At first blush it stinks of liturgical abuse, but i’m wondering what can actually be done, possibly by a man in your position and with your proximity to power, to stop such an abuse?

    An Indianised Christian experience

    photo: Jesus Christ in `padmasanam’ posture.

    On January 26, Bishop Stanley Roman of the Kollam diocese of the Catholic Church will inaugurate a Catholic church with a difference. He will celebrate the holy Mass seated in padmasanam posture to declare open the Jagat Jyothi Mandir, a meditation centre constructed by the Quilon Social Service Society (QSSS), at a serene location on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake at Parimanam near here.

    Reminding one of Sri Buddha’s Enlightenment, Jesus sits in padmasanam under a tree in the mandir. “The sitting posture represents enlightenment and symbolises a guru.” The statue will be blessed by the Bishop. Above the padmasanam posture is a painting of the Last Supper, but with a difference. Here Jesus and the 12 Apostles sit on the floor with banana leaves spread out to be served with bread and wine. Two traditional lamps (kuthuvilakku) light up the room.

    The walls of the mandir are decorated with symbols of `pancha boothas’ and the four Gospels are represented as vulture (St. John), bull (St. Luke), lion (St. Mark) and angel (St. Matthew). Symbols of all religions are painted on the roof. In fact, the mandir looks like a typical Hindu temple with a 12-foot-tall stone lamp (kalvilaku) in front.

    QSSS director and priest Romance Antony, who conceived the mandir, says that cultural adaptation is an approved policy of the Catholic Church.

    The mandir is an experiment. Indian religious symbols such as `Aum’ have universal value and these were adopted in Kollam diocese 25 years ago by the then Bishop the Late Jerome M. Fernandez.


  4. AC: My experience with these things is that you need to provide some sort of printed evidence or advertisement or statement in a journal or newspaper or parish bulletin that this sort of thing is going to take place. It is possible to go to the Congregation but they will merely say they can’t get involved with a bishop on the strength of a rumor.

    And you are right… this sounds like bad stuff. Aside from the synchretism question, it sounds like there might be some violations of rubrics involved, to say the least.

  5. AC says:


    Thanks for the info. The rubrics violations are easy but i’ve given up on that! At my parents’ NO church the priest does the Oprah thing for the sermon and comes down and walks the aisles as he speaks but nothing is done to stop him even though the bishop is well aware.

    If you need something official, here is the story and announcement in India’s largest newspaper:


  6. the priest does the Oprah thing for the sermon and comes down and walks the aisles

    This being so common, I wonder whether there’s anything in the norms that explicitly proscribes it.

  7. AC says:

    Fr., correct me if i’m wrong, but I believe it’s spelled out in the rubrics that a priest is never allowed to
    leave the sanctuary after the asperges has ended?

  8. RBrown says:

    Father, what is the latest research on the age of the Gospels? Can we still say that they were actually written by the Evangelists? Or do they date from much later?

    Written by the Evangelists or Authored by them?

    It’s not the same thing.

  9. Jon says:


    If I remember correctly there was a recent discovery, only a year or two ago, of a fragment of St. Matthew’s Gospel dating to the mid-first century, presumably confirming the patristic tradition of Matthean priority. I’m afraid, however, that I can’t locate the story with a cursory search, perhaps someone else knows.

    Otherwise, it’s my understanding that recent scholarship is more and more confirming that the historical-critical knotheads of the last hundred years, like Rudolf Bultmann, were wrong, and St. Augustine was right (of course) all the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustinian_hypothesis


    A couple of thoughts.

    Excellent post. I belong to a men’s Scripture study group. It’s a group of eleven very orthodox guys, 30 – 62 years old (most in early 40’s) that meets every Friday morning at 6:30 at a nearby parish. This is our second year. Last year we covered the Gospel of St. John. This year we’re taking on St. Luke. We’re using very reliable sources that bind together that trinity of understanding you remark on: Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. They are; the Navarre Bible, the Haydock Bible, and the Catechism. It’s been a wonderful experience, a real help in our vocations as husbands and fathers, and without question brought every single one of us closer to Our Lord.

    I couldn’t agree more with St. Jerome; “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” and agree inversely; to know Scripture is to know Christ. We Catholics can never know enough Scripture.

    Now I have an observation. I and several other readers (okay, maybe one), of both the blog and your column, have noticed that there’s been an almost studied avoidance of the elephant in the corner the last couple of weeks. That, combined with this exciting job opening observed in today’s VIS (feel free to forward to Martirano if you know anybody there who might be interested):

    – Archbishop Angelo Mottola, apostolic nuncio to Iran, as apostolic nuncio to Montenegro.

    leads us to wonder if indeed the elephant is ready to stand up and make itself known. In that regard, we’d like to know if you could offer a little counsel for our comfort. Your response doesn’t have to be specific. I’m sure we’d all be happy if you merely picked one of the below:

    1) Loose lips sink ships.

    2) Patience is a virtue.

    3) Go away, the Wizard’s not home.

    Thanks! ;)

  10. AC says:

    B: I cannot believe that as many old churches have the pulpit in places that can’t be reached from the sanctuary.

    Are you agreeing that the pulpit in all the old churches is already in the sanctuary so there’s no reason to leave? I think that’s what you’re saying. At my parent’s NO church, it’s also in the sanctuary (not that there’s really much of one) but the priests ignores it and walks amongst the people.

  11. Father Z: Here’s the ICEL version that some of us heard at Mass this morning:

    God our Father,
    you taught the Gospel to all the world
    through the preaching of Paul your apostle.
    May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith
    follow him in bearing witness to your truth.

    Not, by any means, one of ICEL’s worst efforts.

  12. James P. Gavin says:

    With all due respect, I will believe the translation issue is resolved when I see the translation in my revised missal
    at Mass. If one wishes to be absolutely horrified, look at the inclusive language Psalms of the NAB. After that episode I purchased the IgIgnatious Bible as well as the DRV.

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