In the Introduction to the
Bible we saw
that the Bible is not just one book but a library, a collection of books.
Each book of the bible has its own literary form, and its own history as
to how it was developed and preserved.
WHAT IS A LITERARY
form" is a way of writing. We take these different forms of
expression for granted and realize that a note to a friend on a postcard
is a different form of writing than a novel. When we read the headlines of
a newspaper we understand that this is a different form of writing than
the editorials, classified ads, or comic strips of the same journal. When we read the Bible we
also realize that there are different forms of expressing truth.
is not a History Book.
Biblical authors were not so concerned about history as
they were about
"salvation history," how the events of the past could be
understood in relation to their faith. Salvation history deals with God's
love for us, first shown to the Chosen People, and then fulfilled in the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Bible is not a science book either. In the
book of Genesis, the story of creation in seven days is not meant to be
scientific truth. The author is communicating the truth that God creates
in a orderly manner. In pagan myths of the time creation was a violent
battle of the gods. The God of Genesis creates effortlessly by the spoken
word. Whereas the material universe is often exploited and devalued, God
sees it as "good," a word repeated seven times in Genesis 1:1-31
note below on meaning of "seven"). The Bible records truth about
God's creation of the universe no matter what the actual scientific process
might have been. Truth can be found in imaginative story telling or poetry
as well as history or science. When we read the Bible we must appreciate
it for what it is -- a faith record not a history or science book. Those who read with a fundamentalist approach
will find this hard to accept. They will want God's word to mean exactly what it
says, literally, without appreciating the literary form. The crucial
question is, what does the Bible intend to tell us about God, about
creation, about ourselves and our world.
NOTE: In the Bible, the
number seven is a symbol for completeness or perfection. God completes the
work of creation and rests on the "seventh day" (Gn. 2:2), which
God declares "holy." Observing the "Seventh" or the Sabbath
Day (Hebrew shabat) is one of the most important practices in
WHAT IS THE
RELATIONSHIP OF A PASSAGE TO THE REST OF THE BIBLE?
When we read the Bible it
must be read in relation to the rest of the Bible. Any text taken out of
context, or even any book of the Bible taken out of context, can present a
This is the passage in Mark's
gospel where Mary and Jesus' family "come to take charge of him"
because they think he has lost his mind . How does Jesus seem to treat his mother? If Mark was the only Gospel you
had, would you think that Mary played an important role in the Bible?
Now read Matthew 1:1-7
This is a long, and
somewhat dry, genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's gospel. Mary is listed
along with four other women, all who are non-Jews. Tamar and Raheb are
Canaanites; Ruth is a Moabite; Bathshebah, wife of Uriah, is a Hittite. What does this say about
Mary and what does it say about Jesus' mission for all people?
Now read the story of
Jesus' birth in Matthew 1:18-25
In Matthew, Mary doesnít speak. All the focus is around Joseph.
What does Matthew say about the Messiah? Does this add anything about your understanding of Mary?
Would it be helpful to read Isaiah 7:10-14 to understand the meaning of
Emmanuel? (See Note below).
This is a much longer
passage regarding the annunciation of the Birth of Jesus. Luke's gospel gives us many of our traditions about Mary.
Luke describes Mary as a woman of faith overshadowed by the Spirit at
Jesusí conception (Luke 1:35) and at the birth of the church at
Pentecost (Acts1:14). Mary is the first to respond to the glad tidings, to
hear the word of God and keep it (Luke 11:27-28)How does Mary respond to God's message? (Luke 1:38).
Read the account of Mary's visitation with Elizabeth in Luke
What happens when Mary visits Elizabeth?
What does Elizabeth say about Mary?
What does Mary say about God's promises?
gospel portrait of Mary, she
is never named except as the "mother of Jesus." She appears
twice in Johnís gospel, at the beginning, at Cana, and at end, at the
cross. Mary embodies what it means to be a disciple of the "Word made
flesh" (John 1:12-14).
Read the story of the Wedding at Cana in John 2:1-12.
What does Mary say to Jesus?
Why do you think Jesus called his mother "woman"? (Think about Eve in the
Book of Genesis 3:15,20. How might this relate to Mary?).
What did Mary say to those waiting on table? (Think how this might apply to
the Passion Account
in John 19:25-27
Mary stands at the foot of the cross.
What is her relationship to John (the "Beloved Disciple")?
What is John's relationship to Mary?
Does this say anything about our relationship with Mary?
accounts of Mary in all four
Gospels, do you have a fuller understanding of her role in the
Bible? Do you have a better appreciation of Mary's role in your life?
The word "Immanuel" means "God who is with us." The prophet Isaiah probably had in mind
a future king who would
rescue Judah in the midst of a national crisis. This was in fulfillment of God's
promise that David's kingdom would remain forever (2 Sm 7:12-16). The
young woman who gave birth to Hezekiah, the promised king, was at the time an
unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah). The Church, following
Matthew's reference to the "virgin" (Greek: parthenos) interprets this as the
Blessed Virgin Mother of
Jesus. Jesus is Emmanuel who will save his people from their sins, the
fulfillment of God's plan for salvation. Jesus' kingdom endures forever! (See
footnotes to this passage in your Bible.)