Growing up Catholic in a dominantly Catholic country, the Philippines, I always thought that I know my faith very well. As a child, I didn’t really know there was a difference between Catholics and Protestants or Iglesia ni Cristo, a Unitarian denomination in the Philippines. I might have been so sheltered within the walls of my Catholic high school that I was naïve of other denominations except for the Muslims. Back then, for me for as long as one believed in Jesus Christ, he or she is a Christian therefore, a Catholic.
I grew older and migrated to Guam then here in the US mainland, got married and have children. All the while still practicing my Catholic faith and discovering that there is a big difference between Catholics and Protestants – and later on learning about Methodists and Latter Day Saints and Jewish and a lot more in between. I’ve reconnected to high school friends who like me; some have grown and left the Philippines to different parts of the world. Much to my surprise, many of them have left the Catholic Church and declared themselves as “born again” Christians and proclaiming Bible verses in most of our communication. The irony was instead of being the confident one because I remained Catholic, I felt uncertain of my worth as Catholic. I wasn’t sure of my Bible knowledge. I didn’t know how to read and interpret the Bible properly. Thus, I concluded that the remarkably consistent reason why most of my former Catholic high school classmates joined other Christian denomination is the Bible.
Still unsure on how to start reading and learning from the Bible, I opted to start with the New Testament. After all, I also needed to build a better relationship with Jesus Christ. Of course, I read the Old Testament here and there and have also learned to connect its relevance to the New Testament. But I am still personally struggling to understand the Church’s teachings. Having this opportunity to read Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, gave me a better perspective, though still struggling, of the Old Testament. Boadt’s method and content corresponds to the Church’s teaching about scholarship and the Bible.
From The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically & Religiously, Daniel Harrington chapter summarized important Catholic teachings about reading the Bible that have been issued since the turn of the twentieth century. Obviously, Vatican II marked a dramatic change of direction for the church, a shift Harrington illustrates with three seminal documents: “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (1993), “The Jewish People and Their Scriptures in the Christian Bible” (2002), and Verbum Domini (2010). Each document encourages what Harrington calls the “both … and” method of reading (80). A Catholic reader ought first to consider the historical critical perspective in order to gain insight into what the biblical authors might have been trying to say before progressing toward a consideration of what the text means spiritually for a Catholic today. He concludes by interpreting the Call of Moses (Exodus 3-4) using a threefold, “both … and,” Catholic approach. First, he illuminates the “world of the text as it has come down to us,” reading Exodus 3-4 as an example of the biblical call-narrative. Next, he explores “the world behind the text,” highlighting the documentary hypothesis and the origins of God’s name. Thirdly, he comes to “the world in front of the text,” providing him the opportunity to recount a personal story in which he was once encouraged by the fact that Moses, like himself, had a speech impediment.
Boadt’s method agrees to what Harrington is suggesting how a Catholic reader should read the Bible. Boadt incorporated the latest archeological, sociological, cultural, literary, and theological scholarship. Chapter two presented the history and geography of the Middle East with the purpose to physically situate the texts and peoples of the Bible.
But rarely have I had a good grasp of the political and cultural context of the region where the events took place, nor of issues regarding authorship and date of writing of the text. This book has proved invaluable to me already and has enriched and deepened my study of the O.T.