How to Read the Bible as a Catholic

Reading the Bible is like getting to know a loved one: it’s deeply personal, yet shared with a community of believers. As Catholics, we have a unique perspective on the Bible, and it can be a treasure trove of insights and spiritual growth if read with the proper understanding.

Why the Bible Matters to Catholics

Let’s clear up a common misconception first: despite what some folks might think, Catholics do read the Bible. The Bible isn’t just for Protestant Christians; it’s God’s Word for everyone. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God'” (CCC 104).

This lines up with what the Bible itself says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NRSV).

The Role of Tradition and the Church

Catholics do not rely solely on the Bible for understanding God’s will. Tradition and the teachings of the Church also play a crucial role. The Bible didn’t just drop from the sky; it was the early Church that discerned which writings should be included in the Bible. The Catechism says, “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (CCC 97).

Reading the Bible outside of this Tradition can be misleading. For instance, Martin Luther, who led the Protestant Reformation, once wanted to toss out the book of James because he felt it contradicted his interpretation of faith and works. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, helps us avoid such pitfalls by providing a consistent interpretation that’s been passed down through the ages.

The Importance of Context

Ever hear the phrase “A text without a context is a pretext?” Well, it’s particularly true for the Bible. The Bible was written over centuries by different authors in diverse cultures. Understanding the historical, cultural, and literary background of a passage is essential for interpretation. This is where reading commentaries, ideally those that align with Catholic teaching, can be very helpful.

The Spiritual and Literal Sense

The Catechism guides us to look for the “literal sense” and the “spiritual sense” of the text. The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation (CCC 116). The spiritual sense, on the other hand, can be subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.

Take, for example, the story of the Exodus. The literal sense is that it’s a historical account of the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt. The allegorical sense might be seen in how it prefigures Jesus freeing humanity from the bondage of sin. The moral sense could be about the virtues required to follow God faithfully, and the anagogical sense might involve our journey to the heavenly “promised land.”

Unity of the Scriptures

Another principle of Catholic Biblical interpretation is the unity of the Scriptures. The Old and New Testaments are two parts of the same narrative: the story of God’s love for humanity. Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17, NRSV).

How to Actually Read the Bible

So, how does one actually go about reading the Bible?

  1. Prayer: Before you start, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.
  2. Choose a Good Catholic Bible: There are many translations, but make sure you’re using one with the imprimatur of the Catholic Church.
  3. Start Small: You don’t have to read it cover to cover right away. You might start with the Gospels to get to know Jesus better.
  4. Reflect: Take some time to think and pray over what you’ve read. Maybe jot down some notes or thoughts.
  5. Discuss: Don’t read in a vacuum. Talk to others, perhaps in a Bible study group.
  6. Seek Guidance: When in doubt, look to the teachings of the Church, consult the Catechism, or talk to a priest.


Reading the Bible as a Catholic is a unique experience that combines tradition, community, and personal reflection. The Church provides us with the tools and guidance to delve deeply into the Word of God. As St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” So, open that Bible, and let the journey begin.

🙏 Your PayPal Donation Appreciated

Select a Donation Option (USD)

Enter Donation Amount (USD)


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you.

Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scroll to Top