In the middle school ministry we are often asked questions about Scripture. Here are some resources to for your home discussions:
I would ask you to especially consider points 4-6. Young adolescents have epistemological concerns. Epistemology is a term which means “how do we know what we know?” and is concerned with defining authority of knowledge (do I / can I trust the person telling me this information?), the transmission of knowledge over time, and how knowledge has been shaped throughout history and context.
In middle school young people are taught about world religions and civilizations, so it is completely natural that these type of questions would arise as they are exposed to the parallels between many religions.
Often questions come up as to whether or not something “literally happened.” For questions like this, I would recommend reading the study notes in your Bible for context. For example, we do not see a conflict between God’s creation and evolution. We read the story of Adam and Eve as a story which tells us about God’s love for creation, a love that continues despite our short comings. It is a story that explains how death entered into the world (through eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad or God and not-God, aka life and death).
Other questions that come up are about discrepancies or seemingly contradictory teaching within Scripture. As the Catechism teaches us, the Bible, while being divinely inspired throughout, was written down by different people in different contexts over hundreds of years. As a result, the books of the Bible are in dialogue with one another. In some cases, a single book of the Bible contains traditions written by different individuals/groups (i.e. two creation stories or two versions of the Noah story side by side). This is because the Biblical editors wanted to preserve the different traditions. This is also part of why we have four Gospels instead of one. Think of the Bible as a mosaic: each book or tradition is a tile that reveals another aspect of God’s love for us.
Ways to Explore Scripture as a Family
Explore the Sunday readings before going to Mass
- You can see the readings for each Sunday on the USCCB website (click on the “Daily Readings” on the homepage).
- Once you know the readings, open up your family Bible and read it together. Most Bibles have an introduction to each book that gives background, historical context and other useful information. If there is something confusing, check the introduction or the foot notes for clarification. If you are still unclear, ask a priest of Ed/Formation staff member for additional resources.
- Remember, the Mass uses readings from the Gospels on a three year cycle. If you attend Mass every Sunday for a year, you will hear an entire Gospel and could study the Gospel readings at home together.
- In the liturgy, we are supposed to hear the word of God and act upon it. In your readings, be asking yourself, what is God calling our family to do in this Scripture passage?
Read a book of the Bible together
- Don’t set out to read the whole Bible. Choose to read a single book together, and once the habit of reading Scripture together develops, consider reading another book. Some families read a book of the Bible during the season of Advent, or during the season of Lent.
- For recommendations on where to start consider a Catholic family Bible study program such as The Great Adventure offered by Ascension Press. The Break Through Bible from St. Mary’s Press also has recommendations on how to start reading Scripture.
- Once you have chosen a book, set a schedule of reading that works for your family. For example, the gospel of Matthew has 28 chapters. You could read one per day for a month or one a week.
- Remember, as you read, pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the reading comes alive in your hearing and inspires you to greater love of God, your neighbor and yourself through acts of loving kindness.
Watch a Bible movie together
- There are many resources online and movies available that tell stories of Scripture. However, remember as with any book-to-film adaptation there may be artistic license taken. Before watching a movie consider reading the story so you can spot the difference between what is true to the text and what is not.
If you have any suggestions for resources or approaches to incorporating Scripture into your family’s life that have worked well please let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include them here!