On Planning Scripture Studies

by John Wijngaards, Priests and People, July/August 1990, vol. 4 no 7, pp. 270-277

Blessed are those. . .
who find joy in obeying
the law of the Lord
and study it day and night.

They are like trees
that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves
do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.
Ps 1:2-3


It is a happy development in our time that ever more Catholics, either as individuals or as com­munities, feel the need of direct access to Sacred Scripture. They have begun to realise that God’s Word addresses them personally; that it sheds light on their everyday world; that it is God’s power able to transform their lives. The desire to study Scrip­ture flows from this awareness and is a precious gift.1 In the annals of history, the Church of our own day and age will, hopefully, be recorded not only as a time of Pentecostal renewal, but also as one of revived Biblical spirituality.2 The Spirit and the Word of God go hand in hand as manifesta­tions of the living Christ among us.3

But studying Scripture does not always produce the desired results. Eagerness for immediate fruit may lead to purely inspirational discussions, which may lack depth and which may even lead to a literal clinging to the text, which is far removed from God’s intention. On the other hand, relying one-sidedly on academic research may lead to utter frustration: it can be like digging up fossils in the desert without a drop of God’s life-giving water! Then again, we may be too greedy for spiritual con­solation; turning our Bible study into an act of self- indulgence. But God’s Word is a two-edged sword. It judges our present-day world; it demands con­version and commitment

The purpose of this article is to suggest some principles we need to keep in mind when we want
to organise Bible studies. I will try to be practical. 1 am thinking of leaders in a diocese or country who would like to plan programmes of Scripture study. What should they aim to achieve? What are the elements in an all-round study programme they should not overlook? What means and tools are at their disposal? What kind of programmes have proved successful elsewhere? How should they go about composing their own? The ultimate objec­tive throughout will be to help our Christians strike deeper roots, so that they can draw from the spring of the Spirit and can themselves become fountains of living water (John 7:38). For study is only a means.

Why do we need to study Scripture at all?

Through baptism every Christian is priest, prophet and king with Christ. Every Christian hears in his heart the teaching of the Father (John 6:45). Every Christian receives the Spirit, whether he is young or old, free or slave, man or woman (Acts 2:17). In Jesus’ Kingdom there will be no need of one person teaching another person how to ex­perience God. God writes his law on every person’s heart. ‘All will know me, the least no less than the greater — it is the Lord who speaks!’ (Jer. 31:33-34). Why then is there the need of studying God’s Word at all? Has every Christian not in himself the gift of God’s grace — adequate for a correct and generous response

The answer is: Yes! The basic response of the in­dividual Christian or of a Christian community is an act of faith. It belongs to the realm of the heart, of the Spirit. It is a gift which cannot be acquired by study. It is equally precious in a small child as in an adult, in an illiterate person as in a learned scholar. But this basic response needs to grow as we live ‘from faith to faith’ (Rom 1:17). In order to become mature Christians we require solid food (Heb. 5:13-14). And the food which sustains us on our journey through life is ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Deut. 8:3). That word of God needs to be broken and digested.

God’s Word contained in Scripture is a historical word. Though ultimately addressed also to us, it was first spoken to people who lived many centuries ago in totally different circumstances. It was ex­pressed in an ancient language and through cultural symbols alien to our way of thinking. Study will thus be necessary to understand it fully and cor­rectly. As Jesus Ben Sirach reminds us, we shall need to research into the wisdom of the ancients; to spend time on prophecies; to reflect on the hid­den sense of proverbs and ponder the obscurities of parables. Then, ‘if it is the will of the great Lord, we shall be filled with a spirit of understanding’ (Sir 39:1-6). Or, as Jesus Christ put it, from the treasury of Scripture we shall be able to produce ‘things new and old’ (Matt 13:52).
God’s Word is also ‘alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword’ (Heb. 4:12). God is tell­ing Us something important here and now. He gives us a message that will affect our life and our apostolate. For this, too, study is required, name­ly to interpret it for life. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus knew the Old Testament pro­phecies; their full relevance, however, became clear to them only after Jesus had given the right inter­pretation (Luke 24:27). The Ethiopian travelling to Gaza understood Isaiah 53:7-8, but only through Philip did he learn to whom the prophecy was refer­ring; it led to his conversion and baptism (Acts 8:26-38). Did Jesus not tell us that, in times to come, the Spirit would help us interpret his words in a more complete unveiling of truth (John 16:13-15)?

In traditional terms, these two stages of Scrip­ture study are known as exegesis (drawing the meaning out of a text) and hermeneutics (translating the meaning). A word about each.

Study for the sake of understanding

We read Scripture because we want to know what God is saying. But — and this is something ex­tremely important to grasp! — God spoke through human authors. He used their minds, their feelings, all the expressive powers they possessed. Therefore, in order to know what God said we need first to understand what the human authors wanted to say. In other words, God said only as much, or as little, as the human authors wanted to express on his behalf.4 It is not the external text but the mind of the author that determines the meaning. This mean­ing is known as ‘the literal sense’. In his encyclical on scientific Bible studies (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943), Pope Pius XII makes this very clear. All Scripture studies should aim first and foremost to discern the literal sense of a text ‘so that the mind of the author be made clear’. This principle is also taught by Vatican II.

‘All that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirmed should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit. . . It follows that the interpreter of the Sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writer really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words.’
Divine Revelation, Nos 11-12

If finding out the literal sense is our main task, proper Bible study will be text-oriented rather than theme-oriented. What I mean is: we shall first have to spend our time and energy on trying to under­stand the inspired writings as books. Only at a later stage, after we have digested what they want to say as books, can we cream off some of their teaching in the form of themes. Going to themes straightaway is like comparing different wines before their grapes have been pressed! We will first aim at being able to read certain parts of the Bible with full understanding, savouring what the authors wanted to say, and thus coming into immediate contact with God’s inspired message.

Penetrating the original, literal meaning of a text is an exciting journey. It makes us go back in time and place to the people for whom the text was writ­ten. What was the political and religious situation in which they lived? What customs did they follow? What needs did they feel, what dreams inspired them? Why did the author speak or write to them? Where did he get his ideas from? Did he re-work older material to create his own thought? Did he make use of literary forms of expression known to his contemporaries? What kind of person was the author, anyway? Can we reconstruct his interests and ideals? All this will lead up to the crowning question: What did he want to say in this book, in this passage?

Modern academic Scripture studies are our allies because they attempt to answer these questions for us. Strictly speaking, we are dealing here with a cluster of sciences, which could be distinguished in five categories.

  • General Background Information. To this belong the so-called ancillary sciences: archaeology, ancient history, geography, the study of Semitic languages, comparative literature, and so on. Much of this information is contained in Bible Dic­tionaries, Encyclopaedias and similar reference works.
  • General Introduction to Scripture. The tradi­tional treatise dealt with: Inspiration (How is God the author?), the Canon (Which books are part of the Bible?), Textual Transmission (Do we have the original text?), and Hermeneutics (What meanings can Scripture have, apart from the literal sense?). A modern branch is Bible Genetics (How did the whole Bible emerge as one unit?).
  • Introduction to Specific Books. Here the historical-critical method reigns supreme. Both ex­ternal and internal data are exploited to determine: the author, time and place of writing, the addresses, the purpose, and so on.
  • Commentaries on Specific Books. The classical format is, a general evaluation before each section, discussion of technical features (Hebrew or Greek words, variant readings), explanation of each verse (the real ‘exegesis’) and concluding reflection.
  • Biblical Theology. Topics and schemes are brought together in surveys which may range from the theology of one author (say Jeremiah) to that of a series of books (all the prophets) or of a whole Testament (Old Testament Theology).

Fortunately for us, we do not need to delve into all these branches of academic science to the ex­tent professionals have to. Intermediate guidebooks have been prepared which present the findings of academic science without involving us in all the technical trappings. A combination of such guides with the back-up of reference works and full-scale commentaries will go a long way to bringing these modern studies within our reach.

Study for the sake of interpretation

Once the literal meaning of a text (within the con­text of a whole book) has been opened to us, the application of it to our own life may not take long to perceive. The Book of Jonah, for instance, il­lustrates how God loves the Ninivites, too. They were hated by the Israelites, and abhorred as bar­barians. But Jonah is sent to preach to them. They prove more responsive than the Jews. God saves them because he loves them, too! It is not difficult to infer, in general terms, that God wants to be equally tolerant and loving to strangers and ‘enemies’.

But is that enough? Are we then really doing justice to God’s Word? Have we truly interpreted his message to us in a specific and binding man­ner? For everyone will condemn discrimination in general terms. . . Who are the Ninivites in our life? Experience shows that we may sympathise with the Blacks in Mississippi and denounce apartheid in South Africa, while continuing to treat certain people with distrust and contempt in our own neighbourhood: perhaps people of a religious minority, immigrant labour, belonging to another social class; perhaps the unemployed (‘they could find work if they wanted to’), the disabled (‘they are only half human, anyway’) or women (‘they are there to help men’). Who are the Ninivites we are running away from?

It is here that some real study may be called for.

I am thinking of some input by people who have analysed our society, who have studied discrimina­tion in our part of the world. Let us look at the facts. Then, in the light of such facts, let us allow the Book of Jonah to speak to us again. We shall discover then that God is, perhaps, saying much more to us than we had ever thought. The inter­pretation of God’s Word to our own life situation may then produce some startling results!

Such a process of interpretation can be seen as an effort to widen the horizon of the biblical message. From the particular text, or book, in ques­tion we first enlarge the message by inquiring. What does it tell us about the Kingdom of God? What does it teach us about the quality of love required? What values of liberation are involved? How far is God willing to go in becoming part of us through incarnation? What are the characteristic marks of the Kingdom? Then we compare all this to our own world: What social and economic situation will this Kingdom have to transform? What does this quality of love mean for our contemporaries? How does God’s story continue in today’s reality? What are the signs of our own times that herald the Kingdom, or how has the Word of God been prepared for in other cultures?

It is not possible to give precise guidelines as to the study input required. By its very nature, this will vary from country to country, from group to group. For Christians in a Muslim environment, studying St John’s Gospel will call for input ses­sions on what the Qur’an teaches about Christ. Why is St John’s Gospel, paradoxically, more at­tractive to Muslims than are the Synoptics? For Catholics living in a Lutheran neighbourhood, St Paul’s letter to the Romans should not be studied without reference to what this letter meant to Luther and how it figures in ecumenical relation­ships. What I am saying is: Don’t leave such dimen­sions to uninformed discussion or partial treatment. Arrange for the appropriate study input so that the interpretation of the meaning will achieve its full impact!

Leading to an adequate response

This takes us back to our original question: Why do we need to study Scripture at all? The answer is clear. Study will help us respond with a mature and well-informed love. Understanding God’s message accurately, we can allow it to shape our lives: by the guidance and encouragement it gives us, by the spiritual nourishment of our personal prayer, by its confirming us in conversion and com­mitment. We shall also experience better how God’s Word makes us into a community of faith. It will stimulate us to genuine community worship and community commitment to the apostolate. Study is a powerful means by which God may draw us to a more profound and complete response.

How to compose a Study Programme?

Having clarified our notions, we can now pro­ceed to practical considerations. Some of what 1 am going to say will seem trite and self-evident; I apologise in advance. But I have decided not to take anything for granted. In fact, I hope to present what may almost be considered a ‘check-list’ for planners and organisers.

Essential ingredients of Bible Study

A good programme of studies will possess cer­tain positive constituents, which I have grouped under six headings.

  • It will provide academic input. The best com­bination is to follow a specific textbook, sup­plemented by occasional talks by speakers qualified in Scripture studies and by the availability of a small general reference library.4 Video tapes and audio cassettes may sometimes take the place of either the textbook or the expert speakers.6
  • It will demand a definite personal commitment on the part of the participants. First of all study requires time. The programme will not succeed if the participants are not prepared to attend regular sessions and also devote some leisure time to fur­ther reading, follow-up and preparatory work. Secondly, familiarity with the sacred text is an absolute prerequisite for effective study. The par­ticipants should have a suitable translation of Sacred Scripture7 and be willing to give time to become thoroughly acquainted with the scriptural text itself. In other words, the participants must understand that they will be engaged in real Scrip­ture study, not in attending mere talks or discus­sions on Scripture.
  • Suitable community support will need to be offered. Coming together regularly in a group has many advantages: it stimulates one’s own participa­tion by the spontaneous interactions that take place. Nor should the function of a group leader or ‘catalyst’ be under-estimated. But, apart from such practical considerations, we should remember that the Word of God has a strong ecclesial dimension. It is proclaimed to us by the Church and comes alive in a Church assembly. So, even if we are forced to study Scripture individually, say through a correspondence course, we should keep our study outward-looking: by personal contact with a tutor and by supplementing the course through attending common events, and so on.
  • Somehow or other, the contemporary context will need to be present. As explained above, this may refer to the cultural and religious environment in which we live, the social and economic situation, or apostolic projects we are involved in. This dimension can be catered for by inviting special guest speakers or introducing related documentation.
  • The programme will also have to leave room for response. Since our study is more than an academic exercise, we shall have to give thought to how our new insights and commitments can be suitably expressed. The least we need to do is to plan time for it. It may take the form of some minutes of shared prayer at the end of ordinary ses­sions; some days of recollection, perhaps; some function of commitment.
  • Last, not least, our study programme will need to adhere to a clearly defined method. This includes basically organisation of time and space, a foreseen sequence of steps in the learning process, planned guidance and assessment. Sometimes a textbook may spell out the method as well as give study contents. Usually the method proposed will be explained in a separate outline.

Organisational factors

The programme we decide upon will largely be determined by a number of limiting factors. Not all of them can be mentioned as so much will de­pend on local conditions. But the pros and cons of the most frequent options must be taken into consideration.

  • Even though we are speaking of real study, the abilities of the participants will make a difference to the level of that study. Some people, even though well positioned otherwise, are rather ignorant in basic knowledge of Church history, doctrine, or religious studies in general; others may have had a fairly good grounding. Some are academically in­clined, others are not. The ideal, obviously, would be for us to have a fully harmonious group to work with. But if other considerations weigh more heavily — for instance, we prefer to keep a local group together in spite of imbalance in educational level — we must make sure that the programme caters for everyone in a truly satisfactory way.
  • It is very helpful to involve instructors, that is, people who give an oral input for the study. Real experts, let us say seminary professors whose daily task consists in teaching Scripture, can make an im­portant contribution. But local talent should not be overlooked. Teachers and others who are used to absorbing academic material easily, can be groomed to assume the role of resource person or tutor to a particular group. They may need to be prepared for this by some special introductory ses­sions and suitable bibliographical help. A good for­mula may be to make use of such local tutors, while making room for an occasional visit by a profes­sional Bible lecturer. These occasions can then be utilised mainly for thrashing out unresolved pro­blems or for giving time for general questions.
  • Regarding time and place, the options usually divide into having regular sessions in easily accessi­ble, familiar home surroundings or organising more intensive study days in a more academic setting far from home. The former (regular and at home) has a greater chance of producing lasting results; the latter may offer better facilities, first-class speakers on specialised topics and the advantage of undivid­ed attention. The best solution may, once more, lie in combining both: regular sessions with a group at home might be supplemented by weekends in a central place.
  • Especially in Third-World countries, finance will impose many limits. Books imported from elsewhere, audio cassettes, etc., may well be so ex­pensive as to be outside the ordinary person’s reach. Those responsible for planning an extensive Bible study programme will have to consider carefully how best to spend their limited funds. My sugges­tion would be that they should not waste precious money on costly technological props (video recorders, audio cassettes, imported libraries). Rather, they should gradually build up local resources by bringing out cheap editions, possibly in the local language, of standard handbooks and reference books. Foreign publishers are often quite prepared to yield rights on reasonable terms.8 Moreover, local writers may be able to compose guide books, that agree more with the culture and condition of a particular country.9 Finally, it is better to spend money on training local instructors — that is, to invest in people — than in buying technological equipment.

Basic types of Programme

When we are planning a study programme on a diocesan or national basis we should, on principle, not import a wholesale method and syllabus from elsewhere. For part of the programme we may make good use of material produced in another country, say a good textbook. We may learn from what was done across the borders in the line of method and procedure. But the overall plan and its adaptation to local possibilities and local needs will have to be our own. Education cannot be presented in a ready-made garb.
To help planners further, I will now distinguish five types of basic programmes that have been tried and tested in different parts of the world. They will not come as a surprise because they incorporate the ingredients and factors described above. But plan­ners may find it useful to compare the actual shapes study programmes may take. I will provide a description of an actual example with each.

  • The Nazareth Format is any programme that relies mainly on input through a correspondence course. It means that individuals can do their own Bible study at home. To make up for the elements that are obviously lacking in this format, residen­tial courses are usually offered in addition. Moreover, there should be personal guidance by a tutor through private correspondence.10

Eighty per cent of people in India still live in small rural villages. Distances are vast, even within one parish. To help individuals who are isolated in this way study Scripture, Amrutha-vani Communication Centre has developed special correspondence courses in Telegu, the se­cond biggest language in India. Three will in­terest us here: Kristuni Charitra, the Life of Christ in 20 lessons; Parishuddha Grandha Parischayam, an Introduction to the Gospels in 24 lessons; and Mukti Margam, ‘The Path to Salvation’, an adult catechesis based entirely on Scriptural narratives in 20 lessons. Part of these courses are available on audio cassettes. They are supplemented by personal correspondence.11

  • The Didache Format is instruction on the Bible for ordinary parishioners in the course of parish renewal. 1 chose the term ‘Didache’ because in the Early Church Christians were instructed by regular teaching (didache) during their weekly meetings (see Rom 16:17). The usual programme comprises: reading of a text, explanation, shared reflections, response in prayer. The level of true Bible ‘study’ will depend on the schooling of the participants and the extent to which the programme provides new input.12

Lumko, the National Missiological Institute of South Africa, has developed a number of manuals both for training leaders in the com­munity and for creative Scripture study. The method is well adapted to African needs. Very helpful are the manual on Training Bible Readers (for reading Scripture meaningfully in public) and that on Starting Neighbourhood Gospel Groups.13

  • I consider Open University Format all pro­grammes that aim at bringing studies of some academic level within reach of non-professionals. A complete programme may involve four to five years of study, with approximately 48 sessions a year. The study is done at home, alone or preferably in small groups, with well-prepared study material. Short residential courses are offered once or twice a year, mainly to provide an oppor­tunity to meet professional lecturers.14

In my view, a good basic four-year course could deal consecutively with

  • the Gospels;
  • the Old Testament historical books;
  • Paul’s letters;


Textbooks can be suggested for each year. The academic input would consist of covering in each session part of the textbook and reading/discussing an actual text.15

A two-year course of comparatively high stand­ard is conducted by the Biblical Andragogy Clinic of Ontario, Canada. The material is pro­vided in 20 units per year. The facilitators of the local groups take part in a two-week residential introductory course. The programme includes exams.16

  • The reaffirmation ceremonies of the Cove­nant were originally preceded by instruction in the desert (midbar). People had to leave their homes and live in tents for a couple of weeks. Study pro­grammes based on a similar residential approach are listed by me as falling under the Midbar For­mat. They range from short weekend courses, through ten-day and two-week affairs, to program­mes of a full month. The great advantage of this approach is that a great number of people can be brought to benefit from the lectures of really qualified scriptural speakers. The drawback is the lack of time for a personal digestion and absorption of the input.17


St Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, in the USA, has conducted Summer Scripture In­stitutes since 1977. Attention is given both to the academic quality and t the prayerful response in Bible study. The two-week course focuses on those in leadership or teaching positions within prayer groups.18

  • Finally, most radical of all, the Talmidim for­mat, comprises the initiatives that allow lay men and lay women to live and study the Bible for a longer time ‘as disciples (talmidim) at the feet of their Master’. In Protestant Churches, this form of programme is often known as ‘A Bible College’. In Catholic programmes of this kind, much atten­tion is usually given to a sound exegetical understanding of Scripture rather than a fundamen­talist imparting of the Biblical message (which is sometimes the hallmark of evangelical Bible Colleges).19


In the Diocese of Graz, Austria, twelve par­ticipants at a time stay in the house of a Catholic couple for a three-month live-in with the Bible. Fourteen guest lecturers from various Univer­sities and Seminaries provide a high-level biblical input. There is also ample time for personal study and common reflection, for prayer and imaginative creative exercises.

Concluding remarks

To keep the text readable, I have reserved specific information regarding names, titles, addresses, and so on, to the footnotes. Regretfully, my informa­tion regarding such practical aids is limited to the English language area. Readers in other languages may yet find some interest in those data, for the sake of comparison.

I hope and pray that ever more people may be moved by the Spirit to take up serious Scripture studies. For the Word of God is like the rain that cannot fail to produce a plentiful harvest. It makes the crops grow. It provides seed for sowing and food to eat. ‘So also’, says the Lord, ‘will be the word that I speak. It will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do’ (Isa 55:10-11).

Notes/Bibliographies and Addresses

  • The purpose of The Biblical Movement is to make Sacred Scripture a source of inspiration for every Chris­tian. For a fuller explanation I refer to: J. Wijngaards Communicating the Word of God, Mayhew- McCrimmon, Great Wakering 1978, pp.21-77 (also published by TPI, Bangalore 1979; Communiquer la Parole, Lethielleux, Paris 1982


  • Elsewhere I have defined Biblical Spirituality as the ap­plication of the Gospel to one’s life, to one’s thoughts, actions and prayer. Its four inalienable features are: Ex­perience of God; searching the Scriptures; witness of the Spirit; and transformation of life, see What is Biblical Spirituality?, Catholic Truth Society, London 1979 (also in: WFCBA Bulletin 8 (1978) 131-134; Scrip­ture Bulletin 9 (1978) 9-14, 32-36; Ons Geestelijk Leven 55 (1978) 198-219; Word and Worship, Bangalore 12 (1979) 122-129, 203-214, 231-238.

Useful introductory books on Biblical Spirituality are:

1. Havener, Spiritual Reading of the Scripture, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.
G. Martin, Reading Scripture as the Word of God, Word of Life, Ann Arbor 1975.
J. Martucci, How to Read the Bible, Dimension Books, Denville, New Jersey.


3, Perhaps the most cogent reason for treasuring Sacred Scripture in our personal life is the fact that Jesus re­mains present to us through his Word. I worked this out in:
J. Wijngaards, Experiencing Jesus, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame 1981; also published by TPI, Bangalore 1980, under the title Come and See.

4. The one exception is the fuller sense which applies only to the limited number of cases where an Old Testament passage contains unexpected pointers to Christ.

5.In my view, a small, efficient General Reference Library should contain a selection of various reference books, i.e. one or two of each kind rather than many of one sort. I will enumerate some sections and sample publica­tions in each.

Standard Commentaries

R.C. Fuller, New Catholic Commentary, Van Nostrand, Wokingham 1982.
R.E. Brown et al., The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ 1968.
G.A. Buttrick et al., The Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon Press, New York 1959.
W.F. Albright et al., The Anchor Bible, Double-day, New York 1965.
M. Black et al., Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, Nelson and Sons, London 1962.

Short Commentaries and Guides/in Series

Old Testament Reading Guide (30 booklets), Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN.
New Testament Reading Guide (14 booklets), Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN.
Contemporary New Testament (22 booklets), Daughters of St Paul, Boston 1975.
Scripture Discussion Commentary (12 books), ACTA Foundation, Chicago 1972.
Pamphlet Bible Series (on each Bible book), Paulist Press, Paramus NJ.
Herald Biblical Booklets (4), Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago 1973.

Bible Dictionaries

J.L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, Bruce, Milwaukee 1965.
X. Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Seabury Press, New York 1975.

  • A. Buttrick, Dictionary of the Bible, Abingdon Press, New York 1962.
  • L. Gehman, The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1974.

Old Testament Introductions

B.W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ 1975.
H. Gross, A Biblical Introduction to the Old Testament, University of Notre Dame Press 1968.
W.   J. Harrington, Record of Promise: The Old Testa­ment, Image Books, New York 1963.
R.B. Laurin, The Layman’s Introduction to the Old Testament, Judson Press, Valley Forge 1974.
H.W. Wolff, The Old Testament: a Guide to its Writings. Fortress Press, Philadelphia.

New Testament Introductions

D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Inter-Varsity, Downers Grove 1970.
H.C. Kee et al., Understanding the New Testament, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs 1973.
J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology, SCM Press, London 1971.

  • Leon-Dufour, The Gospels and Jesus of History, Image Books, New York 1970.

P. Neuenzeit, A Biblical Introduction to the New Testa­ment, University of Notre Dame Press 1967.
J. Wijngaards, Handbook to the Gospels, Servant Books, Ann Arbor 1979.

Biblical Magazines (see also under No. 10)

The Bible Today, scholarly articles presented in a readable form; bi-monthly. The Liturgical Press, St John’s Abbey, Collegeville MN, USA 56321.
Bible Bhashyam, scholarly articles within the context of Asian cultures and religions; quarterly St Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, Kottayam 68010, Kerala, India.
Gospel in Context, stress on incarnation of the message; quarterly. 1564 Edge Hill Road, Abingdon Penn., USA 19001.
Word — Event, bulletin of the World Catholic Federation for Biblical Apostolate; excellent for practical bible work; quarterly. WCFBA, Mittlelstrasse 12, D-7000 Stuttgart 1, West Germany.

  • Here are some addresses for: Audio Cassettes (all from USA).


Basic Bible Course from: Contemporary Catacombs, 55E Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602. NCR Cassettes (Mark 10 cass.; Philippians 5 cass.; Luke 12 cass.; John 12 cass.; etc.), Box 281, Kansas City, MO 64141.

Enjoying the Old and New Testaments (8 cass.) from: Argus Communications, Niles IL.

Bible Readings from: Daughters of St Paul.

Scripture Lectures (taped at the Charismatic Bible Institute of San Antonio and Santa Clara) from: Mr Joseph Burdett, Christain Media, PO Box 748, Ogden UT 84402.

  • Not all translations are equally well suited for study pur­poses. Here are some of the most prominent ones with my remarks:

Scripture Version

The Revised Standard Version. Based on the original King James’s version. The English expression is anti­quated, but the text is useful on account of its rather literal translation of the same Hebrew and Greek terms into standard English equivalents. So, good for study; is also ecumenically acceptable. Make sure you get the Catholic edition (with the Deutero-canonical books).

The Good News Bible. Excellent translation for pastoral work with people whose English is a second language. The rendering is somewhat free at times, so keep an eye on other translations while studying! Make sure you get the Catholic edition with the deutero-canonical books.

 The Jerusalem Bible. Scholarly work with very good short introductions and footnotes. Excellent basis for study.

Other good translations are: The New English Bible (Pro­testant) and the New American Bible (Catholic). The Douay version should no longer be used. The Knox version is severely limited through its involved expres­sion and free renderings.

  • An example of what can be done is Theological Publica­tions in India (St Peter’s Seminary, P6 No.5553, Malleswaram West PO, Bangalore 560 055, India). Through agreements with the various publishers, it has reprinted for India, at a fraction of the cost of the im­ported books, important publications such as: The RSV Bible, W. Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (18 vols.) the Jerome Biblical Commentary, and so on.
  • I recommend cooperation with the local Catholic Bible Centre. Addresses of such centres and of useful con­tacts in all countries may be obtained from: World Catholic Federation for Biblical Apostolate, Mit- telstrasse 12, D-7000 Stuttgart 1. West Germany.
  • One of the best known English-language correspondence courses is the Journey Series (20 lessons on the Old Testament; 20 on the New). From: Guided Study Pro­grams, 260 Colborne Street, London, Ontario, N6B 2S6 Canada.

The same effect is achieved by periodicals aimed at stimulating Bible reading at home. Here are some examples:

Home Reading Guides (all from USA).

Share the Word, monthly magazine for Bible study. Offers contents and method. From: Paulist Office for Evangelization, 30-31 Fourth -Street, N.E., Washington DC, 20017.

Godfs Word Today, monthly issue on a Bible theme or book. From: Box 7705, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Renewal. Home Reading Guide, monthly to support Biblical renewal in the Archdiocese of Newark. From: Office of Pastoral Renewal, 300 Broadway, Newark NJ, 07104.

  • The address of Amruthavani is: PB 1588, 50 Sebastian Road, Secunderabad 500 003, Andhra Pradesh, India.


  • From the wealth of material, I have selected some publications that organisers of a wide-based Scripture study programme will find extremely useful:

Guides for Bible Study Groups Aids to Adult Scripture Sharing, by L. Girzaitis. Short, but good introductory essays; information on available programmes and courses in N. America, 1981. From: Twenty-Third Publications, PO Box 180, Mystic CT, 06355.
Transforming Bible Study, by W. Wink. Practical hints for vitalising Bible groups. SCM Press, London 1981. Neighbourhood Bible Studies, by M. Kunz and C. Schell, Tyndale House, Wheaton IL.
TEEC Bible Study Course, series of workbooks on parts of the Bible. Includes contents and method. From: Theological Education by Extension College, PO Box 23924, Joubert Park, Johannesburg 2044, South Africa.
Rural Bible Study Programme, four-year course on Matthew, John, Paul and the Old Testament. From: Office of Religious Education, Box 678, Rapid City, South Dakota 57709.
Meeting Christ in Scripture, course developed for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. From: Dianne and Roger Miller, 12016 La Cima Drive, La Mirada, California 90638.
The Apocalypse, five-week adult study guide on Revelation. From: Philip van Linden, CM, St John’s Seminary, 5012 East Seminary Road, Camarillo, California 93010.
For Bible Sharing Groups among illiterate people, the following books may provide ideas:
H.R. Weber, Experiments with Bible Study, 1981; from: World Council of Churches, 150 Route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.
J. Wijngaards, Communicating the Word of God, Mayhew-McCrimmon, Great Wakering 1978; TPI, Bangalore 1979.

  • The address of the LUMKO Institute is: PO Box 11, 5410 Lady Frere, South Africa


  • I have not come across a really good example in publica­tion. Perhaps the course in Memphis Tenn. is going in that direction. The course material is available from: The Office of Religious Education, 1325 Jefferson Avenue, Memphis, Tenn., USA 38104. Two textbooks were produced: R E. Obach and A. Kirk, A Commen­tary on the Gospel of Matthew and A Commentary on the Gospel of John, Paulist Press, Ramsey NJ 1982.
  • As basic textbooks I could think of the following publications:

Year 1. J. Wijngaards, Handbook to the Gospels, Servant Books, Ann Arbor Michigan 1979; also by TPI under the title Background to the Gospels. Year 2. R.B. Laurin, The Layman ’s Introduction to the Old Testament, Judson Press, Valley Forge 1974. With the Old Testament Reading Guide on the main historical books.
Year 3. P.F. Ellis, Seven Pauline Letters. The Liturgical press, Collegeville MN 1982.
Year 4. S.F. Winward, A Guide to the Prophets, Hodder and Stoughton, London 1968.

  • The address of the Biblical Andragogy Clinic is: 1485 Glenburnie Road, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5G 3C9.


  • These are held in almost every country. To my knowledge, no assessment of various methodologies and approaches of such seminars has ever been published.
  • Programmes and past material available from: Mr Joseph Burdett, Christian Media, PO Box 748, Ogden UT 84402


  • In India, Catholic lay men and women annually join in a ten-month residential diploma course run by the Charismatic Movement. Address: Yesu Bhavan, Seven Bungalows Road, Versova, Bombay 400 061, India.
  • The course is directed by Gernot and Hanni Friedrich with Fr Karl Maderner as moderator. Address: Haus der Stille, A-8081 Heiligenkreuz, Bei Grz, Austria.


This article was first published in Scripture Bulletin (Vol.l2y No .l) in the winter of 1986.