Why don’t Catholics read the Bible? (2023)

The independent fundamentalist church I went to as a boy gave me a fantastic amount of Bible knowledge. There were Bible drills in Sunday School, Bible memory contests, and Bible quizzes, not to mention a complete grounding in all the characters and exciting stories from the Bible.

As I got older, I listened to long Bible sermons and went to home Bible studies, youth Bible camps, and a Bible holiday club. I ended up going to an Evangelical University where Bible study was part of our everyday schedule. As a result, I learned that the Bible was God’s inspired word to heal and reconcile the human race.

Why don’t Catholics read the Bible? (1)

Why don’t Catholics read the Bible? (2)

(Video) Why Don't Catholics Read the Bible? | Made For Glory

Our Christian home wasn’t particularly anti-Catholic, but some of our preachers were, and the general impression I got was that Catholics not only didn’t read the Bible, but that they weren’t allowed to. How could Catholics believe the Bible if they didn’t read and study it like we did?

It’s true that many Evangelicals know their Bible upside down and backwards, and compared to them, Catholics sometimes seem ignorant of the Bible. But that’s only an appearance. During this, National Bible Week (Nov. 15-21), let’s sort out how Catholics use the Bible.

Why don’t Catholics read the Bible? (3)

Prayer book or rule book?

The truth is simply that Catholics and Evangelicals use the Bible in different ways. Therefore they have different kinds of Bible knowledge. Evangelicals use the Bible as a source book for doctrine and right moral teaching, and that’s good. 2 Timothy 3:16 says the Scriptures are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Evangelicals also use the Bible for personal devotions and inspiration. This, too, is Biblical. Psalm 119:27 says, “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then will I meditate on your wonders.”

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Ordinary Catholics might not be so adept at quoting chapter and verse, but they do know and use Scripture regularly, albeit it in a different method. For a Catholic, Scripture is not so much a book to be studied as a book to worship with. (Psalms 119:7)

Why don’t Catholics read the Bible? (4)

Some time ago, a friend of mine compared the amount of the Scripture used at Mass to that used in an Evangelical Protestant service. The Catholic Mass was almost 30 percent Scripture. When my friend checked the content of his local Bible-based Evangelical church, he was surprised to discover that the total amount of Scripture read took just 3 percent of the service.

When Catholics go to Mass, they hear a reading from the Old Testament, they say or sing one of the Psalms, then they listen to a reading from the Epistles, then a Gospel reading. The whole structure fits together so that the Mass is focused on Christ in the Gospels.

Catholics follow a three-year cycle of Scripture reading, so a Catholic who goes to church faithfully will – over those three years – hear almost all of the Bible read. Furthermore, the responses and the words of the Communion service are almost all from Scripture. So a church-going Catholic does know and use Scripture – its just that he uses it primarily for meditation and worship (Psalms 119:48) – not primarily for personal information and instruction.


You can think of it this way: Evangelicals use the Bible as a rule book. Catholics use it as a prayer book.

Built on the apostolic tradition

The “prayer book” method is the way Scripture has been used for thousands of years. The Jews recite the Old Testament law in their worship daily. The psalms were the hymn book of the Jews. The New Testament is composed of apostolic letters of instruction read to the churches. The Gospel grew out of the apostles’ preaching about Jesus. In the early Church, they read the letters of the apostles, recited the psalms, and used portions of Scripture to praise and worship God just as Catholics do today. (Ephesians 5:19)

Like Evangelicals, Catholics also use the Scripture to determine doctrine and moral principles – it’s just that the Catholic lay person or pastor doesn’t do so on his own. As Paul gave Timothy the apostolic authority to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), so Catholics believe their bishops have inherited the authority of the apostles to teach doctrinal and moral truth faithfully.

They base this belief on St. Paul’s clear instructions to Timothy, “the things you have heard me say … entrust to reliable men so that they may in turn teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1 – 2). Therefore, it is the bishops — living, praying, and working in a direct line from the apostles – who use the Bible to determine Christian doctrine and moral principles. That Catholic doctrine and moral teaching is biblically-based is easy to see. Try reading any official Catholic teaching documents and you will find they are – and always have been – permeated and upheld with Scripture.

Nevertheless, memories are long. Some extreme Protestants like to say that the Catholic Church not only forbade people to read the Bible, but they deliberately kept the Bible in Latin, chained it up in churches,and even went so far as to burn popular translations of the Bible. Are these stories true?


Burning Bibles

Like most myths, the stories are both true and false. It is true that Bibles were chained in churches, but they weren’t chained up to keep people from reading the Bible. Before the days of printing presses, books were precious items. The Bibles were chained for security reasons the way phone books used to be secured in a phone booths: not to restrict them, but to make them available to everyone.

Did the Catholic Church forbid the Bible to be translated into the ordinary language of the people? No. The Catholic Church encouraged translations into the vernacular from the beginning. The earliest English version of the Bible for instance, is a paraphrase version of Genesis dating from the year 670. However, before the invention of the printing press, widespread translation of the Bible was unnecessary because those who could read understood Latin.

Once the printing press was invented and literacy grew, more translations were made. In a few places, the authorities did burn some translations of the Bible which were deliberately faulty or which carried heretical notes, but this was an attempt to preserve the purity of the Scriptures, not to keep it from God’s people.

‘Take and read’

St. Augustine was converted when he heard children singing, “Tolle legge. Take and read! Take and read!” It was the Bible he picked up to read and the saving words of Scripture transformed his life and brought him to a true and constant conversion.

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Our individual Catholic lives and the life of our Church would be infinitely improved if more of us took Bible reading seriously. We Catholics need more Bible scholars amongst our pastors. We need more homilies that are rooted in a profound understanding of Scripture. We need more resources for personal Bible reading. We need to understand the Scriptures better to see how our faith is rooted and grounded in the Bible. We need to hear the children singing, “Tolle legge. Take and read! Take and read!”

Our own official teachings encourage us to read, study and learn the Scriptures. Dei Verbum – a document about God’s Word from Second Vatican Council says, “…all clergy should remain in close contact with the Scriptures by means of reading and accurate study of the text…similarly the Council earnestly and expressly calls upon all the faithful…to acquire by frequent reading of holy Scripture the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8) for as St. Jerome said, ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is indeed ignorance of Christ.’”


Why do Catholics not read the Bible? ›

The Church rejected this new and Protestant understanding of the Scripture. The Bible, the Church believed, was not the only source of revelation about God: God also revealed himself in nature and through Sacred Tradition. Catholic catechesis, then, included truths not drawn directly from the Bible.

Can Catholics read the Bible? ›

Catholics are certainly encouraged to read the Bible for personal devotion and study outside of Mass. Additionally, there are many excellent Bible studies held at parishes around the world. Not only do Catholics read the Bible, they experience the Bible like no other Christians in the Mass.

What does the Catholic Church say about the Bible? ›

Catholics believe the Bible reveals God's word and God's nature. Catholics believe that they can learn to understand God better by reading the Bible. Parts of the Bible are read during liturgical worship , for example Mass . Worship using the Bible unites Catholics with other members of their faith.

What do Catholics use instead of the Bible? ›

For more traditional Catholics, the Douay Rheims is favored due to its time-tested quality and its use in scriptural translations of the old missal.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary? ›

Catholics do not pray to Mary as if she were God. Prayer to Mary is memory of the great mysteries of our faith (Incarnation, Redemption through Christ in the rosary), praise to God for the wonderful things he has done in and through one of his creatures (Hail Mary) and intercession (second half of the Hail Mary).

Do Catholics pray to Jesus? ›

A number of prayers to Jesus Christ exist within the Roman Catholic tradition. These prayers have diverse origins and forms. Some were attributed to visions of saints, others were handed down by tradition.

Do Catholics read the same Bible as Christians? ›

Thus, the Protestant churches decided to follow the Palestinian canon instead of the Alexandrian (Septuagint), which is why Catholics and Protestants to this day do not read from the same Bible-or at least the same Old Testament.

What percentage of Catholics read the Bible? ›

Frequency of reading scripture by religious group
Religious traditionAt least once a weekSeveral times a year
Evangelical Protestant63%7%
Historically Black Protestant61%8%
8 more rows

Do Catholics accept the King James Bible? ›

The Church doesn't forbid Catholics from having any version of the Bible on their bookshelf. In fact, the Church as a whole doesn't pronounce that the King James Version of the Bible isn't recognized. But Catholics may find it helpful to use the version of the Bible that is used at Mass: the New American Bible.

Which Bible Should Catholics read? ›

The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE) is a Bible translation approved for use by the Catholic Church, receiving the imprimatur of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1991.

Why the Bible is different in Catholic? ›

Catholics and Protestants have the same 27-book New Testament. Thus, the differences between their Bibles concerns the boundaries of the Old Testament canon. In short, Catholics have 46 books, while Protestants have 39.

Is Purgatory in Bible? ›

Roman Catholic Christians who believe in purgatory interpret passages such as 2 Maccabees 12:41–46, 2 Timothy 1:18, Matthew 12:32, Luke 23:43, 1 Corinthians 3:11–3:15 and Hebrews 12:29 as support for prayer for purgatorial souls who are believed to be within an active interim state for the dead undergoing purifying ...

What religion is similar to Catholic? ›

Catholics, especially white, non-Hispanic Catholics, name Protestantism as the faith that is most similar to Catholicism. Interestingly, Catholics see greater similarities between Catholicism and Protestantism than do Protestants. After Protestantism, Catholics see Judaism as most like their faith.

Why do people leave the Catholic Church? ›

When asked to explain in their own words the main reason for leaving Catholicism, upwards of four-in-ten former Catholics (48% of those who are now unaffiliated and 41% of those who are now Protestant) cite a disagreement with the Catholic Church's religious or moral beliefs.

Was the Bible edited by the Catholic Church? ›

Absolutely not. In the days of Jesus, there were a lot texts in use by the Hebrew people. These texts were written on individual scrolls and taken out by rabbis when they needed to be read publically. Jesus and his followers would have been very familiar with most of the texts available at that time.

Why do Catholics call priests Father? ›

Later, in the Middle Ages, the term "father" was used to address the mendicant friars—like the Franciscans and Dominicans—since by their preaching, teaching and charitable works they cared for the spiritual and physical needs of all of God's children.

Is rosary in the Bible? ›

A: As you know the bible does "not" tell us to pray the Rosary because this form of prayer originated only during the middle ages. However, important elements of the Rosary are biblical and/or belong to the common Christian beliefs.

Why do Catholics worship Mary instead of Jesus? ›

First of all, Catholics do not worship Mary. We honor her because she is the mother of Jesus. God himself honored Mary, by finding her worthy to be the mother of His only son. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her: 'Hail, Mary, full of grace!

Do Catholics worship Mary or Jesus? ›

Christ is the center of Catholic Christian worship. The honor and veneration given to Mary further expresses the Christian's worship of God due to the acknowledgement of God's greatest human creation, the mother of his son, Our Blessed Mother Mary.

Do Catholics worship God or Mary? ›

Belief in the incarnation of God the Son through Mary is the basis for calling her the Mother of God, which was declared a dogma at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Veneration of Mary in the Catholic Church.
Blessed Virgin Mary
Venerated inCatholic Church
Major shrineSanta Maria Maggiore, others (see Shrines to the Virgin Mary)
7 more rows

Did the Catholic Church change the 10 Commandments? ›

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis didn't say that God had told him to revise the Ten Commandments as claimed in a widely shared story. Francis never made the purported comments and has not changed or added to the Ten Commandments.

Who do Catholics worship? ›

Catholics worship the One and Only God, who is the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) He is ONE God, in three divine Persons, and his name is YHWH or Yahweh. The second Person of this Trinity (the Son) came to earth and took on humanity.

What is the Catholic Bible called? ›

The Definitive Roman Catholic Bible in English is the Douay-Rheims Bible. Also known as the Rheims–Douai Bible or Douai Bible, and abbreviated as D–R, the Douay-Rheims Version of the Holy Bible, is a direct English translation of what is still the authoritative Bible of the Catholic Church - the Latin Vulgate of St.

Do Catholics read the Bible every 3 years? ›

Sunday Masses use a three-year cycle of readings, whereas daily Masses use a two-year cycle. It has been reported by Fr. Felix Just, S.J., that the Sunday and weekday Lectionaries contain: 13.5 percent of the Old Testament (not counting the Psalms)

Are Catholics required to read the Bible everyday? ›

Bible reading is for Catholics.

The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.

What's more popular Christianity or Catholic? ›

Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity with 1.345 billion, and the Catholic Church is the largest among churches.

Do Catholics believe James was Jesus's brother? ›

The only Catholic doctrine which has been defined regarding the "brothers of the Lord" is that they are not biological children of Mary; thus, Catholics do not consider them as siblings of Jesus.

Does the Catholic Bible say to worship Mary? ›

The phrase "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death" demonstrates that Catholics view Mary not as a goddess to be worshipped, but as a helpful ally in the life-long struggle against sin and temptation. In all of the Marian prayers offered by Catholics, there is not a single claim of Mary's divinity.

Was God removed from the King James version of the Bible? ›

While the more popular Authorized King James Version uses the Divine Name “Jehovah” in Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and Isaiah 26:4, The New King James Version replaced the name with LORD or YAH in those verses and Psalm 68:4.

Does Catholicism have a different Bible? ›

Bibles used by Catholics differ in the number and order of books from those typically found in bibles used by Protestants, as Catholic bibles retain in their canon seven books that are regarded as non-canonical in Protestantism (though regarding them as non-canonical, many Protestant Bibles traditionally include these ...

Who wrote the Holy Bible? ›

Traditionally these books were considered to have been dictated to Moses by God himself. Since the 17th century, scholars have viewed the original sources as being the product of multiple anonymous authors while also allowing the possibility that Moses first assembled the separate sources.

What is the most accepted Bible version? ›

  • King James Version (55%)
  • New International Version (19%)
  • New Revised Standard Version (7%)
  • New American Bible (6%)
  • The Living Bible (5%)
  • All other translations (8%)

What's the difference between Catholic and Roman Catholic? ›

A Roman Catholic is a Catholic who is a member of the Roman rite. There are many Catholics in the East who are not Roman Catholics, such as Maronite Catholics, Ukrainian Catholics, and Chaldean Catholics.

Is the Catholic Bible inspired by God? ›

The Catholic Church holds the Bible as inspired by God, but that it does not view God as the direct author of the Bible, in the sense that he does not put a 'ready-made' book in the mind of the inspired person.

Do Catholics believe in the Old or New Testament? ›

The Catholic Church teaches the doctrines of Jesus Christ as transmitted in the New Testament of the Bible, as well as the teachings, Psalms, and histories of the Jewish prophets in the Old Testament.

Who wrote the Hail Mary? ›

One of the most famous is the version by Franz Schubert (1825), composed as Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen's Third Song), D839, part 6 of his Opus 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott's popular epic poem "The Lady of the Lake", translated into German by Adam Storck.

Does Bible mention dinosaurs? ›

There are later descriptions of creatures in the Bible that could be referring to dinosaurs. One example is the behemoth of Job 40:15-19. Even in fairly modern history there are reports of creatures which seem to fit the description of dinosaurs.

Who lives in purgatory? ›

Purgatory is the state of those who die in God's friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.

What is the closest religion to Christianity? ›

Islam shares a number of beliefs with Christianity. They share similar views on judgment, heaven, hell, spirits, angels, and a future resurrection. Jesus is acknowledged as the greatest prophet and venerated as a saint by Muslims.

What do Muslims believe compared to Catholics? ›

Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and future judge of the living and the dead, but not as the divine Son of God. Catholic Christians believe in One God in Three Divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—revealed to us in the Scriptures. Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity.

Does the Catholic Church accept other religions? ›

While that identification with the Catholic Church officially defines the institution as well as the community that constitutes it, the University also affirms without hesitation that women and men of all religious traditions are welcomed and embraced in that community.

What is a non practicing Catholic called? ›

A lapsed Catholic is a Catholic who is non-practicing. Such a person may still identify as a Catholic, and remains one according to canon law, unless they commit an act of notorious defection from the faith.

What percentage of Catholics go to confession? ›

Confession, Lenten Observances and Anointing of the Sick

About four-in-ten Catholics (43%) say they go to confession at least once a year, including 7% who report going monthly, 14% who say they go several times a year and 21% who say they go once a year.

What is the largest religion in the United States? ›

The most popular religion in the U.S. is Christianity, comprising the majority of the population (73.7% of adults in 2016), with the majority of American Christians belonging to a Protestant denomination or a Protestant offshoot (such as Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses.)

Who removed books from the Catholic Bible? ›

They don't seem to realize that Luther removed seven entire books and parts of three others from it for no other reason than that they didn't fit his idea of “what God really wanted.” Luther claimed they celebrated Judaism and because he wanted to justify his challenging the authority of the Catholic Church, he threw ...

Do Catholics add to the Bible? ›

The Catholic Church did not add books to the Bible. The seven books in question—Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch—are properly called the deuterocanonical books. The label “unscriptural” was first applied by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century.

What religion Wrote the Bible? ›

The Old Testament is the original Hebrew Bible, the sacred scriptures of the Jewish faith, written at different times between about 1200 and 165 BC. The New Testament books were written by Christians in the first century AD.

Do Catholics read the Bible contextually or literally? ›

Yes, Catholics take the Bible literally. What that means, though, as the Catechism states, is that we look for the meaning that the author of any given Scripture passage meant to convey, we don't just look at the words on the page and take them at face value.

Do Catholics worship Mary? ›

No, this is not true. Catholics honor (or venerate) the Blessed Mother; they do not worship her. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (the official teaching of the Church) teaches that worship (or adoration) is meant for God alone.

Is there a difference between Catholics and Christians? ›

Broadly, Roman Catholicism differs from other Christian churches and denominations in its beliefs about the sacraments, the roles of the Bible and tradition, the importance of the Virgin Mary and the saints, and the papacy.

Do Catholics care about the Old Testament? ›

Answer: The Old Testament is very important for Christians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture.

Which Bible do Catholics use? ›

The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE) is a Bible translation approved for use by the Catholic Church, receiving the imprimatur of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1991.

Do Catholics interpret the Old Testament literally? ›

If by literal we are referring to the intention of the author, then yes, Catholics do take the Bible literally. For such a literal reading respects the author's intention it reads poetry poetically, metaphors metaphorically, and history historically.


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