+J.M.J+

SCRIPTURE QUESTIONS


This page answers general Scripture questions. For answers to "biblical" objections to Catholicism, see "Is Catholicism Unbiblical?".

  1. What does the Bible mean when it says God created man "in His image and likeness"?

    It means that we are personal beings with intelligence and will and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), much like God (though we are infinitely less than and subject to Him). Since God is pure Spirit, without a body, His image in us is primarily in our souls, not our bodies. In other words, ones skin color, ethnicity, etc, has nothing to do with the image of God (God is not white or black, male or female, etc.). But since soul is closely united to the body, and manifests itself through it, the human body, to a certain extent, reflects something of the image of God in the soul, particularly in those physical charateristics which set us apart from the animals.

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  2. Why did God punish Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit? What's so sinful about eating a piece of fruit?

    The sin was one of disobedience against an express command of God (Genesis 2:16-17). There is nothing wrong with eating a piece of fruit unless God tells you not to! (Of course, the fruit may be a symbol of something else, but the nature of the first sin is still prideful disobedience.)

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  3. If Adam and Eve didn't know evil, why blame them for being fooled?

    God did not blame them for being "fooled", He blamed them for disobeying His explicit command: "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.'" (Genesis 2:16-17). The command is clear and straightforward: Don't eat the fruit off that tree!  But they did it anyway. That's disobedience.

    Yet the story doesn't end there, for God promised them a Savior, and He Himself later came to save them and their descendents. There is more to the Good News of the Redemption than just the bad news of the Fall!

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  4. Why would a just God punish billions of people for Adam and Eve's error?

    Strictly speaking, God does not punish us for Adam and Eve's error. We inherit the consequences of their actions, but we are really only "punished" for our own sins. The Church teaches that God does not damn people for original sin, only for the sins they themselves actually commit.

    Why do we inherit the consequences of their actions? Because Adam and Eve aren't just any old human beings; the are the first parents of the human race. The decisions of parents often have an effect on their children, for good or for bad.

    For instance, let's say your father was rich, and you stood to receive a fantastic inheritance from him, but he instead gambled all his money away. His bad judgment and reckless acts deprived you of your inheritance! Is that fair? Perhaps not, but that's how it is!

    The decisions of our first parents carried even more weight than that. They had a spiritual "inheritance" to pass on to us: union with God by sanctifying grace. But when they deliberately disobeyed God they cut themselves off from Him; they lost sanctifying grace, and so forfeited it for all their decendents as well. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but life isn't always fair!

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  5. Why would a just God give all women the extra punishment of birth pangs (Genesis 3:16)?

    The text is clear; it is because of Eve's transgression. Again, nobody said life is fair. But God has also mercifully allowed for the development of anesthesia and birthing techniques which can lessen or eliminate this pain. One day God will completely eliminate all suffering and all the results of the Fall.

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  6. Why did the Catholic Church remove God's command against graven images from the Ten Commandments?

    She didn't; we consider it part of the First Commandment.

    The Commandments are found in two places in the Bible: Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  If you read those two accounts, you will notice that neither one is numbered.  The Bible states elsewhere that those verses contain ten distinct commands (Exodus 34:28), but it does not specifically enumerate them.  As a consequence, Jews and various Christian groups each number the commandments slightly differently, particularly the first two.

    Jews consider the words "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" to be the First Commandment, and the proscriptions against other gods and graven images to be the Second.  Eastern Orthodox Christians and most Protestants (except Lutherans) consider the words "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" to be the First Commandment, and the part against graven images the Second.

    Catholics and Lutherans consider the proscription against other gods and graven images together to be the First Commandment, even as the Jews consider them one commandment (though it's the Second in their reckoning).  So we do not exclude the command against graven images, we simply include it in the First Commandment along with "Thou shalt have no other gods before me".

    For more on the numbering of the Ten Commandments, see the following article by James Akin: http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/numberng.htm.

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  7. What does God really mean in Exodus 20:5-6 where He says, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me"?

    On the surface, the text seems to say that the Lord punishes children for the sins of parents to the third or fourth generation.  But it can't mean that because God elsewhere says that he will not punish us for the sins of our parents (Ezekiel 18:2-20).

    Theologians tell us that the proper sense of Exodus 20:5-6 is that a child born of sinful parents will have two difficulties:

    1. His parents will be a bad example, which could cause him to become a sinner as well, so passing it down through the generations, and
    2. The consequences of the bad judgments and actions of the parents can effect the child (witness children born with AIDS or addicted to drugs because of their parent's sins.)

    God does not cause this to happen, but He does permit it.  He allows us to suffer the negative consequences of our actions, and that sometimes affects others as well.  So we must avoid sin not only for ourselves, but also for the sake of others.

    Exodus 20:5-6 occurs toward the end of the First Commandment, against idolatry and worship of false gods.  God seems to be saying that such false worship will have deleterious effects on future generations, particularly by way of a bad example.

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  8. In the Old Testament we learn that God chooses one group of people (Israel) as his Chosen People.  The various books go on to detail the evolving relationship of that people and God including God's intercession for them in wars, slavery and famine.  In the New Testament we are presented a different view of God in the form of His Son, Jesus, with a different message.  No longer is salvation for a chosen few but for any and all who accept his Son.  Salvation is for Jews and Gentiles alike.  Why this change of heart?

    When God made his covenant with Abraham, He promised that by Abraham's "seed" all the nations would be blessed.  The New Testament says that this is a reference to Jesus, the Messiah, a descendant of Abraham.  With so many pagan nations practicing idolatry and immorality, God wanted to prepare a holy and faithful nation into which His Son could be born.  That is why He chose and blessed the Israelites, the offspring of his friend Abraham.

    The Messiah, though Jewish by nationality, would nonetheless be the Savior of the whole world (John 4:42).  Even in the Old Testament we see hints of God's intention to extend salvation to all nations.  Besides the promise to Abraham mentioned above, there are Psalms which call upon the whole world to praise God (Ps. 67 for instance).  There is also the prophecy that one day "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9), and that all nations will seek the "root of Jesse", ie. the Messiah (verse 10).

    These prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament.  God has not exactly had a "change of heart"; He always intended to lead all nations to Himself through the Jewish people, and particularly though the Jewish Messiah, Who was to be Savior of Jews and Gentiles alike (Ephesians 2:11-19).  The New Testament is the realization of that goal.

    We could say that God specially chose the Jews so that He could bless the whole world through them.  There is therefore complete harmony between the Old and New Testaments.

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  9. What about all the other peoples/nations who lived in the Old Testament times, did not God have a plan for them as well?  Furthermore, what about peoples outside of the Middle East such as in China, the Aztecs, and other Indians?

    We see evidence in the Hebrew Scriptures of "righteous Gentiles", that is, men who were not descendents of Abraham yet who served the true God.  Some examples are: Job, Jethro the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:16), and possibly Melchizedek (some believe that he was a theophany of Christ, based on an interpretation of Hebrews 7:1-3, but it is likely that he is just a type of Christ, not Our Lord Himself).  Even the pagan magician Balaam (who could hardly be called "righteous") knew of the Most High God and prophesied in His name (Numbers 22-24).

    The fact that some non-Hebrews worshipped the one true God shows that God did not totally abandon the pagans, but revealed Himself to any who had hearts open to Him.  This may well have occurred in non-Middle Eastern cultures also.  I see no reason why God would find righteous pagans in only one geographical area!

    As for the idolatry of many pagans, Saint Paul said that before the coming of Christ God overlooked their ignorance (Acts 17:30), but now commands all to repent.  So if God pardoned their ignorance there was perhaps hope for their salvation; Christ could have chosen to save those who tried to live by their consciences (Romans 2:14:16).

    Interestingly, Paul's statement in Acts 17 comes during his sermon to the Athenians about their altar to the "unknown God".  Paul told them that when they worshipped at that altar they were unknowingly worshipping the one true God (vvs. 22-24)!

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  10. What did Jesus mean when He said, "Give not what is holy to dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and tear you in pieces" (Mt 7:6)?

    The Church Fathers interpreted this as follows: "what is holy" refers to the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist; "pearls" refers to the preaching of the word of God (see the parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Mt 13:45-46). "Dogs" are those who attack the truth while the "swine" refers to people who wallow in sin and cannot appreciate the truths of our Faith (both of these animals were considered unclean by Jesus' listeners, BTW).

    St. John Chrysostom interpreted this saying as follows:

    "Give not therefore that which is holy to the dogs, for that baptism and the other sacraments are not to be given but to them that have the faith.  In like manner the mysteries of the truth, that is the pearls, are not to be given but to such as desire the truth and live with human reason.  If then you cast them to the swine, that is, to such as are grovelling in impurity of life, they do not understand their preciousness, but value them like to other worldly fables, and tread them underfoot with their carnal life"
    Elsewhere he writes:
    "The Lord had commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to those that sin against us.  That from this Priests might not think themselves obliged to communicate also the things of God to such, He checked any such thought saying, Give not that which is holy to the dogs; as much as to say, I have bid you love your enemies and do them good out of your temporal goods, but not out of My spiritual goods, without distinction.  For they are your brethren by nature but not by faith, and God gives the good things of this life equally to the worthy and the unworthy, but not so spiritual graces" (quotes taken from Catena Aurea, vol 1 pp 269-270)
    This was recently discussed on the EWTN Forum as well. See: http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showresult.asp?RecNum=169548

    Some people are just not ready to accept the truths of God, and may blasphemously mock or distort them.  Perhaps you have witnessed such treatment of the Faith.  We have to pray that God will change their hearts so they will be ready to receive the word of God.

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  11. I am having trouble with Matthew 15:26-27, can you help me?

    These verses occur in the story of Jesus' encounter with the Canaanite woman.  His seeming reluctance to help her was not a refusal, but a test of her faith.  (Of course, He knew how the test would work out; it was more for the benefit of His followers, and for us).

    Here are the verses in question:

    26 (Jesus) answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
    27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
    Though He appears harsh, Jesus was not really insulting her.  He was kind of "prodding" her, to show the depth of her faith in his ability.  She made a pretty clever comeback, to which Jesus responded "Great is your faith!" (her persistence was a sign of her faith in Him).  Then he performed the miracle she requested.

    Now, she was a non-Jew.  Some Jews at the time looked down on Gentiles, since they did not have the Scriptures and the Covenant.  Jesus was showing His followers (who were Jewish) that Gentiles are also capable of faith.  A similar event would be the healing of the centurian's servant (Mt 8:5-13).

    These are lessons for us.  Faith is a gift of God, and God can give it to anyone, regardless of ethnicity.  This Canaanite woman was a forerunner of many Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and become members of His Church.

    The Bible says that all who are in Christ are one body:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek...for all are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  Gentile believers can no longer be called "dogs" under the master's table; they have been exalted to sonship.  God is their Father in Christ.

A.M.D.G


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