The Roman Catholic Parish of
Is our source of divine revelation about God, Creation, the close relationship between God and us and also about the history of our salvation. We find there many interesting, moving and shocking stories, deep wisdom, beautiful poetry and prose, great prayers, divine commandments, apostolic exhortation and of course the words of Jesus.
There are also many complex, foreign, legalistic, uninteresting and even dull passages which are difficult to read and understand. To help those who would like to be familiar with the essential parts of the Bible I will write a weekly, step-by-step guide beginning on the first Sunday of Advent.
1. The Bible begins with two creation stories.
The first (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) tells us that God existed before anything else and created the world from nothing in an ascending order of things, finishing with the creation of humanity in his own image i.e. capable of reasoning, justice, love and so on. Humanity was put in charge of the rest of creation.
The day of rest after six days of labour is of divine institution.
In the second story (Genesis 2:4b-2:25) God created a man before the Garden of Eden was made. He wanted to keep man innocent and free from knowing evil. The man was allowed to name all the animals. Naming them was a symbolic act of having authority over them. A woman was created to keep the man company and marriage is of divine institution.
Whether we believe these stories as told or accept the scientific view of evolution over millions of years the message is the same, the material world had a beginning which was brought about by the Transcendent God who existed before the world was made.
2. The story of the Fall of Humanity
The story of the Fall of Humanity is in Genesis, chapter 3. They lived happily in Paradise, in harmony with all Creation, trusting in God, who wanted to spare them the knowledge of evil. (Genesis chapter 3).
Then they got persuaded that God should not be trusted, that they could do without him. They exercised their free will and followed their own counsel. As a result they began to experience shame, the need to hide and cover up. They denied responsibility for what happened. The hardship of life began. Cain and Abel were two brothers. (chapter 4) Abel's offering to God came from the heart but Cain's did not. (in the 1st Eucharistic prayer we ask God to : 'look with favour on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel...') Cain killed his brother. When God asked him where Abel was he replied 'am I my brother's keeper?'
In Chapter 5 we read the roll of Adam's descendants including Methuselah who lived for 969 years.
3. The narrative of the Flood
The narrative of the Flood in Genesis, chapters 6-9 ends with two positive messages. The first is that day will always follow night; spring and summer will always follow winter. The second is that humanity will not become extinct before the end of time. The sign of this promise is the rainbow. The tower of Babel and the start of many different languages are mentioned in chapter 11.
Please read the relevant chapters.
4. The story of Abram (Abraham)
The story of Abram (Abraham) - our Father in Faith - begins in chapter 12 of the book of Genesis. God called him from his home to become a wanderer in foreign lands promising him a new homeland and many descendants. He settled at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and his nephew Lot settled at Sodom (Chapter 13).
After a local Abraham met the King of Salem (Jeru-Salem) called Melchizedek who was also a priest of the Most High. He brought an offering of bread and wine and he blessed Abraham. (Gen 14:17). This event is commemorated in the First Eucharistic Prayer.
Three angels appeared to Abraham in the form of travelers. They told him that he and his wife would finally get their long promised child. (chapter 18). They told him also that they were on their way to destroy the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was concerned for Lot and he appealed for the lives of the people there. It is an example of perseverance in prayer that six times he was given what he asked for and six times he asked for more.
5. Abraham's wife gave birth to their first child and insisted that his other son was driven away
(Please read the relevant passages for full benefit.)
When Abraham's wife gave birth to their first child she insisted that his other son by a slave woman was driven from their home (Gen 21). It is a very sad story that Abraham agrees and mother and child are sent into the desert to die.
When Abraham's son Isaac had grown up a bit, God asked for him to be sacrificed as a burnt offering (Gen 22). It is a disturbing tale. Although it was only a test, never to be carried out, Abraham did not know that. In blind faith and obedience he set out to kill his only son.
Isaac grew up and his father wanted him to marry a girl from his own people back in the old country. The moving story of a servant's mission to bring back a wife for Isaac is told in Chapter 24.
6. Abraham's son Isaac married Rebekah
Please read the relevant chapters.
Abraham's son Isaac married Rebekah, the girl brought for him from the old country. She gave birth to twin boys (Genesis, chapter 25:19-). Esau grew up a wild, easy going man, a hunter. Jacob became a quiet man with a purpose who liked to stay at home. Esau, the firstborn, treated his birth right with contempt and sold it to his brother for a bowl of lentil stew. (Gen 25:29-). Rebekah wanted her dying husband's final blessing go to her favourite son Jacob and she devised a scheme to achieve this (Gen 27). Jacob was sent to his mother's relatives to find a wife for himself and to hide from the fury of his brother Esau (Gen 28).
On the way there Jacob had a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels going up and down on it. The Lord appeared to him and gave him the same promise he gave to his grandfather Abraham. When Jacob woke from his dream he said: "How awe-inspiring this place is. This is nothing less than the abode of God and this is the gate of heaven."
7. Jacob arrived at his uncle's house
Jacob arrived at his uncle's house and met his two cousins, two girls (Genesis 29). He fell in love with the younger, Rachel and offered to work for her father for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. "He worked for seven years for Rachel, and they seemed like a few days because he loved her so much." When the wedding day came Jacob was tricked into marrying the elder daughter Leah, whom he did not love. His father-in-law defended himself by saying: "it is not the custom in our place to marry off the younger before the elder."
Jacob then had to work another seven years for Rachel. And Jacob loved Rachel but she had no children while Leah gave birth to four sons and still Jacob did not love her. Jealousy broke out between the sisters (Gen. 30). Leah's four sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. They were to become the fathers of four of the twelve tribes of Israel. God blessed Jacob and he became a wealthy man with flocks and herds and he set out with his large family and livestock to return to his parent's home. One night a mysterious man appeared and wrestled with him (Gen. 32:26-). Although Jacob thought he was wrestling with God he held his own and did not loose the fight. The mystery man blessed him and told him that his new name was to be Israel.
8. The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37
The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37. He was hated by his elder brothers because their father Jacob loved him most. One day they sold him to people in a caravan going to Egypt and to their father they said: 'a wild animal devoured him'.
In Egypt Joseph became the slave of one of Pharaoh's officials (Genesis 39). He was a competent man trusted by his master. His mistress tried to seduce him but he remained loyal to his master and ended up in prison. There he interpreted the dreams of two other prisoners (Genesis 40). When Pharaoh had a strange dream (Genesis 41). Joseph was brought out of prison to interpret it. There followed seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. Joseph was promoted to chancellor.
9. Joseph has become the governor of Egypt
Joseph has become the governor of Egypt for interpreting correctly Pharaoh's dream. The story of how he planned for the 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine is in Genesis 41:37-. Even his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain but they did not recognize in the powerful governor the brother they sold into slavery years before (Genesis 42- 44).
Joseph did not take revenge on his brothers and the whole family moved over to Egypt (Genesis 45-47). This was how the People of Israel came to be in Egypt.
10. Israel (Jacob), the grand son of Abraham, died in Egypt
Israel (Jacob), the grandson of Abraham, died in Egypt and so did his famous son Joseph (Genesis 50). The family increased in numbers over many generations and there came a time when a pharaoh grew concerned about the numbers and ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed (Exodus 1). He also made the lives of the Israelites miserable by imposing very hard labour on them.
Moses was born at that time and the story of his survival in a basket floating on the Nile is told in Exodus 2.
The story of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush is in Exodus 3, and so is the revelation of the divine name: I AM. Moses received his instruction to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Like most prophets after him he protested, saying, "Who am I to go to pharaoh?" But the Lord reassured him, "I shall be with you."