I’ve read the Bible before. Honest. All sixty-six books of it. At least twice! When I was a kid, I even made a game of memorizing all of the book names and the order they fell in, the way some people memorize the order of the presidents of the United States. In my cognizance, I knew there was a Catholic Bible out there in the nebulousness of space and time, but I never owned a copy. Nobody in my family did. Let alone actually read it. That said, I’m not a complete heathen.
A Forgotten Generation
Some might call me a Millennial, but I’ve always considered myself to be in that awkward, forgotten generation that grew up after Generation X, and before computers became babysitters. I’m a child of the 80’s, and while I grew up in the 90’s, my family was firmly rooted in the 1970’s, a time my parents fondly remember as The Jesus Movement.
Growing up in a Christian household, with parents active in their local church, exposed me to the tail end of that countercultural period and the gospel beat music that emerged. I had a beloved cassette (and later CD) collection with the best of Phil Keaggy, Keith Green (RIP), and of course, the original, off-Broadway soundtrack of Godspell.
But you’re not here to read about my musical tastes, so let’s fast-forward three decades through an early life of being reared in a Protestant, Evangelical church, periods of struggling with my faith, falling away, coming back, and having a mild exposure to Catholicism from extended family who were Catholic, which ignited a faint curiosity.
Then a number of years ago, I married a Catholic man who was, how can I put this fairly, something of an amateur scholar of religious studies and now our home collection had several copies of the Catholic Bible, tucked away as reference on the top of the bookshelf. Treasured. I may have, at some point, read a sample chapter, somewhere, just to satisfy my curiosity that I wasn’t missing anything, that my Bible was the sufficient, the entire Word of God, and then I quickly dismissed it. After all, the Protestant church that I grew up with was thriving during The Jesus Movement and that’s ages ago. They would’ve known or told me if anything had been left out…wouldn’t they?
It wasn’t until the fall of 2017, when I joined RCIA, that I decided that if I’m serious about maybe becoming Catholic, then perhaps I was overdue to see what was so important that someone, somewhere decided the Bible needed (or didn’t need) another SEVEN books that I hadn’t yet read. And then my head did a mental tally…”That’s right, seventy-three books”, quickly followed with, “This is going to completely mess up everything I’ve memorized.”
The Path Ahead
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website (that sounds official enough, right?), it looks like all of the deuterocanonical books (fifty cent word for ‘second canon of books’) are in the Old Testament (OT) and none of them in the New Testament (NT). This alone was a bit of a surprise and maybe, if I’m completely honest, disappointing. The NT, albeit shorter than the OT, has always been my favorite and I love Paul’s letters to the various churches. And they are so short. Why couldn’t we have gotten a couple more of those instead?
They also fall in the middle third of the OT, in that grey area after the early prophets of Ezra and Nehemiah, but before you get to the unpronounceable ones at the end of the OT that I get mixed up. To wit:
“[…] Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, […]”
It’s somewhere in the vicinity of 150 extra chapters to read, at a chapter a day, it should take me half a year or so, less if I’m really into the stories, longer if it’s dry content like most of the Pentateuch (please don’t let it be like the book of Numbers). So here’s what I’m going to do. If you haven’t caught on to my humor by now, then you’re probably no longer reading this post as I’ve already offended you and you’re off viewing the next blog out there on the web, (go you!) If you’re still here, and maybe even a tad amused by my honest, offbeat perspective, then I hope you’ll follow along in my “Journey Through the Word” series as I post from time to time my first impressions of the deuterocanonical books.
The books of the Bible will be individual posts and I’ll update them with links as they’re live, so check back here to see updates, or browse the rest of the blog as you please. Note: in addition to the seven books I mentioned, I will also be reading the extra chapters found in the book of Daniel and the book of Esther and any others that I’ve forgotten to mention and I’m sure someone will remind me, mid-reading. Please leave comments and I look forward to knowing you better as I begin exploring God’s Word.
Journey Through the Word
- The Book of Tobit
- The Book of Judith
- The Book of Esther (additional chapters)
- The Books of Maccabees
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Book of Sirach
- The Book of Baruch
- The Book of Daniel (appendix)