Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ. These bold words from the patron Saint of those who study the Sacred page, St. Jerome, have inspired us at the CLAA to offer a complete Catholic and Classical Biblical Studies program for students and adults.
St. Philip asked the Ethiopian in Acts 8, "Do you understand what you're reading?", and the Ethiopian respoded, "How can I unless someone instructs me?". You too may sense the need for help understanding the Scriptures, and your instructor in this program will be Dr. Nathan Schmiedicke, a Catholic bibilcal scholar who is a Senior Fellow of Dr. Scott Hahn's St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Dr. Schmiedicke joined the CLAA in 2011 after teaching Theology and Sacred Scripture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and Villanova University.
Dr. Nathan Schmiedicke on EWTN
It is not difficult to get a Bible or to read its pages. What is difficult is to rightly understand, appreciate and apply the Bible to one's own life and circumstances.
Our culture suffers from a famine of the Word of God. We are bombarded with "words" of every sort, but are in desperate need of the still, quiet voice of the Word of God. This is the best WORD that is out there and the only one that leads to true Wisdom and Life
If anyone suggests that the Bible is simple and can be immediately understood by anyone, it is the Bible itself that tells us otherwise. Mary quietly pondered over the Word that came to her. St. Peter said the Scriptures are commonly misunderstood and twisted (2 Peter 3:15-16). St. Philip met a man reading Scripture and asked him, "Do you understand what you're reading?", to which the man answers, "How can I unless someone instructs me?" Thus, the Bible itself warns us that its interpretation requires guidance, perseverance, and hard work--a fact that led St. Augustine to suggest that God intended such for our benefit:
"the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite."
Moreover, as we move further and further from the time of the Bible, it's interpretion is more difficult in some ways. If people living with the apostles' could misunderstand Scripture, how much more those of us 2,000 years removed from the biblical era?
It is for this reason that God did not leave the world with the Bible alone, but with the Church. Through the Church, God provides not only His written word, but the sacred tradition by which its meaning is rightly discerned. In Ephesians, St. Paul explained this:
"God gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."
Therefore, we may safely and reasonably say that for Bible study to be true, it must be Catholic Bible study.
CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY
Catholic Answers Live
Listen to Dr. Schmiedicke's appearance on the popular Catholic radio show, Catholic Answers Live with host Patrick Coffin:
The famous Catholic bishop St. Augustine wrote the book on biblical studies over 1,500 years ago, titled On Christian Doctrine. The CLAA's Biblical Studies program is founded upon that book. St. Augustine explained what is needed for men to rightly read and understand the Bible. His answer was twofold. First what is necessary is a pure heart; secondly, the faith-filled and systematic application of reason to the revelation given in the Word of God.
The authors of Scripture were not seeking careers as professional writers or tenured university professors. St. Paul explains the aim of the biblical writings:
"The aim of this instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
Thus, the Bible is not a book to be handled by academics as if it were a book of histories or poetry, but by God-fearing people who desire to grow in holiness.
One of the confusing things we face is the reality that many non-Catholic Christians, who interpret Scripture wrongly are relatively good people--sometimes very excellent people. Nevertheless, even when errors in interpretation can promote decent behavior, we are to pursue correct interpretation. The reason is that when we falsely interpret one place of Scripture, that error can influence our understanding of other passages and lead us into more serious errors--even puzzling confusion that leads to us begin questioning the Bible. Normally, when we see popular arguments suggesting that there are contradictions in the Bible, these arguments are based on some error in interpretation that has in the end caused different passages of Scripture to have no clear meaning. The problem is not the Bible's, but the interpreter's. St. Paul warned of these errors:
"Some people have...turned to meaningless talk, wanting to be teachers of the law, but without understanding either what they are saying or what they assert with such assurance."
Thus, our challenge is studying the Bible with the right motives: to know, love and serve God. Our goal is not to store up Bible trivia. We seek three specific benefits: (1) to learn the rules of Biblical interpretation, (2) to gain experience in applying those rules to our reading of the Scriptures, and (3) to develop the skills needed to articulate the meaning of Scripture to others.
CLASSICAL BIBLE STUDY
As said above, St. Augustine argued in the 4th/5th century that the classical liberal arts curriculum was part of Christian studies mainly because of its usefulness in Biblical interpretation.
De Doctrina Christiana
To learn more about Dr. Schmiedicke's course for adults on St. Augustine's "De Doctrina Christiana", click here.
St. Augustine explains that every subject area of the classical curriculum plays a role in Biblical interpretation. For example, the doctor asserts that:
"The science of reasoning (i.e., Dialectic) is of very great service in searching into and unravelling all sorts of questions that come up in Scripture."
Thus, anyone who desires to understand Scripture will benefit from the study of the classical liberal arts. Throughout history, the masters of Scripture were masters of the classical liberal arts and the advantages had by those who study them are as true today as before. CLAA students receive the system of education that St. Augustine argues is key to rightly understanding Scripture. It is our goal in our Biblical Studies program to show the children how to put all of their learning to use for their enjoyment and practice of the Word of God.
Nathan Schmiedicke, Ph.D.
Dr. Nathan Schmiedicke is the director of the CLAA Biblical Studies program. Dr. Schmiedicke was born the fifth of eleven children and raised on a small family farm in Michigan. He attended Catholic school through eighth grade and was home-schooled through High school. After graduating with honors from Thomas Aquinas College (CA) he married, and began graduate school at Marquette University (Milwaukee). He completed his PhD in Biblical Theology in 2007. He has taught Theology, Scripture, Ethics, Patristics, classics, and languages at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia, PA), The Aquinas Institute for Sacred Doctrine (Lander, Wyoming), Villanova University (Villanova, PA), The University of Mary (Rome, Italy Campus), Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary (Lincoln, NE), as well as appearing on EWTN and Catholic Answers Live. Dr. Schmiedicke is a Senior Fellow with Dr. Scott Hahn's St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Nathan and Wendy have five boys.