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Ann Naffziger :
114 article(s)

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
August 7th, 2015

What is a sign (from God)? What “signs” might appear to us today, and how is God still speaking?…
There are many events, supernatural or otherwise, that happen in the Bible, which can loosely be termed “signs from God.” Some appear in dreams, like the image of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:11-22). Others happen during waking hours, as when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15). Some, like those in the Gospel of John (One example — Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding at Cana), are more often thought of as miracles, although the gospel writer used the term “signs.” What they all have in common is that they were unexpected or extraordinary

July 31st, 2015

Imagine a timeline stretching back millions of years. Scientists believe that dinosaurs became extinct about 66 million years ago, tens of millions of years before humans evolved from our primate predecessors. Fast forward to the centuries when the books in the Bible were written, a mere two to three thousand years ago. At that time, dinosaurs had been extinct for many millions of years. Continue to fast forward to the beginning of the 1800s. That is when dinosaur fossils were first recognized and began to be studied to the extent that they are now. So the reason dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible is simply that the authors and their contemporaries did not have any knowledge of their existence.
However, occasionally…

June 3rd, 2015

The biblical writers themselves never uses the word “homosexuality,” but the few Biblical passages referring to homosexual acts (less than 10 passages in the entire Bible) refer to sexual acts between people of the same gender. The most prominent verses are in Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. Interestingly, there is not a single mention of homosexuality in the four gospels, and we have no record of Jesus addressing the topic. The Old Testament authors and St. Paul were unaware of a modern psychosexual understanding of persons whose sexual orientation is determined early in life, if not genetically. Certainly they didn’t make a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior as…

May 27th, 2015

No. The Bible is better described as a set of books within a book, and as such, it’s not just a book of history.
Certainly it sketches some of the history of our Jewish ancestors, the life of Jesus, and brief glimpses of the early Christian churches, but most of the Bible was not written to be a detailed historical document. It’s aim, rather than telling history, is far greater. It is nothing less than to woo people into a love relationship with God. It’s writers attempt to persuade people to come to a belief in the God who created us and continues to work on our behalf. It is meant to help us know God through Jesus, who gives us a glimpse of what God’s compassion, healing, and justice looks like. It…

May 8th, 2015

Jesus told his disciples to go out and spread the word of God. We are all disciples of God, and as such, we should be spreading the word of God as well. How would you suggest a normal, everyday person go about sharing our faith with others?
Pope Paul VI and the United States Catholic Bishops addressed this very question in some of their writings. They suggest a three-fold process. First, of course, is that you should be “converted” to the gospel yourself; not just being a Christian in name, but in you your deeds as well. Second is to “witness” to the gospel and your faith by how you live your daily life. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Strive to speak and act with compassion to others. Practice justice and generosity…

April 29th, 2015

The first and most important thing you can do in this vein is to buy a children’s Bible and read it with them. The Bible is confusing enough for adults to understand, so why would we assume children can make sense of it if we only read them one with adult language?
There are some great children’s Bibles available, and they are geared to children of different ages, from toddlers through college students. You can check out this link for suggestions of age-appropriate ones: http://www.growingupcatholic.com/finding-a-bible.html
Pick a story or two to read as a bedtime story in the evenings, or read the children’s version of the Sunday gospel to them. The stories they hear will prompt questions,…

April 24th, 2015

Q: Most Bible scholars agree that Paul’s letters are the oldest portion of the New Testament, i.e., these were written before the Gospels. Why then, does Paul not mention the virgin birth, not mention any miracles, not mention the empty tomb? Why does Paul cite a spiritual resurrection but not speak of a physical resurrection? If Judas committed suicide, then why does Paul state in I Corinthians 15:5 that Christ appeared to 12 Apostles?
Raymond Brown, a renowned New Testament scholar, answers this very question in the first chapter of his book An Introduction to the New Testament.… The early Christians were slow in writing down the stories of Jesus’ life because they believed that Jesus would be returning

April 9th, 2015

In first century Palestine where Jesus was living, tax collectors were individuals who worked for Roman administrators. They were responsible for collecting taxes to support the Roman Empire, which governed Jesus’ homeland. (Think of the IRS in our day.) Some of the taxes levied on the Jewish people might have been oppressive in themselves, but sometimes it was the tax collectors who made the situation unduly difficult by collecting more than was due and pocketing the difference. We know this because at one point when John the Baptist called for repentance, he warned the tax collectors to stop collecting more than what is due (Luke 3:12-13). Other citations in scripture equate tax collectors with prostitutes…

February 3rd, 2015

Let’s face it: The Bible can be an intimidating read. After all, it’s a compilation of texts written 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in Hebrew and Greek. It’s full of strange metaphors, unfamiliar references and baffling context. Plus, the English we have translated it into is often stilted or archaic. Sadly, the most common translations of the Bible aren’t always “accessible” to most people without graduate degrees in scripture. So, even when someone is looking for moral guidance or spiritual sustenance and really wants to read the Bible, it is easy for them to give up on it.
But what if the Bible spoke like we do? Biblical scholar Eugene Peterson took it upon himself to write a translation that would do just…

January 28th, 2015

Q: I’m in a three-year Pastoral Institute course that our diocese is offering. This is my third round of taking these courses in two different dioceses over a 20-year period, and I have never been taught scripture like this. The current course is on the Old Testament being taught by a religious sister of 72 years. I believe she knows her stuff, but I am questioning too much. Maybe you can help? I have some serious questions that are really making me look at how I understood the bible.
When did our understanding of the Bible stories change? Why were we taught/still taught that Jonah lived three days in the belly of a whale if, in fact, it is just a symbol? Did a snake talk to Eve in Genesis? She claims they never talked,…

January 23rd, 2015

Q: The gospel reading from Luke 20:34-36 says:
Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”
I’m really confused about this. Is Jesus stating that only those that don’t get married will be resurrected?
A: The language order of this passage is confusing. Jesus is speaking to a point about those who will be resurrected and will not then need the institution of marriage. He is not stating which marital state is…

January 16th, 2015

Question: Where in the Bible does it say one must go to confession? I believe it was made up at some time so the “church” could know what its parishioners were doing. I pray daily to God and ask forgiveness of sins personally. They are forgiven. Why would I want to tell them to someone else? Priests are no “closer” to God than I am. What say you?
Kudos to you for praying daily and asking God for forgiveness for your sins. These are vital steps in healing wounds caused by human failings. Yet there is more to the healing process…
Although the Bible doesn’t spell out the rubrics for going to confession — aka the Sacrament of Reconciliation — the Church practices it. The Sacrament…

September 12th, 2014

According to the Bible, yes, Eve was Adam’s only wife. There is no other reference to Adam having an intimate relationship with another woman than Eve, the woman formed from his rib (Genesis 2:18-23).
Many centuries after the Bible was written and compiled, a Jewish legend grew up about a woman named Lilith who was said to have been Adam’s first wife, created from the same ground and at the same time as Adam. In the Middle Ages this legend was greatly developed, especially the notion that Lilith left Adam and the Garden of Eden when she refused to be subservient to her husband. Sometimes today, this Lilith figure still shows up in cultic and literary references.…

September 9th, 2014

Q: In spiritual law, men leave their mothers for their wife, when they marry. But if a man chooses to love and cherish the mother OVER the wife, isn’t this a conflict that God would not encourage?
There is nothing in scripture that declares that a man should love or cherish his wife more than his mother, but it simply points to a change in the relationship that marriage occasions for the man (Gen 2:24). A man is called to a different manner of loving his mother than his wife, and these different kinds of loving can’t be compared quantitatively. Once a man marries, his relationship with his mother will necessarily need to be reoriented, not lessened. If he finds that he can’t find it in himself to love another woman…

September 4th, 2014

There is a distinction here between believing in the Bible and believing in the God that is revealed in the Bible through Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we affirm that the Bible contains sacred scripture which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but that “in sacred scripture, God speaks through human beings in human fashion.” (Dei Verbum, Vatican II).
The Bible was written and compiled over more than a one thousand year period with influences from cultures very foreign to our own. Human culture and societies have developed and changed since then. So although slavery and the treatment of women as property rather than persons is abhorrent to us in America in the year 2014, it must be understood…

August 20th, 2014

The assumption that everything in the Bible has been “rewritten” by modern men is incorrect. The Bible has been translated innumerable times since the last book of it was penned 1,900 years ago, but it has not been “rewritten.” The common English translations we use now — for example, the New American Bible – have been translated directly from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) texts. They have not been corrupted like a phrase in the game of “telephone” in which the original message is distorted by many participants consecutively. In fact, when we compare the content of today’s Bibles with the most ancient copies in existence, they are remarkably consistent.…

August 14th, 2014

Q: How do you reconcile the commandment to “love thy neighbor” when he/she is not living in the image of God without become too judgmental so as act like the elitist high priests that Jesus spoke out against?
Saint Augustine’s well-known axiom “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” may be helpful here. All people are deserving of love, precisely because they are created in the image of God. However, that doesn’t mean that we should be accepting of sinful behavior. Depending on your relationship to the particular person and your role in his/her life, it may be appropriate for you to challenge the person and sound a call to conversion. If you decide to do so, the impetus should be to “speak the truth…

July 31st, 2014

Purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, and in fact the word did not come into common parlance until the twelfth century. However, the concept of a process whereby souls are purified before they enter heaven was evident in very early Christianity. Going back even further, there is a Jewish tradition that praying for the dead furthers the purification of a soul(s). Although sometimes Purgatory is imagined as a physical place, the Catholic teaching is that Purgatory is the “final purification of the elect.” The Catechism of the Church describes it this way;
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assure of their eternal salvation; but after death…

July 24th, 2014

The Bible, like any written document, betrays the cultural context of the authors. In the case of the Bible, we are dealing with not one book, but with many books and thus many authors, all of whom wrote about 1,900 to 3,000 years ago. These authors were members of patriarchal cultures that had different views about gender roles, rights, and responsibilities than we do in the United States today. For example, in the ancient Hebrew society, women were considered possessions more than individuals in their own right, so there are laws in the Hebrew Scriptures dealing with the ownership of women passing from their fathers to their husbands at the time of marriage.
In the New Testament, Paul objected to women speaking…

July 17th, 2014

Q: I would like to know where and what type of Bible that is written in Layman’s terms that I can fully understand and remember. I have to reread my bible and still cannot understand some of the scriptures.
Perhaps the best way to go about finding a Bible with a translation that you like and feel comfortable with is to go to a bookstore and peruse their shelf of Bibles. There are many to choose from. Flip through to see what language is most appealing to you. While the New American Bible (NAB) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are two of the most common translations read in the United States, you don’t necessarily have to choose one of them. A contemporary idiomatic English version that is gaining more appeal…

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