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Ann Naffziger :
94 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.
May 17th, 2013

Question: How can anyone really take the bible seriously? It was written soooooo long ago and has gone through one translation after another. If someone sat down today and pounded out a bunch of stories because “God spoke to them” and said we should obey everything within them, would we believe it?  
The Bible was written long ago, between two and three millennia past. It has been translated many times, but the content of our best current translations are remarkably consistent with the oldest manuscripts we have of the ancient texts. The reason we can still take the Bible seriously, while being frank about the cultural and societal shifts humans have undergone since its writing, is that we believe

May 10th, 2013

Question: 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 (Genesis 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 discovers that he can’t find it in himself

May 3rd, 2013

Question: How do you reconcile the commandment to “love thy neighbor” when he/she is not living in the image of God without becoming too judgmental so as to act like the elitist high priests that Jesus spoke out against?…

Recalling St. 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

April 25th, 2013

Question:Why are we instructed to believe in a book that contains things we would view in today’s society as morally wrong? 
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

April 15th, 2013

There are a couple of primary differences between the KJV and the “Catholic” Bibles of today. I’ll use the New American Bible (NAB) as the point of comparison since it is the translation read in English speaking American Catholic churches today.
To begin with, most KJV Bibles have 39 books in the Old Testament, all originally written in Hebrew. However, the Old Testament of the NAB contains 46 books, including an additional seven (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch) which were part of an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. These seven books are variously referred to as the “apocryphal” or “deuterocanonical” books and are usually placed between…

April 11th, 2013

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.…

April 5th, 2013

Who exactly was Enoch? Only a few phrases are mentioned about him in the Bible, but the Apocryphal texts have entire volumes of Enoch.
Yes, there are only a grand total of 14 verses in the Bible that name Enoch. The verses are divided between those that refer to Enoch, the son of Cain (Gen 4:17-18), and a later Enoch who was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah (Gen 5:18-24). It is the second Enoch who is mentioned a few times later in the Bible, primarily in reference to the verse that Enoch “walked with God: then he was no more, because God took him” (Gen 5:24).
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase “walked with God” meant that one lived righteously. Thus the suggestion seems to be that because of Enoch’s…

March 22nd, 2013

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the image of bride and bridegroom was used to symbolize the relationship between God and the people of Israel. God called the Israelite people to faithfulness to his teachings and attested his eternal love for them. The image was later adopted in the New Testament where Jesus was envisioned as the bridegroom sent by God. His task was to win back the people who had fallen away from the teachings, and to metaphorically “woo” others with his message of peace, justice, and unity. Because it built on the earlier scriptural metaphor, the term bridegroom did not need Jesus to be married for it to work symbolically. Moving forward, the Church has continued the imagery by naming Jesus as the bridegroom…

March 15th, 2013

Heaven is the common religious term generally referring to a “place,” where God or divine beings are thought to originate from and dwell. Also, many humans imagine ascending to heaven at their deaths, depending on their goodness and God’s grace. Ancient peoples have passed on the mythology of heaven being a place above this created world, with its opposite, hell, being located in the underworld.
The “kingdom of heaven” is a term used frequently by Jesus, though never defined by him. It is also sometimes called the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God.” The concept is one of the central messages of Jesus’ preaching. It is a symbolic term calling up the Jewish belief that God created this world,…

March 8th, 2013

Question: In John 6: 1-14, did Jesus really feed 5,000 people (or a crowd about that size) with five loaves of bread and two fish? Who was counting? What’s the truth in this passage?

Raymond Brown, a well-known and highly esteemed Catholic scripture scholar was once asked this very question. He responded “I find no reason to dismiss the miraculous from the ministry of Jesus. Indeed, one of the oldest memories of him may have been that he did wondrous things — a memory that could have circulated not only among believers but among nonbelievers.” He goes on to explain that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves was narrated in all four gospels suggesting, “Obviously the evidence for that miracle

March 6th, 2013

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…

March 1st, 2013

The gospels don’t publish the specific menus offered at any of Jesus’ meals, except for giving multiple references to him eating bread, very commonly imbibing wine, and a couple of times eating fish. Many people think it is improbable that Jesus was a vegetarian given the fact that he was an observant Jew of his time. Jewish dietary laws (a.k.a. kosher food laws) did not require, nor even encourage, vegetarianism. On the contrary, the Hebrew Scriptures command very particular ways of preparing and eating both sheep and goat meat, as well as other types of animal flesh. Going on this assumption then, we would guess that when Jesus’ family celebrated the Passover, for example, he would have eaten his share…

February 27th, 2013

Question: Why is Paul always in prison? Did people write letters responding to the ones he sent to them from prison?

The New Testament tells us that Paul spent some time in prison, although we can’t be certain of how many times Paul was imprisoned, where, or for how long each sentence lasted. According to The Acts of the Apostles, Paul remained under house arrest in Rome for two entire years. Possibly Paul wrote his letters to the Philippians and Philemon during this tenure, but it is impossible to know.
Acts tells us he was accused by the people of Philippi of “disturbing our city … and advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe” (Acts 16:20-21). Later, Jewish leaders sent him

February 22nd, 2013

Question: In Mark 10:17-30, Jesus tells a man to give away all of his possessions in order to inherit eternal life. Do I need to give away all of my possessions if I want to spend eternity with Jesus?
Some read this passage (and it’s cross-references, Mt 19:16-22 and Lk 18:18-25) literally and have given over all they have to follow their call to discipleship. Some dismiss it as impossible, and give it no further thought. Others have considered this passage with great seriousness, even while noticing that Jesus didn’t ask the same of every person who followed him. It is in this tension of taking Jesus’ words seriously while discerning God’s unique will for each of us that perhaps offers the best hope for enlightenment.…

January 15th, 2013

Fortunately for human beings, God is able to make God’s self known to people even without use of the Bible. We probably all know stories of people today who have religious experiences without prior knowledge of the Bible. You may think here of a young child raised in a secular family who relates a profound experience of transcendence, or of a self-proclaimed atheist who has an astounding near-death experience of God. Similarly, researchers have described encounters with cultures and peoples who have never been introduced to the Bible, but who still have well-formed beliefs about a divine power because they have experienced a power or force beyond humanity’s.
Such examples suggest that humans who lived…

January 11th, 2013

The Christian churches have what we call a “closed canon,” meaning that the books contained in the Old and New Testaments — all written by the turn of the first century C.E. — are definitively known as the sum of sacred scripture. So the answer is no; no further books will be added to the Bible.
The Second Vatican Council taught that God chose certain authors to write “whatever he wanted written, and no more.” The purpose of the inspired books is to “teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided in the sacred scriptures.” (Dei Verbum 11) Of course this does not mean that we can’t look to other writings, ancient or modern, to help us understand our faith or our…

January 4th, 2013

The Gospel of Barnabas is an account of the life of Jesus purported to have been written by Jesus’ disciple Barnabas.The only two known manuscripts of the Gospel of Barbabus are dated to the late 16th century and were written in Spanish and Italian. Note that the four gospels included in the Christian Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were all written in Greek in the first century after Jesus’ life, so there is a 15 century gap between them.
The Gospel of Barnabus narrates Jesus’ ministry, much of which it echoes from the four gospels. At other times, however, it contradicts the New Testament accounts and instead leans toward an Islamic interpretation of Jesus’ identity, for instance by describing…

December 28th, 2012

Like all of the human authors of the Bible, Paul writes from his particular cultural context of life in the first century Roman Empire. He lived in a hierarchical, patriarchal society that presumed the rightness of a woman’s subordination to a man, a child’s subordination to a parent, and a slave’s subordination to a master. In fact, there are several places in the New Testament (Col 3:18-4:1, Eph 5:21-33, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, Titus 2:1-10, 1 Peter 2:18-3:7) where such “household codes” mirror secular lists of the ancient world. We can say that Paul “never tries to change the existing social conditions in the name of Christian teaching” (Joseph Fitzmeyer).
Still, it’s not hard to be puzzled or even…

December 17th, 2012

For centuries, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis through Exodus) were thought to have been written by Moses. However, in the mid-1800s, a scholar named Julius Wellhausen noticed that there were four distinct writing styles among these books and that some stories were told more than once with different language, emphases, and details. For example, there are two distinct creation stories, two versions of the flood, two accounts of God’s covenant with Abraham, etc. This led Wellhausen to hypothesize that there are four primary writers or schools of writers who authored these books. These authors are referred to by the first letter of the names Wellhausen gave them. “J” is shorthand for the writer…

December 3rd, 2012

The first verse in the Letter attributes the writing to “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” but otherwise the letter gives us no further biographical information on the author. There are a few references in the New Testament to a “James, the brother of Jesus” (a Greek word that can be translated to “cousin”). Perhaps the author of this letter was writing under the authority of this James or “borrowing” the name to give its teaching more weight, a common practice in the ancient world.
James was writing to an organized Christian community. This indicates that it was written later than the letters of Paul because Paul wrote to fairly new, loosely formed, and often mixed communities…

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