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Joe Paprocki :
67 article(s)

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
September 3rd, 2010

As is true today, women played an important part in serving the early Church. Scripture itself refers to many such women by name, beginning with Luke’s Gospel which tells us about the women who served in addition to the Twelve: “Mary, called Mag’dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
and Joan’na, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” (Luke 8:1-3)
St. Paul introduces us to some very interesting women who served the early Church. Priscilla…, the wife of Aquila, was, along with her husband, a tent-maker (Acts 18:1-3). In his Letter to the Romans (16:3-5), Paul asks that his personal greeting be extended to Priscilla

August 27th, 2010

Was St. Paul homophobic? Some people come to that unfortunate conclusion when reading some of his writings about homosexuality such as Romans 1:24-27; 1Corinthians 6:9-10; and 1Tim 1:10. In particular, it must be noted that, in the Greco-Roman world of which Paul was a part, it was not uncommon for boys or young men to be kept for the purposes of prostitution. When Paul refers to “Sodomites” (1Cor 6:9), he is referring to those adults who used such boys for their own sexual indulgence. Likewise, Paul’s references to these types of acts must be seen within his more general warnings against any kind of sexual promiscuity. In essence, Paul is warning about any actions that will lead to sexuality becoming idolatrous…

August 20th, 2010

In Proverbs 1:20-33, we encounter a female character named Wisdom. She is walking through the streets, crying out in a loud voice for people to follow her. Who is this mysterious figure? Some have come to think of Lady Wisdom as a being, a deity in her own right. Others have come to equate her with the feminine side of God or the Holy Spirit. A closer look at Scripture itself reveals to us that Wisdom is not a deity, nor is it the feminine side of God.
Proverbs 8:22 tells us that Wisdom was “begotten” of God…she is part of God’s creation or a “creature.” She then stands aside God as creation is formed, yet she herself is part of creation – the first creation of God. Whereas the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternal,…

August 13th, 2010

Every so often, a headline appears online or in newspapers about a research team that believes they have discovered evidence of Noah’s ark. Could it be that the ark that is described in the Book of Genesis factually existed? It’s possible. However, whether or not the story of Noah’s Ark is factual, Catholics embrace the story as true. That’s because something can be true without necessarily being fact. Let’s back up just a bit.
The story of Noah’s Ark, Genesis chapters 5 through 9, recounts a devastating flood that destroyed the world and all living creatures except for a just man named Noah, his family, and the pairs of living creatures that he brought on board with him before…

July 30th, 2010

Today there are many resources available for Catholics to delve more deeply into the Word of God online. A good place to begin is simply by linking to the New American Bible online, provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here you can read the translation that Catholics hear at Mass in the United States while accessing all of the footnotes and introductory resources that accompany it. Beginners may want to visit a site such as Daily Word of Life: Home Bible Study by Kay Murdy which provides some very nice basics for understanding God’s Word in Scripture. A good way to engage with Scripture online in a very Catholic manner is to focus on the Sunday Scripture readings. Weekly reflections and background…

July 16th, 2010

Although the story of the sacrifice of Isaac is great inspiration about the faith of Abraham, it often leaves us feeling troubled about God! What kind of God would ask someone to sacrifice his own son?
In order for us to wrap our heads around this story, we need to do some time travel – oh, perhaps about 4000 years or so! The story of Abraham is among the oldest pieces of literature in the Bible, taking us back to a time and place in which human sacrifice was not unheard of. Abraham is disappointed with God’s request but, within his historical context, recognizes it as something that is not out of the question when it comes to worship of the gods. Recall that, throughout the Old Testament, God is gradually revealing himself…

July 9th, 2010

The Book of Daniel is named after its main character or “hero,” a young Jewish man who is taken into exile to Babylon. The book is part of a literary genre known as “apocalyptic,” meaning that it deals with the topic of the “end times.” This type of literature was very popular in the centuries just before and after the birth of Jesus. In fact the Book of Revelation is an example of New Testament apocalyptic writing.
The reason for this seeming obsession with the “end times” was because this period of time, before and after the birth of Jesus, was a time of great persecution and distress for Jews and then for Christians. The Book of Daniel was written during the 2nd century BC at a time when the Jewish…

July 2nd, 2010

In short, the Jesus Seminar is a twice-a-year gathering of 70-plus scholars who vote on what they consider to be the historical accuracy of the Gospels. The Jesus Seminar was founded by Robert Funk, a Protestant Theologian, in 1985. The overriding goal of the Seminar, co-chaired by John Dominic Crossan, is to “un-earth” the voice of historical Jesus which they believe has been buried by the writers of the Gospels and by the early Christian community as a whole. Their “findings” are that about 18% of Jesus’ sayings and about 16% of Jesus’ actions are historical while the rest are concoctions of the imagination of the early Church and the evangelists.
A result of the Jesus Seminar is a book titled The Five…

June 25th, 2010

When I was writing my book, The Bible Blueprint: A Catholic’s Guide to Understanding and Embracing God’s Word (Loyola Press), I addressed this very question! With the help of my friend, Dr. Michael Cameron (Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Portland), I compiled the following annotated bibliography of “must reading” for Catholics taking Scripture study seriously.
Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981. This and the next volume represent some of the best of modern literary study of Scripture.
The Art of Biblical Poetry. New York: Basic Books, 1985. Also very revealing.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction.…

June 18th, 2010

Why doesn’t the Catholic Church recognize the King James version of the Bible? I heard that one was the most accurate.
Today, a visit to the Bible section of any major bookstore can result in a head-spinning experience! Why are there so many translations? First and foremost, the obvious reason that we have translations is because the Bible was not written in English! It was written in Hebrew (OT) or Greek (NT) and no original manuscripts exist: what we have are manuscripts that are copies of the originals and, unfortunately, these copies often contain variations. That makes translating accurately into any language (an already difficult task), even more complex. Some translations aim for a literal translation…

June 11th, 2010

Although John is a very common name, there’s nothing “common” about the John we encounter in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere in the New Testament. If, in fact, the Gospel of John, the 3 Letters of John, and the Book of Revelation can all be attributed to the same author – the Apostle John – than we are in fact dealing with a very extraordinary author.
The introduction to the Book of Revelation in the New American Bible tells us that, although the author identifies himself as John, he never claims to be John the Apostle. Even so, he was identified as such by a number of Church Fathers while an equal number of Church Fathers denied this identity. The bottom line is that we really don’t know who this “John”…

June 4th, 2010

Some parts of the Bible are easier to read than others. Likewise, some parts are more inviting to read than others. Many people find books such as Leviticus and Numbers to be rather daunting and tedious to read. On the other hand, many books in the Wisdom section of the bible are among the most popular. The Book of Proverbs is one such book. Reading it can be likened to opening up a few thousand fortune cookies! And who doesn’t like fortune cookies?
By the same token, reading a thousand or so short, pithy wise sayings might loom as an overwhelming task for anyone. This gives us a clue as to how the Book of Proverbs should be read and understood. It is not something that is intended to be read as we would a novel. In fact, the introduction…

May 28th, 2010

Today, we have Democrats, Republicans, Tea Baggers, Libertarians, Evangelicals, and any number of other political, religious, or special interest groups that account for the diverse and often volatile discourse we regularly encounter. In Jesus’ time, things were no less volatile. Various religious and political groups flourished in Judaism, resulting in a discourse that was often heated and, at times, outright hostile.
In his book, Jesus: A Gospel Portrait, Fr. Donald Senior, C.P., does a wonderful job of identifying the various groups that made up the “world of Jesus,” including the Essenes, the Zealots, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, just to name a few.
In the Gospels, the scribes…

May 21st, 2010

Remember learning about different kinds of literary devices in English class? Well, one of these devices is known as personification, which is when an abstract concept is represented as a person or given human qualities. For example, we may talk about opportunity knocking or time standing still.
In Scripture, the virtue of wisdom is personified as a woman and is referred to in the feminine (chakmah in Hebrew, sophia in Greek, and sapientia in Latin). Personification is used to make a concept less abstract and more personal and thus, more attainable.
No doubt, depicting wisdom as a woman is intended to make the virtue of wisdom alluring and inviting to men, for whom much of Scripture was originally intended. The…

May 14th, 2010

Since Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, there has been a lot of attention focused on the apocryphal gospels – texts written around the same time as the 4 canonical Gospels that have not been included in the Bible. While Dan Brown created an entertainment phenomenon that has him laughing all the way to the bank, his facts are not straight. Unfortunately, because many people believe everything they see in a movie, a number of folks have concluded that the Church has been suppressing the apocryphal gospels for centuries, trying to keep them out of the hands of the faithful in order to hide some earth-shattering secret. The truth is, people like you and me “decided” that these accounts were not…

May 7th, 2010

First of all, we know that the Bible contains enormous amounts of historical facts, many of which have been verified by historians and archaeologists. What we can say about the Bible is that it was not primarily concerned with facts. The human authors, guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, set forth to relate a story of faith that took place within a historical context. This means that their focus was on the faith experience and the revealing of God’s saving grace in human history. For them, facts were secondary. As a result, there are some historical incongruities in the Bible. Despite this, Catholics confidently say that we believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. This means that, when it comes to truth…

April 23rd, 2010

It’s important to understand the Jewish dietary laws within the broader context of the covenant. For the people of Israel, the Law describes in everyday practical ways how to honor God and remain faithful to him, outlining the proper conduct that is expected of a faithful Jew. Thus, the Law was not seen as a burden, but as a guide to sustaining a relationship with God and with his people.

In the Book of Genesis, it is stipulated that God provided all fruits and vegetables for human food (Gn 1:29) The dietary laws, mostly found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, pertain to food from animals, birds, and fish. For a food to be kosher or fit for consumption, it must meet the following criteria: the animal must have a cloven hoof…

April 16th, 2010

The Bible does not specifically identify gambling as a sin but rather offers a number of warnings about the dangers of money, specifically

1Timothy 6:10 which teaches that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
While the word gambling… does not appear in the Bible, it is important to note that at the root of gambling is an excessive desire for money and material possessions, which the Bible does indeed warn against. (Luke 16:13)
Likewise, gambling represents an attempt to make money without doing any work which is a laziness that the Bible warns against (Proverbs 10:4)
In addition, gamblers, by their very nature, covet money, which is a violation of the Tenth Commandment.  Finally, gambling represents

April 9th, 2010

At first glance, this would seem to be a very impersonal manner for Jesus to address his own mother. It should be noted, however, that Jesus uses the same term when he speaks to Mary from the Cross, saying, “Woman, behold your son.” (John 19:26) Likewise, he uses the term often when speaking to other women (e.g. Mt 15:28; Luke 22:57; John 4:21)

For a Jewish man to refer to his mother as “woman” would not be considered rude or disrespectful, however, it would suggest a distancing between the two. This is not inconsistent with how Jesus responds in Matthew 12:48-50 when he is told that his mother and family members were outside asking to speak to him:

“But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother,…

March 12th, 2010

The Bible Code is both a book and a phenomenon which claims that one can find hidden (encrypted) messages in code in the first five books of the Bible in the original Hebrew text. These hidden messages are purported to predict events that occurred thousands of years later, such as the Holocaust and the assassination of JFK. Basically, the Bible code claims that the hidden messages can be discovered by analyzing “equidistant letter sequences” (ELS).

Those who believe in the Bible code claim that these messages are the “fingerprint of God” imbedded in the biblical texts. Skeptics point out that the ELS method can be used to reveal similar messages in a phone book or in War and Peace…, pointing out that such combinations

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