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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).
March 5th, 2010

In the ancient world, suicide was sometimes accepted as an appropriate response to escape evil, avoid shame, express grief over a tragic death, or avoid capture or dishonor in battle. Overall, however, suicide was condemned. In the Old Testament, there are 6 examples of suicide:

Abimelech (Judges 9:54) – to avoid the shame of death at the hands of a woman
Samson (Judges 16:28-31) – to defeat those who imprisoned him
Saul (1Samuel 31:1-4) – to avoid the dishonor of being captured after he was wounded
Saul’s armor-bearer (1Samuel 31:5) – to atone for killing a king
Ahitophel (2Samuel 17:23) – in despair over deception being perpetrated around him
Zimri (1Kings 16:18) – to avoid capture by the army…

February 26th, 2010

Specifically, in Matthew 16:28, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” It is difficult to determine precisely what Jesus is referring to in this passage and many have interpreted it to mean the Second Coming which is to occur at the Parousia… – at the end of time. The problem with that interpretation, however, is that the Parousia did not occur in that generation and has not yet occurred! To understand what Jesus is talking about, we need to pay attention to the fact that he is speaking here only to his disciples and not to a large audience. He is indicating that some of them will see him in all of his glory as he will be revealed

February 19th, 2010

Question: Isn’t Yeshua the correct spelling for Jesus’ name? I heard the name Jesus came about from a bad translation.

Jesus’ name means, “God saves.” But let’s go back a little and explore Jesus’ name. In Hebrew, the name Yeshua was fairly common. It is a variation of the name Joshua, a name that we encounter in the Old Testament. It is likely, although not proven, that Yeshua was the Hebrew form of Jesus’ name. From Hebrew, this name was then transliterated into Koine (common) Greek as Iesous. Since Greek has no “sh” sound, that was “lost” in translation. From Greek, the Lord’s name was translated into Latin as Iesus. The English name, Jesus…, of course, comes from this Latin version.

February 12th, 2010

Do we have ideas on who really wrote the Gospels?  I know they are only attributed to people who “followed” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—but what about the people who actually wrote down the words?…
In short, the answer is NO, we do not really know who put pen to paper for each of the Gospels. We do know that each of the Gospels went through an oral phase, consisting of up to several decades, before they were recorded in writing. Each of the accounts is attributed to a specific person – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – who was a contemporary of Jesus and/or the Apostles.
Matthew, also referred to as Levi, was one of the Apostles as was John. Mark (referred to as John Mark in the Acts of the Apostles) is

February 5th, 2010

In some non-Catholic Christian churches, it is not unusual to hear the preacher talk about the Scripture passage that he or she has chosen to proclaim and to preach on. In the Catholic Church, as well as in a number of Protestant denominations with a liturgical tradition, the selection of Scripture readings is not left to the whim of the individual pastor. Rather, we follow a cycle of Scripture readings that was determined by the bishops, most recently after the Second Vatican Council, and set forth in a Lectionary. This cycle of readings is wedded to our liturgical calendar of feasts and seasons through which we enter more deeply into the experience of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Lectionary provides…

January 29th, 2010

Many books of the Bible existed and were transmitted orally before they were eventually recorded in writing. This may seem strange to us today, however, in a society in which most people were illiterate, as in biblical times, the oral tradition was heavily relied upon.
One of the techniques that was used to help people remember long passages is evidenced in the first story of creation in Genesis, chapter one. The division of creation into seven days, each following a pattern of God speaking, God creating, and God blessing, made it easier for people to listen, retain, and retell the story. Eventually, each book of the Bible did come to be recorded in writing, however, without a printing press, which was invented in…

January 27th, 2010

with Fr. Rick Malloy, S.J. and Mike Hayes

Of the many explanations offered in the wake of natural disasters such as the recent one in Haiti, surely one of the most troubling was televangelist Pat Robertson’s claim that the Haitian people made a pact with the devil to rid them of their French occupiers in the 19th century and thereby incurred God’s wrath. In other words, “they got what they deserved.”
Does God take on a role in these tragedies? Where do we find God in all of this? Certainly not in Robertson’s ugly comments.
The true and living God is in our prayerful and passionate reflections on such tragedies, reflections that reveal a God of love, not an insane deity capriciously smiting

January 22nd, 2010

People who speak more than one language know that, when translating a word or phrase, there is not always a one-to-one correspondence of words. Often, a word in one language can be translated several different ways in another language. In other words, when translating from one language to another, choices and decisions have to be made. When it comes to various translations of the Bible, one needs to know what thinking and philosophy are at the heart of those choices and decisions. Bible translations can be categorized according to 3 styles (see http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/English_Translations.htm)
1.    Formal Correspondence – this type of translation attempts to mirror as closely…

January 15th, 2010

I once had a disgruntled adult student complain that there is too much confusion today over various translations of the Bible. She angrily blurted out, “we should just go back to the original English manuscripts to see what Jesus really said!”  I’m sure it broke her heart when I explained to her that Jesus did not speak English!
The truth is, most of the books of the Bible were written in Hebrew or Greek. In the Old Testament, 39 of the 46 books were originally written in Hebrew (with some portions written in Aramaic). 7 other books, called the deuterocanonicals (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and First and Second Maccabees. ) were written in Greek. This explains, in part, why Catholic Bibles have 46…

January 14th, 2010

Christians do indeed see the New Testament as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and Jesus, per se, as the fulfillment of the Covenant. It is important to note that the Old Testament, in and of itself, presupposes a fulfillment that lies beyond its pages. In other words, the Old Testament is, by its very nature, incomplete or unfulfilled.

Fulfillment, however, is not to be interpreted as negation…. Jesus himself said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). To refer to the first Testament as “Old” is not to suggest that it is the “obsolete” testament, but rather, that it is the first, original, and revered testament

January 8th, 2010

If this and other parables cause you to scratch your head and perhaps even squirm uncomfortably, then you have succeeded in recognizing the purpose of parables. They are not cute fairy tales but deep, rich, and challenging theological tools. Remember, Jesus was put to death because of his teaching and his parables make up a huge part of his curriculum!
When it comes to parables, it’s important to remember that Jesus used them to make a specific point about one specific aspect of discipleship and the Kingdom of God. No one parable attempts to explain every aspect of the nature of God and our relationship with him.
In the case of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus uses this parable to continue…

December 11th, 2009

What about the other Gospels that aren’t in our canon of scripture?
Why are they not considered valid?
Ultimately, it was the bishops – the leaders of the Church – who made
the final decision but this decision was not reached in some
smoke-filled back room. It was a decision that was based upon the
experience of early Christians – people like you and me – who, in the
first century, had come to embrace certain books as worthy of being
considered inspired by God while designating other works as either
falling short of that or just downright missing the mark. This being,
said, there was no definitive list or canon of the New Testament until
the 4th century. Much of what was not included in…

December 4th, 2009

How does a book get to be in the Canon of Scripture?  Who decides?
Well, if you’re looking to get a book into the Bible, you’re too late!
The Canon of the Bible was closed in the first century of the Church.
Who made the decisions?  In the first century after Christ, rabbis in
Palestine gathered to form the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old
Testament). They selected only those thirty-nine books that were written
in Hebrew and had existed for what they considered to be a significant
period of time. Around the same time, however, Greek-speaking Jews were
using an Old Testament canon that included seven other books that were
written in Greek or were of a more recent authorship than those in the

November 27th, 2009

What’s the deal with the book of Revelation?  It seems kinda demonic
more than something from God to me.
The Book of Revelation is one of the most misunderstood and abused books
of the Bible. It is easily misunderstood because it is filled with
symbolism whose meaning is often lost on today’s audience. It is abused
because some people take advantage of the seemingly nebulous meanings of
the symbols in the book and assign their own meanings to them in order
to frighten others into thinking that the end of the world is near. So,
why is the Book of Revelation written in such a strange and unique
style? It’s actually a form of literature called apocalyptic literature
which deals, not with a catastrophic…

November 20th, 2009

Question:  Are all of St. Paul’s letters really written by him?  Someone told me that some may have been speeches or other people’s materials?…
Today, if someone writes a piece of literature and attributes it to
someone else, that’s considered a fraud. In biblical, times, however, it
was both common and acceptable to write something that you believed
captured the essence of someone else’s thinking and then attribute its
authorship to that very person, even if he or she was no longer alive.
We know through Scripture scholarship, that many of the books of the
Bible, including the Gospels, were not written per se by the person
whose name appears in the title but rather, were written

November 13th, 2009

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and what do they mean for Catholics
and biblical scholarship?
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a shepherd boy in 1947 in caves
surrounding the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. These ancient scrolls
turned out to be texts, written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, that
dated from the 1st and 2nd centuries before Christ. Among these writings
are some of the oldest known copies of Biblical (Old Testament) texts,
including fragments from every book of the Old Testament. It is believed
that these texts were part of a library kept by a Jewish sect known as
the Essenes. In addition to biblical texts (about 40%), the Dead Sea
Scrolls also include copies of extra-biblical literature, writings…

November 6th, 2009

Question:  If God made a covenant with Noah about the flood then why do we have floods and tsunamis, etc today?…
It’s important to remember that the story of Noah and the flood is a
story of deliverance, not a story that explains weather conditions. In
this story, God intends to purge the earth of sinfulness and deliver a
just man and his family from the torrents of evil. Water, in this story
and in much of the Old Testament, is symbolic of the chaos that existed
at the dawn of creation before God separated the waters from the dry
land. It is from this chaos that God will deliver the just man and renew
the earth. This is a story of God’s promise to deliver us from the evil
of sin…a promise which he has kept

October 9th, 2009

Question:  Who is the disciple that Jesus loved?  A nun told me that it was John but then a scripture professor told me something else about it being all of us.

If I could provide the definitive answer about the identity of the “beloved disciple” and publish it in a book, I could probably retire tomorrow on the royalties. Unfortunately, we don’t really know for sure who the beloved disciple is. The phrase appears in the Gospel of John five times. Since this phrase appears only in John’s Gospel and does not appear in the other Gospels, it was traditionally assumed that it referred to John the Apostle and evangelist. Some scholars believe that this was an autobiographical device employed by John to refer to…

October 2nd, 2009

This is another of those examples that shows us that the evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were not as concerned with reporting the details of an incident as they were with expressing the meaning of the experience. It’s similar to the question of “when did Jesus rise from the dead?” Was it “when the sun had risen” (Mark’s Gospel) or “while it was still dark” (John’s Gospel)?

It’s good to pay attention to such discrepancies because they often alert us to a point that the evangelist is making.  In both cases (the Crucifixion and Resurrection), it would seem that John’s Gospel manipulates chronology to make a significant theological point. In the case of the Resurrection, John…

September 25th, 2009

This is a little bit like asking, “Why are there different look-out points for the Grand Canyon?” The Grand Canyon is simply too large, complex, and majestic to be taken in from one and only one perspective. In the same way, the experience of Jesus is too grand to be limited to one perspective. For this reason, we are blessed to have four Gospels – 4 different perspectives of the experience we call Jesus. Each evangelist tends to focus on a different aspect of the story. Interestingly enough, the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (aka, The Feeding of the 5000) is the only miracle, other than the Resurrection, to appear in all four Gospels. This is an indication to us of the significance of this story which teaches…

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