A Book of Surprises

Ater forty years of teaching Scripture, I still wonder why people keep showing up. Not for the credit classes I teach at the local community college, but for the weekly classes I offer at the parish.

I started teaching on the parish level in 1966. It was meant to be a preliminary course to a class on the liturgy that would help explain Vatican II’s changes in the Mass. As much as I love the liturgy, I was convinced I had to begin with Scripture, since many of the changes were rooted in biblical theology and practice. After all these years, I’m still wondering when I can start teaching that liturgy course. Once the Bible sessions began, no one wanted to stop. Eventually I had to take a leave to study for a doctorate in Scripture. Though the parishioners and I have frequently talked about why more people don’t come, we seldom reflect on why we do. Recently it dawned on me that those who study Scripture are special.

In every Scripture 101 course I teach at the college, I include Dennis McCarthy’s definition of scriptural canonicity. “The reason these particular writings made it into the Bible and others didn’t is because these books helped the most people over the longest period of time to understand their faith.” Contrary to what most people think, the biblical writings were never intended to give someone the faith. They were composed to help believers reflect on the faith they already had.


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About the Author

Roger Vermalen Karban is a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, and pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Renault, Illinois.