SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Reading Non-Canonized Books of the Bible

Dear Father John, I recently came back to the Church and one of the things that has really awakened me, other than the “Catholics Come Home” book, was the works of Dr. Peter Kreeft. I have found that in my ‘older' age, theology is something that I am really enjoying reading and thinking about. My question is, is it ‘safe' to read non-canonized books of the Bible? I want to understand more about Adam & Eve and the beginnings of everything, I have recently found out that there are non-canonized books of the Bible and wondering if reading them as ‘background information' is ‘safe' or not.

Thank you for your encouragement, and welcome home to the Catholic Church!

Still_life_with_BibleMost of the apochryphal writings (the “non-canonical” books of the Bible), at least the ones written after the time of Christ, were written with hidden agendas, agendas that were linked to incipient heresies. Unless you are studying them in a scholarly context, I would recommend avoiding them, just because they can cause (and have caused) a lot of confusion.

On the other hand, we have a wealth of theological and spiritual writings that the Church has produced over twenty centuries that can serve as a truly endless supply of learning more about our faith. For the Old Testament, for example, I can recommend Warren Carroll’s first volume of Church History, “The Founding of Christendom.” And his many notes and vast bibliography will point you to all kinds of works that deal with more specific questions, like Adam and Eve. You will love it! Also, I highly recommend the works of Frank Sheed – especially “Theology for Beginners” and “Theology and Sanity.” You will love those too! And if you want to understand Scripture better, dive into the almost 40 volumes of very readable expositions published by Scott Hahn, a fellow convert.

So, there is no need to go to questionable and confusing sources in order to learn more about our faith; we have a treasure trove of reliable and insightful sources to go to instead!


Art: Still Life with Bible, Vincent Van Gogh, 1885, PD-Art, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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