What is the importance of reading the Bible in Catholicism?

Can a Catholic anticipate going to heaven by only attending the masses and going to Confession, but never read the Bible at home?

Does reading the Bible have the same importance as attending the mass?

Let's not discuss about the past here. I am interested in the present-day official teaching of the Roman Catholic church. I believe that nowadays there is a Bible in the house of every Catholic family.


4 Answers 4


Edited to respond to the new version of the question.

Catholics, like other Christians, do not believe that going through certain rituals (such as mass and confession) get you to heaven. They believe that there is benefit from doing those things, but they are not the criteria for salvation. So to respond to your edited question

Catholics do not believe that attending mass and going to confession will get you to heaven, nor will doing those things with bible reading. No Christian denomination that I am aware of believes those things. Salvation comes through the saving power of Jesus Christ.

To respond more generally about Bible Study as necessary for salvation:

A moment's reflection will reveal that such a demand would be ridiculously burdensome. As lonesomeday says, for hundreds or thousands of years the average person was not able to read, and had no books - Bible or otherwise. Even today there are countries where the literacy rate is low enough that such a rule would condemn millions of people to Hell purely because of lack of education. That is to say nothing of people who have no Bible translation in their own language, or simply cannot afford books. Or are blind. It is also extremely hard to imagine a person locked in an oppressive prison without access to books, hearing and accepting the good news from a fellow prisoner, would be denied salvation simply because no written copy of the Bible was available.

  • 2
    I think the spirit of the question assumes that those unable to read the Word are blameless from any wrong doing. What about those who have no excuse? I think that is the question.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 5:22

As with most questions regarding Catholicism: There are clear and directly applicable Church teachings; but it's not that simple.

The Church teaches quite explicitly and repetitively that there are no global, strict, restrictive requirements for salvation. God can save anyone at any time for any reason. And we (Catholics) firmly believe that God will save anyone who is sincerely working to encounter, worship, and submit to the one true God. The key factors in salvation are God's mercy and the person's "heart" -- where they're putting their efforts on the deepest and most sincere level.

So, the Church doesn't teach that reading the Bible is a requirement for salvation, per se. But, if you are a Christian with an adequate (basic) level of Christian catechesis and access to an approved Bible, you'd better regard it as God's love letter to mankind and read it daily. If you don't, it's likely that you're not really trying to grow in your relationship with God. It's likely that you're just "following the rules" in hopes of cashing in at the end.

And it may be notable that, if you're a Catholic who is attending confession regularly and sincerely, you're probably already reading your Bible daily (as well as the works of God's other teachers and guides) ...

  • ... If I have time later in life, I may come back to this and add some references. But, if anyone else would like to do so in the meantime, I'd appreciate it!
    – svidgen
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 18:21
  • A good Catholic answer which addresses what the question I think asks for: what about those with no excuse?
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 5:24

Catholics meditate on Scripture at every Mass. The readings and responsorial Psalm during the Liturgy of the Word are taken directly from the Bible. Each Sunday mass includes three readings from Bible, first and second readings from Old Testament, Acts, Epistles or from Book of Revelation and third reading is from one of the four Gospel. First two readings are read by lay people and Gospel reading is always done by priest. Other daily masses (weekday’s masses) comprise only two readings and one of this is invariably from Gospel.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. (CCC 133)

Many read the bible and come to know about teachings of Jesus and believe in Him. Others get their faith when someone tells them about Jesus and they start believing in Him. But to say that to attain salvation, every person on earth will have to necessarily read the Bible would be impracticable considering the illiteracy, financial status, economic conditions of some and for many other reasons. This would like what Jesus said:

Matt: 23:4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.

There were times when population was almost 99 % illiterate when early Christianity was being taught around the world. This populace died in their illiteracy. Then there were economic reason for not having access to copies of bible. It was necessary to have a fortune to have a copy of bible on written material like papyrus or on vellums. Yet many of the people from early Christian era have known, understood God, lived saintly lives and some became saints too.

In general all Christians need to read and study the Bible because it is God's Word to us. There are so many questions God answers for us in Scripture. What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good? Bible gives much practical advice such as: What do I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good friend? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? How can I change? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life victoriously?

We need to read and study the Bible because there is so much false teaching around. The Bible gives us the measuring stick by which we can distinguish truth from error.

The Bible helps us know how to be saved from our sin. God’s Word helps us see sin in our lives and helps us get rid of it. It gives us guidance in life and keeps us from wasting years of our lives on that which does not matter and will not last. Bible helps us see beyond the attractive "bait" to the painful "hook" in sinful temptations, so that we can learn from others' mistakes rather than making them ourselves. It is so much better to learn from others' mistakes. There are so many Bible characters to learn from.


There are several misconceptions floating around about Catholics and the Bible.

Historically, the issue is that before the printing press, all bibles where hand copied and therefore very expensive and took time to copy, so the average citizen could not afford a Bible. Also, a large chunk of the population was uneducated and therefore illiterate, so even if they got a Bible, they couldn't read it. I don't think there was malice on the part of the Church.

Secondly, we read so much of the Bible at Mass. Here are some statistics on how much of the Bible is read at Masses: http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm

It looks like over 71% of the New Testament is read, and over 13% of the Old Testament is read, not including the Psalms. I have heard that Protestants generally do not have this level of completeness at their services. I haven't been able to find any formal stats, probably because there is much diversity among denominations. Maybe this is why Catholics do not read much of the Bible on their own since they already get a good dosage of Scripture at Church.

Lastly, I would contend that the Church preaches caution as to taking a personal interpretation of Scripture. The Church believes that Scripture needs to be read in it's proper historical and traditional context. Some folks take this the wrong way, and go as far as implying that the Church discourages the reading of Scripture, which is not the case.

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