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Is the Bible a sacramental because it is a Bible, or must it be blessed by a priest to become the Holy Bible?

Also, is there a distinction between the holiness of the Bible as an object, and the holiness of the words in it when spoken? This essentially is a question about the written word vs the spoken word.

Keep in mind the sin of simony in your answer, as I think this can get nuanced. Citing of sources is welcome. Considering that is is called the word of God, if possible and this is not an obligation, it would be nice to know if its holiness is equal to that of the Eucharist, inferior, superior, etc.

  • @NigelJ Please provide an answer; answers are not what comments are intended for. (I'd like to see you expand on that answer for my own reasons). – KorvinStarmast Jun 30 '18 at 20:49
  • @KorvinStarmast Point taken and noted. I shall give some thought to making a full answer. Your comment appreciated. – Nigel J Jul 1 '18 at 3:19
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Let's try to answer the individual parts of your question.

Individual copies of the Bible are not sacramentals of themselves. Catholic practice require all sacramentals to be treated with special reverence, and there is no such requirement for Bibles. A copy of the Bible could be blessed and become a sacramental, in the same way as other things.

The Bible is not referred to as the Holy Bible only if it is a sacaramental. 'Bible' was originally a general term for a book, and the Bible may be fully referred to as the Holy Bible to make it clear what you are referring to and to give it added reverence. The holiness derives from the message it contains, not from any blessing that has been pronounced on it.

The Bible, meaning the words and message, is not a sacramental. It is much more than that. It is a foundational pillar of the church.

The Catholic definition of a sacramental includes:

Objects or actions that the Church uses after the manner of sacraments, in order to achieve through the merits of the faithful certain effects, mainly of a spiritual nature. They differ from sacraments in not having been instituted by Christ to produce their effect in virtue of the ritual performed. Their efficacy depends not on the rite itself, as in the sacraments, but on the influence of prayerful petition; that of the person who uses them and of the Church in approving their practice.

'The Bible' (meaning the whole concept and message rather than an individual copy of the book) is neither an object nor an action. Nor does the Bible 'depend on ... the influence of prayerful petition'. The Bible is effective in its own right.

  • Read my answer and tell me what you think about it. – Destynation Y Jun 19 '18 at 18:34
  • I've seen the update. The answer is filled with claims but it severally lacks in substance. Literally all of your claims are refuted in my answer. It is in times like these that hierarchical power is quite pleasing. – Destynation Y Jul 2 '18 at 1:56
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After having done some research, I think I have understood how all of this works.

The Holy Roman Catholic Church stands on 3 infallible rules of faith:

1. The Holy See (Infallible Clergy)

2. The Holy Tradition (main mode of transmission: oral form)

3. The Holy Bible (main mode of transmission: written form)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the Holy Bible:

I. CHRIST - THE UNIQUE WORD OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: "Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."63

102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.65 103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.66

104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God".67 "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."68

Notice that the veneration is linkened to that given to the Eucharist. For those who do not know, in the Catholic Church the Eucharist is one of the 7 Sacrements and is given what is termed veneration. And since it is the Lord's Body, the faithful can go as far as to worship it.

This brings me to the layers of holiness:

1. The holiness of the spoken words

2. The holiness of the written words

(1) On the holiness of the spoken word

The Lord himself says, concerning the spoken words:

"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (St. John 6:63)

Apostle St. Paul says:

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: [...] But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-7, 10)

It is also well attested, by private revelation, that reciting the Bible in the presence of demons can disturb them and weaken them.

Conclusion: It can therefore be said that the spoken words are sacramental in their effect.

(2) On the holiness of the written words

First there must be made a distinction between the paper and ink, and the fact of mentally reading what the ink signifies. Concerning the mental reading, the effects are the same as those of the spoken words, that is evident, the only difference being that the sacramentality will only affect yourself and those who may be inside of your mind i.e demons. Concerning the paper and ink it is more ambiguous.

The problem we are faced with concernes the paper and ink.

The fact of the Holy Bible being as it were one of the 3 infallible pillars of the Church automatically raises it to an astronomic status of holiness. But if we consider the sin of simony it may seem, ipso facto, that the paper and ink do not in it of themselves hold power.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares:

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things.53 To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money!"54 Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: "You received without pay, give without pay."55 It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty."56 The competent authority determines these "offerings" in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church's ministers. "The laborer deserves his food."57

However if one reads carefully the explanation, it is clear that the blessing of an item does not necessarily leave it if it is later sold, provided the one selling is asking in exchange for a monetary value equivalent to the item and not to the item and the blessing. In other words, if one is to sell Holy Water it is lawful provided the price tag represents the value of the average bottle of water and not the value of the blessing. Furthermore if the need is urgent and the people cannot afford to pay even for the mere item, it is simony to refuse to make an exception, and instead keep selling. Beware, if this rule is not respected not only will sin have been committed but the blessing itself will automatically be retracted by God. This then disproves the claim of an ipso facto blessing NOT being present because of the sin of simony.

Concerning the relationship between the Holy Bible and the Holy Tradition;

The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares:

One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".41

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."42

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."43

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."44

Holy Tradition is primarily an oral tradition by definition, in opposition to Holy Scripture which is primarily a written tradition. The form of transmisson is what differenciates them the most. Meaning that the written form of Holy Scripture as a closed library is not by accident as an after thought, but instead by design, by divine will. This then seems to attribute a charismatic grace upon all Bibles in it of themselves, as the written form is characteristic of the Holy Scripture. I say charismatic because it is not powerful because of a blessing given by a priest, nor because a priest has unleashed its power like in the case of a rosary, but instead is above blessing.

For the sake of clarification, the charism I have argued for, like all charismatic graces, deploys itself by degrees depending on conditions specificed by God. These conditions usually undermine the strict necessity of faith to be efficient, as the charism of infallibility in the Holy See. In this case concerning the Holy Bible we can infer, by taking into account the words of Christ and St. Paul, that the charism marks territory. In other words, whether spoken or written as they are confounded, the Holy Bible's charismatic attribute is to make present the presence of God; and from that one can either take advantage of it or not. We can note the words of the Catechism in comparing the Holy Bible to the Lord's Body. Not to mention the numerous private revelations of Bibles being able to halt demonic activity in certain cases. Additional charismatic graces can of course be added by God, as is seen in the Bibles that miraculously survive fires, but these are not normative.

We can even say that the Eucharist makes present the body of Christ, and that in corrolation with this the Holy Bible makes present the mind of Christ as it is written down; the written Word of God.

Before concluding, here is a reminder of what a sacramental is as explained by Catholic Culture:

Objects or actions that the Church uses after the manner of sacraments, in order to achieve through the merits of the faithful certain effects, mainly of a spiritual nature. They differ from sacraments in not having been instituted by Christ to produce their effect in virtue of the ritual performed. Their efficacy depends not on the rite itself, as in the sacraments, but on the influence of prayerful petition; that of the person who uses them and of the Church in approving their practice. The variety of sacramentals spans the whole range of times and places, words and actions, objects and gestures that, on the Church's authority, draw not only on the personal dispositions of the individuals but on the merits and prayers of the whole Mystical Body of Christ.

Finally it must be understood that, for now, no dogmatic clarification has been given on this issue. Many priests will refuse to bless Bibles, because they see it as a redundance. But some will bless them. My answer is but a logical conclusion, which hopefully is true and will be dogmatized.

FINAL ANSWER:

Properly speaking the Bible CAN be called a sacramental because it was not instituted by Christ in person, but by the Church in person of Christ, and these are the two unique options. This of course does not undermine its holiness, but makes the point which is that Christianity is not a religion of the book but instead religion of the Word of God as it comes in its many forms. First the Church as Body of the Word, then Holy Tradition as the spoken Word, then Holy Scripture as the written Word, and of course the Eucharist as the flesh and blood of the Word. It is the religion of the Word.

It remains exceedingly powerful as the Catechism makes clear, but it still fits in the category of sacramentals. Yet being above all other sacramentals in that it does not necessitate a blessing to function properly as a sacramental.

For this reason we should, when referring to the Holy Bible as a sacramental, specify that it is the Sacramental of sacramentals.

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    I hate to downvote a long thought out answer, but this is definitely wrong. A Bible is a sacramental as anything that can be blessed is a sacramental, I don't think any priest would refuse to bless a Bible any more than he'd refuse to bless a baby. Might be worth it to read the canon law on the subject – Peter Turner Jun 19 '18 at 20:10
  • I've been on forumes discussin the issue, from what I know Canon Law doesn't get into the topic. And you'll need to read more carefully my answer as it is not black and white, I go into detail about nuances. In the end I explain that the term sacramental should be avoided because it supposes that the Bible came as a non-manditory addition to the Church, like an extra, and not a pillar of the Church. This is why we do not equate Sacrements with sacramentals, there is a nuance, a hierarchy. – Destynation Y Jun 19 '18 at 20:45
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    I think what you mean is "Divine Revelation" as an abstract concept is not a Sacramental, it's more than a sacrament - it's a pillar of the Church. But what I mean is the binding, the pretty pictures, the family tree, that's a sacramental (and should not be knowingly sold under the sin of simony) – Peter Turner Jun 19 '18 at 20:54
  • I thought about, and edited my answer. By the way I did touch on the problem of simony. – Destynation Y Jun 19 '18 at 21:14
  • I agree with Peter Turner. The Bible is not a sacramental because it is much more than that. And your paragraphs about simony appear to be irrelevant to everything you have written. – DJClayworth Jun 19 '18 at 23:23

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