Bible Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma

(New York: Ave Maria Press, 2015-10-02), 224

Link to my reproduction of Bergsma's illustrations: !~Bible Basics for Catholics Illustrations.pdf (GitHub link)


  • Goal of this book: show you the basic overall "big picture" of the Bible
  • Use stick figures to remember the series of biblical covenants
  • A covenant is a legal way to make someone a part of your family (4), or "the extension of kinship by oath" (163)—adoption and marriage are examples
  • The mediator is a person who represents groups of people involved in a covenant: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus
  • Covenants take place on mountaintops, where we feel closer to God and can see the world in context

Chapter 1: The Covenant with Adam

  • Adam was a model for us and the meaning of his life remains the purpose of our lives (10)
  • Our first image is the image of the temple of creation (19)
  • Being made in God's "image and likeness" means to be a son—divine filiation (20)
  • The arrival of woman is a high point in God's creation, and the woman brings out the best in the man (24)
  • Adam's identity in Genesis 1-2: firstborn son, king, priest, prophet, bridegroom (25)
    • We are also called to be priest (offer sacrifice of our own life), prophet (speak God's word), and king (master self so as to not be a slave to sin)
  • God clothing Adam and Eve in the skin of a dead lamb in the garden foreshadows the Lamb of God clothing humans in his righteousness (36)

Chapter 2: The Covenant with Noah

  • The language of Noah's covenant recalls Genesis 1 and is a renewal of the covenant with Adam—the flood is a re-creation (40)
  • The themes of Noah's fall are familiar: consumption of fruit, nakedness, shame, curse. Sin has infected every person (44)

Chapter 3: The Covenant with Abraham

  • Abraham is not chosen for his own sake. He is chosen so that he can bless the rest of the human family (45)
  • God makes a "covenant between the pieces" with Abraham, meaning something to the effect of "if I do not keep my covenant commitments, may I be killed like these animals" (49)
  • God is coming down to Abraham's level: divine condescension (49)
  • The sacrifice of Isaac on the mountain is a premonition of Christ's sacrifice (54), where "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son" (55, cf. Gn-22)

Chapter 4: The Covenant with Moses

  • The ten plagues are a "battle of the gods" where the Lord God shows his reality over the false gods of Egypt (68)
  • At Sinai God is adopting Israel as his "firstborn son." The Ten Commandments are the family rules governing our relationship with the Father and with our siblings (72)
  • The laws given after the golden calf have a penitential purpose, meant to teach spiritual truths and restore Israel to spiritual health (77)

Chapter 5: The Covenant with David

  • Genesis through Joshua is all about Moses; Ruth through the end of the Old Testament is all about David (88)
  • David is great:
    • Politically: he founds a great nation, the Israelite Empire; and he establishes Jerusalem
    • Liturgically: he was a great reformer who practiced what he preached and showed his people the important place of worship in their lives; he also introduced singing and music into worship
  • David wants to build God a "house" (temple), but God promises to build David a "house" (dynasty) (93)
  • The Davidic covenant: God promises David a son who will build God's temple, be the Son of God, and rule over Israel forever (94)

Chapter 6: The New Covenant in the Prophets

  • The high point of the entire Old Testament comes in 1 Kings 8 when Solomon dedicates the temple, which was the symbol and sum of all the covenants and all salvation history (105)
  • Nothing is greater than the Temple except for God, and Jesus reveals himself by saying "Something greater than the Temple is here" (107 cf Mt-12)
  • The prophets are like weathermen: only storms and gloom in the short-term outlook, but sunny days in the extended forecast (108)
  • Isaiah is the "fifth Gospel" because of its many prophecies of the Messiah (109)
  • Every Mass is a fulfillment of Jer-31 ("I will make a new covenant", cf. Lk-22 "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood") (114)
  • Ezekiel adds "everlasting covenant" to the covenant of peace (Ez-37, 119), the New Covenant spoken of by the prophets includes the restoration and transformation of the Davidic Covenant (121)

Chapter 7: The Eucharistic Covenant

  • Jesus fulfills all the expectations associated with each of the great covenants in the Old Testament (127)
    • Adam: Jesus fulfills the fivefold role as son of God, king, priest, prophet, and bridegroom (127), these characteristics also connect him to Noah (133)
    • Abraham: Jesus is the promised "seed of Abraham" (Gn-22, 134)
    • Moses: Jesus is a prophet like Moses, but greater than him; Moses was replaced by Joshua, and Jesus is the new Y'shua (137)
    • David: the genealogies show Jesus' legal and biological lineage: he is both son and heir to David. Jesus gives us a temple better than Solomon's, his body (139)
    • Prophets: in the Passover meal Jesus establishes the new covenant in his blood (141); his body is the temple and it is flowing with the blood and water of the Passover (145)
  • With the coming of the Holy Spirit the divine filiation that Adam enjoyed is not given back to all men (151)

Last Word

  • The main goal of this book is to show the Bible's unity (155, cf. CCC 112 about "content and unity")
  • The message of the Bible is this: the sonship Adam once enjoyed with God has been restored to us by Jesus Christ (156)
  • Our response to the scriptures should be this (156):
    • Receive the sacraments (which make us participate in the events of scripture)
    • Live our faith as priest, prophet, and king
    • Keep learning more of God's Word
    • Share what we know

Note: John Bergsma's favorite Bible translation is the RSV-2CE (55)

Topic: The Bible


Further Reading

Created: 2023-04-21-Fri
Updated: 2023-11-12-Sun