Both Scripture and the Eucharist present the saving Divine Word, though only in the latter is Christ substantially present. The absence of punishment is merely consequent to the fact that the Church has abandoned the temporal sword (where it has not already been seized from her). Summary of Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum. All rights reserved. There is nothing in Trent or Dei Verbum that positively excludes this opinion. The Council “unhesitatingly” confirms the historical character of the Gospels. A decade later, in Vigilantiae studiique (1902), Pope Leo established the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which had the task of answering questions as to which critical theses may be licitly held by Catholics. The first sentence parallels a similar statement by the Council of Trent, which includes: “...having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.” The second sentence clarifies that the Catholic notion of Biblical inspiration does not involve the suppression of human agency. In this sense, they are all of apostolic origin. Scripture depends on Tradition, since Christian revelation was preached before it was written, and it is only by episcopal authority that a canon of authentic Scripture could be established. In the teachings of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum,the council fathers sought to address certain veins of thought running through Baroque and Neo-scholastic theology, then popular in Catholic seminaries and universities, and “debunk” the Scriptures coming from liberal protestant theologians and Scriptural exegetes, which were slowly infiltrating Catholic academia. Only the divine author, the Holy Spirit, would have such knowledge, and be able to reveal it, with or without the full understanding of the inspired writer. It was only appropriate, therefore, now to encourage “frequent reading of the divine Scriptures” by lay Catholics. Dei Verbum. While this restricted notion of inerrancy might make exegetes’ lives easier, it is incompatible with the basic logic expounded a couple lines earlier in Dei Verbum. The Gospel had been promised before Christ and, when Christ came, He brought it to fulfillment and entrusted it to the Apostles who “handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit”. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. The New Covenant does not render the Old Testament irrelevant, for the latter helps bring forth the meaning of the New. Such criticism relies primarily on external evidence (comparison of manuscripts). November 18, 1965. In Providentissimus Deus, Pope Leo XIII had taught: Pope Benedict XV forcefully reaffirmed Leo’s teaching on Biblical inspiration in Spiritus Paraclitus (1920), yet he also described with approval St. Jerome’s view: Dei Verbum likewise affirms that the sacred authors wrote only what God willed for them to write, while emphasizing that this did not entail a suppression of their natural human abilities. 5:17), the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. Pope Pius did not thereby soften his predecessors’ positions on Scriptural inerrancy; on the contrary, he held that improved knowledge of ancient history and literary modes were necessary aids for the exegete in “explaining the Sacred Scripture and in demonstrating and proving its immunity from all error.”. There is no question that the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy is a “hard saying,” so it is always tempting for exegetes and apologists to make their work easier by softening the teaching. - email This broad notion of Tradition includes liturgical, devotional and canonical customs, not all of which are immutable, though all contribute to holiness of life in their time and place. When treating each of its topics, we will compare the constitution’s teaching with pre-conciliar documents. © 2014 Daniel J. Castellano. Although the Old Testament is not an end in itself, but merely a preparation for the coming of Christ, it still contains much truth about God and man that is applicable even today. Even advocates of a strong view of Mosaic authorship allow that Moses used written sources in composing his work, and it has been recognized that there are two accounts of creation in Genesis at least since the time of Flavius Josephus (1st cent.). Appealing to the unity of all Scripture makes sense only in light of its divine authorship, for the human authors generally had no knowledge of most of the other books. In exercising this office, the Church is aided by the Holy Spirit, yet this is not a third source of revelation. Thus most people knew Scripture only through hearing it read aloud, in sacred liturgy or in preaching. Central to the commentary’s approach are the theological principles taught by Vatican II for interpreting Scripture “in accord with the same Spirit by which it was written”—that is, interpreting Scripture in its canonical context and in the light of Catholic tradition and the analogy of faith (Dei Verbum, 12). Everything asserted by the inspired authors is also asserted by the Holy Spirit. The Holy See reserves to itself the right to define the authentic edition of Scripture to be used for liturgy, per the instruction Inter Oecumenici (1964): Accordingly, the Church updated the Vulgate, using the critically reconstructed original of St. Jerome's text as the base text,[2] and then correcting this in places to better render the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It is through living Tradition that we can even know which books of Scripture are canonical. Questions of Biblical inspiration and interpretation take special importance in a highly literate age, as the Church must make clear the relationship between her doctrines and Scripture, and explain what is meant by Scripture as the “word of God.”. The argument from silence, however, proves too much. Para-graph numbers are in parentheses. (DV, 25) Further, we are not to read Holy Scripture as we would a secular text, but should accompany this reading by prayer, to reciprocate God’s communication with us. All this is consistent with St. Jerome’s teaching on Biblical inspiration, which according to Pope Benedict XV “in no wise differs the common teaching of the Catholic Church”: In Sacred Scripture, God speaks through men in human fashion, so it is licit, indeed necessary, to investigate the meaning intended by the sacred writers using sound literary principles. Our current ethical and historiographical presuppositions make much of the Old Testament problematic in a way that was not so in earlier eras. From this it inexorably follows that everything asserted by the inspired authors is free from error, and this logic holds for historical and scientific statements no less than statements about faith and morals. In other words, we should not read too much into every phrase as though it were a special revelation about some worldly truth, but instead regard expressions according to the common modes of speech used by the ancients. without penalty. 4. As the Council’s second dogmatic constitution, Dei Verbum emphasizes perennial doctrine and deals very little with pastoral analysis and advice. en The word of God reveals the final destiny of men and women and provides a unifying explanation of all that they do in the world. Pope Pius XII recognized these developments in his encyclical Divino Afflante Espiritu (1943), which praises the improvements in textual criticism, and explains that the Tridentine endorsement of the Latin Vulgate should not discourage recourse to Greek and Hebrew Biblical texts, and vernacular translations from these. As the inspired authors retained the free use of their faculties, they were not mere puppets or stenographers, but cooperated in the composition of Holy Scripture, using their own literary skills. Indeed, St. Paul elsewhere calls Christ “the power of God” (1 Cor. Without this recognition of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, there would be no reason for us to have any more concern for it than another set of ancient texts. From Joseph Ratzinger's Commentary on Dei Verbum in the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Translation: Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II - New York: Crossroad, 1989, Vol. Lower criticism involved the comparison of extant manuscripts in order to determine, as closely as possible, the original verbal form of the text, removing copyist errors and editorial glosses. Historically, in opposition to those who would advance heterodox doctrines in the name of a “deeper understanding,” the Church has appealed to the authority of the Fathers of the Church, from whom it was not licit to deviate when they were in agreement. The Council then provides a succinct summary of Scriptural inspiration: But the Council fathers also stress that, because “God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion”, care in interpretation is needed in order “to see clearly what God wanted to communicate”, and they mention especially the need for attention to literary forms and to “the content and unity of the whole of Scripture” if the meaning of the sacred texts it to be correctly worked out (12). Dei Verbum: The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation . Still, this does not mean that there can be no development of doctrine, for we have seen that Tradition itself is a living source of revelation. Conclusion. We have only to determine what the human author intended to assert, and thus learn also what the Holy Spirit asserts. There is no impiety in subjecting the written Word to the ordinary methods of textual and literary criticism, for this is merely acknowledging the reality of the condescension that God undertook for our benefit. The exegetical principles of Dei Verbum are in continuity with previous Catholic teaching, though using different language. 9. The interdependence of Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium is easy to prove. The First Vatican Council, in its dogmatic constitution Dei Filius (1870), reaffirmed and clarified Tridentine teaching about the content and interpretation of Scripture. 1. They faithfully spread the Gospel by oral preaching, “and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” (DV, 7) This last statement closely parallels one from the fourth session of Council of Trent: “..this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating..”, Note that Christian revelation is not strictly verbal, but includes practices derived from Christ’s teaching and example, or from the divine inspiration of the Apostles. The Latin verb assero comes from the root meaning “to bind” or “to join,” since we are committing ourselves to a declaration, or making a composite statement relating a predicate to some subject. This notion of inspiration is different from that of Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have recited the Qu’ran from a heavenly exemplar, and so the Muslims consequently affirm that its literary style is without peer. The Jews regard Holy Scripture as composed of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. Yet neither the Tridentine synod nor the modern Council have specified if the doctrinal content of Scripture and Tradition are coextensive. The Constitution Dei Verbum begins with the words of the first Letter of St. John: “We announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father, and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:2). None of this contravenes the integrity of the Gospels, as in all these activities they related the truth about Christ. la Verbi Dei postulationes haud renuntiandae. This was the case with so-called “lower criticism,” which was praised by Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu: By the mid-twentieth century, textual (formerly “lower”) criticism had adopted rather firm, objective criteria for determining the more probable original reading among variants. Tradition in the common sense means any customary belief or practice that is handed down from one generation to another. In the second chapter (“Handing on Divine Revelation”), the Council teaches that God has chosen to convey His revelation through Scripture and Tradition under the authentic interpretive authority of the Magisterium of the Church. The Magisterium alone is divinely commissioned to interpret the word of God—as revealed in Scripture and Tradition—definitively. In the nineteenth century, printing had become inexpensive enough for the masses to own books, and universal mandatory education finally became practicable. | In The Content of Dei Verbum To begin, we need an overview of Dei Verbum and a summary of its contents. 3. The Pope closed the door on the pretense that there can be error in Scripture even on matters not pertaining to faith and morals, for those who make such argument “either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error.”. (Liturgiam authenticam, 24, 37). 6. Summary of Dei Verbum – Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation By: Deacon Ed Sheffer The difficult issue for the Vatican Two fathers, with laying out this document, rested in resolving the relationship of Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and reconciling that there was no error of God’s self-revelation to the world. In the fourth chapter (“The Old Testament”), the Council outlines the purpose of the books of the Old Testament which, “in accordance with the state of mankind before the time of salvation established by Christ, reveal to all men the knowledge of God and of man and the ways in which God, just and merciful, deals with men” (15). After the Council, Catholic critical editions of the Bible have frequently included commentary and footnotes that often seem to deny Scriptural inerrancy (even on matters of morals) or uncritically accept the hypotheses of German higher critics. Inspiration of Holy Scripture 7. Still, the purpose of Scripture—to expound the faith and morals necessary for salvation—does have an important exegetical role. The Magisterium (teaching office) is the only authentic interpreter of Scripture and Tradition. One must appeal to the Church’s living Tradition, which is itself the work of the Holy Spirit. 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