Home Page Faithful to the Magisterium Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia Write to Marty Why Catholic? Because True.
Catholic Definitions Abbess Abbey Abbot Accident Absolute Actual Grace Adoration Amen Angel Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Apostolic Apostolic Constitution Apostolic Exhortation Apostolic Letter Art Assent Authority Avarice Baptism Benign Bible Bishop Brotherly Love Bull Calumny Canon Law Capital Sins Capital Virtues Cardinal Virtues Catechesis Catholic Charity Chastity Chrism Christ’s Commands Church Cloister Codex Communio Compassion Completion Story Concupiscence Confession Confirmation Consecration Conscience Conservatism Continence Convent Corporal Works of Mercy Counsel Custody of the Senses Deacon Deaconess Death Detraction Dicastery Diligence Divine Office Doctrine Dogma Double Effect Dulia Economy of Salvation Ecumenical Ecumenical Council Encyclical Epistle Encyclica Letter Envy Eternity Eucharist Evangelization Ex Cathedra Ex Opere Operantis Ex Opere Operato Faith Fear Fideism Form Fortitude Four Last Things Friar Friday Abstinence Fruits of the Holy Spirit Gifts of the Holy Spirit Gluttony Good Grace Heaven Hell Holy Heresy Holy Eucharist Holy Orders Hope Humility Hyperdulia Hypostatic Union Immortal Impassible Indulgence Infallible Intellectual Virtues Intrinsic Joy Judgment Justice Justification Knowledge Latria Letter Liberality Limbo Liturgy Longanimity Lust Magisterium Man Marriage Matrimony Matter Meek Mercy Message Mild Miracle Modernism Modesty Monastery Monk Mortal Sin Motu Proprio Nun Obedience One Orders Original Sin Pallium Parable Pasch Patience Pauline Privilege Peace Penance Piety Pope Prayer Precept Preternatural Pride Priest Prophet Prudence Purgatory Purity Rationalism Religious Reparation Revelation Rule Sacrament Sacramental Presence Sacred Tradition Sacrifice Saint Sanctifying Grace Science Scrupulosity Sin Sister Sloth Soul Spirit Spiritual Direction Spiritual Works of Mercy Substance Supernatural Synoptic Telepathy Temperance Theological Virtues Theology Transubstantiation Trinity Triumphalist Truly, truly Ultramontane Understanding Vatican II Vademecum Vanity Veneration Venial Sin Victim Virtues Wisdom Words of Institution Worship Wrath
The Catholic Church from the very beginning accepted 73 books, 46 written before Christ’s arrival for the Israelite people and 27 written after Christ’s arrival for the Christian faithful, as divinely inspired. These books are gathered together into one book called The Bible, or Holy Scripture.
2 Tim 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
St. Athanasius in his Festal Letter, § 39, in 367 AD, published a list of books suitable for reading during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a regional canon for the Eastern Church.
Pope St. Damasus I in 382 AD approved the work of the first Council of Constantinople, accepting St. Athanasius’ list as divinely inspired, and indicated that if any bishop used a list of books inconsistent with the Roman canon he would need a convincing explanation. Then the Council of Hippo, a regional council for some of the bishops in the Diocese of Africa, in 393 AD reaffirmed The Decree of Damasus. The third Council of Carthage was far more authoritative than the Council of Hippo. The Diocese of Africa then had its see at Carthage, so Carthage had authority to speak for all of the northwest African bishops. The Council of Carthage in 397 AD also reaffirmed The Decree of Damasus. Carthage, unlike Hippo, sent its decisions to Rome for ratification. Pope St. Boniface I (418-422) ratified the decision and declared the canon settled for the Western Patriarchate. He also sent the decision to the Eastern patriarchs in Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. At that point, the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture was informally accepted worldwide. The Fourth Council of Carthage in 419 reaffirmed Pope St. Boniface. The Council of Nicea II in 787 ratified the same canon as authoritative for the Eastern Churches. Finally, the Council of Trent, a worldwide Ecumenical Council, formally proclaimed the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture in 1546 as authoritative for the whole world.
From this we see that while each Pope in his time has supreme authority over the Church, and may exercise his authority at any time, Holy Mother Church often works by a consensus of the Pope and the bishops developed over time. The faithful who see a teaching proclaimed by the Pope and all the bishops worldwide recognize in it the Holy Spirit’s silent authorship.
CCC 105 “God is the author of Sacred Scripture. The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”
CCC 106 “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”
CCC 107 “The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”
CCC 108 “Still, the Christian faith is not a religion of the book. Christianity is the religion of the Word of God, a word which is not a written and mute word but the Word which is incarnate and living. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, open our minds to understand the Scriptures.”
CCC 109 “In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.”
CCC 110 “In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current. For the fact is thattruth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church continues with principles of interpretation in #111-141.
Catholic teaching on Sacred Scripture is summarized in Divino Afflante Spiritu, an encyclical letter on the promotion of biblical studies, published by Pope Pius XII on September 30, 1943.
Divino afflante spiritu means “inspired by the Divine Spirit.” The encyclical begins, “Inspired by the Divine Spirit, the Sacred Writers composed those books, which God, in His paternal charity towards the human race, deigned to bestow on them in order ’to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.’ 2 Tim. 3:16-17 This heaven-sent treasure Holy Church considers as the most precious source of doctrine on faith and morals. No wonder herefore that, as she received it intact from the hands of the Apostles, so she kept it with all care, defended it from every false and perverse interpretation and used it diligently as an instrument for securing the eternal salvation of souls, as almost countless documents in every age strikingly bear witness.”
The encyclical continues, 3 “There is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order ’went by what sensibly appeared’ as the Angelic Doctor says, speaking either “in figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science.” For ’the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately--the words are St. Augustine’s-- the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things--that is the essential nature of the things of the universe--things in no way profitable to salvation’; which principle ’will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to history,’ that is, by refuting, ’in a somewhat similar way the fallacies of the adversaries and defending the historical truth of Sacred Scripture from their attacks.’ Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if ’copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible,’ or, ’if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous.’ Finally it is absolutely wrong and forbidden ’either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred,’ since divine inspiration ’not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church.’
There is no such thing as sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” It is always Scripture plus the Church, or Scripture plus the individual. No man comes to the Bible tabula rasa (erased tablet). Each man brings the sum of his childhood education and life experience.
Protestants imagine that the Holy Spirit guides each individual to a right understanding of Scripture. If that were true, all Christians whether Catholic or Protestant would arrive at the same interpretation for every passage of Scripture. However, the number of Protestant interpretations, or denominations, today approaches thirty thousand, a theological bedlam.
The Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to interpret Scripture. St. Peter explicitly denied that individuals have such authority: 2 Pet 1:20 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.”
The Second Exodus book quotes more than one thousand verses of Scripture, partly to show Protestants that the Catholic faith is “Scriptural.”
Copyright © 1999-2010 Martin K Barrack. All rights reserved.