Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inerrancy of Scripture

The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

Papal declarations:

"Divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, error can occur in the inspired text....
22. Those, too, who hold that the historical portions of Scripture do not rest on the absolute truth of the facts but merely upon what they are pleased to term their relative truth, namely, what people then commonly thought, are - no less than are the aforementioned critics - out of harmony with the Church's teaching, which is endorsed by the testimony of Jerome and other Fathers.
28. All this shows us how earnestly we must strive to avoid, as children of the Church, this insane freedom in ventilating opinions which the Fathers were careful to shun. This we shall more readily achieve if you, Venerable Brethren, will make both clergy and laity committed to your care by the Holy Spirit realize that neither Jerome nor the other Fathers of the Church learned their doctrine touching Holy Scripture save in the school of the Divine Master Himself. We know what He felt about Holy Scripture: when He said, "It is written," and "the Scripture must needs be fulfilled," we have therein an argument which admits of no exception and which should put an end to all controversy.” (Pope Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, n. 21,22,28)

“Hence Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, teaching that the most noble office of theology is to show how a doctrine defined by the Church is contained in the sources of revelation, added these words, and with very good reason: "in that sense in which it has been defined by the Church.
22. To return, however, to the new opinions mentioned above, a number of things are proposed or suggested by some even against the divine authorship of Sacred Scripture. For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council's definition that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters. They even wrongly speak of a human sense of the Scriptures, beneath which a divine sense, which they say is the only infallible meaning, lies hidden. In interpreting Scripture, they will take no account of the analogy of faith and the Tradition of the Church. Thus they judge the doctrine of the Fathers and of the Teaching Church by the norm of Holy Scripture, interpreted by the purely human reason of exegetes, instead of explaining Holy Scripture according to the mind of the Church which Christ Our Lord has appointed guardian and interpreter of the whole deposit of divinely revealed truth.
23. Further, according to their fictitious opinions, the literal sense of Holy Scripture and its explanation, carefully worked out under the Church's vigilance by so many great exegetes, should yield now to a new exegesis, which they are pleased to call symbolic or spiritual. By means of this new exegesis of the Old Testament, which today in the Church is a sealed book, would finally be thrown open to all the faithful. By this method, they say, all difficulties vanish, difficulties which hinder only those who adhere to the literal meaning of the Scriptures.
24. Everyone sees how foreign all this is to the principles and norms of interpretation rightly fixed by our predecessors of happy memory, Leo XIII in his Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus," and Benedict XV in the Encyclical "Spiritus Paraclitus," as also by Ourselves in the Encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu."” (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, Concerning Some False Opinions Threating to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine, n. 21-24).

Pope Pius X published the Syllabus of Errors, in which he condemned as heresy the idea that "Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error." (Pope Pius X, Lamentabili Sane, n. 11).

"The principles here laid down will apply cognate sciences, and especially to History. It is a lamentable fact that there are many who with great labor carry out and publish investigations on the monuments of antiquity, the manners and institutions of nations and other illustrative subjects, and whose chief purpose in all this is too often to find mistakes in the sacred writings and so to shake and weaken their authority. Some of these writers display not only extreme hostility, but the greatest unfairness; in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture, if they only find in it a suspicion of error, is set down with the slightest possible discussion as quite untrustworthy. It is true, no doubt, that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible; this question, when it arises, should be carefully considered on its merits, and the fact not too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear. It may also happen that the sense of a passage remains ambiguous, and in this case good hermeneutical methods will greatly assist in clearing up the obscurity. But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit. Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. "Therefore," says St. Augustine, "since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated." And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution.
21. It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. And so emphatically were all the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error, that they laboured earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance - the very passages which in great measure have been taken up by the "higher criticism;" for they were unanimous in laying it down, that those writings, in their entirety and in all their parts were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything but what was true. The words of St. Augustine to St. Jerome may sum up what they taught: "On my part I confess to your charity that it is only to those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand."
22. But to undertake fully and perfectly, and with all the weapons of the best science, the defence of the Holy Bible is far more than can be looked for from the exertions of commentators and theologians alone. It is an enterprise in which we have a right to expect the co-operation of all those Catholics who have acquired reputation in any branch of learning whatever." (Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, n. 20-22).

Early Church Fathers:
Clement of Rome (A.D. 96): “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them” (Letter to the Corinthians, Ch. 45).

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150-160): “I shall not venture to suppose or to say […] the Scriptures contradicted each other […]; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext [for saying] that it is contrary [to some other], since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself” (Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 65).

Irenaeus (A.D. 175-185): “If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit” (Against Heresies, Bk. 2, Ch. 28, 2).

Athenagoras (A.D. 176-177) : “I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledge, and your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the other prophets, who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute” (A Plea for the Christians, Ch. 9).

Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 180-185): “And Moses, who lived many years before Solomon, or, rather, the Word of God by him as by an instrument, says, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’” (Theophilus to Autolycus, Bk. 2, Ch. 10).

Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 180-185): “How much more, then, shall we know the truth who are instructed by the holy prophets, who were possessed by the Holy Spirit of God! On this account all the prophets spoke harmoniously and in agreement with one another, and foretold the things that would come to pass in all the world. For the very accomplishment of predicted and already consummated events should demonstrate to those who are fond of information, yea rather, who are lovers of truth, that those things are really true which they declared concerning the epochs and eras before the deluge: to wit, how the years have run on since the world was created until now” (Theophilus to Autolycus, Bk. 3, Ch. 17).

Hippolytus of Rome (A.D. 200): “For these fathers were furnished with the Spirit, and largely honoured by the Word Himself; and just as it is with instruments of music, so had they the Word always, like the plectrum, in union with them, and when moved by Him the prophets announced what God willed. For they spoke not of their own power (let there be no mistake as to that), neither did they declare what pleased themselves” (On Antichrist, 2).

Hippolytus of Rome (?) (A.D. 230): “Therefore they have laid their hands boldly upon the Divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them. […] But how daring this offense is, it is not likely that they themselves are ignorant. For either they do not believe that the Divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs?” (qtd. in Eusebius, Church History, Bk. 5, Ch. 28, 15 & 18).

Origen (A.D. 244): “To the man who is a peacemaker […] there is in the Divine oracles nothing crooked or perverse, for they are all plain to those who understand. And because to such an one there is nothing crooked or perverse, he sees therefore abundance of peace in all the Scriptures, even in those which seem to be at conflict, and in contradiction with one another. And likewise he becomes a third peacemaker as he demonstrates that that which appears to others to be a conflict in the Scriptures is no conflict, and exhibits their concord and peace […] [A]ll the Scriptures are words of the wise like goads […] and there is nothing superfluous in them. […] [H]e who comes instructed in the music of God, […] knows that all the Scripture is the one perfect and harmonized instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn[…]” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Bk. 2).

Athanasius (A.D. 318): “Let this, then, Christ-loving man, be our offering to you, just for a rudimentary sketch and outline, in a short compass, of the faith of Christ and of His Divine appearing to usward. But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said. For they were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke of God” (On the Incarnation of the Word, 56).

Athanasius (A.D. 347?): “By Moses then, God gave commandment respecting sacrifices, and all the book called Leviticus is entirely taken up with the arrangement of these matters, so that He might accept the offerer. So through the Prophets, He blames him who despised these things, as disobedient to the commandment saying, ‘I have not required these at your hands. Neither did I speak to your fathers respecting sacrifices, nor command them concerning whole burnt-offerings .’ Now it is the opinion of some, that the Scriptures do not agree together, or that God, Who gave the commandment, is false. But there is no disagreement whatever, far from it, neither can the Father, Who is truth, lie; ‘for it is impossible that God should lie’ (Hebrews 6:18), as Paul affirms. But all these things are plain to those who rightly consider them, and to those who receive with faith the writings of the law” (Letter 19, 3).

Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 362?): [L]et us not suppose these events to have been recorded without a purpose, nor that they are a mere assemblage of words and deeds gathered together for the pastime of those who listen to them, as a kind of bait for the ears, for the sole purpose of giving pleasure. Let us leave such jesting to the legends and the Greeks, who think but little of the truth, and enchant ear and mind by the charm of their fictions and the daintiness of their style. We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them, and have thus been borne in mind down to the present day” (Oration 2, 104-105).

Epiphanius (A.D. 377): “And nothing of discrepancy will be found in Sacred Scripture, nor will there be found any statement in opposition to any other statement” (qtd. in Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2, pg. 75, 1106).

Jerome (A.D. 385): “[A] report suddenly reached me that certain contemptible creatures were deliberately assailing me with the charge that I had endeavored to correct passages in the gospels, against the authority of the ancients and the opinion of the whole world. […] [L]et them take my answer as follows: I am not so dull-witted nor so coarsely ignorant […] I am not, I repeat, so ignorant as to suppose that any of the Lord's words is either in need of correction or is not divinely inspired; but the Latin manuscripts of the Scriptures are proved to be faulty by the variations which all of them exhibit, and my object has been to restore them to the form of the Greek original” (Letter 27, 1).

Jerome (A.D. 386): “Holy Scripture, I reply first of all, cannot contradict itself. One book cannot invalidate the drift of the whole. A single verse cannot annul the meaning of a book” (Letter 46, 6).

Augustine (A.D. 391?): “Whatever [scientists] can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures” (On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Bk. 1, 21:41).

Augustine (A.D. 391?): “If it is necessary – and it is necessary - to understand these two statements [of Scripture] so as to find both consistent and not conflicting with each other, it is also equally necessary that both of them be not in contradiction with the demonstrations [of science]” (On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Bk. 2, 9:21).

Augustine (A.D. 392-418): “[Y]ou understand not, you fail to understand, canst not attain: honour God's Scripture, honour God's Word, though it be not plain: in reverence wait for understanding. Be not wanton to accuse either the obscurity or seeming contradiction of Scripture. There is nothing in it contradictory: somewhat there is which is obscure, not in order that it may be denied you, but that it may exercise him that shall afterward receive it. When then it is obscure, that is the Physician's doing, that you may knock. He willed that you should be exercised in knocking; He willed it, that He might open to you when you knock” (Exposition on Psalm 147, 10).

Augustine (A.D. 395): “For it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books: that is to say, that the men by whom the Scripture has been given to us, and committed to writing, did put down in these books anything false. It is one question whether it may be at any time the duty of a good man to deceive; but it is another question whether it can have been the duty of a writer of Holy Scripture to deceive: nay, it is not another question— it is no question at all. For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement as made in the way of duty, there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to any one difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away, as a statement in which, intentionally, and under a sense of duty, the author declared what was not true” (Letter 28, 3, 3).

Jerome (A.D. 398): “[T]here are many things in Scripture which sound incredible and yet are true” (Letter 72, 2).

Jerome (A.D. 399): I know that a difference must be made between the apostles and all other preachers. The former always speak the truth; but the latter being men sometimes go astray” (Letter 82, 7).

Augustine (A.D. 400): “[T]here is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books […] claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. […] Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. […] In consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion” (Against Faustus, Bk. 11, 5).

Augustine (A.D. 400): “As to Enoch and Elias and Moses, our belief is determined […] by the declarations of Scripture, resting as they do on foundations of the strongest and surest evidence. […] [W]e can have no reason for doubting what on the high authority of Scripture is related of [Elias], unless we limit the power of God to things which we are familiar with. […] To give you in a word, without argument, the true reason of our faith, as regards Elias having been caught up to heaven from the earth, though only a man, and as regards Christ being truly born of a virgin, and truly dying on the cross, our belief in both cases is grounded on the declaration of Holy Scripture, which it is piety to believe, and impiety to disbelieve. […] The reason of our believing Him to have been born of the Virgin Mary, is not that He could not otherwise have appeared among men in a true body, but because it is so written in the Scripture, which we must believe in order to be Christians, or to be saved. We believe, then, that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, because it is so written in the Gospel; we believe that He died on the cross, because it is so written in the Gospel; we believe that both His birth and death were real, because the Gospel is no fiction. […] But this may be confidently affirmed, that what took place was exactly as we are told in the Gospel narrative […]. We place the authority of the Gospel above all heretical discussions; and we admire the counsel of divine wisdom more than any counsel of any creature. […] The things are true; and the accurate narrative of them is intended to instruct whoever believes in Christ's gospel in the truth, not to delude him with falsehoods” (Against Faustus, Bk. 26, 3, 5, 7-8).

Augustine (A.D. 405): “For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it […] I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine. I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error” (Letter 82, 1, 3).
Pope Gregory the Great (A.D. 585-589 – before he was pope): “It is often a question with many persons, who should be held for the writer of the Book of the Blessed Job; […] But who was the writer, it is very superfluous to enquire; since at any rate the Holy Spirit is confidently believed to have been the Author. He then Himself wrote them, Who dictated the things that should be written. He did Himself write them Who both was present as the Inspirer in that Saint's work, and by the mouth of the writer has consigned to us his acts as patterns for our imitation. If we were reading the words of some great man with his Epistle in our hand, yet were to enquire by what pen they were written, doubtless it would be an absurdity, to know the Author of the Epistle and understand his meaning, and notwithstanding to be curious to know with what sort of pen the words were marked upon the page. When then we understand the matter, and are persuaded that the Holy Spirit was its Author, in stirring a question about the [human] author, what else do we than in reading a letter enquire about the pen?” (Moralia in Job, Preface, Nos. 1 & 2)
Ambrose (A.D. 378-379): “‘It is written,’ say they, ‘that “There is none good but God alone.”’ I acknowledge the Scripture— but there is no falsehood in the letter; would that there were none in the Arians’ exposition thereof. The written signs are guiltless, it is the meaning in which they are taken that is to blame. I acknowledge the words as the words of our Lord and Saviour” (Exposition of the Christian Faith, Bk. 2, Ch. 1, No. 16).
Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1265-1269): “The author of Holy Writ is God […] it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ” (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 1, Article 10, “I answer that…” & “Reply to Objection 3”).

“Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5)

From the infallible Council of Trent:
Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; [Page 20] or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published.

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