St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 2 Lesson 12


Podcast: Is Sacred Scripture Infallible?
Podcast: Notes

Magisterium: papalencyclicals.netDei FiliusProvidentissimus Deus

Catechism: Q11-12, 100-101, 
My Catholic Faith: Chapter 2
Catholic Encyclopedia: Sacred Scripture, Biblical Exegesis
Aquinas 101: Reading the Old Testament as a Catholic, The Role of Scripture & Tradition in Catholic Theology
Summa Theologica: Prima Pars Q1a10
Companion to the Summa:

Is Sacred Scripture Infallible?

  1. Recap:

    - Faith: Faith is the supernatural virtue which renders the intellect entirely obedient to the will when God reveals a truth, because of the authority of God revealing.

    Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation.

    - Definition of magisterium

    - Different types of magisterium

  2. Definition of Sacred Scripture

    - Efficient Cause (how it was made): God. Since the fourth century, the teaching of the Church concerning the nature of the Bible is practically summed up in the dogmatic formula that God is the author of Sacred Scripture. 

    - Instrumental Cause: Writers inspired directly by the Holy Ghost.

    - Material Cause (what it is made of): These are the books of Sacred Scripture. They are not determined by the contents: their wonder, sublimity or emotivity. Miracles and prophecies require a Divine intervention in order that they may happen, not in order that they may be recorded; hence a work relating miraclesor prophecies is not necessarily inspired.

    They are not determined by the traceability of historic origin. 

    They are determined by the Church as an authority. The decision is reasonable (eg. accepting the books of the Old Testament that Christ accepted). The Council of Trent gives the definitive canon. The canon was not decided al at once; protocanonical books are those always acccepted; deuterocanonical books were accepted later. (Eg. as to the Old Testament, the Books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I, II, Machabees, and also Esther, x, 4- xvi, 24, Daniel, iii, 24-90, xiii, 1-xiv, 42, are in this sense deuterocanonical; the same must be said of the following New- Testament books and portions: Hebrews, James, II Peter, II, III John, Jude, Apocalypse, Mark 13:9-20, Luke 22:43-44, John 7:53-8:11. Protestant writers often call the deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament the Apocrypha).

    Division of the Old Testamant

    (a) The Jews divided the books into three categories: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (the Hagiographa):

    Law: the Pentateuch.

    Prophets: former Prophets (Josue, Judges, Samuel, and Kings), and the latter Prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the Minor Prophets, called the Twelve, and counted as one book).

    Writings: first poetical books (Psalms, Proverbs, Job); secondly, the five Megilloth or Rolls (Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther); thirdly, the three remaining books (Daniel, Esdras, Paralipomenon).

    (b) The Council of Trent put the books in topological and chronological order:

         Historical books (except Maccabees) in chronological order  (Tobias, Judith and Ester are last because they are personal histories).

         Didactic books in order of date of composition.

         Prophetic books: four major and twelve minor in chronological order.

    Division of the New Testament

         Historical books: Gospels and Acts in order of date of composition.

         Didactic books: Pauline epistles in order of dignity of addressee and importance (except Heb which was a late addition).

         Catholic books: 

    - Formal Cause (what it is): Scripture is the written word of God, its contents are Divinely guaranteed truths, revealed either in the strict or the wider sense of the word. Since the inspiration of a writing cannot be known without Divine testimony, God must have revealed which are the books that constitute Sacred Scripture. Moreover, theologians teach that Christian Revelation was complete in the Apostles, and that its deposit was entrusted to the Apostles to guard and to promulgate. Hence the apostolic deposit of Revelation contained not merely Sacred Scripture in the abstract, but also the knowledge as to its constituent books. Scripture, then, is an Apostolic deposit entrusted to the Church, and to the Church belongs its lawful administration. 

    -  Final Cause (what it's for): To teach us the way to heaven.


  3. Scriptures require the Church

    For the Scriptures to be a source of revelation an authority is necessary to decide:

    (a) which books are divinely inspired (many apocryphal writings were circulating in the early Church);

    (b) what the text means.

  4. Interpretation of Sacred Scripture (Exegesis)

    The protestant reformers demonstrate that an authority is required to interpret the scriptures. One protestant theologian was honest enough to write:

    Men open this book, their favourite creed in mind; 

    Each seeks his own, and each his own doth find.

    Agreeing with the warning of the Fathers, Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus", insisted on the difficulty of rightly interpreting the Bible. "It must be observed", he wrote,

    that in addition to the usual reasons which make ancient writings more or less difficult to understand, there are some which are peculiar to the Bible. For the language of the Bible is employed to express, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, many things which are beyond the power and scope of the reason of man — that is to say, Divine mysteries and all that is related to them.

    There is sometimes in such passages a fullness and a hidden depth of meaning which the letter hardly expresses and which the laws of grammatical interpretation hardly warrant. Moreover, the literal sense itself frequently admits other senses, adapted to illustrate dogma or to confirm morality. Wherefore, it must be recognized that the Sacred Writings are wrapt in a certain religious obscurity, and that no one can enter into their interior without a guide; God so disposing, as the Holy Fathers commonly teach, in order that men may investigate them with greater ardour and earnestness, and that what is attained with difficulty may sink more deeply into the mind and heart; and, most of all, that they may understand that God has delivered the Holy Scripture to the Church, and that in reading and making use of His word, they must follow the Church as their guide and their teacher.

    Different senses of Scripture

    De fide: Sacred Scripture is infallible. Dei Filius, Chapter 2, “On Divine Relation,” from Vatican I