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The MOST Theological Collection: The Holy Spirit and the Church

"Appendix IV: Summary of Dei Verbum"


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Preliminary notes:

1. This text had a stormy history. The original draft was presented in Nov. 1962. There was much opposition. A vote taken to have it rewritten-- 60% wanted that, but it needed 2/3. So Pope John XXIII ordered the rewriting. After many changes it was finally approved on Nov. 18, 1964. There were chiefly three hot points in the discussions: 1) What is Tradition in itself? What is the relation of Scripture and Tradition, or is there only one source of revelation? 2) What of inerrancy? 3) What of historicity of the Gospels? On Oct 2, 1964 Cardinal Koenig of Vienna rose, said there are many errors in Scripture, gave three instances - they can all be answered.

2. There is stress on Christ as the full revelation of the Father. He is, it is true. But that does not preclude specific teachings. There has been a tendency to avoid them. Cf. Gabriel Moran & Sr. Maria Harris, in National Catholic Reporter, Nov 22, 1967, p. 6.


§1. The Council intends to follow in the footsteps of Trent and Vatican I in presenting the true doctrine about divine revelation and its transmission.

I. Revelation in Itself

§2. It pleased God to reveal Himself. This economy of revelation takes place by actions and by words intrinsically connected, so that the works manifest and reinforce the doctrine and the things signified by the words, while the words proclaim the works and cast light on the mystery contained in them. Christ is the mediator and the fullness of revelation.

§3. God in creating all thing through the Word and conserving them, gives constant testimony of Himself through created things. Intending to open up the way of heavenly salvation, He also manifested Himself to our first parents. After their fall, by promising redemption, He lifted them up into the hope of salvation.

§4. After speaking in many and varied ways in the prophets, in the last days He spoke to us in His son. The Word speaks the words of God and consummates the work the Father gave Him to do. He who sees Him sees the Father. So the Christian economy as the new and definitive covenant, will never be superseded, and now no new public revelation is to be expected before the return of Christ.

§5. The "obedience of faith" (Rom 1. 5) is to be given to God who reveals, by which a person freely commits himself totally to God, giving full obedience of mind and will to God who reveals, and voluntarily assenting to what He reveals. We need a grace to come before and to go along with this faith, and to perfect it.

COMMENT: The definition of faith given in DV 5 is from Vatican I. If unfolded it means: 1)If God speaks a truth, faith requires intellectual belief; 2) if He make a promise, faith requires confidence; 3) If He gives a command, faith requires obedience: Rom 1:5,"the obedience of faith". 4) All to be done in love. Luther made a fatal mistake, he thought faith was only confidence the merits of Christ apply to me - then one can sin much (cf. his Epistle 501 to Melanchthon: "Pecca fortiter sed crede fortius"), and he said faith makes it all right. He did not notice St. Paul has a broader definition of faith; he did not notice that faith includes obedience, so it cannot be used to justify disobedience as Luther thought.

§6. The Council confesses that God can be known by the light of natural reason, but that revelation brings it about that even things not impervious to reason may be known by all, with firm certitude, and without error.

II. The Transmission of Divine Revelation

§7. So that what He revealed might be transmitted to all generations, Christ commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel to all, which was done faithfully by the Apostles in oral preaching and by examples and institutions, and by those Apostles and apostolic men who under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit put down in writing the message of salvation. So that the Gospel might continue whole and living in the Church, the Apostles left Bishops, giving them their teaching office.

COMMENT: DV & 8 explain the process on which Form and Redaction Criticism depend. Gospels develop in three steps: 1) Words and acts of Christ (He would adapt His words to current audience); 2) The Apostles and others at start report what He did and said - they might use different words, adapting to the audience, but would keep the sense; 3) Some individuals inspired by the Spirit, wrote down part of this original teaching. This was the Gospels therefore The Church has something more basic than the Gospels -its own ongoing teaching. In as much as even leftists admit three stages, they implicitly admit what we have said.

§8. So the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, is to be kept in continuous succession up to the consummation of the world. Hence the Apostles warn that people should hold to the traditions which they received by mouth or by letters(cf. 2 Thes 2. 15). This apostolic Tradition advances in the Church under the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for it grows both by reception of the words handed on and by the contemplation and study of those who believe, pondering them in their hearts. The Church tends to the fullness of divine truth constantly as the centuries go on until in her the words of God may be consummated.

The words of the Holy Fathers testify to this life-giving presence. Through the same Tradition the whole canon of the Sacred Books becomes known to the Church, and the Sacred Letters are deeply understood in her and are constantly rendered active. So God who spoke once, converses without intermission with the Spouse of His beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit leads the believers into all truth.

§9. So Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are closely connected with each other and communicate with each other. For both, coming forth from the same divine source, coalesce as it were into one and tend to the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the speaking of God inasmuch as it is entrusted to writing under the inspiration of the Spirit; Sacred Tradition fully transmits the word of God, entrusted by Christ and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. Hence the Church has its certitude about all things revealed not only through Sacred Scripture. So each [Scripture and Tradition] are to be received and respected with equal piety and reverence.

COMMENT: We distinguish Tradition and tradition - latter is only customs. DV 9 strains to make it sound like only one source, yet we can see it still teaches there are two, Scripture and Tradition.

§10. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture constitute one sacred deposit of the word of God. However the task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, written or handed on, has been entrusted solely to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This Magisterium is not above the word of God, but ministers to it, teaching only what has been handed on. So Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so interconnected that one does not stand without the other. Together they effectively contribute to the salvation of souls.

III. The Inspiration of Sacred Scripture and its Interpretation.

§11. Holy Mother Church holds as sacred and canonical the complete books of Old and New Testament, with all their parts, because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and as such have been handed on to the Church. In producing the sacred books, God chose men, whom He employed as they used their faculties and powers, in such a way that with Him working in them and through them, they, as true authors, would set down in writing all the things He willed and those things alone.

Since then everything that the inspired authors assert is asserted by the Holy Spirit, for this reason the Scriptures are to be confessed as teaching firmly, faithfully and without error that truth which God for our salvation willed to have consigned to the sacred writings. [See comments below on underlined parts].

COMMENTS: 1. In DV 11-12 we see literary genre in background. To find out what the sacred writer meant, we must see what genre he used. Whatever, in that framework, he asserts, is asserted by the Holy Spirit.

2. R. Brown (In New Jerome Biblical Commentary) and others insist DV 11, in the part we underlined, lets us say that only things needed for salvation are without error -- can be error in science, history, even religion. But the Council gave series of notes, referring back to earlier documents, especially Vatican I, which says God is the Author. He cannot be the author of any error, so Brown is wrong. Pius XII in Divino afflante Spiritu (EB 538) said that statement of Vatican I is a solemn definition. Vatican II would not reverse a solemn definition.

§12. Since God in Scripture speaks with men in human fashion, the interpreter, in order to see what God willed to have communicated, must carefully study what the inspired writers really intended to say and what God willed to manifest in their words.

To understand the intention of the sacred writers, we must consider literary genres, for the truth is expressed in various modes -- historical, prophetical, poetical and other modes. So the interpreter must seek out what the inspired writer, considering his time and culture, intended to express via the means of literary genres.

But since Scripture is to be read and interpreted by the same Spirit by which it was written, to understand rightly, one must look not less diligently to the content and unity of all of Scripture, considering the living Tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith. It is for exegetes to work according to these rules to more deeply explain Scripture, so that by as it were a preliminary study, the judgment of the Church may mature. For everything in the interpretation of Scripture ultimately falls under the judgment of the Church.

COMMENT: DV 12 insists that in interpreting, we must note that there is one chief Author, the Holy Spirit, for all of Scripture - so one part cannot contradict another (some make Mark's picture of Our Lady clash with Luke's). It also insists we must consider the Tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith - as to latter: If any proposed interpretation would clash even by implication with any teaching of the Church - it is false. DV 12 adds that the work of scholars is only preliminary - the real judgment rests with the Church.

§13. So in Scripture there is seen, always keeping to the truth and holiness of God, an admirable condescension of eternal Wisdom. For the words of God are made like to human speech, just as the Word of the Eternal Father, taking on the infirmity of flesh, became like to men.

The Old Testament

§14. The most loving God intending and preparing the salvation of the whole race, in a singular plan chose a people for Himself. The economy of salvation told by the sacred writers in the Old Testament, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament. So these divinely inspired books retain their permanent value.

§15. The plan of the Old Testament was especially aimed at preparing the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all, and of the Messianic kingdom. these books, even though they contain imperfect and temporary things, yet show a true divine pedagogy.

§16. So God is the author and inspirer of both Testaments. He arranged everything so that the new would lie hidden in the old and the Old would open up the New. In the NT things acquire and show their complete meaning.

V: The New Testament

§17. The Word of God is presented in an excelling manner in the books of the NT. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and began the kingdom of God on earth; by deeds and words He manifested His Father and Himself and by His death, resurrection and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit completed His work. He drew all to Himself: this mystery [that all are called] was not made known to other generations as it is now revealed to the Apostles and Prophets in the Holy Spirit.

§18. It is clear that the Gospels excel other NT writings. The Church has always and everywhere held the apostolic origin of the four Gospels. For what things the Apostles by command of Christ preached, they and apostolic men handed on to us, with the inspiration of the Spirit, the foundation of faith the quadruple Gospel.

§19. The Church has firmly and most constantly held and does hold that the four Gospels, whose historicity it affirms without hesitation, faithfully hand down what Jesus in His mortal life really did and taught. The Apostles after His ascension, handed on these things to their hearers with the fuller understanding which they enjoyed, being taught by the glorious events of Christ and by the light of the Spirit of truth. The four Evangelists selected certain things out of many handed down orally or in writing, and put some things into a synthesis or explained them according to the state of the churches; they kept the form of proclamation, in such a way that they always communicated to us true and sincere things about Jesus.

COMMENT: In spite of Cardinal Koenig, DV 19 insists the Gospels give us what Jesus "really did and taught" and they give "true and sincere things" on Him. So Gospels are historically correct, considering genre as usual.

§20. The NT Canon contains beside the four Gospels, also the Epistles of St. Paul and other apostolic writings inspired by the Holy Spirit in which, by wise counsel of God, the things about Christ are confirmed.

VI: The Scriptures in the Life of the Church

§21. The Church always venerates the Scriptures as it does the Lord's Body, when, especially in the Liturgy it takes the bread of life from the table of the word of God. It holds that the Scriptures along with Sacred Tradition are the supreme rule of faith, that they unchangeably impart the word of God Himself. So all preaching, just as the Church itself, should be nourished and guided by Scripture. There is such power in the word of God that it is the support and vigor of the Church, and the strength of soul for the sons of the faith.

§22. The faithful must have broad access to Scripture. Hence the Church from the beginning made its own the Septuagint, and held in honor other versions, oriental and Latin, especially the Vulgate. The Church sees to it that versions be prepared rightly in various languages, especially translating from the original texts. If some versions are made by work in common with separated brethren, with the approval of the Church, they can be used by all Christians.

§23. The Church, to attain more profound understanding of the Scriptures, promotes the study of the Holy Fathers of the East and West, and the sacred Liturgy. Let Catholic exegetes and others who cultivate sacred theology work together, under the vigilance of the Magisterium, to investigate and propose the divine letters with apt helps so that as many as possible of the ministers of the word may provide the food of the Scriptures fruitfully for the people, according to the sense of the Church.

§24. Because they are inspired, the sacred pages are as it were the soul of theology. By the word of the same Scripture, the ministry of the word, pastoral preaching, catechesis and christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily should have an outstanding place, wholesomely flourishes.

§25. Hence all clerics, especially priests and others who as deacons or catechists work in the ministry of the word, should be familiar with the Scriptures by careful study. The Council exhorts all, especially religious, that by frequent reading of the divine Scripture they learn the eminent knowledge of Jesus Christ. For ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ [St. Jerome]. Moreover they should remember that prayer should go along with the reading of sacred Scripture.

It is for the Bishops to opportunely provide versions of the sacred texts which are provided with necessary and sufficient explanations. Further, editions of Scripture with suitable notes should be provided also for the use of non-Christians.

§26. So the reading and study of the sacred Books, should more and more fill the hearts of men. Just as by frequent Holy Communion the life of souls grows, so we hope that a new spiritual impulse may come from increased veneration for the Word of God which remains forever.

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