PDF-Download of full version here.

Here the first two pages abbreviated:

The Pontifical Biblical Commission is a part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in a certain sense is the Vatican’s theological commission. The Congregation is under the leadership of the Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, who along with this oversees the Commission on the Bible. The Commission elects its own head and is semi-independent in its publications.

There are clear differences compared to the 1993 document by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.[1] The historical-critical methods are no longer so wholeheartedly elevated to almost canonical rank. Rather, historical-critical methods are relativized.

Indeed, the new document[2] points to the “methods” discussed in 1993 (§ 105, pp. 124-125), but the fact cannot be hidden that there has been a clear distancing from the line taken in the 1993 document.

However, the new document is only able to rhetorically but not truly bridge the tension between an almost complete license for the results of historical-critical methods and protection of the historical foundations of the confession of faith and the affirmation of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

The description of inspiration is clear and well stated:

“The inspiration of Sacred Scripture refers, therefore, to each of the texts that constitute it, as well as to the canon as a whole. To affirm that a biblical book is inspired means to recognize that it constitutes a specific and privileged vehicle of God’s revelation to humankind and that its human authors were impelled by the Spirit to express truths of faith in a historically located text and received as normative by believing communities” (§ 57, p. 60).

Evangelicals can only agree with the following section, which point out that the faith of the reader today and the action of the Spirit correspond to inspiration:

“God’s solicitude should be received with a deep gratitude, manifested in a keen interest and great attention, to hear and to understand what God wants to communicate to us. The Spirit in which the books were written, however, should be the Spirit in which we listen to them. True disciples of Jesus, profoundly moved by faith in their Lord, wrote the books of the New Testament. These books are meant to be heard by true disciples of Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:19), filled with living faith in him (cf. John 20:31). It is with the risen Jesus, according to the teaching that Jesus gave his disciples (cf. Luke 24:25-27, 44-47) and from his perspective, that we are called to read the writings of the Old Testament. For the scientific study of the biblical writings too, conducted not in a neutral way but with a truly theological approach, it is essential to take account of inspiration. Indeed, the criterion of an authentic reading is indicated by Dei Verbum when it affirms that ‘Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same Spirit in which it was written’ (n. 12). Modern exegetical methods cannot take the place of faith, but, when applied within the framework of faith, they can be very fruitful for the theological understanding of the texts” (§ 53, p. 55).

The differentiation between revelation and inspiration (as also in Verbum Domini and Dei Verbum) is also something carried out by most Evangelicals. In my opinion, however, what the Pontifical Biblical Commission emphasizes too little is that if the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is only one particular form of a broader revelation, 1. the Scriptures still remain revelation and 2. they remain the only binding and unchanging form of revelation for all time.



[1] Pontifical Biblical Commission. Die Interpretation der Bibel in der Kirche. 23.4.1993. Statements by the Apostolic See No. 115. Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference, 19962. English version cited here: The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Pauline Books & Media: Boston (MA), 1996. Download of the English version: http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_Interp.htm. German version available at www.dbk.de as a pdf file. The original version in Latin and other translations can be found at www.vatican.org.

[2] Pontifical Biblical Commission. Inspiration und Wahrheit der Heiligen Schrift: Das Wort, das von Gott kommt und von der Welt spricht, um die Welt zu retten. Februar 22, 2014. Statements by the Apostolic See No. 196. Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference: Bonn, 2014 (English version: The Inspiration and Truth of the Sacred Scripture: The Word that comes from God and speaks of God for the Salvation of the World. Liturgical Press: Collegeville (MN), 2014; the German version is free and can be downloaded at www.dbk.de).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *