The doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture must now be considered by reason. It will be considered first in itself and second in relation to theology as a whole. With respect to the first task, the doctrine in itself will be considered and then objections to the doctrine will be answered. The consideration of the doctrine in itself has two parts. First the doctrine will be proven by reason and then contrary positions will be considered. It is necessary to begin with some other revealed truth in order to prove the doctrine, because the inerrancy of Scripture cannot be established by natural reason alone. Now, the Church not only teaches the doctrine of inerrancy, but also gives reasons for its teaching, some of which have been seen in passing in the first part of this work. The best way to approach the issue, therefore, is to consult the authority of the Church once again, in order to find the argument. Then the argument can be considered in greater detail.
Pope Leo XIII offers a fairly long argument establishing the inerrancy of Scripture, which has been cited above in considering the teaching of the Church. It would be useful to return once again to this argument.
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. As to 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; and so far is it from being possible that any error can coexist with inspiration, that 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….
Hence, because the Holy Spirit 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 so assisted them when writing—that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, and 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….
It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writers 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 labored 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.1
This argument proceeds by the following steps. The Pope’s first proposition is that all Scripture is inspired by God. From this it follows that God is the author of all of Scripture, and from this that not even the human instrument can fall into error, because this would “either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.” But God cannot be the author of any error. Therefore even the human author cannot be the author of any error.
In brief, the argument consists of the major premise that nothing that has God for its author is false, and the minor premise that every part of Sacred Scripture has God for its author. The conclusion is that no part of Sacred Scripture is false. This is the same argument that was made from the authority of Scripture itself in the first part of this work.
But one might object that this does not prove that the human author of Scripture cannot make a mistake, because the conclusion is not that no part of Scripture contains error in any way, but that no part of Scripture contains error insofar as God is the author. For example, Scripture says, “In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, ‘God will not seek it out’; all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’”2 Thus the sentence, “There is no God,” is part of Scripture, and this sentence is certainly false. But God is not the author of this sentence as asserting it himself, but as expressing the mind of the wicked. But some do indeed believe that God does not exist, and so the sentence is not false insofar as God is its author. Similarly, one might think that because God and man are not authors of Scripture in the same respect, some part of Scripture can be false insofar as man is the author, but not false insofar as God is the author. But according to Pope Leo XIII this position perverts the Catholic understanding of inspiration. In order to understand this it is necessary to consider the argument in greater detail.
First the major premise will be considered, and then the minor. That God is not the author of error is not explicitly denied by anyone involved in the debate concerning the inerrancy of Scripture, but nonetheless this consideration is necessary in order to attain a complete understanding of the matter. In regard to this it is beneficial to consider St. Thomas’ treatment of the virtue of faith.
St. Thomas argues that one cannot believe something false by divine faith:
It should be said that nothing falls under any power, habit, or act, except by reason of the formal object, as color cannot be seen except through light, and a conclusion cannot be known except through the medium of demonstration. But it was said that the formal account of the object of faith is the first truth. Whence nothing can fall under faith except insofar as it stands under the first truth, under which nothing false can stand, just as non-being cannot stand under being, nor evil under goodness. Whence it follows that nothing false can stand under faith.3
The formal object of faith is said to be the first truth because one assents by faith to what is revealed by God, who is the first truth.
So therefore in faith, if we consider the formal account of the object, it is nothing other than the first truth: for the faith of which we speak does not assent to anything except because it is revealed by God; whence faith is based upon divine truth as a medium.4
The reason that faith cannot assent to anything false is therefore that faith assents to what is revealed by God, while nothing revealed by God can be false because something false cannot “stand under” the first truth. The same reason can be given in order to explain the fact that God cannot be the author of error. It is not necessary to understand the precise nature of authorship or of revelation in order to see that these two parallel claims are necessarily true, because these positions are particular forms of a more universal truth. God, the first truth, cannot be the proper cause of any error at all, and authorship and revelation are particular ways of causing something. God is truth itself, and therefore he cannot be the cause of error, just as heat cannot be the cause of cold, or good of evil.
Thus it follows that faith can assent to Sacred Scripture, and error is excluded from it, insofar as God is its cause.
But infidelity can be all about all the things that are contained in Sacred Scripture: for whatever of these a man should deny, he is held to be unfaithful…. And to them [revealed truths concerning created things, including the matters contained in Sacred Scripture] also we assent on account of the divine truth.5
But the problem raised above still remains. Perhaps part of Scripture is false, not insofar as it is from God, but insofar as it is from man. In order to resolve this difficulty it is necessary to consider the minor premise of the argument for the inerrancy of Scripture, which is that God is the author of the whole of Scripture.
It seems that the original sense of the claim that God is the author of the Old and New Testaments was that God is the source of both Testaments. Testament was also understood broadly, because it included the whole temporal dispensation. The Church condemned Marcion and his followers because they claimed that one God was the source of the Old Covenant and a different and better God was the source of the New. If author is understood in this wide sense, one cannot say that God is not the author of some part of Scripture without implying the existence of another God. But as the doctrine developed the term was narrowed to mean something much more specific, by analogy with the use of the term as applied to the human author of a book. This more narrow use of the term can be seen in Pope Leo XIII’s argument presented above.
One form of the Modernist heresy maintains that God is author only in the sense that he is Creator. One claims, “God is the author of the Bible just as he is the architect of St. Peter’s in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris.”6 Similarly, another says,
In one sense therefore God, in this view, is the author of prophecy only in the same way that He is the author of everything that any man says or writes…. Hence, that God is the author of our thoughts does not mean that He has thought them; nor has He willed what we will; or said what we have said; or done what we have done.7
The second example, by Tyrrell, shows the consequences of this position. If God is the author of Scripture only insofar as he is the Creator, then he is not more the author of Scripture than he is the author of every book that has ever been written. From this it would follow that Scripture has no more authority than any other book. This is not an accidental consequence of the Modernist position, but is the reason for the position. As Burtchaell points out, “It should be noted that in 1907 Loisy admitted that he had no belief in God or in any spiritual reality…”8 Loisy thus does not actually hold the stated position, but wishes Catholics to hold this position in order that Scripture’s authority may be removed. Thus he says,
To imagine that God has written a book is to commit the most infantile of anthropomorphisms; but, naïve as it sounds in itself, the ambiguity is terrific in its consequences. As one imagines that God has written, one affirms also that he has taught, that he has defined Himself in Scripture; from that revelation are drawn the laws of thought; and all that does not conform, that is to say all effort toward a greater truth, every new acquisition of the human spirit is rejected. It is thus that a mythological concept becomes a barrier that one would like to make insurmountable, not only for the progress of science, but for all progress of humanity.9
If this statement is compared with the teaching of St. Thomas on the authority of Scripture, it becomes clear that Loisy is not entirely wrong about the traditional authority ascribed to Scripture, although he may be wrong to assert that this authority prevents progress.10 St. Thomas teaches that sacred doctrine judges all other sciences:
And therefore it does not pertain to it [sacred doctrine] to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge about them; for whatever is found in the other sciences opposed to the truth of this doctrine, the whole is condemned as false; whence it is said in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “destroying counsels, and every height extolling itself against the science of God.”11
The strongest form of argument used in sacred doctrine is the argument from the authority of Scripture.
It is to be said that to argue from authority is most of all proper to this doctrine, because the principles of this doctrine are had by revelation, and so it is necessary that it be believed on the authority of those to whom the revelation was made. Nor does this derogate from the dignity of this doctrine; for although the argument from authority which is founded upon human reason is the weakest, the argument from authority which is founded upon divine revelation is the most efficacious…. But it [sacred doctrine] uses the authority of canonical Scripture properly, and as concluding with necessity.12
Thus St. Thomas holds the position attacked by Loisy, that anything whatever found in the other sciences contrary to Sacred Scripture must be entirely rejected. This disagreement shows the necessity of taking the divine authorship of Scripture in a more specific sense, as do St. Thomas and Pope Leo XIII, if one does not wish to deny the authority of Scripture entirely, as Loisy does.
On the other hand, one cannot say that God is the author of Scripture in the precise manner that a man writes out a book with his own hands. Some things in Scripture are more attributed to the man writing Scripture than to God. St. Thomas gives the example, “Whence also the Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 7:12, when he would give a certain counsel, ‘I speak, not the Lord.’”13 And in general the human authors of Scripture often attribute things to themselves that they do not intend to be attributed to God, as was stated in the introduction to this work. “If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.”14 The author of this text does not wish to assert that God could not write a better account. It is therefore necessary to account for the fact that some things are to be attributed to the human author that cannot be attributed to God, but without denying, as do the Modernists, that God is truly the author of Scripture.
In order to understand the truth of the matter, it is useful to consider the source of the claim that God is the author of Scripture. At the beginning of the discussion of this claim as the minor premise in the argument for the inerrancy of Scripture, it was stated that the original meaning of this statement, in the Church’s teaching, was that God is the source of Scripture, and of the whole temporal order. Later the statement was taken in a more specific sense, as was said above. The reason for this development is that this teaching of the Church rests upon something more fundamental, namely, Scripture. This foundation provides a source of development, and therefore also a source of understanding the doctrine in its developed form.
Scripture asserts that God is its author in various ways.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.15
Here St. Peter teaches that when the prophets testified to the future coming of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, who is a divine Spirit, also testified to the same. King David makes a similar remark about himself: “The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.”16 Thus David says that when he speaks the spirit of the Lord speaks through him, and that David’s words are the words of the divine Spirit. Similarly, in other places the words of Scripture are directly attributed to the Holy Spirit. “Paul made one further statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah…’”17 In several of these cases the reason for the attribution could be that the quotation was of a text spoken from the person of God. But as was said in the first part of this work, this does not happen only when the words of God spoken as from his own person are quoted. “Of the angels he [God] says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’”18 In such places it is claimed that God said what the human authors of Scripture said.
All of the above passages can be summarized by the last one, which says that the words of the men who wrote Scripture are also the words of God, that is, that what these men said, God said. Writings of which this is true are called inspired, being the effect of the Holy Spirit. This name is also taken from Sacred Scripture.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.19
Which “Scripture” (graphe), or “sacred writings” (hiera grammata), are inspired by God is not entirely clear from this passage. If Scripture is taken as writings in general, then it seems to be asserted that all written things are inspired by God, which is neither true nor the meaning intended by St. Paul. Thus this must be taken in a more limited sense. It is reasonable to say that St. Paul refers to the Old Testament, because it is customary to refer to it as what is ‘written.’ Christ argues against Satan, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone…”20 Thus it seems that inspiration is attributed to the Old Testament. But one might suppose from the context that St. Paul also refers to certain New Testament writings, because he says that these writings instructed Timothy with respect to the faith in Jesus Christ.21 But regardless of which books St. Paul speaks of in this place, the Church recognizes that the inspiration of Scripture extends to all the books of both the Old and New Testaments, as was shown in the first part of this work. Whether or not it can be proven conclusively from Scripture, according to the understanding of the Church it is necessary to extend the words of David concerning himself to the whole of Scripture: whatever the human authors of Scripture said, the Holy Spirit said through them.
Thus the claim that God is the author of Scripture rests upon the more fundamental position, taught by Scripture itself and extended by the Church to the whole of Scripture, that God said what the human authors of Scripture said.
This belief [in the authorship of God] has been perpetually held and professed by the Church in regard to the books of both Testaments; and there are well known documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earliest times, which proclaim that God, who spoke first by the Prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the Apostles, composed also the canonical Scripture, and that these are His own oracles and words—a Letter written by our Heavenly Father and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race on its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country.22
The words of Scripture, words of men inspired by God, are the words of God. From this the solution to the original difficulty, namely, that perhaps something in Scripture might be true insofar as God is its author and false insofar as man is its author, is evident. If the human author said something false, then God said something false, since what is said by the human author is said by God. But this is opposed to the major premise of the argument establishing Scripture’s inerrancy insofar as it is from God, and so it is necessary that Scripture should be true also as regards the human authors.
But someone might attempt to preserve the force of the objection by saying that it is not necessary to take ‘saying’ in such a strong sense. The Psalmist did not say that there is no God, but he did speak words that signify the denial of God’s existence, in order to express the mind of the wicked. Similarly, perhaps the human author of Scripture said something false, while God did not say something false, but spoke words that signify something false, but with another purpose in mind, just as did the Psalmist. The Psalmist did not say that God does not exist, but that some men believe this.
In order to answer this form of the objection it is necessary to consider the nature of speech. In his consideration of the Second Person of the Trinity, St. Thomas discusses the nature of words.
In order to understand this, it should be known that among us word is said properly in three ways, while in a fourth way it is said improperly or figuratively. More manifestly and commonly among us that is called a word which is brought forth by the voice. This proceeds from the interior with respect to two things found in the external word, namely voice itself and the signification of voice. For voice signifies the concept of the intellect, according to the Philosopher in book I of On Interpretation; and again voice proceeds from signification or imagination, as is said in the book On the Soul. But voice that does not signify anything cannot be called a word. The external voice is called a word, therefore, from this, that it signifies the interior concept of the mind. Thus the interior concept of the mind is first and principally called a word; secondarily voice that signifies the interior concept; thirdly the imagination of voice…. But in a fourth way, what is signified or effected by a word is figuratively called a word, as it is customary to say, this is the word that I said to you,23 or that the king commanded, pointing out something which was signified by the word of the one simply speaking, or commanding.24
St. Thomas does not mention the written word in this passage, because it is not necessary for an understanding of the Trinity, but it could be added that the written word is called a word insofar as it signifies the spoken word. In another place St. Thomas explains how one can use these senses to speak of the word of God.
The word of the voice, therefore, because it is goes forth in a bodily manner, cannot be said of God except metaphorically: insofar as either creatures, or their motions, produced by God are called his word insofar as they signify the divine understanding as an effect signifies its cause. Whence, for the same reason, neither will the word which bears an image of voice be able to be said of God properly, but only metaphorically; and thus the ideas of things to be made are called the word of God. But the word of the heart, which is nothing other than what is actually considered by the understanding, is said properly of God, because it is entirely removed from materiality and every defect; and things of this kind are said properly of God, as knowledge and the thing known, understanding and the thing understood.25
Here St. Thomas distinguishes several metaphorical senses, while in the previous passage he speaks of only one. The reason for this is that in the latter passage he shows how the senses can be modified so that something can be called God’s word, while in the former passage he simply distinguishes the senses present in common speech. In order to understand the relation between these two passages, it is necessary to consider the four senses distinguished in the first passage, and how these senses can be used to speak of God’s word.
The first kind of word is the interior word, the concept of a thing understood. For example, one who understands man must form a concept of man. This kind of word is said properly of God, and signifies the concept proceeding from the mind of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”26
Second is the word of the voice, and along with this the written word, which is called a word because it signifies the word of the voice. This is the most manifest kind of word. St. Thomas says that God can be said to have a word of this kind only metaphorically, but this metaphorical sense is not the metaphorical fourth sense in the first passage. For St. Thomas explains that something is called a word in this second sense because it signifies the divine understanding, while something is called a word in the fourth sense because it is something signified by a word. Thus something is said to be God’s word in the second way when it is produced in order to signify the divine understanding, and it is metaphorical in this respect, that God does not produce it in a bodily manner. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”27 This was not a voice produced by bodily organs, but it is called a voice because it was the sound of a voice, and because God produced it in order to signify the mind of the Father. Thus there are two things involved that make this the word of the Father. First, God produced a voice. Second, he produced it in order to signify his understanding. It is for this reason that this voice is the voice of the Father alone, although the Son and the Spirit cooperated in producing the voice. It is only intended to signify the understanding of the Father, which happens to be the same as the understanding of the Son and Spirit.
In the same way a written word can be called a word of God. The prophets offer good examples of this. “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?”28 It is not clear whether Jeremiah actually heard a voice, or only perceived this by imagination or intellect.29 But the written text of Scripture first signifies these words as sounds, and through the words as sounds it signifies the divine understanding, even if the words as sounds might not have actually existed. Similarly, the written text of this work signifies speech, and concepts through speech, although some parts of it have never been spoken.
The example from Jeremiah signifies the divine understanding in the manner of something spoken by God himself. Most of the text of Scripture does not signify in this manner, and some of it has direct reference to man as the speaker, as has been seen previously. But nonetheless it is necessary to say that the whole of Scripture is the word of God in this sense. Scripture is not the eternal Word of the Father, and it will shortly be shown that Scripture is not the word of God in any of the other senses besides the one considered here. It will then be necessary to return to the problem of Scripture’s manner of signifying the divine understanding.
The third kind of word is the imagination of the word to be spoken. In order to speak one must first imagine the words to be spoken. This cannot exist in God properly because God does not have an imagination, since the imagination is a power present in a bodily organ. But St. Thomas says that it exists in God metaphorically, and thus God’s ideas of things to be created are called words. The first chapter of Genesis offers examples of this usage. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”30 God’s word in this example is not a created being, but his own idea of the thing to be made. The words of Scripture are not words of God in this sense, because the words of Scripture are created beings, while words in this sense are uncreated ideas.
Fourth, the thing effected or signified by a word is called a word. This usage is metaphorical even in earthly matters. If someone points to some result and says, ‘This is what I said,’ the meaning is ‘This was signified by what I said.’ Similarly, in the Lord’s prayer, when we say, ‘Thy will be done,’ we mean, ‘May the thing signified by thy command be done.’31 In this sense all created things could be called the word of God insofar as they are effected by and expressed in the divine Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”32 Thus all created things are the effect of the divine Word, and are expressed in the divine Word. “Because God in one act understands both himself and all things, his single Word is expressive not only of the Father, but also of creatures.”33
Scripture is the word of God in this sense insofar as it is part of creation, but one cannot say that some parts of Scripture are the word of God in this sense alone. Something is a word of God in this sense not because it signifies the divine understanding, but because it is the effect of the divine understanding. But this is true of all created things, as was said above. Thus if Scripture or parts of Scripture are the word of God in this sense alone, one must conclude with Loisy that Scripture or parts of Scripture have no special authority whatsoever, and are not more the word of God than any other words, or even than anything else. But this is clearly incompatible with a Christian understanding of Scripture. Thus it is necessary to say that Scripture is the word of God in the second of the four senses discussed, since the other three have been excluded. It is necessary to insist on this because one might be tempted to deny that certain parts of Scripture express the mind of God in order to resolve difficulties or in order to account for the manner of expression used in Scripture.
Scripture is therefore the word of God in the sense that it is a written word produced by God with the purpose of signifying and communicating something present in his understanding. Now the two problems raised above can be resolved. First the human manner of expression found in Scripture will be considered, and then the objection that the human author of Scripture could make a false statement without God saying anything false. Now, God does not speak words in a bodily manner as men do, and so words signify his thought in various ways depending on the way in which his words are produced. Sometimes his words are produced as if from his own person. “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I [the Father] have glorified it [the name of the Father], and I will glorify it again.’”34 In this case the voice from heaven is not produced in a bodily manner, but it expresses the mind of God in the same way that a man would express his mind if he spoke these words.
At other times God expresses himself in other ways. An example of this can be found in the conversation between Balaam and his donkey.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”35
In this passage it is God who “opened the mouth of the donkey.” Nonetheless the words are attributed to the donkey, and the donkey refers to itself as Balaam’s donkey. But if one considers this example, it is necessary to say that the words of the donkey are more truly the words of God. The donkey is an irrational animal, and has no thought to express. Thus the thought expressed in the words of the donkey can only be God’s thought, since God is the one responsible for the words. But the donkey’s words signify God’s thought in the particular manner proper to the situation. The words are produced as proceeding from the donkey, and thus signify in the corresponding manner. When the donkey refers to itself as Balaam’s donkey, this shows neither that the donkey knows that it is Balaam’s donkey, since it knows nothing, nor that God calls himself a donkey, but rather that God knows that the donkey is Balaam’s. Thus the mode of signification of the words is taken from the fact that the words proceed from the donkey, while the mind expressing itself in the words is the mind of God.
Now, Scripture is not only the word of God, but it was also written by men. St. Augustine combines these two elements. “And in reading it [Scripture], men seek nothing more than to find out the thought and will of those by whom it was written, and through these to find out the will of God, in accordance with which they believe these men to have spoken.”36 The meaning of this is that Scripture is not only the words of God expressing something of his understanding, but also human words expressing men’s understanding, that is, that men and God are authors of the same written work as communicating a certain understanding. It follows from this that Scripture receives its mode of signifying from the men writing it, just as the speech of Balaam’s donkey received its mode from the fact that the words were produced as proceeding from the donkey. Nonetheless the thought expressed in Scripture is the divine thought, as the thought expressed in the words of the donkey is the divine thought. Thus it is not necessary to limit the claim that Scripture is the word of God in order to understand how it can be written in a human manner.
Next it is necessary to resolve the problem that Scripture might be false insofar as it is from man but true insofar as it is from God. Scripture was not written by one man alone, but by many men. The four Gospels, for example, were not written by one and the same man, but by several men. Each man was therefore an author of a part of Scripture rather than the whole. Now, there are some things belonging to part of a written work precisely insofar as it is a part of a greater whole. For example, the conclusion of an argument cannot stand alone, but it is a conclusion only by following from the argument. It therefore follows that someone cannot be an author of a conclusion as a conclusion unless he understands the argument and sets down the conclusion as following from the argument. Similarly, the subject of a sentence is a subject only in relation to the rest of the sentence. With respect to such matters none of the human authors of Scripture is a perfect author, because none perfectly understands the whole of Scripture. God alone is the perfect author of Scripture with respect to these things. The human author might even be able to make mistakes with respect to the larger framework, because this would not seem to prevent his true authorship of the substance of the part, but only of the part as a part.37 This would not involve a false statement, for reasons to be given below.
There are other things belonging to a text as a whole, even if the text is a part of something larger. For example, the conclusion of an argument is a certain statement, even without the consideration that it is a conclusion, and this belongs to it as itself a whole. Similarly, the subject of a sentence signifies something as a whole word or phrase, even without the consideration that it is the subject of a sentence.
With respect to these matters, a human author of Scripture may be a perfect author, since he might understand the whole of which he is an author. But it cannot be said that it is necessary that he should understand the whole, because the human author is a deficient instrument: “Because the mind of the prophet is a deficient instrument… even true prophets do not know all the things which the Holy Spirit intends in their visions, words, or deeds.”38 Thus the human author may not know everything which belongs to his text even insofar as it is itself a whole. But even if he does not understand all, it is impossible that anything should belong to his text as a whole in itself that does not belong to his text when it is understood as a part of the larger whole. The reason for this is that he would not only not be an author of the part as part, but he would no longer be an author of even the substance of the part. For example, if the subject of a sentence has one meaning as an individual word, but does not have this meaning when it is part of a sentence, then one who is an author of the individual word is not strictly speaking the author of any part of the sentence. If someone writes the word ‘bat’, intending to signify a flying creature, and another man adds to his word in order to complete a sentence, but intending to use this word in order to signify a wooden stick, the first writer is an author of no part of the sentence except materially. That is to say, he is not the author of a word, something signifying understanding, but he is only the author of matter which can be used in order to signify. But it was said that both the human and divine authors of Scripture are authors of it insofar as it is significant. Thus it follows that nothing belongs to the whole of which a man is the author which is not present when his text is understood as a part of a greater whole.
From the distinction between things pertaining to a part as a part and things pertaining to a part as a whole in itself, it follows that if assertion pertains to a sentence only insofar as it is part of a larger text, the human author might be able to assert something false without God asserting something false. But assertion and denial belong to sentences as wholes, not only to sentences as parts of a larger text. This can be seen in the example of the conclusion of an argument. If a conclusion is considered apart from the argument, it does not remain a conclusion. But it remains a statement asserting a certain truth. Thus assertion pertains to a sentence as a whole in itself.
But what pertains to the part insofar as it is a certain whole remains even when the part is understood in relation to a greater whole, as was said above. Thus it follows that whatever is asserted by the human author of a particular sentence must be understood to be asserted by the sentence even when it is taken as a part of the whole of Scripture. From this it follows that whatever is asserted by the human authors of Scripture is asserted by God, who is the author of the whole of Scripture.
It therefore follows that if the human author of Scripture asserts something false, then God asserts something false. But this is impossible. Therefore it is impossible that the human author should assert something false in any part of Scripture. Thus the difficulty raised above has been resolved.
In one sense the question of this work has now been sufficiently resolved, since it has been shown that it is necessary to hold that Scripture is free from error both from the Church’s tradition and by the use of reason. Now, some object not only to the doctrine itself, but also to manner in which the doctrine is considered. This objection should therefore be answered before going on to consider opposing positions. The objection is clearly expressed by Burtchaell:
Yet throughout our period conciliar documents have been reverenced with mystic adulation. Like papal documents they have been expected to release arcane reserves of decisive insight; and like papal documents they have not been dispassionately evaluated or criticized.
What I question here is the fetish that theologians have made of authority. They have done the same with the classic dicta of the schools. Some have relied uncritically on the axiom: Deus est auctor Sacrae Scripturae. Others have found it better to build upon Aquinas’ medieval psychology. Scholars have voyaged over all seas in search of any small islet of authority upon which to unfurl their syllogisms. They have meanwhile turned their backs on the one solid fact close at hand: the Bible itself. Most inspiration theory has not been talk about the Bible. It has been talk about talk about the Bible. Rather than examine the Book itself, and observe what it has meant to the Church, and how it may have been produced to this end, they have preferred to erect elaborate and rickety constructs of formula upon formula—all based on faultless authorities, but none very illuminating, none to the point.
It is possibly this hyperfascination with authority that has led scholars to follow a priori methods of argumentation. Some have discussed the ultimate cause, God, and pondered how he would have to have behaved had he wished to embark upon a career as author. Others have looked at the proximate cause, the human writers, to find out how men write and what God must have done to govern their composition. But the proper methodology for investigatory theology should move from effect to cause, from better-known to lesser-known. Advance would begin more surely and rapidly from the Book itself.39
There are two criticisms here. First, says Burtchaell, one ought not to base oneself on authorities concerning Scripture, but rather on Scripture itself. Second he says that one should not use “a priori methods of argumentation.” In context this seems to mean that one should not make universal arguments about the nature of Scripture, but one should make judgements from the text of Scripture itself. Thus Burtchaell calls into question the entire method of this work.
The answer to the first objection is that it belongs to the nature of authority that it should be received as authoritative. Therefore to say that one should not submit to authority is simply to deny the existence of authority. But as theology is a science received from divine revelation, it must be received on the authority of God and on the authority of those men who communicate what is divinely revealed.40 But this objection implicitly maintains that such authority does not exist. Therefore it must also hold that theology and divine revelation do not exist. But to prove the existence of divine revelation does not pertain to the subject of this work, but this existence is presupposed to the whole discussion. Because the fullness of this revelation exists in the Catholic Church, the same answer holds if the objection is taken as rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church alone, rather than authority in general.
The second objection, even if it were a valid objection, would not be sufficient to establish anything against arguments such as those contained in this work. If someone begins from an inappropriate starting point, he is likely to fall into error, but it is not necessary that all of his arguments should be invalid. Thus, even if it were true that it is better to begin from Scripture itself, universal arguments such as ours would have to be addressed individually.
But at least with respect to the particular issue treated in this work, universal considerations are the right beginning, while it would be a mistake to try to resolve the issue from Scripture itself. The examination of Scripture could not prove that all of its statements are true, since some of its statements are known to be true from Scripture alone. One might establish the opposite by taking one particular statement of Scripture and showing that it was false. But for various reasons this kind of proof is not conclusive.41 In each particular case, the text might be corrupt or misunderstood. Even those who assert that there are errors do not attempt to prove this by a single example alone, which indicates that they do not think they can give a perfectly certain example of a statement certainly false. The actual use of particular objections will be discussed in more detail when the objections to the doctrine are considered.
Nor can the question be resolved by considering the visible character of Scripture. It will be shown later that one of the consequences of the doctrine of inspiration is that the text of Scripture must have general characteristics similar to those in a text containing errors. To argue from its visible character to the existence of errors in Scripture is therefore like arguing that Christ is not present in the Eucharist on the grounds that the Eucharist can be seen to be bread. For the same reason one cannot establish the doctrine of inerrancy from such visible characteristics of Scripture, any more than Christ’s presence in the Eucharist can be established by the senses.42 It is therefore necessary to resolve the question by means of universal arguments such as those contained in this work, rather than by arguments depending on particulars of the text of Scripture. Thus the objection concerning the manner of treating the doctrine has been answered.
Next it is necessary to consider opposing positions. In the words of Leo XIII, those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture “either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.”43 It does not seem that any man of good sense wishes to hold a position making God the author of error, and such a position is intrinsically impossible because it makes truth itself the source of falsehood. Thus it is only necessary to consider the positions that “pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration.” It was shown above that the inerrancy of Scripture follows from the doctrine that both men and God are true authors of Scripture. Thus, one who denies inerrancy must deny either that men are authors of Scripture or that God is the author. First the position denying that men are authors will be considered, and then the position denying that God is the author. In each case an example of the position in question will be given, and then the general problems of such a position.
Norbert Lohfink holds a position implicitly denying the human authorship of Scripture. As has been stated in the first part of this work, Lohfink maintains that Scripture is inerrant considered as a whole, but the particular books and the particular authors are not inerrant.
An example of this [the limitations of form criticism] is the creation text in Genesis 1. It has been said that on the basis of its literary category, this text is only concerned with a single statement, that God created everything. Anyone who is making a judicious use of form criticism would probably be more cautious here. Does not the category here also intend to imply a further statement with regard to the creation itself, its structure and construction? The statement that Genesis 1 is merely concerned to state the fact of the creation is only true within the horizon of the Bible as a whole. There different world views are juxtaposed and render each other more relative. On the basis of the principal emphasis of the Gospel as they are laid down in the New Testament, it is in fact only the statement that God created everything which is at issue, so that one can rightly regard this alone as inerrant, and not also the statements which describe the form of the universe in Genesis 1.44
Here Lohfink presupposes that Genesis 1 contains false statements concerning the form of the world, but that considered as a part of the whole Bible, it only asserts that God created the world. The human author asserted something false when he wrote the text, but God asserted something true, that God is the Creator, by causing later authors to oppose the author of Genesis.
Lohfink’s argument has several steps. First he says that many or most of the books of Scripture have many authors.
In the meantime, the picture of the great writer-personality who wrote a work in one single draft has proved itself to be untenable in many cases. In the world of the ancient Near East it is the exception, and so it is in the Bible. The Pentateuch was worked on for fully 700 years, from Moses onward. Our books of the prophets were, before their acceptance into the canon, the sacred books of esoteric circles of disciples of the prophets, which were constantly being enlarged, commented upon and even altered with regard to their message.45
Lohfink’s claim is that the books of Scripture have many authors. He also seems to suggest, by the phrases “worked on for fully 700 years” and “constantly being enlarged,” that the authors are practically innumerable, which does not seem to be a very credible position. But in any case, it is not necessary to determine the truth or falsehood of either the claim or the suggestion, because it will be shown that the conclusions that Lohfink draws from this statement do not follow. His first conclusion is that in light of the existence of many authors of each book of Scripture it is necessary to find a new formula to express the inerrancy of Scripture.
The consequence was that in the light of the new knowledge, the old formula of the “inerrancy of the sacred writers” no longer meant the same as that of the “inerrancy of the books of the Bible,” but far more. Not only the individual book in its final form and content had now to be considered as inerrant, but also every individual phase in its growth, a process that was admitted to be complicated and lengthy, for each stage corresponded to the intention of an “inerrant sacred writer” as he wrote. Each time the book was lengthened, added to, glossed, commented upon, combined with other texts or adapted to a new situation, a new and inerrant total statement of the book came into being…. Thus in the light of our new knowledge of the way the scriptures come into being, the retention of the formula “the inerrancy of the sacred writers” at once takes on a new doctrinal content… Anyone who regards the early stages of the biblical books as being free from error must in fact accept all the statements contained in them as the object of his belief as well…. It is therefore necessary to attempt to state the old truth in a new way, simply in order to maintain it as it was.46
Here Lohfink misunderstands the meaning of the phrase “inerrant sacred writer.” But this will become clearer after considering his possible restatements of the doctrine.
One might simply regard the last man who had worked on a biblical book in the course of its gradual evolution as the “inspired author” in the sense understood by the doctrine of inspiration. All earlier stages in the book would then be characterized as “sources. ” Their authors would not be seen as having the charisma of inspiration, and so there would be no valid reason for regarding them as inerrant…. This solution of the problem definitely does not contradict the positive doctrinal demand of ecclesiastical documents, although it departs in this from the underlying conceptions and from the language found, for example, in papal biblical encyclicals. One might nevertheless ask whether this solution does not somewhat neglect others who worked on a book of the Bible, and who did not have the good fortune to be the very last hand to touch it.47
Once again Lohfink suggests without proof that the authors are innumerable, in virtue of the phrases “gradual evolution” and “the very last hand to touch it.” It may well be that the very last man who touched a biblical book basically wrote it entirely himself, in which case it would not seem so strange to call him the one and only inspired author of the book. But Lohfink’s position can be granted for the sake of argument. It will be shown that this does not make it necessary to modify the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy. Because the position that the final author alone is inspired seems to be unacceptable, Lohfink offers another possibility:
It [the second solution] is based on the idea that everyone who has made a real contribution to the wording and sense of a book of the Bible should be regarded as being infallibly guided by God with regard to the future book, that is to say, as being “inspired.” One would then have to speak of a number of inspired authors, with regard to a book which came gradually into being. The inspiration of these authors, therefore, did not relate to their immediate work, considered in itself, but to that work insofar as it was directed by God, in wording and sense, toward the ultimate biblical book. Thus the inerrancy consequent upon the inspiration could not be predicated directly of all the individuals who worked on the book and their particular intention, but only upon the book which finally resulted…. One could hardly say that this attempt at a solution was not logically sound or that it was not compatible with a true understanding of the concept of inspiration. It does not detract in the slightest either from the influence of God or from the inerrancy of the final product (omnis sensus omniumque sententiarum of the books of the Bible, in the words of Spiritus Paraclitus, 1920).48
In some ways this solution seems much more reasonable than the first solution. God guides many writers in such a way that in the end he produces the book he wants written, but the authors are not inerrant with respect to the abandoned stages, but only with respect to the final product.
But in the words of Leo XIII, this solution “perverts the Catholic understanding of inspiration.” The reason for this is that it says that the earlier authors were inspired because God guided their activity according to his purpose of producing the final book. He did not guide the earlier authors in the sense of producing their words as his own words. The things written in the earlier stages are not things that God said. But only words caused by God in order to signify his own understanding are inspired, and so these earlier stages cannot be called inspired, but only guided and caused by God.
From this one might conclude that it is necessary to revert to the first solution, but this does not follow. The reason for this is that even in the earlier stages the authors might have made a real contribution to the final work. Insofar as each author is an author of something contained in the final product, he must be said to be producing God’s word, and therefore to be inspired. Thus it is necessary to say that the earlier authors are inspired with respect to everything contained within the final work, and not inspired with respect to everything not contained within the final work, although they are guided and moved by God even with respect to such things.49 Thus it becomes evident that it is not necessary to change the formula “inerrant sacred writers.” The writers are inerrant insofar as they are sacred, that is, insofar as they write the word of God. No one claims that the sacred writers are inerrant in everything they write, but only in what they write of Scripture.
Thus, once inspiration has been correctly understood, Lohfink’s second solution of the problem becomes reasonable, but it no longer requires any modification of the traditional statement of the doctrine. Lohfink’s conclusion, “it seems advisable in any case to allow the formula of the ‘inerrancy of the sacred writers’ to recede into the background,”50 therefore does not follow.
But this is not Lohfink’s final conclusion. He takes one more step.
Hitherto, the terms “final author” and “final sense of a biblical book” were treated as established and familiar entities. This, however, is no longer so. In the definition of the relationship between “the books of the Bible” and the Bible as a whole, our conception has altered here again as a result of the products of historical and critical scholarship…. First, let us consider once again the framework of the understanding of earlier generations, and try to see how they could legitimately assert the biblical inerrancy of every individual book. The theory was that each of the outstanding personalities who were the sacred writers has written his book (or his books) at a given time. Once such a book had been composed, it was published, and once it was made public, then it was a fixed, unchangeable entity—as was the case with books in the nineteenth century…. Thus, according to the views of that period, books of the Bible which already had been accepted into the canon remained the same when another book was taken into the canon. They said exactly the same thing as before. They had long received their final form….
This static conception of the canon has undergone a crisis. Even the compilation of the canon is increasingly seen, from the point of view of historical criticism, as an evolutionary process. The boundary between the history of the formation of individual books and the history of the canon becomes less distinct. The growth of the canon seems to be no more than a further stage, somewhat different in form, of the process which brought the individual books into being…. Between the alternation and interweaving of the Yawhist, Elohist, and priestly writings within a single “book,” and the alternation and juxtaposition of the historical works of the Deuteronomist and the Chronicler within the “canon” there is no real practical difference. In both cases different versions of history are associated, complement and correct each other, and constitute together a new and higher unity of utterance. The same is true, within the canon, of the wisdom books. They complement and criticize each other, and at the same time, as a unity within an even greater whole, they form a counterpoint to the Torah and the prophets.51
The old position was that the meaning of the individual books of Scripture was fixed when the books were completed. But, says Lohfink, it is now known that the meaning of the books changed when they were taken into the canon together with other books. Thus it is evident that Lohfink’s position necessitates a denial of the human authorship of Scripture. If the meaning of the books changed, it was not men who changed the meaning. When a man took the Torah and added the prophets or the wisdom books, he did not go over the Torah and decide on a new meaning for its statements. If a new meaning came to be, it was a meaning given by God but not by men. Thus this position destroys the nature of inspiration by denying the true human authorship of the books of Scripture.52
But this position is impossible even without reference to the demand of the faith that men are true authors of Scripture. When a man takes several books or essays and publishes them together, this never changes the meaning of the individual books or essays. The reason for the selection may well be that a new understanding can arise from reading the whole collection. If some of the works present false views and others true views, one might come to see the truth of the correct views by reason of the contrast with the false. If some of the works contain a mixture of truth and error, one might distinguish these portions by considering the other works. In many other ways it can be beneficial to read several works together. But in no case does the meaning of an individual work change by being placed together with other works, even if the understanding that one can gather from the whole collection goes beyond the contents of any individual work.
Lohfink’s position also requires that the Old Testament was not the word of God, since it had not yet achieved its ultimate meaning by being joined with the New Testament. Thus he says, “In any case, it is not possible to claim inerrancy for a transitory layer of meaning in the Old Testament in the name of the Christian doctrine of the inerrancy of the Christian Bible.”53 He does not say that the Old Testament was not the word of God, but this is the necessary consequence of his position, since he holds that the ultimate meaning of the words is the one intended by God. This is clearly opposed to the practice of Christ and of the Apostles who used the Old Testament as already possessing the decisively authoritative character of Sacred Scripture.
But perhaps Lohfink’s position would be more reasonable if he abandoned the position that placing a written work together with other works changes its meaning. As soon as any part of the text of Scripture is written in its final form, he might say, it possesses the meaning intended by God, although this meaning is unknown to the human writer. For something to be written in this way is not impossible. When Caiphas said, “You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed,”54 he spoke in this manner. He intended to say that it was better to kill Christ than to allow the Romans to “destroy” the Jewish nation. This statement is evidently false, but God intended to say that it was better that men might be saved through the passion and death of Christ than that all men should be lost. Thus Caiphas was the author of a false statement, not of the prediction that Christ would die for the human race. “From which it is evident that he cannot be more called a prophet than Balaam’s donkey.”55 Thus it is not impossible for a man to speak or write something by which God expresses a truth, even if the speaker or writer does not understand the truth expressed. But such a speaker or writer is not a true author. “But when [a prophet] is moved [to say something], but does not know [the meaning of what he says], this is not perfect prophecy, but a certain prophetic instinct.”56
The position that Scripture expresses truth in this way is Lohfink’s position, but understood more generally, since Lohfink’s position taken concretely has additional difficulties, as shown above. If the position is considered in its general terms, however, there are three problems with the position. First, the denial of human authorship derogates from the excellence of God’s providence. God wishes to communicate to creatures not only his goodness, but also a participation in his causality. St. Thomas therefore says that God “governs inferior things by superior things, not on account of a defect of his power, but on account of the abundance of his goodness, that he might communicate to creatures even the dignity of causality.”57 Just as it is better if fire receives from God the power to heat than if God alone causes heat, so it is better if men receive true authorship of the words of God than if this authorship is reserved to God alone.
Second, the purpose of the position seems to be to deny God’s responsibility for flaws in the text of Scripture, but this position cannot succeed in this purpose. If there seems to be some defect or error in Scripture, this position says that it might be a defect or an error insofar as it has one meaning from man, but it is not defective insofar as it has another meaning from God. But if one is to hold this, one must show that it is reasonable to say that this text has the meaning that one attributes to God’s authority. But if one can show that this is reasonable, then it will also be reasonable to attribute the same sense to human authority. The reason for this is that the meaning of a text must fit into its immediate context, and not only into something more general. For example, Lohfink’s suggestion that the human author of Genesis said something false, but that God only meant to say that he created everything, cannot be correct. Lohfink determines that this was God’s meaning by comparing the text with other parts of Scripture and concluding that God does not really hold that the world was created in six days, for example. But in fact one could not conclude from this that the six-day creation was not the meaning of the text in Genesis, but rather that the text in Genesis was a divine lie. If one determines from what someone says in one place that he does not believe what he says in another place, it does not follow that he did not mean what he said, but that he lied, or that he was uncertain or ignorant. The only way that one can determine that he meant something else is by showing that his words as words are able to mean something else. But if one shows from the text of Genesis that it does not necessarily assert that God made the world in six days, then there is no longer any necessary reason to think that the man who wrote it asserted this.58 One might go on to object that this answer requires that the human authors should have been practically omniscient, since it seems that in order to avoid all historical and scientific inaccuracy the human authors must have known all the historical and scientific details. But later it will be shown that if one says that the human authors were omniscient, then it follows that they were liars or deceptive, while it is reasonable to hold that they spoke the truth precisely because one holds that they did not know all things. From this the problem regarding God’s responsibility becomes even greater. If God is the sole author of Scripture, then one must hold him responsible for apparent defects and errors. Thus the position denying human authorship does not absolve God of responsibility for defects in Scripture, but rather makes him entirely responsible, because it makes him the sole author.
The third problem with this position is that it must deny the usefulness of considering the intention of the men who wrote Scripture. This can be shown from a passage in which Lohfink asserts the contrary.
Even the tracts on hermeneutics which are normally in use observe, in their discussion of such problems [as in Qoheleth], that the texts of the Bible must naturally be read in the light of tradition or of the faith of the Church. Are they not aware that by so doing they have already abandoned in many cases the view that in the Old Testament it is the original sense which is inerrant? Or do they wish to assert in every case that it is the historical and critical interpretation of the text which is in error, and that, for example, Qoheleth sought throughout to say what critical scholars have only found in later books of the Old Testament and in the New Testament? We hope not; for this would imply a mistrust of modern methods of Biblical scholarship which since Divino afflante Spiritu is hardly permissible.59
Lohfink wishes to say that the original sense of the text of Qoheleth asserts something false, such as that the human soul does not exist after death, or something of this kind. But when one reads the text within the faith of the Church the text does not have this meaning. But if historical methods only give rise to the interpretation which says that the text means something false, then one should not use these methods, since this is not the meaning intended by God. If one wishes to hold that one should use such methods, and also that one should read Scripture within the faith of the Church, then one must say that the meaning of the original author is the same as the meaning when the text is read within the faith of the Church. Nor does this imply distrust of historical methods, but only of certain conclusions of certain scholars, conclusions not given authority by Divino afflante Spiritu.60 Thus, if a Catholic denies that the meaning of the original sense of Scripture is the same as its sense when it is read it within the faith of the Church, then he must deny the usefulness of considering the original sense.
Next it is necessary to consider a position accepting the human authorship of Scripture, but denying the authorship of God. This is implicit in the position that Grillmeier suggests, perhaps not holding to it with certainty. First he presents a suggestion of Pierre Grelot.
He [Grelot] starts practically from the idea of salutis causa and says that in Scripture not only are truths of salvation communicated as “a material object”, but that “the communication of saving truths” is the whole “formal object” of Scripture. Thus the so-called secular truths or narratives also acquire through this a relation to salvation. They are chosen and presented not as saving truths in themselves, but as the medium of the communication of salvation. They serve as a framework to what is essential, “locating” saving truth and the history of salvation (cf. e.g. Dan. 1 or Lk. 1). They are chosen and presented only in so far as they fulfill this purpose.61
Grelot distinguishes between the goal of communicating saving truths and other statements in Scripture, which are for the sake of the goal.62 Grillmeier then states what he believes to be the consequence of this distinction:
In the light of the salutis causa we can see Scripture as a complex entity with many levels—analogous to the way in which the Church as a whole saw itself at the Council. There are direct statements and accounts of salvation in which this formal object salutis causa is clearly verifiable. But there are also parts of Scripture which have only an auxiliary function in relation to these direct truths of salvation. Here, from the point of view of the secular sciences, somewhat less than the truth can be expressed. The question of inerrancy is not to become a matter of a bad conscience or false attitudes but should open one’s eyes to the full nature of Scripture. God’s word communicates itself to us unfalsified in the fragile vessel of human language and human writing. God’s purpose is that his word of salvation is received in all its fullness. To it he gives the guarantee of full authority. This is the true meaning of inspiration, the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Everything else only serves the truth that is written down without error “for the sake of our salvation”. It is a means or framework of the statement that is actually intended and thus only has a part-share in inerrancy, namely to the extent required in its service of the saving word. Thus one can accept inerrancy in a true sense of the whole of Scripture, as inspiration also applies to all the books and their parts. Everything in Scripture has a share in the “truth that God wanted to have written down for the sake of our salvation”, either directly and in content or indirectly and by reason of its service for the statement of salvation.63
Grillmeier’s position as stated here is that by inspiration the sacred writer is assisted so that saving truths themselves are inerrant, while what he writes for the sake of this truth is not simply inerrant, but only insofar as this is necessary for the sake of the saving truth. This position therefore accepts the possibility of false statements in Scripture, which are said to be useful for the communication of the truth of salvation. This position implicitly denies that God is the author of Scripture, because it is impossible that God should say anything false, even for the sake of something good. But this denial is only implicit, because Grillmeier explicitly states the opposite:
The truth of Scripture is bound up with what the sacred writer or writers intended to convey, in which what God desired to convey expresses itself. This point is important primarily for the understanding of the inspiration of Scripture. The Church is not committing itself to the idea of a verbal inspiration that can be understood more or less “mechanically”. The truth of Scripture is contained in meanings that have first to be discovered in the single words and sentences. This gives to the idea of inspiration itself a new depth and a particular relation to the revelation of salvation. However much the Church’s understanding of inspiration is related to the “written” word and Scripture is, through this inspiration, “the written word of God”, it is not the letter or the sentence, but the intention of the sacred writers that decides the meaning of Scripture. But because of inspiration what they desire to express is the same as what God desires to express. Because, however, the statement of God, according to Article 11, is a statement of salvation, the salutis causa is the formal point of view from which the sacred writers compose their writings. Hence even after Dei Verbum—as in Divino afflante—the truth of Scripture and inerrancy is bound up with what the sacred writers desired to express. It is not separated from this. We have shown how the so-called veritates profanae are also included, though in their own way. Thus Scripture becomes—despite all its humanity and its conditioning by the age in which it was written—God’s address to us in the human word, propter salutem nostram!64
Here Grillmeier says that Scripture is the written word of God and God’s address to us. But he also says that what the sacred writer desired to express is the same as what God desired to express. Now, if the sacred writer desired at times to express what is in fact false, then it follows from this that God desired to express what is false, and thus God becomes a liar. Clearly this is a consequence that Grillmeier does not wish to accept. But this conclusion can be rejected only if God’s authorship is denied, although Grillmeier does not see the necessity of this, as is evident in the following passage.
The Council leaves it to theologians to consider, on the basis of the history of the text, the nature of the cooperation of the divine authorship or influence with the human literary authorship. It is possible to ask whether the new nuances in the account of the divine and the human share in the writing of the books allow one to give a new account of the nature, goal and effect of the divine influence and then to describe the human share in the writing of the books in such a way that God retains, in relation to them, his true authorship—and yet does not have the limitations of these authors laid to his account, whether in the form of the narrative or in its contents; in the latter it is a question of what they are contributing from the purely human, secular sphere and hence by their own powers.65
The reason for the contrast of “divine authorship” with “human literary authorship” is the suggestion that the words of Scripture might be the words of men, with God as author only in the sense that he is the first cause, who produced this text with a certain intention. The question, “does God retain true authorship,” asks whether it is possible in some way to continue to hold that the words of Scripture are words of God. Grillmeier holds that this is possible, and asserts this in the text quoted above. But this position makes God a liar. If one is to hold such a position consistently and without making God the author of error, it is necessary to say that men are the sole authors of Scripture, while God is the cause of Scripture with a certain intention. This intention is that the truth of salvation should be communicated to men, and thus statements conveying this truth are inerrant, while other statements are inerrant insofar as this is necessary in order to convey the truth of salvation. According to this view inspiration is merely an assistance assuring the truth of certain things, but not of others. This kind of writing is not the word of God, but is not in itself impossible. God assists the Church in its decisions in such a way that it is infallible with respect to some things, and not infallible with respect to others. Similarly, the documents of the Church’s teaching office, even when infallible, never become the word of God.
In addition to its contrariety with the faith of the Church, this kind of position has two problems. The first is that this position derogates from the excellence of God’s providence even more than positions denying the human authorship of Scripture. St. Thomas says that there are two effects of the divine government.
In another way, the effects of governing can be considered according to the things by which a creature is brought to likeness with God. And thus in general there are two effects of governing. For a creature is likened to God with respect to two things, namely with respect to this that God is good, insofar as the creature is good, and with respect to this that God is a cause of goodness for others, insofar as one creature moves another to goodness.66
The positions denying human authorship deny causality of the word of God to man insofar as it is a word, but leave room for a material causality, thus derogating from God’s providence insofar as it makes some things causes of other things. But the positions denying divine authorship deny the existence of the word of God entirely, thus also denying all causality of the word of God, and therefore derogating from God’s providence both insofar as it is a cause of good things and insofar as it communicates causality.
The second problem with this position is that it implicitly denies that Scripture has any authority whatsoever in theology. One can consider the infallibility of the Church as analogous with the inerrancy maintained by this position. This position holds that saving truth is communicated, or things useful for the sake of this truth. The Church is infallible in matters of faith and morals, and also in whatever is necessary to preserve these things. But it is not immediately clear how to determine whether something pertains to the truth of salvation, or whether something pertains to the truth of faith and morals. Now, in the case of the teaching of the Church, this determination is done by the Church itself. If the Church defines that something pertains to faith, then it does pertain to faith. But Scripture does not in general distinguish between things that pertain to the truth of salvation and other things that do not. Therefore the question of whether something pertains to the truth of salvation cannot be settled from Scripture, or by the science of exegesis, but this question is left to be resolved by the arbitrary judgement of the exegete. It follows from this that this position does not limit one to saying that there are certain kinds of false statements in Scripture. Whatever does not pertain to what one regards as the truth of salvation can be held to be a false statement, but useful in some way. Thus this position denies the authority of Scripture, in much the way that one would deny the authority of the Church if one said that its infallibility is limited to certain matters, these matters not being determined by the Church itself.
But if one accepts the infallibility of the Church, then it might seem that this problem can be resolved. One might say, for example, that if someone interprets Scripture in such a way that it contradicts the defined teaching of the Church, then we necessarily have a misinterpretation. But this does not follow. For God caused Scripture to be written in such a way that the truth of salvation would be communicated, but only so that it would be communicated in the way and manner, and at the time, that he wished. Thus something contrary to the doctrine of the Church could be found in Scripture, not because God wished to teach this as a truth, but because it was useful in order to lead men to something better. Thus the truth of salvation would not be directly stated, but something useful for that truth would be written. For example, one might hold that Qoheleth taught that man’s soul is not immortal because it was useful that men should believe this for a certain time. For the same reason this position does not demand inerrancy even with respect to the doctrinal teaching of the New Testament. One might hold, for example, that the New Testament is mistaken concerning homosexuality or women’s ordination. In addition, even if the infallibility of the Church is accepted as a limitation on false statements in Scripture, this would not suffice to make Scripture of itself an authority. If Scripture speaks of a theological matter that has not been settled by the Church, one might say that a certain statement is false because it does not pertain to the truth of salvation. Thus this position must hold that Scripture considered in itself has no authority in theology, and serves no function other than a poetical or rhetorical one.
Next objections to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture must be considered. There are two kinds of objections to the doctrine. First objections to the truth of the doctrine will be addressed, and then objections against the utility of the doctrine.
First the objection that Scripture contains particular examples of statements that are clearly false will be considered, and then objections against the answer to this objection. Then objections that do not depend on particular examples of apparently false statements will be answered.
Some object that Scripture contains particular examples of false statements, as was Cardinal König’s opinion concerning history and Norbert Lohfink’s concerning natural science and religion. A particular objection says that some particular fact or facts are contrary to some particular text or texts of Scripture. In order to answer the objection one must deny the reality or accuracy of what is claimed to be a fact, or show that a genuine fact is not truly contrary to the intention present in the text of Scripture. But it is impossible to answer every particular objection, because they are indefinite in number, and one might always come up with more objections.67 It is therefore necessary to give a general account that explains the existence of apparent false statements, and shows that their presence in Scripture is necessary. Once this has been done such objections have no force, unless someone brings forward an objection that has no possible answer, which has not been done.68
When the problem of the manner of speech of the human authors of Scripture was discussed, it was said that the mode of speech follows the nature of the instrument, while the thought expressed by the speech is the divine thought. Now, the human instrument is a deficient instrument. “It should be said that in prophetic revelation the mind of the prophet is moved by the Holy Spirit as a deficient instrument with respect to a principal agent.”69 It therefore follows that the divine thought will be expressed in the manner proper to a deficient instrument. Consequently certain defects will be present in the written text of Scripture which follow the mode of the human author. When the author of Maccabees says of his writing, “if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do,”70 he expresses this point. He does not say that God could not do better, but that he himself could not do better. His writing expresses the divine thought, but it does so in the manner proper to the human author. Thus certain defects are present in Scripture. If the human author is a bad grammarian, then the text of Scripture may be grammatically bad. If the human author is a bad rhetorician, then the text of Scripture may be rhetorically bad.
It might seem from what has been said above that if the human author of Scripture is ignorant and believes what is false, then it follows that the text of Scripture will express ignorance and error, and thus that Scripture will contain errors. But the reason that this does not follow is that Scripture contains the divine word, but expressed in the manner proper to the deficient instrument. From this it follows that if the human author is ignorant or in error, then the text of Scripture will express the divine word, but in the manner proper to one ignorant or in error. But because the divine word contains no falsehood, the text of Scripture will express something true, but in a deficient manner. This deficient manner may well reveal the ignorance and error of the human writer, but these defects are not the substance of his writing, but the manner of his writing.
It follows from this that when the human author holds something false, he will not necessarily take care to write in such a way that he cannot be interpreted to assert his false view. Such care is proper to one who knows the truth, while the absence of such care is proper to one who is ignorant. This does not mean that in such a case something false is asserted in Scripture, but rather that something false might appear to be asserted in Scripture. The author does not assert his false view, but he does not take care that one will not take him to be asserting it.
Such instances will be multiplied to the extent that the human authors of Scripture are ignorant or in error. Now, if one accepts Grelot’s distinction between what is principal and what is secondary in the text of Scripture, it can be shown that the human authors of Scripture will often be ignorant or hold erroneous opinions. St. Thomas makes a similar distinction.
Therefore it is to be said that the per se object of faith is that through which a man is made blessed, as was said above. But per accidens or secondarily all the things contained in Sacred Scripture divinely handed down have relation to the object of the virtue, as that Abraham had two sons, that David was the son of Jesse, and other things of this kind. With respect to the first things to be believed, therefore, which are the articles of faith, man is bound to believe explicitly, even as he is bound to have faith. But with respect to the other things to be believed, man is not bound to believe explicitly, but only implicitly or in the preparation of his soul, insofar as he is prepared to believe whatever is contained in divine Scripture. But then only is he bound to believe something of this kind when it is proven to him to be contained in the doctrine of the faith.71
Man is not bound to explicit belief in everything contained in Scripture, but only in the principal doctrines of Scripture, through which a man becomes blessed. Now, all of Sacred Scripture is given to man that he might become blessed. It follows from this that the secondary teachings of Scripture are for the sake of the principal teachings.
In order for a man to be an author of Scripture, then, he must know the principal doctrines about which he is to write and the secondary teachings insofar as these are necessary for the principal teachings. It follows that he must receive instruction from God, whether through natural means or through supernatural revelation, concerning both the principal doctrines and the secondary things insofar as they are necessary for the sake of the principal doctrines. But because not every author of Scripture writes about every doctrine, and because the details concerning the secondary things may not be very important, not every author of Scripture needs to be perfectly instructed. For example, Qoheleth may not have been instructed concerning the immortality of the soul because it was not necessary to reveal this particular doctrine at this particular time. Similarly, the authors of Scripture in general may not have been well instructed in the details of science and history, because a detailed knowledge of science and history is usually not necessary for the sake of the principal doctrines. But it was said above that to the extent that the authors of Scripture are ignorant or hold erroneous opinions, the text of Scripture may reveal their ignorance or even seem to assert what is false. Since the authors of Scripture are often ignorant in matters of science and history, therefore, there are many apparent errors in Scripture.
Thus, the fact that there seem to be errors in Scripture is not an objection against the doctrine of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Rather, this truth follows necessarily from the doctrine of inspiration insofar as this doctrine is that what is contained in Scripture is the divine thought expressed in a human manner. But it also follows from this doctrine that no errors at all are actually asserted in Scripture. Thus apparent errors cannot be used as an objection against this doctrine.
One might object to this answer in two ways. First, it could be said that this account is unreasonable because it is too improbable. Burtchaell holds this position:
Almost to a man, Catholic divines who have written to our theme have taken inerrancy for granted. Even more, they have dedicated themselves to it, bent their efforts to its needs, written as if its defense gave all meaning to their exertions. They have so written, not from conviction that the Bible is inerrant, but from faith that it must be so. Many monographs have provided compendious and detailed studies of scriptural passages with an eye to vindicating them of any charge of error. But this does not obscure the fact that their concern derives from ecclesiastical, not biblical premises. The texts are forced to serve as proofs of a doctrine they did not themselves engender.
Catholics have achieved noteworthy exegetical dexterity in their concern for inerrancy. They have developed strong sensitivities for hidden citations, literary forms, primitive non-literal expressions, non-assertive discourse, re-editing, and any other feature that will allow them to shrink down the total of biblical affirmations enough to accommodate the axiom, ‘All that the sacred writer asserts, enunciates, suggests, must be held to be asserted, enunciated, suggested by the Holy Spirit.’ Uncritical defense of inerrancy has at times involved disturbing disregard for the obvious facts. Divine faith admittedly carries the mind beyond the obvious, but I know of no requirement that it take the long way around.72
Burtchaell objects that it is not on the basis of Scripture that men say that it is inerrant, but only because of faith in the teaching of the Church. In fact, he says, it is obvious from the text of Scripture itself that it contains errors. It is not likely that he wishes to deny the theoretical possibility of answers such as those given by the Catholics of “noteworthy exegetical dexterity.” Rather, his position is that there is no reason to think that their answers are true, especially when they must be multiplied to fit case after case without number.
Burtchaell’s claim is true in part. It is indeed from faith that one holds that Scripture is inerrant, and not from an examination of the text. This is necessary because of the necessity of apparent errors in Scripture. Because of this one cannot prove the inerrancy of Scripture from an examination of the text. If one took a work not inspired by God and claimed that it was inerrant, resolving possible objections by whatever means available, this would indeed be an unreasonable procedure. This is because one would make an indefinite number of improbable claims in order to defend the inerrancy of the work. But in Sacred Scripture the multiplication of unlikely resolutions to difficulties does not happen by chance, but this happens because of the power of the providence of God who willed to communicate his thought in a human manner. It is not necessarily the case that a particular resolution to a particular objection is true, but there is necessarily some true resolution. It is not less reasonable to believe this than it is to believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which seems contrary to the senses. This is reasonable because the doctrine does not demand that things should appear to the senses in any other way, and similarly the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture does not require that there be no seeming errors in Scripture.
Second, one might object that the answer is unreasonable because it compromises the dignity of the letter of Scripture to such a degree that one might as well admit the existence of errors. This objection can take several forms. First, someone might say that the difference between an explanation allowing that the author believed something false, but did not assert it, and an explanation in which he does assert it, is only a difference of degree. In either case the author believed something false and manifested his false belief.
But even if in some sense with respect to the human author there is only a difference in degree, from God’s point of view there is a substantial difference. It is one thing to say something true through a deficient instrument and thus in a deficient manner. It is quite the opposite to say something false.
Second, one might insist that if in a purely human writing someone manifested a false belief, then one would say that this was an error. Raymond Brown appears to hold this position, and thus he concludes that Scripture contains historical errors:
Despite the respect that bound Catholic scholars to papal statements, this effort [of Pope Benedict XV by means of Spiritus Paraclitus] to save historical inerrancy failed, for the twentieth century produced indisputable evidence of historical inaccuracies in the Bible.
[A footnote to the preceding] For instance, the discovery of the Neo-Babylonian chronicles made it lucidly clear that the dates assigned to various Babylonian interventions in Daniel were wrong; no longer could exegetes say that those dates might be true because of our ignorance of Babylonian chronology. One may very well answer that the author of Daniel was not writing history, but surely he used those dates because he thought they were correct.73
Brown’s opinion is that the author of Daniel erred because “he used those dates because he thought they were correct.” Since Brown says that the author may not have been writing history, and since it follows that he may not have asserted the truth of the dates, Brown can only be saying that the manifestation of an erroneous opinion is itself an error.
In regard to merely human writings, there would be some reason for this position. This is accounted for by what was said above. Merely human writing must be measured from the point of view of man. In such writing the author would have asserted his false position if questioned about it, and thus it does not make much difference whether he only manifests his false opinion or states his opinion. But God would not say what is false in any case whatsoever. Thus in judging Scripture such things are not to be called errors simply, although one might say that they are errors in a certain respect. Scripture does not contain errors properly speaking, but certain errors are expressed in the manner of the writing.74
Third, one might say that if God were to say such things in such a deficient manner from his own self, this would be blameworthy. Spinoza gives this objection.
If anyone thinks that I am speaking too generally, and without sufficient warrant, I would ask him to set himself to showing some fixed plan in these histories [contained in Scripture] which might be followed without blame by other writers of chronicles, and in his efforts at harmonizing and interpretation, so strictly to observe and explain the phrases and expressions, the order and the connections, that we may be able to imitate these also in our writings.75
Spinoza’s point is that if a writer were deliberately to set out to write an inerrant history such as is contained in Sacred Scripture, he would be blameworthy because he would mislead people. Because Scripture is written in a manner proper to men who are often ignorant or in error, if someone deliberately wrote in such a manner others would necessarily be deceived either about the writer or about the things of which the writer spoke. Similarly it seems that God would be blameworthy for writing in this manner. If he is not, then it seems that he is not responsible even if the human author asserts what is false.
The answer to Spinoza’s argument about the human author is that Scripture was not written by omniscient men, but by men guided by the providence of God. Thus it is true that there is no procedure for writing history that can be followed precisely in order to compose history similar to that in Sacred Scripture. If someone knowing the truth writes as if ignorant of the truth, he may be blameworthy, and this is why one cannot deliberately imitate the Scripture without blame. But if someone ignorant of some truth does not express knowledge of that truth, this is not blameworthy, and this is why the authors of Scripture are without blame if they do not “know how to state a fact.”76 They may not have known the facts and thus could not be expected to know how to state them.
Nor is God blameworthy, precisely because he speaks in the manner proper to his instrument. God perhaps would be deceptive if he spoke in such a manner from his own self, but he does not do this. But on the other hand he would be deceptive if he said what is false through any instrument whatever.
Fourth, someone might object that God gave Scripture so that men could understand something. It might seem more likely that he would allow something false to be written than that he would cause something true to be written which is almost certain to be misunderstood. But the answer to this is that he did not give Scripture in order to let men know all things about all things, and so if some things are present in an obscure manner in Scripture, this is no objection. In addition, because God “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts,”77 it is not surprising that the assumption that one can immediately understand everything in Scripture can easily lead one into error.
Now that particular objections have been considered in a general manner, and objections to this general response, it is necessary to consider other general objections. Most can be resolved without great difficulty by means of what has been said. First, someone might say that if the human author does not know everything concerning science and history, then God must reveal such things to him or he must fall into error. This seems to be Burtchaell’s position.
To sum up: in early days men naturally assumed that if a statement or a document were God’s work, then it must enjoy his absolute authority; and if it were so authoritative, then it must have become so by miraculous production. It was as if the Bible needed wondrous origins comparable to Jesus’ virgin birth. We have, of course, abandoned much of this myth of miraculous biblical origins, but the residual belief, that the Bible could not be God’s word were it not inerrant, has led theologians around in circles these many years.78
Burtchaell says that it was assumed that Scripture is inerrant because it is the word of God, and that this happened miraculously. But because it is now known that this did not happen miraculously, it should be concluded that Scripture is not inerrant. For example, someone might say that either the author of Genesis asserts that there is a dome in the sky or God instructs him so that he says this in a metaphorical sense. But the second does not seem very reasonable, since it is not necessary for men to know about the structure of the heavens. Therefore the human author must assert what is false in this case. The answer to this objection is evident from what has been said. In this particular example it is not unreasonable to suppose that the human author knows that there is not a dome, but speaks in the customary manner.79 But even if it is supposed that he believes in the existence of such a dome and is not instructed by God, it does not follow that he makes such an assertion. Rather divine providence causes him to assert only what God wishes to assert, perhaps in such a way that the human author does not take care that his expression cannot be taken to assert the existence of such a dome. The essential mistake in this objection is that it does not take into account the power of divine providence. Burtchaell makes this mistake in the text quoted. He criticizes the early assumptions, but nonetheless he accepts the assumption that if Scripture is inerrant, it must have become so through miraculous means. But in truth this happened through God’s providence, which can use whatever means it pleases.
Grillmeier’s objection that the inerrancy of Scripture is Scriptural monophysitism has also been answered implicitly in the general solution to difficulties. All aspects of the human author’s personality, writing style, and even mistaken personal beliefs can become manifest in the written text of Scripture. Nonetheless he asserts nothing false in his text, on account of the divine authorship. Thus the text of Scripture takes on all human properties except those contrary to the dignity of the word of God. Not only is it not Scriptural monophysitism to hold the doctrine of inerrancy, but Grillmeier’s own position was shown above to be a kind of Scriptural Nestorianism. Grillmeier holds that there are false statements in Scripture, statements that must be attributed to the human author alone. Thus these words are merely human words, rather than the words of God.
Third, someone might say that the doctrine of inerrancy cannot be true because it forces one to twist the obvious meaning of the text, which ought to be judged on internal criteria. Spinoza suggests this objection.
The commentators make many other assertions of this kind [twisting the sense of a passage], which if true, would prove that the ancient Hebrews were ignorant both of their own language, and of the way to relate a plain narrative. I should in such a case recognize no rule or reason in interpreting Scripture, but it would be permissible to hypothesize to one’s heart’s content.80
Spinoza’s claim is that one can only hold that Scripture is inerrant if one twists the obvious sense of the text, which ought not to be done. But if one takes this objection to mean that the meaning of Scripture should be judged on internal criteria alone, without regard for the principle that Scripture is inerrant, then the objection is not true even as applied to merely human writings. For example, if one knows for certain that an author holds a definite view, and then one comes upon something in his writing which seems contrary to his view, one then attempts to interpret it in such a way that it fits with his general position. Only if there is no reasonable way to do this will one conclude that the author is contradicting his own opinion. Similarly, because God is truth itself, and God is the author of Scripture, it is reasonable to interpret what he says to be in accord with the truth.
On the other hand, there is a difference between the two cases. In the case of a human author, one can sometimes conclude that he contradicts his own opinion because there is no other possible interpretation of the text. In the case of Scripture, however, it might sometimes be necessary to suspend judgement concerning the meaning of a certain text. If one does not see any reasonable interpretation in accord with truth, then one must suspend judgement. It is not necessary either to admit the existence of error in Scripture or to assert that the meaning of the text is something unreasonable. If one jumps to such a conclusion, this is due to intellectual curiosity, not to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.81 “There are some things in them hard to understand.”82 It is necessary to be patient if one wishes to avoid unreasonable conclusions, and this is particularly true in the study of theology because of its difficulty.
Fourth, someone might object that the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy is itself contrary to Scripture. In some cases it might seem to be denied that Scripture expresses God’s word. “To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.”83 This appears to suggest that this particular text of Scripture is not from God. But the context shows that St. Paul means to say that this is not a command from God, not that the text itself is not from God. Either God gives this as advice, or he asserts that this is St. Paul’s advice. Other similar cases can be treated in a similar manner. In no place does Scripture say that Scripture is not the word of God or that it contains false statements.
Fifth, one might object, as was pointed out earlier, that the Church might have received an erroneous doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture from the Jews and only slowly purified it. In part this is answered by seeing that the teaching of the inerrancy of Scripture is an unchangeable doctrine of the Church, and so it is a true doctrine regardless of what one posits as the original reasons for the doctrine. In addition, the Church’s tradition distinguishes between man and God as authors of Scripture and posits different things pertaining to them, as was pointed out in regard to Lohfink’s claim that the Church did not carefully consider the subject of inerrancy. The Church has never posited an absolute perfection in the human authors of Scripture, but it has held with the certainty of faith that none of them ever said what is false in the text of Scripture. Insofar as this care in distinguishing the human and divine authors of Scripture is not so present in the tradition of the Jews, one cannot say that the Church’s position derives from any extreme position held by the Jews.
But if one insists that the Church’s tradition does seem to emphasize too strongly the perfection of Scripture, in a way that seems inconsistent with the human deficiencies asserted by this work to be necessarily present in Scripture, then it is necessary to distinguish between essential and accidental elements in the Church’s tradition. For example, St. Augustine raises the question of the eloquence of Scripture:
Here, perhaps, some one inquires whether the authors whose divinely-inspired writings constitute the canon, which carries with it a most wholesome authority, are to be considered wise only, or eloquent as well. A question which to me, and to those who think with me, is very easily settled. For where I understand these writers, it seems to me not only that nothing can be wiser, but also that nothing can be more eloquent. And I venture to affirm that all who truly understand what these writers say, perceive at the same time that it could not have been properly said in any other way. For as there is a kind of eloquence that is more becoming in youth, and a kind that is more becoming in old age, and nothing can be called eloquence if it be not suitable to the person of the speaker, so there is a kind of eloquence that is becoming in men who justly claim the highest authority, and who are evidently inspired of God.84
St. Augustine clearly distinguishes between the truth of Scripture and its eloquence. No one can question the truth of Scripture, but with respect to the eloquence of Scripture, a question can be raised, even if it is easily settled. Thus it is clear that St. Augustine believes the truth of Scripture to pertain to the faith, while the eloquence of Scripture does not, and hence disagreement is allowed as regards the latter, but not as regards the former. But it is not necessary to disagree with St. Augustine if one rightly understands his claim, because he does not claim that the authors always speak with human eloquence. This is clear from St. Augustine’s position that the authors of Scripture should not be imitated in style or manner.
The expositors of these writers [of Scripture], then, ought not to express themselves in the same way, as if putting forward their expositions as of the same authority; but they ought in all their deliverances to make it their first and chief aim to be understood, using as far as possible such clearness of speech that either he will be very dull who does not understand them, or that if what they say should not be very easily or quickly understood, the reason will lie not in the manner of expression, but in the difficulty and subtlety of the matter they are trying to explain.85
St. Augustine thus holds that the authors of Scripture do not always speak with human eloquence, since it does not ordinarily pertain to human eloquence to speak in a manner difficult to understand. Now, it may be that St. Augustine wrongly holds that the writers of Scripture always know the reason for the obscurity of their writings, but one can grant his point about the eloquence of Scripture insofar as the obscurity of Scripture has its reasons in divine providence. In any case, it is clear that the distinction between the truth of Scripture and the eloquence of Scripture is a distinction between what is primary and what is secondary, what is essential and what is accidental.
Finally, even if some have in the past overemphasized the perfection of Scripture, nothing can be gained by overemphasizing its imperfection. If the inerrancy of Scripture is denied, it is difficult to distinguish Scripture from any other human writing. Burtchaell claims, “It is not the writing process of the Bible that differs from that of other books; it is the Bible that is different.”86 But then he goes on to make it indistinguishable from all other writings, as can be seen from the following passages.
But the Christian conscience has customarily treated this particular collection [Scripture] as something special. What is peculiar about it? For one thing, it is drawn only from a certain, limited era. It represents the vicissitudes of belief, in one way or another, from the time it all began within Abraham until the impact left by Jesus Christ had sunk into the community he left behind. The Bible is the chief record of the faith’s gestation, of those long years when Christianity was carried in the womb of Israel. It documents that time—never to be repeated—when God’s revelation was slowly and painfully trying to assert itself amid the night of human disinterest. This period, however, has left other documents, other records. Some of these have brought suit to be admitted into this collection, yet a determined policy of selectivity has culled out all but the few we call Scripture. It is not unfair to say that some of our canonical books might have been omitted, or some of the apocrypha included, without altering the character of the collection noticeably. In this respect canonicity does have something arbitrary about it.87
As this use [discerning heresy from orthodoxy] and veneration of the sacred books became ever more reflective, one constant purpose and trend emerged: to select those past writings which represent the mainstream of development from Abraham to Christ, and through Christ to wherever a particular Church stood. A canon was a loyalty device precisely because faith, as it developed, could point off in any number of directions, and the canon purposely included those documents that—apart from others—best pointed to where the Spirit had led the Church.
What does the Church find in her Scriptures? As in other literature of her past, she finds what former believers had to say about God and their life in his sight. And as in that other literature, she does not expect to find a statement for the present, a perfect expression of the mind of God. Accordingly as it is a faithful reproduction of past belief, the Bible will display the imperfections, confusions, shortsightedness, inconsistency, and errors that beset believers of that era, as they are always going to afflict the faith of feeble men.88
Here Burtchaell claims to speak of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit. But one might suspect that he speaks rather of writings inspired by the human spirit.
Next it is necessary to consider objections to the utility of the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. First, it might seem that the doctrine of inerrancy is not useful for an understanding of Scripture. It would not be useful for understanding Scripture if by it one is led to interpretations of the text more distant from the true meaning than if one held that there are errors in Scripture. But this might seem to be the case, especially in light of the account given of seeming errors in the first part of the objections. If one comes upon a statement that seems to be false and interprets it to say something true, one might come up with a highly improbable reading, and it might be nearer to the truth simply to say that it is a false statement.
In part this can be answered by what was said above concerning intellectual curiosity. If one accepts the inerrancy of Scripture it is not necessary to jump to the conclusion that a text appearing erroneous has some wildly implausible meaning. It is enough to say that one does not understand it. But even if one does make such a jump, it is not true that one will be more distant from the truth than if one says that it is a false statement. For example, if someone does not know the nature of a disputed question, he may begin to read the Summa Theologiae and see that it appears that St. Thomas contradicts himself, since he says in an objection that God does not exist, while he says in the body that God does exist.89 In such a case the most appropriate thing to do would be for him to suspend his judgement until he understood the nature of a disputed question. But if he does make a judgement, he can do this in two ways. Either he may say that St. Thomas contradicts himself and says both that God does and does not exist, or he may interpret the texts so that they are consistent. For example, he might say that in the objection St. Thomas understands ‘God’ as a vague cloud of infinite goodness of such a nature that all evil is excluded, and in the response as a certain infinite good of a different nature. He says the first kind of God does not exist and the second kind does exist. Now if one considers which of these readings is closer to the intention of St. Thomas, then one can see that the position that St. Thomas contradicts himself may be nearer to the surface appearance of the texts, but the reading of the texts as consistent is nearer to St. Thomas’ intention regarding the article as a whole. If one says that St. Thomas contradicts himself, one misses the whole point of the article, which is simply to argue that God exists. Thus the reading that interprets the texts so that they are consistent is better than the reading saying that the texts contradict one another. Similarly, if Scripture is inerrant, it is better and closer to God’s intention if one interprets it to say what is true, even if one twists the meaning of the text, than it is to say that the text says what is false. But in any case such intellectual curiosity is to be avoided and corrected. St. Augustine discusses the danger of this kind of error:
Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. Nevertheless, as I was going to say, if his mistaken interpretation tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, he goes astray in much the same way as a man who by mistake quits the high road, but yet reaches through the fields the same place to which the road leads. He is to be corrected, however, and to be shown how much better it is not to quit the straight road, lest, if he get into the habit of going astray, he may sometimes take cross roads, or even go in the wrong direction altogether.90
Second, it might seem that the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy derogates from the care necessary for understanding Scripture, especially in light of the account given of seeming errors in the first part of the objections. If seeming errors are present simply because of the limitations of the human author, then one might conclude that the details of the text are unimportant. But this conclusion does not follow. The reason for this is that God is responsible not only for the meaning of the text, but also for the mode in which it expresses something. If the text expresses something in a limited, human manner, this is only because God wished to express something in this manner. Thus there will necessarily be reasons in God’s providence for what pertains to the mode of expression, and for all seeming defects in the text. St. Thomas offers an example of such a reason for a human defect while discussing the problem of a prophecy of Jeremiah cited by Matthew.
But there is a question, why does he [Matthew] say: Saying through Jeremiah the prophet, since the words as they lie there [Matthew 27:9], are not found in the whole of Sacred Scripture. Nevertheless something similar is found in Zachariah 11:12, They paid my price, thirty pieces of silver. There is therefore the question, why is this set down as said by Jeremiah, since it was said by Zachariah.... Augustine solves this: Sometimes it happens that as one wishes to express the name of one author, the name of another occurs to one; therefore it might be that when he [Matthew] wished to write Zachariah, he wrote Jeremiah. But there were then many Jews who knew the law; why did they not correct this? Because they thought that this was divinely spoken, because all prophets spoke from the Holy Spirit, and the words of the prophet do not have efficacy except from the Holy Spirit; therefore in order that they might suggest this mystery, they did not correct it.91
St. Thomas suggests that Matthew made a mistake, not in the sense that he made a false statement, but in the sense that he wrote something other than what he intended to write, and that this happened in order to show that God is the author of all prophecy. Thus it does not matter whether Jeremiah or Zachariah made this prophecy, and God indicated this by allowing Matthew to write the wrong name.
Third, someone might object that the doctrine of inerrancy is not useful for the knowledge of theology. Theology does not depend on history and natural science, and therefore it does not benefit theology to know that Scripture does not err in these matters. For example, as Newman pointed out, it does not seem important to know whether or not Paul actually left his cloak at Troas with Carpus. It does not seem that one derives theological conclusions from this fact.
In the first place, even if there were no such benefit to theology in the doctrine of inerrancy, the doctrine would benefit theology precisely in the sense that the doctrine is part of theology, and therefore is ordered to the whole science. Similarly one might say that the teaching that Christ never sinned does not “benefit” theology. But just as if Christ had committed a sin, it would follow that God was a sinner, so also if there were a false statement in Scripture, it would follow that God was a liar.
But it is not true that there are no other benefits that result from the doctrine. The doctrine forces one to take care in explaining the nature of the texts of Scripture, and therefore one will take care in finding the theological meaning of Scripture. In addition, historical and natural truths are contained in Scripture for the sake of the principal truths revealed, and therefore to know these truths is useful to some degree. For example, if one denies the historical fact that Christ chose only men as apostles, one will assert that women should be ordained to the priesthood, a theological error. It is true that the knowledge of historical facts contained only obscurely in Scripture cannot be very necessary for the principal doctrines. But one who maintains that obscure statements in Scripture can be false must also maintain that clear statements in Scripture can be false.
Fourth, one might object that the doctrine of inerrancy is not useful for theology because it subjects theology to natural reason. Spinoza raises this objection.
Such are the words of Maimonides [to the effect that Scripture is to be interpreted in accord with what is known to be true by reason], and they are evidently sufficient to establish our point: for if he had been convinced by reason that the world is eternal, he would not have hesitated to twist and explain away the words of Scripture till he made them appear to teach this doctrine. He would have felt quite sure that Scripture, though everywhere plainly denying the eternity of the world, really intends to teach it. So that, however clear the meaning of Scripture may be, he would not feel certain of having grasped it, so long as he remained doubtful of the truth of what was written. For we are in doubt whether a thing is in conformity with reason, or contrary thereto, so long as we are uncertain of its truth, and, consequently, we cannot be sure whether the literal meaning of a passage be true or false….
Further, the truth of this theory would involve that the masses, having generally no comprehension of, nor leisure for, detailed proofs, would be reduced to receiving all their knowledge of Scripture on the authority and testimony of philosophers, and, consequently, would be compelled to suppose that the interpretations given by philosophers were infallible.
Truly this would be a new form of ecclesiastical authority, and a new sort of priests or pontiffs, more likely to excite men’s ridicule than their veneration.92
Spinoza says that if one must interpret Scripture to be in accord with reason, then one cannot know the meaning of Scripture until one knows the nature of things. But this objection is based on the implicit denial that Scripture is in fact in accord with reason and inerrant. If Scripture is entirely true, then one can take any reality and judge that Scripture cannot be contrary to that reality. But one can also take the clear sense of Scripture and judge that reality cannot be contrary to Scripture. Thus philosophy has no more authority over exegesis than exegesis has over philosophy. The reason for the objection is the assumption that the clear sense of Scripture is contrary to reality, so that one can conclude in only one direction, from things to the sense of Scripture. But to say that the clear sense of Scripture is contrary to reality is simply to say that Scripture is false, which is not the case. Thus if Scripture does in fact “everywhere plainly” deny the eternity of the world, then the world is not eternal according to the nature of things, and any opposing arguments can be answered.93
Fifth, one might object that inerrancy is not useful because it is harmful in other ways. First, it might seem that it can be harmful with respect to the intellectual life. Belief in inerrancy is often connected with fundamentalism, and it is claimed that fundamentalism and belief in inerrancy destroy the intellect.
The stubborn defense on the part of many of its [fundamentalism’s] followers of a theory of verbal inerrancy inevitably leads to a sacrifice of the intellect. The theory itself is largely the product of seventeenth-century Protestant scholasticism and lacks deeper roots in the Christian tradition.94
The meaning of ‘verbal inerrancy’ in this comment is not clear. If this includes the doctrine defended by this work, then the doctrine certainly has far deeper roots in the Christian tradition, as was shown in the first half of the work. To say that this doctrine leads to a sacrifice of the intellect means that it leads one to hold unreasonable beliefs. But this is not necessary, as was said above, since unreasonable beliefs are the consequence of intellectual curiosity. In the particular case of Protestant fundamentalism, this usually takes the form of believing that the inerrancy of Scripture requires that everything be taken according to the first sense of the words. For example, according to this method one concludes from Genesis 1 that the world was made in six twenty-four hour days, some of which existed before the sun, in terms of which a day is defined. To jump from the truth of Scripture to conclusions of this kind is curiosity, and such conclusions do not follow from the doctrine of inerrancy. Thus a sacrifice of the intellect is not necessary, but patience and faith in divine revelation are necessary if one is to hold the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. In fact, far from sacrificing itself, the intellect is perfected by submitting itself to divine revelation.
Again, one might object that the doctrine of inerrancy is psychologically harmful. Grillmeier seems to suggest that this is the case in a text quoted previously.
But there are also parts of Scripture which have only an auxiliary function in relation to these direct truths of salvation. Here, from the point of view of the secular sciences, somewhat less than the truth can be expressed. Here we must accept facts without prejudice and without anxiety. The question of inerrancy is not to become a matter of a bad conscience or false attitudes but should open one’s eyes to the full nature of Scripture.95
Similarly, he states in his conclusion, “The age of anxiety in relation to Scripture is to be regarded as over—a new life with it is to start.”96 The position is that the doctrine of inerrancy leads to bad conscience, false attitudes, and anxiety. But this objection amounts to nothing unless the doctrine is false or doubtful. One who accepts inerrancy certainly has a false attitude if the doctrine is false. But if the doctrine is true, then his attitude is not false. If someone is in constant anxiety over the inerrancy of Scripture, this is not because of the doctrine, but because he doubts the doctrine. Someone who believes the doctrine does not worry about the possibility that he might find an error in Scripture, because he believes that this is impossible. Similarly, the doctrine would only lead to a bad conscience if someone claimed to believe the doctrine while in his heart doubting or denying it. If someone believes the doctrine because it is contained within divine revelation, and nothing causes him to doubt the doctrine, he does not have a bad conscience, since it is reasonable to accept divine revelation. This objection can only arise from someone who thinks that he sees errors in Scripture, and believes that everyone else must see the errors as well. From this he concludes that those who claim the inerrancy of Scripture must be lying or at least must be afraid that such ‘errors’ will turn out to be truly errors. But this is not the case. Those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture do not find errors in Scripture, nor do they fear that apparent errors will turn out to be truly errors.
Finally, someone might claim that the doctrine of inerrancy as understood by this work is not a useful doctrine because it says nothing about the text of Scripture. If all apparent errors can be explained away in one way or another, then one can defend the inerrancy of any writing one wishes, and Scripture does not really turn out to be different from any other writing. It is necessary to say two things in answer to this. First, even if it were true that one could defend the inerrancy of any writing by the means proposed, it would not follow that the doctrine is useless. The reason is that in one case such a defense would be true, namely in the case of Scripture, and false in the case of other writings. Thus Scripture would in reality be different from other writings, but similar in appearance. Second, it is not true that any sort of seeming error can be explained away. If an author holds a position constantly, presents his view in many places, and argues it in many ways, then no one can claim that he does not assert this position, and if this position is false, then no one can legitimately say that he does not err. But if an author says something only once, it is true that this could be explained away. A simple way to do this would be to say that the author accidentally left out a word, and so his thought was badly expressed. Thus the doctrine of inerrancy does demand that Scripture not have certain kinds of seeming errors, namely, those that are certainly errors, or those that are in fact errors, while it allows Scripture to have other kinds of seeming errors.97
Along the same lines, someone might insist that the doctrine says nothing about the text of Scripture because the doctrine concerns the original manuscripts alone, and these are not in our possession. Raymond Collins holds this position:
Enlightened fundamentalists, however, are not impervious to the discrepancies in biblical mss. or in parallel narratives of the OT and the Gospels as detected by historical criticism. In a seminal article (“Inspiration,” Presbyterian Review 2  225-60) A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield formulated three criteria that must be met before something can be considered an error such as to destroy the inerrancy-inspiration of the Scriptures. The error must (1) occur in the “original autograph” of the biblical text; (2) involve the true meaning and intention of the text, “definitely and certainly ascertained”; and (3) render that true meaning “directly and necessarily inconsistent” with some “certainly known” fact of history or science. But these criteria deprive biblical inerrancy of rational verification, for (1) pertains to a text that is no longer extant.98
It is necessary to say that Hodge and Warfield are right in holding that inerrancy can only be wholly maintained in regard to the original texts of Scripture, because copyists and translators are evidently able to make mistakes in their copies and translations. Thus it follows, according to Collins, that the doctrine is useless, since it only concerns texts which are not in our possession. The answer to this is evident from what has been said above regarding isolated mistakes and mistakes which are asserted many times and in many ways. Because it must be admitted that the Church possesses the substance of Scripture,99 Scripture as possessed by the Church will be entirely free of the latter kind of error, while it will be capable of having the former kind of error. Nor is the doctrine useless even with regard to such isolated mistakes, because even in these cases the doctrine does in fact make some demand on the text. It demands precisely that such a mistake should not be an accurate translation or copy of the original text, and this is something subject in a general way to “rational verification,” even if not in every single case.
Finally the relation between the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture and the rest of theology must be considered. When the tradition of the Jews was considered, it was stated that this doctrine is a doctrine most fundamental to the faith, as something common to both Jews and Christians. The reason for this is that the doctrine is very closely linked to the origin of all doctrine.
The God of all Providence, who in the adorable designs of His love at first elevated the human race to the participation of the divine nature, and afterwards delivered it from universal guilt and ruin, restoring it to its primitive dignity, has, in consequence, bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard—making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His divinity, His wisdom and His mercy…. This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten traditions and written books, which are, therefore, called sacred and canonical because, “being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and as such have been delivered to the Church.”100
Leo XIII thus suggests that the belief in God’s authorship, and therefore the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, are closely linked to the belief in divine revelation. This revelation was given by the providence of God for the sake of man’s supernatural end.
But it is necessary that the end be foreknown to men, who ought to order their intentions and actions to the end. Whence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain things which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation.101
St. Thomas thus says that the purpose of revelation is that man should know the end and the way to the end. The end is God. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”102 The way to the end is to receive life from God though Christ. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”103 It follows that faith in God and in his providence is most necessary to man. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”104 In the second place faith in Christ is necessary. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.”105
First the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture will be considered in relation to the existence of God and his providence, the ultimate end and the source of the attainment of the end. Then it will be considered in relation to Christ, who is the way to the end. Last it will be considered in relation to the existence of the revelation by which this end and the way to this end are made known to man. With respect to the first, it is immediately evident that one who denies the existence of God or his providence must deny the inerrancy of Scripture. God through his providence caused Scripture to be without error, and one who does not believe in the cause has no reason to believe in the effect. On the other hand, the connection between denying the inerrancy of Scripture and denying the existence or providence of God is not a necessary one. One might consistently hold that God exists and rules the world by his providence, and still assert that God has not caused Scripture to be without error.
But although the link between these denials is not a necessary one, they can often be found together. The reason for this is that the fundamental reason for denying the inerrancy of Scripture is either the denial of the existence of God or the denial of his providence. It has been shown above that Scripture’s inerrancy cannot be disproved by examples of errors, and that it is an effect of the excellence of divine providence. One who denies inerrancy thus must derogate from divine providence. But since the doctrine cannot be disproved from Scripture itself or from the Church’s tradition, the fundamental reason for this derogation can only be the implicit denial of providence itself, which is itself implicitly based upon the denial of God’s existence.106 The opinion of the Modernists is an example of the denial of inerrancy resting on the denial of the existence of God, as was pointed out in the case of Loisy. Burtchaell’s position seems to be based implicitly on the denial of God’s providence. Burtchaell himself, however, supposes that his position is based upon a more perfect understanding of providence.
On a more refined view, God does not split responsibility with man, for he is a transcendent cause. He moves his creatures without himself moving. He does not need to intervene, for the distance between him and ourselves is not one that is bridged in this way. Whether we speak of the most ordinary human event or of the economy of the incarnation, it is the same: God is cause of human activity without himself reaching in to take control from us. Whether Peter catches fish or converts men, his acts are totally human and totally his. We are accustomed to see Christ as more intensely responsible for the latter type of fishing, and are tempted to imagine some rearrangement of procedure within Peter’s heart of hearts. But more correctly we should see that in both cases Christ is in equal and total control. There is a difference, not of procedure, but of finality, order, purpose, plan. When we predicate a human act of God, there need be nothing peculiar—discernible or not—in the dynamics of that human act. God’s hand in history is to be seen, not in his pre-empting of human responsibility or re-arranging of human events, but in a new order and purpose to things which can retrospectively be appreciated by the insight of faith.
Now how is this all related to the theology of inspiration? Rude people have ever considered it appropriate that contact and converse between God (or gods) and men be attended by wondrous events and prodigies. God could not be imagined to speak without such éclat. This is why the early lives of the saints abound in miracles and portents. This is why the oracle at Delphi had to speak in a trance….
Now primitive theology is no monopoly of primitive people. I submit that most of the inspiration theory which this book has reviewed is the heir of this backward notion of inspiration (and of revelation). The dictation idea is long dead and gone, but its corollary has unwittingly been retained. Say that God was the originator of any event, and most believers will immediately feel it must be a perfect event, absolute as he is absolute. Inspiration, as a divinely initiated act, was treated as other divine acts: it was accorded absolute attributes. In this instance the attribute is inerrancy. Further, there is the persistent belief that if God is the author of this book in a way that no other religious document can claim him, somehow he must have tampered with the writing process. Most commentators will insist that if divine causality in Scripture is to be different from ordinary concursus, it must somehow have a direct effect upon the dynamics of authorship. But it would be preferable to recognize that what set salvation-acts apart from acts of mere concursus are not different procedures, but different results. It is not the writing process of the Bible that differs from that of other books; it is the Bible that is different.107
Burtchaell thus holds that it was “formerly” thought that God’s activity in the world had to be extraordinary, while it is “now” known that God is fully the cause of things even in the ordinary course of events. Thus he concludes that God’s authorship of Scripture does not imply that Scripture came to be in an extraordinary manner. But although he is right to say that it is not necessary to say that Scripture came to be in a miraculous manner, he manifests in his own text the same misunderstanding of providence that he condemns in others. This error is manifest in his claim that inerrancy is the corollary of a dictation theory of inspiration. The arguments in the previous parts of this work do not depend upon a theory concerning the manner in which Scripture came to be, but they depend on God’s purpose for Scripture, namely, to communicate his own words. Burtchaell himself claims to recognize that Scripture and its purpose are different from other books and their purposes, but he denies the central difference. He denies that Scripture is the word of God. By taking this denial to follow from the denial of the dictation theory, he shows his belief that God could only produce his own words by dictation. Thus he falls into the same mistake concerning the providence of God that he recognizes in others.
A certain suggestion of a position implicitly excluding God’s existence can also be found in this passage, thus illustrating the connection made above between the denial of God’s providence and the denial of God’s existence. When he says, “This is why the early lives of the saints abound in miracles and portents,” he suggests the position that miracles do not happen, although he does not actually hold this position. This position is implicitly based upon the denial of God’s existence.108
On the other hand, one who recognizes the existence of God and his providence has no trouble asserting the doctrine of inerrancy, while recognizing that the manner in which Scripture came to be is a separate question. The excellence of God’s providence is made manifest in this, that he causes men to be true authors of the word of God. Thus he has “bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard—making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His divinity, His wisdom and His mercy.”109
Next the relation between the incarnation of the Word and the inerrancy of Scripture must be considered. Since it is now generally recognized that Christ as presented in the Gospels does indeed claim to be the Son of God, and therefore to be God, men who deny the incarnation obviously also deny the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.110 But not all those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture deny the incarnation. Once again, however, the latter denial is the implicit source for the former denial. The Catechism makes an analogy between the inspiration of Scripture and the incarnation of the Word:
In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: “Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men” (DV 13).
Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:
You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time (St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 103, 4, 1: PL 37, 1378).111
The Catechism makes two points here. The first is that in Scripture the words of God become the words of men, and therefore take on human likeness as the Word takes on human likeness in becoming man. The second is that what is expressed in Scripture is a participation in what is understood in the divine Word. This point is a consequence of the position that the words of Scripture are an expression of the mind of God. The analogy between the incarnation and the inspiration of Scripture has been used in two different ways. Pope Pius XII uses this analogy to prove the inerrancy of Scripture:
For just as the substantial Word of God was made like man in all things ‘without sin,’ so also the words of God, expressed in human language, in all things have been made like human speech, without error, which Saint John Chrysostom has already extolled with highest praise as the syncatabasis, or, condescension of a provident God; and which he has asserted again and again is the case in the Sacred Scriptures.112
Pius XII teaches that just as the Word became man, but did not take on any defects contrary to the dignity of his person, so divine words are expressed in human language, but do not take on any defects contrary to their divine character, and hence they exclude error. But others hold that this analogy fails. Grillmeier says that this analogy was excluded from the Council’s document due to its inadequacy:
Although this strict parallelism [between the sinlessness of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture] was expressly desired by some fathers, it was rightly criticized by others and consequently dropped. For—to argue dogmatically—the sinlessness of Christ in his humanity follows from the hypostatic union. Just as the connection of the Church with the Holy Spirit cannot be regarded as a parallel with the divine humanity of Christ, Scripture too, as the word of God in the human word, cannot be seen as a parallel to the incarnation. There is an important analogy between the two, but it is only an analogy. The whole argument was conceived in terms of the problem of the inerrancy of Scripture. The Constitution Dei Verbum finally broke through this narrow framework and for this reason dropped the reference to Heb. 4:15. Certainly the incarnation and the inspiration of Scripture are seen as two modes of the condescension of God and his accommodation of himself to us. At the suggestion of Cardinal König the emphasis on this condescension acquired a meaning which was precisely the opposite to that given it in the schema of 1962: it is not the absolute inerrancy of Scripture which is deduced from it, but, on the contrary, the admission that this condescension also accepts the human failings of the writers.113
As in a former case, Grillmeier interprets an absence of a statement in the Council to imply its denial. He does not find the deduction of the inerrancy of Scripture from this analogy in the Council, and therefore says that the Council intends to say that because Scripture takes on a human mode, it must take on error. But in fact nothing at all can be deduced from the absence of a statement in the Council. The lack of a statement is not the denial of the statement. Thus the Council says nothing at all about this question.
Grillmeier claims that this analogy fails because Scripture is not hypostatically united to God. But in fact the reason that the hypostatic union implies the sinlessness of Christ is that the unity of person in Christ implies the possibility of a communication of idioms. What can be said about the man Christ can be said about God. Therefore if the man Christ sinned, then God sinned. But this is impossible. Therefore the man Christ could not sin. Similarly, the unity of the words of Scripture implies the possibility of another communication of idioms. What men said is what God said. Thus what can be said of the words of men can be said of the words of God.114 Thus if the human words of Scripture are false, the divine words are false. But this is impossible. Therefore the human words of Scripture cannot be false. Thus there is a complete parallel insofar as each case permits a certain communication of idioms.115
Thus, as was said above, one who denies the inerrancy of Scripture must deny that the words of Scripture are strictly and truly the words of God. This is analogous with the position that the man Christ was not strictly and truly God. Thus these positions can be found combined in such writers as Benedict Spinoza, and the latter denial is the natural foundation for the former denial.
But one who believes that “long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,”116 will believe both that Christ was truly the Son of God and that it was indeed God who spoke by the prophets. “No prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”117
Finally it is necessary to consider the relation between the doctrine of inerrancy and the existence of revelation. One who denies the existence of revelation naturally denies the inerrancy of Scripture. As in the other cases, the denial of the existence of revelation is not an absolutely necessary consequence of the denial of the inerrancy of Scripture, but once again there is a certain connection between the two denials.
One who denies the inerrancy of Scripture must deny that Scripture is strictly and truly the word of God. Thus Scripture cannot be said to contain divine revelation in virtue of itself, but can only be said to contain a record of a former revelation. Similarly, the teaching of the Church, even when infallible, is not a revelation itself, but is an expression of a former revelation. Thus one who denies the inerrancy of Scripture must deny the existence of written revelation. This is not intrinsically impossible, but it is contrary to the Catholic faith and would make the Church’s grasp on revelation extremely tenuous.118
But this position is often not held so clearly. Often someone will say that Scripture contains errors, but that in some way it is revelation in virtue of itself. The reason given for this is that revelation is imperfect at first and then grows to perfection. Loisy holds a position of this kind:
In fact, it is possible to look upon the Bible no longer as a rule or rather the permanent source of faith, but as a historical document, where the origins and the ancient development of religion can be discovered, a testimony which permits us to understand the state of belief in a certain epoch, which presents it in writings of that same date and that same character.119
This position implicitly attributes falsehood to God, as has been shown before, and also implicitly contains the denial of the infallibility of the Church.
This position implies the denial of the infallibility of the Church for two reasons. First, if the imperfection of revelation allows the existence of errors in revelation itself, Sacred Scripture, then yet more will the imperfection of revelation admit errors into the expression of revelation. Thus one will be able to hold that the Church is not infallible because revelation is not yet perfect and therefore still allows for errors. Nor could the Church’s teaching that revelation is now complete disprove this position. If revelation allows errors at any point in its growth, then it is possible that the Church is wrong in its teaching that revelation is perfect, and the reason for the possibility of this error is that revelation might be still imperfect. Thus the denial of the Church’s infallibility is closely connected with the denial of inerrancy. Such a connection is openly asserted by Burtchaell:
Nevertheless inerrancy, whether it has been in any given age stressed or inconsistently pursued, has been a tenet of every age of Catholic belief. It might even be better to call it a working assumption. Like its cousin-tenet, ecclesiastical infallibility, it has not really been probed; it has been taken for granted. A comparison with infallibility is instructive….
In practice, infallibility is invoked as a safety clause in any matter that might threaten the Church’s existence. We have quite lately been told that if ever the Church put official endorsement on any teaching, it was on her absolute condemnation of ‘artificial’ birth prevention. Church authority, it was argued, could collapse were there any reversal here. This sort of theology has been known to backfire. Anyone with a student’s exposure to ecclesiastical history can recall, for example, that exactly a century ago Catholics were anathematized for holding that loss of the Papal States might turn out best for the Church. Garibaldi took them away. Church authority survived, to the surprise of some. Others felt it was even enhanced. The birth control issue has probably already been resolved in similarly peremptory fashion, and Church authority will survive even in its humiliation…. In the end, we should probably be more accurate to say that what God has promised his Church is not certitude, but survival.
I have digressed somewhat over ecclesiastical infallibility, for as a dogma it is as much an unprobed working assumption as is biblical inerrancy. The Church is confessed to be the alter ego of Christ, and it is quickly assumed that no error can exist in her most official utterances. Likewise the Holy Spirit is declared to have authored the Scriptures, and the inference is smoothly made that the Bible can teach no error.120
Here Burtchaell illustrates the connection asserted above. Since he does not believe in the inerrancy of revelation itself, contained in Sacred Scripture, he can hardly be expected to believe in the infallibility of the Church in its teaching, a mere expression of revelation, rather than revelation itself.
The second reason that the denial of inerrancy implies the denial of the infallibility of the Church can also be seen in this text. The reason is that the Church has taught the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture in a definitive manner, as has been shown in the first major part of this work. Thus one who denies the inerrancy of Scripture must deny the Church’s infallibility in order to remain consistent. In this text Burtchaell scornfully rejects the Church’s teaching concerning birth control. This sort of denial is to be expected from one who denies the inerrancy of Scripture, since the teaching on birth control has not been taught so strongly as the teaching on the inerrancy of Scripture. If the Church might be wrong about inerrancy, yet more might it be wrong about birth control and similar issues. Thus the denial of the inerrancy of Scripture is connected both theoretically and practically with the denial of the infallibility of the Church, and of any of its particular teachings such as its teaching on birth control.
But it is otherwise with a man who believes these words of Christ:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.121
Such a man will believe in the infallibility of the Church in its teaching, revelation as handed down by the Church, and perhaps with even greater reverence in the inerrancy of Scripture, written revelation itself.
1 Providentissimus Deus, 25-27.
2 Psalm 10:4.
3 Summa Theologiae, II-II, 1, 3, corp.
4 Summa Theologiae, II-II, 1, 1, corp.
5 Summa Theologiae, II-II, 1, 1.
6 Alfred Loisy, Simples Réflexions sur le Décret du Saint-Office Lamentabili sane Exitu et sur l’Encyclique Pascendi Dominici Gregis (2nd ed.; Ceffonds: chez l’auteur, 1908), 45; cited by James Burtchaell, Catholic Theories of Biblical Inspiration since 1810 (Cambridge: University Press, 1969), 228.
7 George Tyrrell, The Church and the Future (London: The Priory Press, 1910), 165-166; cited by Burtchaell, 206.
8 Burtchaell, 228.
9 Loisy, Simples Réflexions, 45; cited by J. Burtchaell, 228.
10 This depends on what one considers as progress.
11 Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 6, ad 2.
12 Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 8, ad 2.
13 Summa Theologiae, I-II, 92, 2, ad 2.
14 2 Maccabees 15:38.
15 1 Peter 1:10-11. A similar example, quoted in the first part of this work, can be found in Acts 1:16-20.
16 2 Samuel 23:2.
17 Acts 28:25.
18 Hebrews 1:7.
19 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
20 Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4.
21 This conclusion does not follow of necessity, since Timothy could also be instructed by the Old Testament insofar as it is understood as prophetic of Christ. Even so, certain New Testament writings seem to have been counted as Scripture even at the time, as in this passage: “For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The laborer deserves to be paid’” (1 Timothy 5:18). The two quotations are taken from Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7. Thus the Old Testament and the Gospel of Luke are equated as Scripture.
22 Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 3-4.
23 It is now more customary to say, “That’s what I said,” or something of the kind.
24 Summa Theologiae, I, 34, 1, corp.
25 De Veritate (Rome: Marietti, 1914), 4, 1, corp.
26 John 1:1.
27 Matthew 3:17.
28 Jeremiah 32:26.
29 Cf. De Veritate, 12; Summa Theologiae, II-II, 171-174.
30 Genesis 1:3.
31 Cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, 83, 9, ad 1.
32 John 1:1-3.
33 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 34, 3, corp.
34 John 12:28.
35 Numbers 22:28-30.
36 On Christian Doctrine, II, 5, in NPNF, 1st Series, 2:536-537.
37 To a certain degree the human author must be able to make such an error. For example, if one author inserts something into the text of a previous author, the intentions of the first author with respect to the division of the text can no longer carry their full force, since the original divisions do not allow for the inserted text. Thus whenever a book of Scripture has more than one author in such a way, it follows that some such intentions of the original author are revoked in the final form of the text of Scripture.
38 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, 173, 4, corp.
39 Burtchaell, 283-284.
40 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 8, ad 2.
41 The most basic reason that this cannot be done is that there are no false statements in Scripture, as has been shown above.
42 The two doctrines are not entirely equivalent in this regard. The doctrine of the Real Presence can be shown in no way by the use of the senses, while the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture cannot be established by the appearances, but in a certain way it can be defended by the appearances, as will be seen later.
43 Providentissimus Deus, 27.
44 The Inerrancy of Scripture, 47.
45 Lohfink, 28.
46 Lohfink, 29-30.
47 Lohfink, 30.
48 Lohfink, 30-31.
49 As was said before, all things are subject to the providence of God, and so such subjection is not a sufficient reason for calling anything inspired. Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, 22, 2.
50 Lohfink, 33.
51 Lohfink, 33-35.
52 Raymond Brown holds a similar position, but his position goes a bit further. After making similar statements about a development in Scripture’s meaning on account of the formation of the canon, he states, “But even the placing of a book in the Bible does not tell us fully about its meaning. For this Bible to be normative for Christian life, it has to be accepted by the Church and proclaimed as part of a living tradition in the community of believers. ‘Biblical meaning’ is not simply what a passage meant to the author who wrote it (literal meaning), or what it meant to those who first accepted it into a normative collection (canonical meaning); biblical meaning is also what the passage means today in the context of the Christian Church. And when one speaks of the Bible ‘teaching without error that truth which God put into the Scripture for the sake of our salvation,’ one is speaking of biblical meaning as a whole and not of an isolated stage of that meaning” (The Critical Meaning of the Bible, 20). Thus if there is any the inerrant sense, according to Brown, it is even more remote from the text. It is a sense imposed on the text from without. The problems with this position are basically equivalent to the problems with Lohfink’s position, but with the additional problem that according to this position, God did not put truth “into the Scripture for the sake of our salvation.”
53 Lohfink, 41.
54 John 11:50.
55 St. Thomas Aquinas, In Evangelium S. Joannis Commentaria (Rome: Marietti, 1919), cap. 11, lect. 7.
56 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, 173, 4, corp.
57 Summa Theologiae I, 22, 3, corp.
58 See Summa Theologiae, I, 65-74 for several suggestions concerning the meaning of the six days.
59 Lohfink, 46.
60 Lohfink’s appeal to the authority of this encyclical is somewhat odd, given that he rejects a major element in its teaching, the inerrancy of the original sense. The authority of the encyclical can in fact be used against such conclusions insofar as it rejects falsehood in the original sense.
61 Grillmeier, 235.
62 The purpose of Grelot’s distinction is to defend the inerrancy of Scripture while explaining the presence of difficulties in the text of Scripture. Thus Grelot says, “Our approach to the sacred books, not only in their divine reality, but in their human peculiarities, will give us a correct understanding of the truth of the Bible. Inspiring the sacred authors, God assumed the primary responsibility and the guarantee for their writings. He would not teach error. And since his teaching passes through the channel of an inspired man, we must accept in faith all that the man affirms as true” (Introduction to the Bible, 400). Grelot wishes to use his distinction to defend this truth, while Grillmeier has the opposite intention. It will be seen below that the distinction is more useful for Grelot’s purpose.
63 Grillmeier, 236.
64 Grillmeier, 238.
65 Grillmeier, 230.
66 Summa Theologiae I, 103, 4, corp.
67 In any case, to answer particular objections pertains to Scriptural exegesis rather than to the present work.
68 As has been said, this is impossible because there are no such examples.
69 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, 173, 4, corp.
70 2 Maccabees 15:38.
71 Summa Theologiae, II-II, 2, 5, corp.
72 Burtchaell, 288-289. For many examples of techniques developed by exegetes to defend inerrancy, see Fr. William Most’s book, Free From all Error. Not all such techniques can be endorsed without qualification, but an examination of these techniques and the determination of their application to various kinds of apparent errors are outside the scope of this work.
73 The Critical Meaning of the Bible, 15-16. One might be surprised by the assumption that if Daniel appears to differ from the Neo-Babylonian chronicles, it should immediately be concluded that the book of Daniel is in error, while the secular chronicles are assumed to be accurate.
74 Thus in this sense Newman was right to say that obiter dicta can be found in the Bible.
75 A Theological-Political Treatise, tr. R. H. M. Elwes (New York: Dover, 1951), 139.
76 Spinoza, 139.
77 Luke 1:51.
78 Burtchaell, 294-295.
79 Because Leo XIII said that the sacred authors wrote according to custom, some say that the Pope implicitly admitted the existence of errors in Scripture. “Already in 1893 Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus (DBS 3288) excluded natural or scientific matters from biblical inerrancy, even if he did this through the expedient of insisting that statements made about nature according to ordinary appearances were not errors. (An example might involve the sun going around the earth.) While this understanding of error echoes an ancient equation of inerrancy with freedom from deception, it sounds strange to modern ears, for inculpable mistakes cease to be errors. In any case, Pope Leo’s approach undermined the very purpose for which most people want to stress inerrancy, namely, so that they can give unlimited confidence to biblical statements. The theory that these statements were made according to surface appearances and so are not necessarily correct from a scientific viewpoint is a backdoor way of admitting human conditioning on the part of the biblical authors” (Raymond Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, 15). Brown’s position is that one who speaks according to the appearances speaks falsely when the appearances do not correspond with the things, at least when he speaks without knowledge of the things. Thus, according to Brown, if someone does not know that the earth revolves, and he says that the sun rises, he makes a false statement. From this it follows that if such a man were to say that the sun does not rise, he would speak truly. This seems a very odd claim, to say the least. Nor does Pope Leo XIII undermine the purpose of the doctrine of inerrancy, since the primary purpose of holding the doctrine is in order to recognize the true nature of Scripture as written by men inspired by God.
80 Spinoza, 139.
81 Cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, 167, 1, corp. The claim that the high priest under which David entered the temple and ate the loaves had two names might be an example of such a rash assertion, although it is not impossible. Perhaps it is more likely that the text of the Gospel only asserts the words of Christ with regard to their substance, as seems to be generally the case with the discourses of Christ in the Gospels. If this is the case, then the name of the priest is added for distinctness, but it might not be asserted that Christ actually gave the name.
82 2 Peter 3:16.
83 1 Corinthians 7:12.
84 On Christian Doctrine, IV, 6, in NPNF, 1st series, 2:577.
85 On Christian Doctrine, IV, 6, in NPNF, 1st series, 2:581.
86 Burtchaell, 294.
87 Burtchaell, 301.
88 Burtchaell, 303.
89 Summa Theologiae, I, 2, 3. Such problems are often actually raised by students new to St. Thomas and to the scholastic method.
90 On Christian Doctrine, I, 36, in NPNF, 1st series, 2:533.
91 In Evangelium S. Matthaei Commentaria, Ch. 27 (Rome: Marietti, 1919), p. 381. Here we have yet another example of an objection raised at the time of Second Vatican Council, supposedly as a result of modern science and research, but which was addressed centuries ago.
92 Spinoza, 115-116.
93 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 8, corp.
94 R. Harrisville and W. Sundberg, The Bible in Modern Culture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), 199.
95 Grillmeier, 236.
96 Grillmeier, 246.
97 Because this answer to the objection maintains that the text of Scripture differs from other texts not only in reality, but also in appearance, it suggests the possibility of arguing for the inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of the general characteristics of the text. Thus some have argued that critical study of the text of Scripture actually verifies the doctrine of inerrancy: “If the New Testament, claiming full inspiration, did exhibit such internal characteristics as should set aside this claim, it would not be a trustworthy guide to salvation. But on the contrary, since all the efforts of the enemies of Christianity--eager to discover error by which they might convict the precious word of life of falsehood--have proved utterly vain, the Scriptures stand before us authenticated as from God. They are, then, just what they profess to be; and criticism only secures to them the more firmly the position they claim” (Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 441). Now one might use such an argument as probable, but one cannot really prove the doctrine in this way, because even a text containing errors would not necessarily contain errors that are provably such. Pope Pius XII also referred to this form of argument when he spoke of “proving” Scripture to be free of error.
98 “Inspiration,” 52, in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1031.
99 This is required by the definition of the Council of Trent, “If anyone, however, should not accept the said books [the canon as defined by Trent] as sacred and canonical, entire with all their parts, as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition… let him be anathema” (Session IV, in Denz. 784). This definition cannot be taken to mean that the Vulgate is inspired in every verse and every word, but it does imply that the books of the Vulgate contain the substance of Scripture, since otherwise they would not be “sacred and canonical.”
100 Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 3.
101 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 1, corp.
102 John 17:3.
103 John 17:1-2.
104 Hebrews 11:6.
105 John 3:16.
106 Since God is not only provident, but is providence itself, one who denies the providence of God implicitly denies the existence of God.
107 Burtchaell, 291-294. Karl Rahner’s argument against God’s literary authorship is an example of the kind of position criticized here by Burtchaell. “For, if God is to be the literary author of the Scriptures, he is, if we may formulate it in this way, a categorical and not a transcendental cause. In other words, his causality itself, and not only its effects, will be within the dimensions in which his creatures live and act. If he is to be the literary author of the Scriptures, and not only their transcendental cause--which in itself would not be sufficient for a literary authorship--then God must be at work within the redemptive dimension of the world, just as in the prophetic inspiration and in the miracle of the Incarnation, both representing activities of God’s miraculous character; in a certain sense they in themselves, as actions of God and not only in their effects, possess a spatio-temporal determination. But as God in these cases is the person who originally spoke and acted alone, in the same way we cannot conceive of God otherwise than as the one and only author, who suffers no one else besides himself” [Inspiration in the Bible (New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1961), 15-16]. Rahner thus holds that God cannot be the literary author of Scripture, because such authorship would exclude human authorship. But Burtchaell quite rightly points out that causing Scripture with a certain purpose and nature would be sufficient for God’s authorship, and so nothing must be subtracted from human authorship.
108 One of the objections to the existence of God is that all things depend upon nature and will, and thus it seems unnecessary to say that God exists (Summa Theologiae, I, 2, 3, obj. 1). St. Thomas answers that God is the first cause of nature and will, but one who says that this first cause never acts except through such second causes comes dangerously close to saying that it is not really there at all. Thus Augustine says, “Will some one say that these miracles [in Scripture] are false, that they never happened, and that the records of them are lies? Whoever says so, and asserts that in such matters no records whatever can be credited, may also say that there are no gods who care for human affairs” (City of God, X, 18, in NPNF, 1st Series, 2:192).
109 Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 3.
110 Muslims might be considered a counter-example, but in this case inerrancy is in effect denied by means of the claim that the Bible has undergone substantial alterations, as was implicitly suggested by R. Collins in his objection to Warfield’s position.
111 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-102.
112 Divino Afflante Spiritu, in Denz. n. 2294.
113 Grillmeier, 227.
114 This must be understood to concern material predication rather than formal predication. It can be said that the man Christ is God, but not that Christ as man is God. Similarly, the human words of Scripture are the words of God, but not insofar as they are human words.
115 Pope John Paul II expressly reaffirms the teaching of Pius XII in regard to this analogy, as was cited in an earlier footnote.
116 Hebrews 1:1-2.
117 2 Peter 1:21. The NRSV translation has been slightly adapted here.
118 Sometimes the name revelation is reserved for those parts of the Bible in which the text expresses new knowledge which was communicated to the sacred author in an extraordinary way. Raymond Brown refers to this when he says, “The traditional position has been that the whole Bible is inspired but only some parts of the Bible transmit revelation” (The Critical Meaning of the Bible, 7). This “traditional” position did not intend to deny that all the parts of the Bible are strictly and truly the word of God.
119 Autour d’un petit livre (Paris: Alphonse Picard & Fils, 1903), 50-51; cited by J. Burtchaell, 237.
120 Burtchaell, 286-288.
121 Matthew 16:18-19.
On the Inerrancy of Scripture - Table of Contents