Friday, May 11, 2007

Denzinger's Enchiridion: Paragraph Numbering Problems

Share/Bookmark Francisco,

I have a quick question regarding Denzinger's Enchiridion that you
might know the answer to, especially considering that you speak
several languages and it's one of your favorite books.

I have run into an apparent contradiction between the English edition of Denzinger and the French and Latin versions regarding the paragraph numbering system (I tried to compare with Spanish and Italian, the other languages I know, but the sites you linked to don't have the numbering system). For instance, I would like to cite the "Decree for the Jacobites" on Feb 4, 1442. In the French and Latin versions it begins with paragraph 1330. In English it is 703.

What's the deal? I'm using both an online version and a print version (The Church teaches: Documents of the church in English Translation, Tan Books) for the English translation and the links you have for the Latin and French.

Obviously, when in doubt, go to the original language and thus the Latin version would be correct, but why is there the discrepancy in the first place?

-Br. Thomas


Care frater Thoma!

Good question. In this case, the original Latin--at least your edition--does not really have the "correct" numbering. Let me explain. The Enchiridion Symbolorum (aka., Denzinger) has undergone a number of editions throughout the decades. Sometime around 1960, Karl Rahner became the editor of the Enchiridion and he expanded it significantly, adding a whole lot of paragraphs, almost doubling the size of the volume (he also took away a few parragraphs, and even replaced some texts with different editions). The result is that, e.g., what was previously parr. 703 is now parr. 1330. All later editions of the work follow and build upon Rahner's edition.

(As an editorial comment, I would add that much of what Rahner included is of doubtful dogmatic character and only serves to cast doubt onto the rest which was previously taken as unquestionable; also, some of what he took away was very important, and some of the editions of the texts he replaced at times can be misinterpreted in a heterodox way. So, as a whole, I am uncomfortable using post-1960 editions of the Enchiridion.)

The Latin edition you're using is most likely post-1960 and so it includes the Rahner numbering. The English edition, on the other hand, recently reprinted by Loretto press, is deliberately a pre-1960 edition and it uses the old numbering. Apart from any doctrinal benefits of using the old edition, there is the simple, practical fact that if you're trying to follow the traditional Latin scholastic manuals of theology, they're pretty much all written before 1960 and, thus, follow the old numbering--so if you use a later edition you're going to have trouble finding the texts they refer to from the Enchiridion.

Now, there are a few "interim" editions--I have one from 1962 in Latin--which includes BOTH numbering systems. So, for example, next to the parragraph in question from the Decretum pro jacobitis, it says "1330 (703)"; many of the new texts that Rahner added and which, therefore, do not appear in the old editions, would be numbered in this way: "4321 (---)."

Still, apart from the numbering problem, I would submit it is better to use the truly old editions, instead of the "interim" editions, because they have both a more traditional (if not better) edition of the texts--following the understanding we've always had of their meaning--and a more traditional (if not better) selection--following the understanding we've always had of their importance and relevance for dogma.

I hope this helps.

In Domino,


Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought of publishing traslations of Cardinal Billots's great Thomistic treatises,De Ecclesia for example.This one is widely quoted by traditional Catholic writers on Church and state,especially Fr Denis Fahey C.S.Sp. Maybe there are extracts in English ? Alan Robinson (

berenike said...

There is some electronic version of DS that has a number converter from D numbers to DS and vice versa.

I have the converter bit somewhere on my hard disk - it's a bit clunky, a PDF file, but can save a LOT of time on occasion. If someone wants it, email me


Dear Francisco,

Would you consider writing an article about Denzinger one of these days?

Are all the infallible teachings of the Church in it? If not then all of the infallible teachings of the Popes and Ecumenical Councils? Can you give rules for distinguishing in the text fallible from infallible teaching? Comment on all the English translations ever published (which must not be very many)? Would you agree that it would be nice if the infallible texts in this book were printed, say, in red? What is missing? What are the dangers of reading an English (German, Spanish) translation? Is the online version of any value? Is there an English/Latin bi-text Denzinger available? With regard to distingusing fallible from infallible texts, is the most important thing to learn the skill of recognizing definitive language? Aren't texts which fall into a grey area in that regard?

Daniel Offutt