Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forgotten Teachings: The Early PBC Responsa


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Nota bene: The four digit numbers before paragraphs are the "Denzinger" numbers.
The Authority of the Decisions of the Biblical Commission *

[From Motu proprio, Praestantia Scripturae, Nov. 18, 1907]



2113 . . . After long discussions and most conscientious deliberations, certain excellent decisions have been published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, very useful for the true advancement of Biblical studies and for directing the same by a definite norm. Yet we notice that there are not lacking those who have not received and do not receive such decisions with the obedience which is proper, even though they are approved by the Pontiff.

Therefore, we see that it must be declared and ordered as We do now declare and expressly order, that all are bound by the duty of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Biblical Pontifical Commission, both those which have thus far been published and those which will hereafter be proclaimed, just as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which pertain to doctrine and have been approved by the Pontiff; and that all who impugn such decisions as these by word or in writing cannot avoid the charge of disobedience, or on this account be free of grave sin; and this besides the scandal by which they offend, and the other matters for which they can be responsible before God, especially because of other pronouncements in these matters made rashly and erroneously.

2114 In addition to this, intending to repress the daily increasing boldness of spirit of many Modernists, who by sophisms and artifices of every kind endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy not only of the Decree, "Lamentabili sane exitu," which was published at Our command by the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition on the third of July of the current year [see n. 2071 ff.], but also of Our Encyclical Letter, "Pascendi Dominici gregis," given on the eighth of September of this same year [see n. 2071 ff.] by Our Apostolic authority, We repeat and confirm not only that Decree of the Sacred Supreme Congregation, but also that Encyclical Letter of Ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against all who contradict them; and We declare and decree this: if anyone, which may God forbid, proceeds to such a point of boldness that he defends any of the propositions, opinions, and doctrines disproved in either document mentioned above, he is ipso facto afflicted by the censure imposed in the chapter Docentes of the Constitution of the Apostolic See, first among those excommunications latae sententiae which are reserved simply to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication, however, is to be understood with no change in the punishments, which those who have committed anything against the above mentioned documents may incur, if at any time their propositions, opinions, or doctrines are heretical; which indeed has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, but especially when they defend the errors of modernism, that is, the refuge of all heresies.



"Implicit Citations" in Holy Scripture *

[From the Response of the Biblical Commission, February 13, 1905]

The question:

1979 Whether to solve difficulties that occur in some texts of Holy Scripture, which seem to present historical facts, it is permitted the Catholic exegete to state that it is a matter in these texts of the tacit or implicit citation of a document written by an author who was not inspired, all the assertions of which the inspired author does not at all intend to approve or to make his own, and which therefore cannot be held to be immune from errors?

The answer (with the approbation of Pius X):

In the negative, except in the case where, preserving the sense and judgment of the Church, it is proved by strong arguments: I) that the sacred writer really is citing the words or documents of another, and 2) that he does not approve the same nor make them his own, so that it is rightly decided that he is not speaking in his own name.


The Historical Nature of Sacred Scripture *

[From the reply of the Biblical Commission, June 23, 1905]

The question:

1980 Whether the opinion can be admitted as aprinciple of sound exegesis, which holds that the books of Sacred Scripture which are held to be historical, either in whole or in part sometimes do not narrate history properly so called and truly objective, but present an appearance of history only, to signify something different from the properly literal and historical significance of the words?

The answer (with the approbation of Pius X) :

In the negative, except in the case, however, not readily or rashly to be admitted, where without opposing the sense of the Church and preserving its judgment, it is proved with strong arguments that the sacred writer did not wish to put down true history, and history properly socalled, but to set forth, under the appearance and form of history a parable, an allegory, or some meaning removed from the properly literal or historical significance of the words.



The Mosaic Authenticity of the Pentateuch*

[From the Response of the Commission on Biblical Studies, June 27, 1906]

1997 Question 1.Whether the arguments accumulated by critics to impugn the Mosaic authenticity of the Sacred Books, which are designated by the name of Pentateuch, are of such weight that, in spite of the very many indications of both Testaments taken together, the continuous conviction of the Jewish people, also the unbroken tradition of the Church in addition to the internal evidences drawn from the text itself, they justify affirming that these books were not written by Moses, but were composed for the most part from sources later than the time of Moses?  Reply: No.

1998 Question 2. Whether the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch necessarily demands such a redaction of the whole work that it must be held absolutely that Moses wrote all and each book with his own hand, or dictated them to copyists; or, whether also the hypothesis can be permitted of those who think that the work was conceived by him under the influence of divine inspiration, and was committed to another or several to be put into writing, but in such manner that they rendered his thought faithfully, wrote nothing contrary to his wish, omitted nothing; and, finally, when the work was composed in this way, approved by Moses as its chief and inspired author, it was published under his name. Reply: No, for the first part; yes, for the second.

1999 Question 3.Whether without prejudice to the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch it can be granted that Moses for the composition of the work made use of sources, namely written documents or oral tradition, from which, according to the peculiar goal set before him, and under -the influence of divine inspiration, he made some borrowings, and these, arranged for word according to sense or amplified, he inserted into the work itself? Reply:Yes.


The Author and Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, May 29, 1907]

2110 Question I: Whether from the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church coming down from the second century, inasmuch as it is taken chiefly a) from the testimonies and allusions of the Holy Fathers, ecclesiastical writers, even heretics, which, since they must derive from the disciples and first successors of the apostles, are necessarily closely connected with the very origin of the work itself; b) from the acceptance always and everywhere of the name of the author of the fourth Gospel in the Canon and in the catalogues of the Sacred Scriptures; c) from the oldest manuscripts, codices, and versions in various languages of the same Books; d) from the public liturgical practice obtaining in the whole world from the beginnings of the Church; prescinding from theological proof, it is demonstrated by such strong historical proof that John the Apostle and no other is to be recognized as the author of the fourth Gospel, that the reasons adduced by critics in opposition by no means weaken this tradition?--Answer: In the affirmative.

2111 Question II: Whether the internal reasons also, which are taken from the text of the fourth Gospel, considered separately, from the testimony of the author and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself with the First Epistle of the Apostle John, are to be considered as confirming the tradition which undoubtedly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle?--And whether the difficulties which are assumed from a comparison of the Gospel with the other three, the diversity of the times, purposes, and audiences, for whom and against whom the author wrote, being kept in view, can be reasonably solved, just as the most Holy Fathers and exegetes have shown in different places?--Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

2112 Question III: Whether, not withstanding the practice which flourished constantly in the whole Church from the earliest times, of arguing from the fourth Gospel as from a truly historical document, in consideration, nevertheless, of the peculiar nature of the same Gospel, and of the manifest intention of the author to illustrate and to prove the divinity of Christ from the very deeds and words of the Lord, it can be said that the deeds related in the fourth Gospel are totally or partially so invented that they are allegories or doctrinal symbols; but that the words of the Lord are not properly and truly the words of the Lord himself, but theological compositions of the writer, although placed in the mouth of the Lord?--Answer: In the negative.


The Nature and Authorship of the Book of Isaias *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, June 28th, 1908]

2115 Question I: Whether it can be taught that the prophecies which are read in the book of Isaias, and here and there in the Scriptures, are not prophecies in the true sense of the word, but either accounts composed after the event or, if it is necessary that they be acknowledged as being foretold before the event, that the prophet foretold them not from any natural revelation of God who knows the future, but by a kind of happy sagacity and natural acumen of the mind from things that have already happened?--Reply: In the negative.

2116 Question II: Whether the opinion which prevails that Isaias and the other prophets uttered only prophecies which were to take place in the near future, or after no great space of time, can be reconciled with those prophecies, especially the Messianic and eschatological, which were certainly pronounced by these same prophets a long time in advance, and also with the common opinion of the Holy Fathers who assert with one accord that the prophets foretold those things also which were to be fulfilled after many ages?--Reply: In the negative.

2117 Question III: Whether it can be admitted that the prophets, not only as reformers of human depravity, and heralds of the divine Word for the benefit of those who heed it, but also as foretellers of future events, must have continually addressed themselves, not to future listeners but to contemporary ones, on an equal footing with themselves, and in a manner to make possible a clear understanding; that as a consequence the second part of book of Isaias (chapter 40, 66), in which the prophet living among them addresses and consoles not the Jews on an equal footing with Isaias, but the lamenting in Babylonian exile, cannot have had Isaias himself, who was already dead, as its author, but should be assigned to some unknown prophet living among the exiles?--Reply: In the negative.

2118 Question IV: Whether the philological argument taken from the language and style to impugn the identity of the author of the book of Isaias, is to be considered of such importance as to force a serious person, skilled in the art of criticism and in the Hebrew language, to recognize in the same book a plurality of authors?--Reply: In the negative.

2119 Question V: Whether solid arguments stand out, even taken collectively, to induce the conviction that the Book of Isaias is not to be attributed to Isaias himself alone, but to two, or even to several authors.--Reply: In the negative.


The Historical Character of the Earlier Chapters of Genesis *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, June 30th, 1909]

2121 Question I: Whether the various exegetical systems which have been proposed to exclude the literal historical sense of the three first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and have been defended by the pretense of science, are sustained by a solid foundation?--Reply: In the negative.

2122 Question II: Whether, when the nature and historical form of the Book of Genesis does not oppose, because of the peculiar connections of the three first chapters with each other and with the following chapters, because of the manifold testimony of the Old and of the New Testaments; because of the almost unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers, and because of the traditional sense which, transmitted from the Israelite people, the Church always held, it can be taught that the three aforesaid chapters of Genesis do not contain the stories of events which really happened, that is, which correspond with objective reality and historical truth; but are either accounts celebrated in fable drawn from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and adapted by a holy writer to monotheistic doctrine, after expurgating any error of polytheism; or allegories and symbols, devoid of a basis of objective reality, set forth under the guise of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or, finally, legends, historical in part and fictitious in part, composed freely for the instruction and edification of souls?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2123 Question III: Whether in particular the literal and historical sense can be called into question, where it is a matter of facts related in the same chapters, which pertain to the foundations of the Christian religion; for example, among others, the creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil's persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future restorer?--Reply: In the negative.

2124 Question IV: Whether in interpreting those passages of these chapters, which the Fathers and Doctors have understood differently, but concerning which they have not taught anything certain and definite, it is permitted, while preserving the judgment of the Church and keeping the analogy of faith, to follow and defend that opinion which everyone has wisely approved?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2125 Question V: Whether all and everything, namely, words and phrases which occur in the aforementioned chapters, are always and necessarily to be accepted in a special sense, so that there may be no deviation from this, even when the expressions themselves manifestly appear to have been taken improperly, or metaphorically or anthropomorphically, and either reason prohibits holding the proper sense, or necessity forces its abandonment?--Reply: In the negative.

2126 Question VI: Whether, presupposing the literal and historical sense, the allegorical and prophetical interpretation of some passages of the same chapters, with the example of the Holy Fathers and the Church herself showing the way, can be wisely and profitably applied?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2127 Question VII: Whether, since in writing the first chapter of Genesis it was not the mind of the sacred author to teach in a scientific manner the detailed constitution of visible things and the complete order of creation, but rather to give to his people a popular notion, according as the common speech of the times went, accommodated to the understanding and capacity of men, the propriety of scientific language is to be investigated exactly and always in the interpretation of these?--Reply: In the negative.

2128 Question VIII: Whether in that designation and distinction of six days, with which the account of the first chapter of Genesis deals, the word (dies) can be assumed either in its proper sense as a natural day, or in the improper sense of a certain space of time; and whether with regard to such a question there can be free disagreement among exegetes?--Reply: In the affirmative.


The Authors and the Time of the Composition of the Psalms *

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, May 1, 1910]

2129 Question I: Whether the designations Psalms of David, Hymns of David, Davidian Psalter, used in the ancient collections and in the Councils themselves to designate the Book of 150 psalms of the Old Testament, just as also the opinion of many Fathers and Doctors who held that absolutely all the psalms of the Psalter are to be ascribed to David alone, have such force that David ought to be held as the only author of the entire Psalter?--Reply: In the negative.

2130 Question II: Whether from a comparison of the Hebraic with the Alexandrian Greek text and with other old versions it can rightly be argued that the titles of the psalms prefixed to the Hebraic text are more ancient than the so-called version of the seventy men; and therefore have derived, if not directly from the authors themselves of the psalms, at least from an old Judaic tradition?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2131 Question III: Whether the aforesaid titles of the psalms, witnesses of the Judaic tradition, since there is not serious argument against their authenticity, can prudently be called into doubt?--Reply: In the negative.

2132 Question IV: Whether, if the by no means infrequent testimonies of Holy Scripture about the natural skill of David, illustrated by the grace of the Holy Spirit in composing the religious hymns, are considered, the institutions established by him on the liturgical singing of the psalms, the attributing of the psalms to him both in the Old Testament and the New, and in the inscriptions themselves which were prefixed to the psalms from antiquity, besides the consensus of opinion of the Jews, Fathers, and Doctors of the Church, it can be prudently denied that David is the chief author of the hymns of the Psalter; or on the other hand affirmed that only a few hymns of the Psalter are to be attributed to him? Reply:--In the negative to both parts.

2133 Question V: Whether in appearance the Davidian origin can be denied to those psalms which are cited in the Old and New Testament distinctly under the name of David, among which to be considered before the rest come: psalm 2, Quare fremuerunt gentes; psalm 15, Conserva me, Domine; psalm 17 Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea; psalm 31, Beati, Quorum remissae sunt iniquitates; psalm 68, Salvum me fac, Deus; psalm 109, Dixit Dominus Domino meo?--Reply: In the negative.

2134 Question VI: Whether the opinion of those can be admitted who hold that among the psalms of the psalter some, whether of David or of other authors, which for liturgical and musical reasons, the listlessness of the amanuenses, or for other unknown reasons, have been divided into several groups or joined into one; and likewise that there are other psalms, such as Miserere mei, Deus, which, that they may be made to fit in better with historic circumstances or the solemnities of the Jewish people, have been lightly revised and modified by the subtraction or addition of one or two verses, although preserving the inspiration of the entire sacred text?--Reply: In the affirmative to both parts.

2135 Question VII: Whether the opinion can probably be sustained of those among more recent writers who, relying on internal indications only, or on an inaccurate interpretation of the sacred text, tried to show that not a few psalms were composed after the times of Esdras and Nehemias, even in the late period of the Machabees.--Reply: In the negative.

2136 Question VIII: Whether because of the many testimonies of the Sacred Books of the New Testament, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, together also with the indications of the writers of the Judaic nation, more psalms should be recognized as prophetic and messianic, which have predicted the coming of the future Liberator, the kingdom, the priesthood, the passion, the death, and resurrection; and therefore their opinion ought to be completely rejected, who pervert the prophetic and messianic nature of the psalms and restrict the same oracles on Christ only to pronouncing the future lot of the elect people?--Reply: In the affirmative for both parts.


The Author, the Time of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospel According to Matthew *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, June 19, 1911]

2148 I. Whether after noting the universal and constant agreement of the Church from the earliest times, which is clearly shown by the eloquent testimonies of the Fathers, the inscriptions of the manuscripts of the Gospels, even the most ancient versions of the Sacred Scriptures, and the catalogues handed down by the Holy Fathers, the ecclesiastical writers, the Highest Pontiffs, and the Councils, and finally the liturgical practice of the Eastern and Western Church, it can and should be affirmed with certainty that Matthew, the Apostle of Christ, is in fact the author of the vulgate Gospel under his name?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2149 II. Whether the opinion should be considered as sufficiently supported by the assent of tradition, which holds that Matthew preceded the other evangelists in his writing, and that he composed the first Gospel in the native language then employed by the Jews of Palestine, to whom that work was directed?--Reply: In the affirmative to both parts.

2150 III. Whether the redaction of this original text can be placed beyond the time of the overthrow of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies which are read there about this same overthrow were written after the event; or whether what is customarily alleged to be the testimony of Irenaeus [Adv. haer., lib. 3, cap. I, n. 2] of uncertain and controversial interpretation, is to be considered of such weight that it forces us to reject the opinion of those who think, more in accord with tradition, that the same redaction was composed even before Paul's arrival in the City? --Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2151 IV. Whether that opinion of certain moderns can even with some probability be sustained, according to which Matthew did not properly or strictly compose the Gospel such as has been handed down to us, but only some collection of the words or conversations of Christ, which another anonymous author has made use of as sources, whom they make the redactor of the Gospel itself.--Reply: In the negative.

2152 V. Whether from the fact that the Fathers and all ecclesiastical writers, indeed the Church herself from her own incunabula used, as canonical, only the Greek text of the Gospel known under the name of Matthew, not even excepting those who taught expressly that Matthew the Apostle wrote in his native language, it can be proved with certainty that the Greek Gospel is identical as to substance with that Gospel written in his native language by the same Apostle?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2153 VI. Whether from the fact that the author of the first Gospel pursues especially the dogmatic and apologetic aim, namely, of demonstrating to the Jews that Jesus is the Messias foretold by the prophets, and descended from the lineage of David, and from the fact that when arranging the deeds and words which he narrates and sets forth anew, he does not always hold to the chronological order, it may be deduced that these matters are not to be accepted as true; or, also, whether it can be affirmed that the accounts of the accomplishments and discourses of Christ, which are read in the Gospel itself, have undergone a kind of alteration and adaptation under the influence of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the status of the more mature Church, and so are by no means in conformity with historical truth?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2154 VII. Whether in particular the opinions of those persons should be rightly considered as devoid of solid foundation, who call into question the historical authenticity of the two first chapters, in which the genealogy and infancy of Christ are related; as also of certain opinions on dogmatic matters of great moment, as are those which have to do with the primacy of Peter [Matt. 16:17-19], the form of baptizing, together with the universal mission of preaching handed over to the apostles [Matt. 28:19-20], the apostles' profession of faith in the divinity of Christ [Matt. 14:33], and other such matters which occurred in Matthew announced in a special way?--Reply: In the affirmative.


The Author, the Time of Composition, the Historical Truth of the Gospels According to Mark and According to Luke *

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 26, 1912]

2155 I. Whether the evident judgment of tradition, from the beginnings of the Church in wonderful agreement with and confirmed by manifold arguments, namely, the eloquent testimonies of the Holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, the citations and allusions which occur in the writings of the same, the practice of the ancient heretics, the versions of the Books of the New Testament, the most ancient and almost entire body of manuscripts, and also the internal reasons taken from the very text of the Sacred Books, definitely compels the affirmation that Mark, the disciple and expounder of Peter, and Luke the physician, the hearer and companion of Paul, are in fact the authors of the Gospels which are respectively attributed to them?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2156 II. Whether the reasons by which some critics strive to demonstrate that the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark [Mark 16:9-20] were not written by Mark himself, but were added by another hand, are such as to give the right to affirm that they are not to be accepted as inspired and canonical; or at least demonstrate that the author of the said verses is not Mark?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2157 III. Whether one may likewise doubt the inspiration and canonicity of the accounts given by Luke of the infancy of Christ [Luke 1-2]; or the apparition of the Angel strengthening Christ, and the sweat of blood [Luke 22:43 f.]; or whether it can at least be shown by solid reasons--as pleased the ancient heretics, and is agreeable also to some more recent critics--that the said accounts do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2158 IV. Whether those most rare and very peculiar documents, in which the Canticle Magnificat is directed not to the Blessed Virgin but to Elizabeth, can and should in any way prevail against the harmonious testimony of almost all manuscripts, both of the original Greek text and of the versions, as well as against the interpretation which the context no less than the spirit of the Virgin herself, and the constant tradition of the Church clearly exacts?--Reply: In the negative.

2159 V. Whether, with respect to the chronological order of the Gospels, it is right to withdraw from that opinion which, strengthened equally by the most ancient and continued testimony of tradition, testifies that Mark was the second in order to write and Luke the third, after Matthew, who was the first of all to write his Gospel in his native tongue; or, whether their opinion, which asserts that the Gospel was composed second and third before the Greek version of the first Gospel, is to be regarded in turn as in opposition to this idea?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2160 VI. Whether the time of composition of the Gospel of Mark and Luke may be postponed until the overthrow of the city of Jerusalem; or, because the prophecy of the Lord in Luke about the overthrow of this city seems more definite, it can be sustained that his Gospel at least was composed after the siege had already begun?--Reply: In the negative to both parts.

2161 VII. Whether it ought to be affirmed that the Gospel of Luke preceded the book of the Acts of the Apostles; and although this book, with same i author Luke [Acts 1:1 f.], was finished before the end of the Apostle's Roman captivity [Acts 28:30 f.], his Gospel was not composed after this time?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2162 VIII. Whether, keeping in mind both the testimonies of tradition and internal evidence, as regards the sources which both evangelists used in composing the Gospels, that opinion can prudently be called into question which holds that Mark wrote according to the preaching of Peter, but Luke according to the preaching of Paul; and which also asserts that other sources worthy of trust were also at hand for these same evangelists, either oral or even already consigned to writing?--Reply: In the negative.

2163 IX. Whether the words and deeds which are described accurately and, as it were, graphically by Mark according to the preaching of Peter, and are most sincerely set forth by Luke, following everything diligently from the beginning through witnesses clearly worthy of trust, inasmuch as they themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word [Luke 1:2 f.], rightly vindicate that complete historical faith in themselves which the Church has always given them; or, whether on the contrary the same deeds and actions are to be judged void of historical truth, at least in part, either because the writers were not eyewitnesses, or because in both Gospels defects in order and discrepancies in the succession of the deeds are not rarely caught; or because, since they came and wrote later, they were obliged to represent conceptions necessarily extraneous to the minds of Christ and the apostles, or deeds now more or less distorted by the imagination of the people; or, finally, because they indulged in preconceived dogmatic ideas, each one according to his purpose?--Reply: In the affirmative to the first part; in the negative to the second.


The Synoptic Question or the Mutual Relations between the Three Earlier Gospels *

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 26, 1912]

2164 I. Whether, preserving what must be jealously preserved according to the decisions made above, especially on the authenticity and integrity of the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; on the substantial identity of the Greek Gospel of Matthew with its early original; also on the order of time in which the same were written, to explain their mutual likenesses and differences, midst so many varying and opposite opinions of the authors, it is permitted for exegetes to dispute freely and to appeal to the hypotheses of tradition whether written or oral, or even of the dependence of one upon a preceding or upon several preceding?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2165 II. Whether they should be advised to preserve what was established above, who, supported by no testimony of tradition or by historical argument, easily taken in by the hypothesis publicly proclaimed of two sources, which labors to explain the composition of the Greek Gospel of Matthew and of the Gospel of Luke chiefly by their dependence upon the Gospel of Mark and a so-called collection of the Lord's discourses; and whether they are thus able to defend this freely?--Reply. In the negative to both parts.


The Author, Time of Composition, Historical Veracity of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 12, 1913]

2166 I. Whether in view especially of the tradition of the whole Church going back to the earliest ecclesiastical writers, and noting the internal reasons of the book of Acts, considered in itself or in its relation to the third Gospel, and especially because of the mutual affinity and connection between the two prologues [Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1 f.], it must be held as certain that the volume that is entitled Actus A postolorum, or, (Greek text deleted), has Luke the Evangelist as author?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2167 II. Whether for critical reasons taken from the language and style, and from the manner of narrating, and from the oneness of aim and doctrine, it can be demonstrated that the book of the Acts of the Apostles should be attributed to one author alone; and therefore that the opinion of more recent writers which holds that Luke is not the only author of the book, but that different persons are to be recognized as authors of the same book is devoid of any foundation?--Reply: In the affirmative to both parts.

2168 III. Whether in outward appearance, the prominent chapters in the Acts where the use of the third person is broken off and the first person plural introduced, weaken the unity and authenticity of composition; or rather historically and philologically considered are to be said to confirm it?--Reply: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

2169 IV. Whether because of the fact that the book itself is abruptly concluded after scarcely making mention of the two years of Paul's first Roman captivity, it may be inferred that the author had written a second volume now lost, or had intended to write it; and so the time of composition of the Book of Acts can be deferred long after this captivity; or whether it should rather rightly and worthily be held that Luke toward the end of the first Roman captivity of the Apostle Paul had completed his book?--Reply: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

2170 V. Whether, if there is considered together the frequent and easy communication which Luke undoubtedly had with the first and prominent founders of the Palestinian church, and also with Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, whose assistant in the preaching of the Gospel and companion in travel he was; also his customary industry and diligence in seeking witnesses, and in observing things with his own eyes; also, and finally, the evident and amazing agreement for the most part of the Book of Acts with the letters of Paul and the more genuine monuments of history, it should be held with certainty that Luke had at hand sources worthy of all trust, and applied them accurately, well, and faithfully, so that he rightly indicates for himself full historical authority?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2171 VI. Whether the difficulties which are usually raised from the supernatural deeds related by Luke, and from the narration of certain discourses which, since they are handed down in summary, are considered fictitious and adapted to circumstances; also from certain passages, apparently at least, in disagreement with history whether profane or biblical; finally also from certain accounts which seem to be at odds with the author of the Acts, or with other-sacred authors, are such as can call the historical authority of the Acts into doubt or at least in some manner diminish it?--Reply: In the negative.


The Author, Integrity, and Time of Composition of the Pastoral Letters of Paul the Apostle *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, June 12, 1913]

2172 I. Whether, keeping in mind the tradition of the Church which continues universally and steadily from the earliest times, just as the ancient ecclesiastical records testify in many ways, it should be held with certainty that the so-called pastoral letters, that is, the two to Timothy and another to Titus, notwithstanding the rashness of certain heretics who have eliminated them as being contrary to their dogma from the number of Pauline epistles, without giving any reason, were composed by the Apostle Paul himself, and have always been reckoned among the genuine and canonical?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2173 II. Whether the so-called fragmentary hypothesis introduced by certain more recent critics and variously set forth, who for no otherwise probable reason, rather while quarreling among themselves, contend that the pastoral letters were constructed at a later time from fragments of letters, or from corrupt Pauline letters by unknown authors, and notably increased, can bring some slight prejudice upon the clear and very strong testimony of tradition?--Reply: In the negative.

2174 III. Whether the difficulties which are brought up in many places whether from the style and language of the author, or from the errors especially of the Gnostics, who already at that time are described as serpents; or from the state of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is supposed to have been already evolved, and other such reasons in opposition in some way, weaken the opinion which holds the authenticity of the pastoral letters as valid and certain?--Reply: In the negative.

2175 IV. Whether, since no less from historical reasons as from ecclesiastical tradition, in harmony with the testimonies of the oriental and occidental most holy Fathers; also from the indications themselves which are easily drawn from the abrupt conclusion of the Book of the Acts and from the Pauline letters written at Rome, and especially from the second letter to Timothy, the opinion of a twofold Roman captivity of the Apostle Paul should be held as certain, it can be safely affirmed that the pastoral letters were written in that period of time which intervenes between the liberation from the first captivity and the death of the Apostle?--Reply: In the affirmitive.


The Author and Method of Composition of the Epistle to the Hebrews *

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 24, 1914]

2176 I. Whether so much force is to be attributed to the doubts which inthe first centuries possessed the minds of some in the Occident regarding the divine inspiration and Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews, because of the special abuse of heretics, that, although aware of the perpetual, unanimous, and continued affirmation of the Oriental Fathers, to which was added after the fourth century the full agreement of the entire Western Church; weighing also the acts of the Highest Pontiffs and of the sacred Councils, especially of Trent, and also the perpetual practice of the universal Church, one may hesitate to classify it with certainty not only among the canonical--which is determined regarding faith--but also among the genuine epistles of the Apostle Paul?--Reply: In the negative.

2177 II. Whether the arguments which are usually drawn from the unusual absence of the name of Paul, and the omission of the customary introduction and salutation in the Epistle to the Hebrews--or from the purity of the same Greek language, the elegance and perfection of diction and style,--or from the way by which the Old Testament is cited in it and arguments made from it,--or from certain differences which supposedly existed between the doctrine of this and of the other epistles of Paul, somehow are able to weaken the Pauline origin of the same; or whether, on the other hand, the perfect agreement of doctrine and opinions, the likeness of admonitions and exhortations, and also the harmony of the phrases and of the words themselves celebrated also by some non-Catholics, which are observed between it and the other writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, demonstrate and confirm the same Pauline origin?--Reply: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

2178 III. Whether the Apostle Paul is so to be considered the author of this epistle that it should necessarily be affirmed that he not only conceived and expressed it all by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but also endowed it with that form with which it stands out?--Reply: In the negative, save for a later judgment of the Church.


Parousia, or the Second Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle *

[Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 18, 1915]

2179 I. Whether to solve the difficulties which occur in the epistles of St. Paul and of the other apostles, where there is mention of "parousia," as they say, or of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, a Catholic exegete is permitted to assert that the apostles, although under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, taught no error, nevertheless express their own human feelings in which error or deception can lie concealed?-- Reply: In the negative.

2180 II. Whether, bearing in mind the genuine notion of the apostolic gift, and the undoubted fidelity of St. Paul with regard to the doctrine of the Master, likewise the Catholic dogma on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, according to which all that the sacred writer asserts, declares, and introduces ought to be maintained as asserted, declared, and introduced by the Holy Spirit; weighing also the texts of the epistles of the Apostle considered in themselves, especially in harmony with the method of speaking of the Lord himself, one should affirm that the Apostle Paul in his writings said nothing at all which does not agree perfectly with that ignorance of parousia of the time, which Christ Himself proclaimed to belong to man?--Reply: In the affirmative.

2181 III. Whether, noting the Greek expression hmeis oi zwntes oi perileipomenoi, weighing also the explanation of the Fathers, especially of John Chrysostom, who was most versed in the native idiom and in the epistles of Paul, it is permitted to reject the traditional interpretation in the Catholic schools as more remotely desired and devoid of solid foundation (which was retained by the renewers themselves also of the sixteenth century), which explains the words of St. Paul in chapter 4, epist. 1 to the Thessalonians, vv. 15-7, without in any way involving the affirmation of parousia so proximate that the Apostle numbers himself and his readers among those faithful who are to go to meet Christ as survivers?--Reply: In the negative.


Concerning the Addition of Variant Readings in Editions of the Vulgate Version of the Old and New Testament

November 17, 1921 (AAS 14 [1922] 27; EB 509)

In the Preface to the Reader of the Clementine edition of the Vulgate version of the Sacred Scriptures it is said: "Further in this edition there is nothing not canonical. no parallel passages in the margin (the addition of which in that position is not prohibited in the future), no notes, no variant readings, finally no prefaces. But as the Apostolic See does not condemn the industry of those who have inserted in other editions parallel passages, variant readings, the prefaces of St Jerome, and similar matter, so neither does it forbid that with the use of different type such helps should be added in the future for the advantage and utility of students in this same Vatican edition; with the exception, however, that Variant readings may not be noted in the margin of the text".

But as some are of opinion that these last words forbid the addition of variant readings not only in the margin at the side but also at the foot of the text, the question has been put to the Pontifical Biblical Commission: Is it lawful in editions of the Vulgate version both of the New and the Old Testaments to add variant readings and other similar helps for students at the foot of the text?

After examination of the matter, the Pontifical Biblical Commission replied: In the affirmative.


The False Interpretation of Two Biblical Texts *

[Response of the Biblical Commission, July 1, 1933]

2272 I. Whether it is right for a Catholic person, especially when the authentic interpretation of the chief apostles has been given [Acts 2:24-33; 13:35-37], so to interpret the words of Psalm 15:10-11: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life," as if the sacred author did not speak of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ' ---Reply: In the negative.

2273 II. Whether it is permitted to assert that the words of Jesus Christ which are read in St. Matthew 16:26: "For what cloth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?"; and likewise the words which are found in St. Luke 9:25: "For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, and cast away himself," do not in a literal sense have reference to the eternal salvation of the soul, but only to the temporal life of man, notwithstanding the tenor of the words themselves and their context, and also the unanimous Catholic interpretation? ---Reply: In the negative.


Concerning the Work of R. D Frederic Schmidtke entitled Die Einwanderung Israels in Kanaan

February 27, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 130f)

As the question has been addressed to this Pontifical Biblical Commission what is to be thought of the work entitled Die Einwassderung Israels in Kanaan, published at Breslau in the year 1933 by R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, it has decided that the following answer should be given:

R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, Professor Extraordinary of the Old Testament in the Theological Faculty of the University of Breslau in the volume mentioned above: in his treatment of the Pentateuch follows the opinions of rationalistic criticism to the complete neglect of the decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 27, 1906; moreover, in the history of the Old Testament, without any attention to the decree of the same Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 23, 1905, he introduces a type of literature consisting of popular traditions mingling falsehood with truth; contrary to the clear evidence of the sacred books he makes, among others, the assertions that the stories about the Patriarchs, at least in large part, give the history, not of individual men, but of tribes; that Jacob was not the son of Isaac, but represents some Aramean tribe; that the whole people of Israel did not enter Egypt but a part only, in particular the tribe of Joseph; also, doing violence to the sacred text, he explains many miracles of the Old Testament as purely natural events.

The author, consequently, at least implicitly, denies the dogma of biblical inspiration and inerrancy; he entirely neglects the norms of Catholic hermeneutics he contradicts the Catholic doctrine most clearly set forth in the Encyclicals Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII and Spiritus Paraclitus of Benedict XV.

Hence the aforesaid work deserves reprobation on various grounds and should be kept out of Catholic schools.

The Pontifical Commission, moreover, takes this occasion to warn Catholic commentators to obey with due reverence the dogmatic Constitution of the Vatican Council, renewing the Decree of the sacred Council of Trent, by which it was solemnly ordained "that in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of sacred Scripture which was, and is, held by our holy mother the Church, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, and therefore no one may interpret holy Scripture contrary to this sense or also against the unanimous consent of the Fathers".


Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches

April 30, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 315)

The following question was proposed by his Excellency the Bishop of S'Hertogenbosch [otherwise called Bois-le-Duc] in the name also of their Excellencies the other Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Holland:

Can it be allowed to read to the people in Church the liturgical passages of the Epistles and Gospels in a translation not from "the ancient Vulgate Latin version", but from the original texts whether Greek or Hebrew?

The Pontifical Biblical Commission decided that the following answer should be given: In the negative; a translation should be publicly read to the Faithful made from the text approved by the Church for the sacred liturgy.


Concerning Translations of Holy Scripture in Modern Languages

August 22, 1943 (AAS 35 [1943] 270; CR 23 [1943] 524)

To answer a question proposed to it concerning the use and authority of biblical translations in modern languages, especially those made from the original texts, and to give further clarification to its decree Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches of April 30, 1934, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has considered it opportune to publish and commend the following norms:

Since Pope Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical Providentissimus Deus (Acta Leonis XIII, Vol. 13, p 342; EB 91), for the more intimate knowledge and more fruitful explanation of the divine word recommended the use of the original texts of the Bible and since that recommendation, which clearly was not made for the exclusive advantage of exegetes and theologians, has seemed and seems almost to advise that the same texts, of course under the vigilant care of the competent ecclesiastical authorities, should be translated in accordance with the approved principles of sacred and indeed of profane science into the vernacular languages known to the mass of the people;

Since, moreover, it is from the Vulgate translation, which alone and exclusively among the Latin versions then in circulation the oecumenical Council of Trent declared authoritative (Conc. Trid., sess. IV, decr. De editione et usu Ss. Librorum; EB 46) that the biblical passages in the liturgical books of the Latin Church to be read publicly at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office have for the most part been taken ; presupposing the observance of whatever should be observed:

1° Translations of Holy Scripture in modern languages whether made from the Vulgate or from the original texts, provided they have been published with the permission of the competent ecclesiastical authority in accordance with canon 1391, may be duly used and read by the faithful for their private devotion; moreover, if any translation, after a diligent examination both of the text and of the notes by men eminent in biblical and theological knowledge, is found to be more faithful and suitable, it may, if so desired, be especially recommended by the Bishops, either individually or in provincial or national meetings, to the faithful committed to their care.

2° The vernacular translation of the biblical passages which priests celebrating Mass are to read to the people, as custom or occasion demands, after the reading of the liturgical text, should, in accordance with the reply of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (Acta Ap. Sedis, 1934, p. 315), agree with the Latin liturgical text, though it remains permissible, if judged expedient, to give suitable explanation of the said translation by the help of the original text or of another clearer translation.


Letter to Cardinal Suhard [on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and on the historical character of Gen 1-11]

(AAS 40 [1948] 45-8)

The Holy Father graciously entrusted to the Pontifical Biblical Commission the examination of two questions recently submitted to His Holiness concerning the sources of the Pentateuch and the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. As the result of their deliberations His Holiness deigned to approve the following reply. on 16 January 1948.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission. desires to promote biblical studies by assuring to them the most complete liberty within the limits of the traditional teaching of the Church. This liberty has been proclaimed in explicit terms by the present Pope in his Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu: "The Catholic exegete. ought not by any manner of means to debar himself from taking in hand, and that repeatedly, the difficult questions which have found no solution up to the present time. in an attempt to find a well-founded explanation in perfect harmony with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with that of biblical inerrancy, and at the same time capable of fully satisfying the certain conclusions of the secular sciences. The labours of these worthy workers in the vineyard of the Lord deserve to be judged not only with equity and justice, but with perfect charity; and this is a point which all others sons of the Church should bear in mind. It is their duty to avoid that most imprudent zeal which considers it an obligation to attack or suspect whatever is new", AAS (1943) 319.

If this recommendation of the Pope's is borne in mind in the interpretation of the three official replies given formerly by the Biblical Commission in connection with the above-mentioned questions, namely June 23, 1905, on narratives in the historical books of Holy Scripture which have only the appearance of history (EB 154), June 27, 1906, on the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch (EB 174-7), and June 30, 1909, on the historical character of the first three chapters of Genesis (EB 332-9), it will be agreed that these replies are in no way a hindrance to further truly scientific examination of these problems in accordance with the results acquired in these last forty years.

As regards the composition of the Pentateuch, in the above-mentioned decree of June 27, 1906, the Biblical Commission recognized already that it could be affirmed that Moses "in order to compose his work made use of written documents or of oral traditions" and that post-Mosaic modifications and additions could also be admitted (EB 176-7). No one today doubts the existence of these sources or rejects a gradual increase of Mosaic laws due to the social and religious conditions of later times, a process manifest also in the historical narratives. However, even among non-Catholic exegetes very diverse opinions are held today concerning the character and the number of these documents, their names and dates. There are even authors in different countries, who for purely critical and historical reasons quite unconnected with any religious purpose resolutely reject the theories most in favour up to the present, and seek the explanation of certain editorial peculiarities of the Pentateuch, not so much in the alleged diversity of documents as in the special psychology, the peculiar mental and literary processes of the ancient Orientals which are better known today, or again in the different literary forms which are required by the diversity of subject-matter. Hence we invite Catholic scholars to study these problems with an open mind in the light of sane criticism and of the results of other sciences which have their part in these matters, and such study will without doubt establish the large share and the profound influence of Moses as author and as legislator.

The question of the literary forms of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is far more obscure and complex. These literary forms do not correspond to any of our classical categories and cannot be judged in the light of the Greco-Latin or modern literary types. It is therefore impossible to deny or to affirm their historicity as a whole without unduly applying to them norms of a literary type under which they cannot be classed. If it is agreed not to see in these chapters history in the classical and modern sense, it must be admitted also that known scientific facts do not allow a positive solution of all the problems which they present. The first duty in this matter incumbent on scientific exegesis consists in the careful study of all the problems literary, scientific, historical, cultural, and religious connected with these chapters; in the next place is required a close examination of the literary methods of the ancient oriental peoples, their psychology, their manner of expressing themselves and even their notion of historical truth the requisite, in a word, is to assemble without preformed judgements all the material of the palaeontological and historical, epigraphical and literary sciences. It is only in this way that there is hope of attaining a clearer view of the true nature of certain narratives in the first chapters of Genesis. To declare a priori that these narratives do not contain history in the modern sense of the word might easily be understood to mean that they do not contain history in any sense, whereas they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding f mankind at a lower stage of development, the fundamental truths underlying the divine scheme of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origins of the human race and of the chosen people. In the meantime it is necessary to practise patience which is part of prudence and the wisdom of life. This also is inculcated by the Holy Father in the Encyclical already quoted: "No one", he says, "should be surprised that all the difficulties have not yet been clarified or solved. But that is no reason for losing courage or forgetting that in the branches of human study it cannot be otherwise than in nature, where beginnings grow little by little, where the produce of the soil is not gathered except after prolonged labour. There is ground, therefore, for hoping that (these difficulties) which today appear most complicated and arduous, will eventually, thanks to constant effort, admit of complete clarification" (AAS [1943] 318).


See also Pope Paul VI, Motu Proprio Sedula Cura (in Latin only), on the reduction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to a consultative body (without Magisterial authority), June 27, 1971.

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