Friday, July 29, 2011

The 'Moderate' Cardinal Bea on Inerrancy in Dei Verbum 11


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From Augustin Cardinal Bea, The Word of God and Mankind (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1967), pp. 188-190.

An earlier schema (the third in succession) said that the sacred books teach 'truth without error'. The following schema, the fourth, inspired by words of St. Augustine, added the adjective 'saving', so that the text asserted that the Scriptures taught 'firmly, faithfully, wholly and without error the saving truth.' In the voting which followed one hundred and eighty-four council fathers asked for the adjective 'saving' to be removed, because they feared it might lead to misunderstandings, as if the inerrancy of Scripture referred only to matters of faith and morality, whereas there might be error in the treatment of other matters. The Holy Father, to a certain extent sharing this anxiety, decided to ask the Commission to consider whether it would not be better to omit the adjective, as it might lead to some misunderstanding. 

Does the inerrancy asserted in this document cover also the account of these historical events? [...]  For my own part I think that this question must be answered affirmatively, that is, that these 'background' events also are described without error. In fact, we declare in general that there is no limit set to this inerrancy, and that it applies to all that the inspired writer, and therefore all that the Holy Spirit by his means, affirms.... This thought, which re-occurs in various forms in the recent documents of the Magisterium of the Church (cf. E.B. 124, 279, 450 et seq., 539 et seq., 559) is here clearly understood in a sense which excludes the possibility of the Scriptures containing any statement contrary to the reality of the facts. In particular, these documents of the Magisterium require us to recognize that Scripture gives a true account of events, naturally not in the sense that it always offers a complete and scientifically studied account, but in the sense that what is asserted in Scripture - even if it does not offer a complete picture - never contradicts the reality of the fact. If therefore the Council had wished to introduce here a new conception, different from that presented in these recent documents of the supreme teaching authority, which reflects the beliefs of the early fathers, it would have had to state this clearly and explicitly. Let us now ask whether there may be any indications to suggest such a restricted interpretation of inerrancy. The answer is decidedly negative. There is not the slightest sign of any such indication. On the contrary everything points against a restrictive interpretation.

     
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