What does the Church mean when she says the Bible is free from error?


#1

CCC #107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." (emphasis mine)

What does the Church mean when she says the Bible is free from error?

Some people say that the Bible contains apparent factual errors and contradictions. How should I react to these? Should I attempt to figure out how these verses were probably misinterpreted in a way that the original writer (and thus, the Holy Spirit) did not want to convey? Or should I accept that factual errors do exist in the Bible, but that such errors are not relevant to our salvation?

Does inspiration mean that the writer is enabled to teach a truth relevant to our salvation but does not eliminate human limitations or errors in matters not relevant to salvation (for example, inability to remember an event in accurate detail)? Or are such apparent errors not really errors because they were actually intended to serve a purpose other than historical/factual accuracy?

If possible, please support your replies with official Church documents. Thank you. :)


#2

The Bible contains Truth, not necessarily facts.


#3

the Catholic Church teaches that ALL of Sacred Scripture is True. (As noted earlier, that is not the same as factual). We Catholics read it with an exegetical approach – knowing the human authors belonged to a different culture, with different ideas of the world and of human behavior. The Truth we seek is in the bigger picture and pertains to the larger questions of life and its meaning. We’d need to ask, “What’s the moral of this story?” and “What would this text have meant to the writer and his contemporaries?” And more importantly, "What does this say about God's plan for Salvation?"

The differentiator between Truth and fact is that facts pertain to the measurable and observable. When the Bible says "there were two hundred thousand foot soldiers . . ." How can we be sure? Who counted? What if there were only 198,562 foot soldiers? Does it change the moral of the story that a HUGE number of men came to fight?
Does that make the story false? No, not to Catholics. Because the deeper message – the Truth of the story – is about God’s plan for Israel in Salvation History. The story is True but we don’t know if it is historically, factually correct. However, an event described in Scripture that reveals the place of God in life is no less dependable because it includes inaccurate scientific or historical elements. Scripture is inerrant – 100% True. We do not read the words of the Bible literally without context – we read exegetically.


#4

The Church mean that The Bible is free from errors, as it is. I have read The Bible over and over for a long time, and I can not see anything that would contradict something.


#5

[quote="raikou, post:1, topic:329260"]
What does the Church mean when she says the Bible is free from error?

Some people say that the Bible contains apparent factual errors and contradictions. How should I react to these? Should I attempt to figure out how these verses were probably misinterpreted in a way that the original writer (and thus, the Holy Spirit) did not want to convey? Or should I accept that factual errors do exist in the Bible, but that such errors are not relevant to our salvation?

Does inspiration mean that the writer is enabled to teach a truth relevant to our salvation but does not eliminate human limitations or errors in matters not relevant to salvation (for example, inability to remember an event in accurate detail)? Or are such apparent errors not really errors because they were actually intended to serve a purpose other than historical/factual accuracy?

If possible, please support your replies with official Church documents. Thank you. :)

[/quote]

I like the other advice you have already received, but I thought that I should mention the inerrant writings are the original writings in Greek or Hebrew, so a little something is potentially lost in a translation to another language. That is why it is important to look to the Magesterium to guide you when there is apparent discrepancy since the Magesterium looks to the original language texts and is the caretaker of the Truth.


#6

[quote="Lasting_faith, post:4, topic:329260"]
The Church mean that The Bible is free from errors, as it is. I have read The Bible over and over for a long time, and I can not see anything that would contradict something.

[/quote]

I'm curious as to how you came to this conclusion. Please explain. We might have different definitions of the word "contradiction."

Starting at the very beginning (literally): there are two creation accounts in Genesis.

The gospels also contain numerous contradictions. Whether that's a problem for a faithful Christian is another matter, but they're there. Now, I hate to use such an anti-Christian source, but here is a good list of contradictions in the gospels for you to review. Again, I don't like the source, but the source is irrelevant.

On a more general note: as Catholics, we have the Church to interpret scripture, so maybe that's a leg up. Yet still, there's a reason why there are so many non-Catholic Christian groups and that is, you can find many different traditions expressed in the Bible, sometimes the authors are basically arguing with each other in the text. Haha. We know that Gnosticism is not "true" because the Church tells us, not because it isn't represented in the Bible. It is.


#7

The Bible is free from errors because God is the primary author and God can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen!


#8

The Bible is truth. It is the Word of God.


#9

This statement from Dei Verbum is admittedly problematic because of its ambiguity. It is even more bothersome because it offers much more room for misinterpretation in the English than the original Latin. The statement can be interpreted to mean that Holy Scripture is innerant in its entirety, which is the orthodox position, or that Scripture is only inerrant when it teaches "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation," as if to distinguish this from the rest of Scripture which was committed for some other reason than the sake of our salvation. One thing worth noting is that the Latin says "the truth of Scripture teaches" (as if to apply truth to the whole of scripture) instead of "Scripture teaches that truth. For some perspective, a more direct translation from the Latin might read like this:

"Thus, since everything which the inspired authors or holy writers have asserted must be held as asserted by the Holy Spirit, we therefore declare that the truth of the books of Scripture, which for the cause of our salvation God willed to be committed to the Sacred Letters, teaches firmly, faithfully and without error."

This is quite a bit better. Even though it still could come across as weak statement of limited inerrancy, it is still stronger than the English, and if you think it over, limited inerrancy would not be a likely explanation of this passage since it would be tautological statement that the truth of scripture treaches without error, and the falsehoods of scripture don't. Other things to consider are that the word "truth" is not qualified as "that truth" in Latin and that there is an additional comma following the word "truth" present in the Latin but absent from the English. The effect of that comma is that it is clear that it is qualifying the nature of the truth of Scripture (in its entirety) whereas the English seems to be limiting inerrancy to only a certain subset of Scripture.

I suppose this could be an example of why people criticize the Vatican II documents for their ambiguity, but the ambiguity does not so much pertain to the original document, even if it is not as clear as it should be, as to ambiguity that was seemingly deliberately placed in the English text, an official translation no less. I say deliberately because its hard to imagine how this statement more readily admits the heterodox reading than the orthodox reading unintentionally. I know that when I first began reading the CCC that I also interpreted this to be claiming a limited inerrancy of the Bible.


#10

[quote="VeritasLuxMea, post:6, topic:329260"]
I'm curious as to how you came to this conclusion. Please explain. We might have different definitions of the word "contradiction."

Starting at the very beginning (literally): there are two creation accounts in Genesis.

The gospels also contain numerous contradictions. Whether that's a problem for a faithful Christian is another matter, but they're there. Now, I hate to use such an anti-Christian source, but here is a good list of contradictions in the gospels for you to review. Again, I don't like the source, but the source is irrelevant.

On a more general note: as Catholics, we have the Church to interpret scripture, so maybe that's a leg up. Yet still, there's a reason why there are so many non-Catholic Christian groups and that is, you can find many different traditions expressed in the Bible, sometimes the authors are basically arguing with each other in the text. Haha. We know that Gnosticism is not "true" because the Church tells us, not because it isn't represented in the Bible. It is.

[/quote]

There is a difference between there being two accounts of something and two contradictory accounts. There is a also a difference between apparent contradictions and logically necessary contradictions. When we see what appears to be a contradiction, it is our duty as Catholics to acknowledge that we have come to a misunderstanding of the text. Let me ask you a question. Why do you rest your interpretation of Scripture on the judgment of the Church when that same Church has judged Scripture to be free of error and contradiction?


#11

[quote="QNDNNDQDCE, post:10, topic:329260"]
There is a difference between there being two accounts of something and two contradictory accounts.

[/quote]

Yes, but there are contradictory accounts.

There is a also a difference between apparent contradictions and logically necessary contradictions.

Yes, but there are logically necessary contradictions.

When we see what appears to be a contradiction, it is our duty as Catholics to acknowledge that we have come to a misunderstanding of the text.

Ironically, the same approach the Biblical redactors took.

OK, since when are Catholics Biblical inerrantists: is this new or have we been doing it all along?

What do we have to gain from playing this game? Besides, does this approach really rescue the Bible? If we have to jam truth down the Bible's throat like pureed squash into a baby, are you really making the Bible any more credible than those who acknowledge obvious mistakes and contradictions?

Let me ask you a question. Why do you rest your interpretation of Scripture on the judgment of the Church when that same Church has judged Scripture to be free of error and contradiction?

It depends what you mean by "free of error." On more than one occasion, the Bible says both X and ~X are true. If the Church, likewise, is saying that both X and ~X are true, then the Church is assaulting the laws of logic and the gift of human reason. In which case, no one can acknowledge the credibility of the Church because it would be physically impossible: we would be living in a world devoid of any meaning, heck - even this conversation that we are having about the subject would be meaningless.

Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that the Church doesn't want us to think that way.


#12

[quote="raikou, post:1, topic:329260"]
What does the Church mean when she says the Bible is free from error?

Some people say that the Bible contains apparent factual errors and contradictions. How should I react to these? Should I attempt to figure out how these verses were probably misinterpreted in a way that the original writer (and thus, the Holy Spirit) did not want to convey? Or should I accept that factual errors do exist in the Bible, but that such errors are not relevant to our salvation?

Does inspiration mean that the writer is enabled to teach a truth relevant to our salvation but does not eliminate human limitations or errors in matters not relevant to salvation (for example, inability to remember an event in accurate detail)? Or are such apparent errors not really errors because they were actually intended to serve a purpose other than historical/factual accuracy?

If possible, please support your replies with official Church documents. Thank you. :)

[/quote]

I believe there is only one version of the Bible which the church, via a doctrinal council, has stated that is free from error.


#13

Some people say that the Bible has contradictions as if that is an undebatable fact, which every so-called contradiction has been answered and clarified many times. For example, the 4 Gospels has been shown to be in harmony by many great theologians, and unless a Christian has put some time and effort into listening to what their own defenders of faith have written concerning all the accusations, then I suggest that they not be so eager to write off the Bible as being full of contradictions. As for the so-called inaccuracies, I prefer to give the Scriptures the benefit of the doubt and not so quick to fully trust the accuracy of secular historian documentation and dating, which continually has been revised and change based upon discoveries and study, and usually leads to proving that the Bible was right all along.


#14

VeritasLuxMea, could you explain how you can reconcile your view of the authority of the Church and the supposed contradictions in Scripture with the teaching of the Church as given in Dei Verbum?

In case you still believe that DV permits a limited view of inerrancy, take into consideration that in the statement preceding that on inerrancy (this is all in paragraph 11), it states that the sacred authors "as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted." This is reiterated in the statement quoted in the CCC which I will quote again in full.

"Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."

The union of the authorship of the human authorship and divine authorship of Scripture is given as the basis for the inerrancy of Scripture. God is never wrong and he does not lie. However, it is clear from the text that divine authorship is ascribed to every part of Scripture and, therefore, the protection from error.

I would appreciate it if you could explain how you hold to error in Sacred Scripture and the authority of the Church, while at the same time rejecting the authoritative teaching of the Church given in Dei Verbum that Scripture is withour error. I do not think your two positions are reconcilable. If you would like to discuss any particular contradictions you see in the text, I am sure there are people who would be glad to do so.


#15

It's not complicated. The writings in the Bible are inspired by God. The Church is the authority left by Jesus to be the conserver of the tenets of the faith and teacher of faith and morals. Because of this authority from Christ coupled with his promise to protect the Church, only the Church can have the certain, last word in interpreting scripture. It was the Church that originally designated which books would be included in the Bible, and that discernment is trustworthy because of Christ's promise to protect the Church from error and give it the Holy Spirit to guide it in all truth. There may be errors in the Bible in matters other than faith and morals, for example, history or science. These subjects reflect the writers' understanding in the context of their era's culture and technological advancement, and are not necessarily free from error, although that does not mean that all of it is inaccurate either. When the Bible is used for its historical content, the reader must put everything in the context of the times, as with all writings of ancient and near ancient times.


#16

[quote="JamesCaruso, post:15, topic:329260"]
It's not complicated. The writings in the Bible are inspired by God. The Church is the authority left by Jesus to be the conserver of the tenets of the faith and teacher of faith and morals. Because of this authority from Christ coupled with his promise to protect the Church, only the Church can have the certain, last word in interpreting scripture. It was the Church that originally designated which books would be included in the Bible, and that discernment is trustworthy because of Christ's promise to protect the Church from error and give it the Holy Spirit to guide it in all truth. There may be errors in the Bible in matters other than faith and morals, for example, history or science. These subjects reflect the writers' understanding in the context of their era's culture and technological advancement, and are not necessarily free from error, although that does not mean that all of it is inaccurate either. When the Bible is used for its historical content, the reader must put everything in the context of the times, as with all writings of ancient and near ancient times.

[/quote]

I would agree with most of what you say here. I think the Church-selected scripture is the basis of prayer and from that perspective it would be difficult to be in error, regardless of the translation. And as you say, it is not to be used as a science or history book. It was never the intent. God let us name the animals, the stars, the planets, days of the week, Newton's laws, etc.


#17

It is certainly necessary to take the sacred author’s intentions into mind when interpreting Scripture. However, the conclusion that the Scriptures contain error in any true sense is not a tenable conclusion for one who calls himself Catholic. We cannot limit inerrancy to matters of faith and morals because God is the author of the entirety of Scripture in all of its parts. Let me quote from Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII.

  1. The principles here laid down will apply cognate sciences, and especially to History. It is a lamentable fact that there are many who with great labour carry out and publish investigations on the monuments of antiquity, the manners and institutions of nations and other illustrative subjects, and whose chief purpose in all this is too often to find mistakes in the sacred writings and so to shake and weaken their authority. Some of these writers display not only extreme hostility, but the greatest unfairness; in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture, if they only find in it a suspicion of error, is set down with the slightest possible discussion as quite untrustworthy. It is true, no doubt, that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible; this question, when it arises, should be carefully considered on its merits, and the fact not too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear. 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. For 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 Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist 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. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.”(57) Hence, because the Holy Ghost 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 was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, 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. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.”(58) And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution. "(59)

  2. It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, 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 laboured 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. The words of St. Augustine to St. Jerome may sum up what they taught: “On my part I confess to your charity that it is only to those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”(60)
    vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_18111893_providentissimus-deus_en.html


#18

If you think the Bible contains no inconsistencies, then think about all the other wacky things you have to believe.

Why were there so many debates about Christology and virtually everything else right from the beginning? Faith and works vs. faith alone, the Bible doesn’t contain both ideas? Was the law abolished, fulfilled, both— Jewish Christians vs. Gentile Christians, etc. Why are there thousands - maybe tens of thousands or more Christian sects with varying doctrines? Why are there two creation accounts, and how can their disagreements be reconciled? No Biblical redactor ever disagreed with the book(s) he worked on?

Finally, why do we need the Church to interpret the Bible at all if the Bible is fully coherent and contains no disagreement? Aren’t you undermining the need for the Church by clinging to this view?


#19

My Simple Belief is there is no error or contradiction.

And the Old Testament was fulfilled in the Life and Way of Jesus Christ.

He said so, he showed so.

God BlessYou+


#20

I think if you read Dei Verbum in its entirety you will understand more of what the quote from Dei Verbum is getting at. Reading before and after the quote already considered gives it more context and makes it more clear (below).

I think it is more or less as James Caruso said - the Bible really is inerrant. The problem is we can have difficulty understanding what the words MEAN. The problem is in our interpretation, so we need guidance in that regard.

God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

  1. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html


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