Wednesday 25th November 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Written Word Of God

December 26, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


In previous installments of this series, it was established that “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred Deposit of the Word of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 97), and that “the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church” (CCC, n. 100).
Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that these three elements (as italicized above) depend one upon the other and, in fact, are inseparable if God’s Revelation is to be truthfully and accurately made manifest to mankind. This installment will focus in particular on the written word of God, that is, Sacred Scripture, and its faithful interpretation. For, as we are candidly told by fifth-century Father and Doctor of the Church St. Jerome, in a famous excerpt from the prologue of his Commentary on Isaiah: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
The Catechism gives immediate emphasis to the divinely revealed truth that it is God Himself who “is the Author of Sacred Scripture” (CCC, n. 105). St. Paul exhorts us in his Letter to the Thessalonians to accept Scripture “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
While it is true that the biblical texts consist of human words written by human hands, the Fathers of Vatican Council II, in Dei Verbum (DV), teach with no ambiguity: “Written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, [the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments] have God as their Author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself” (DV, n. 11). It is through the words of Sacred Scripture that “the Father in Heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them” (DV, n. 21). In fact, the Catechism goes so far as to tell us that “‘the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body’ (DV, n. 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life” (CCC, n. 141).
So we know that “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books . . . [and] the inspired books teach the truth” (CCC, nn. 106-107). In fact, Dei Verbum explicitly teaches: “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” (DV, n. 11). However, one must be cautious. As St. Peter tells us, “There are some things in [the books of Sacred Scripture that are] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).
In other words, as was emphasized in last week’s installment, one must exercise great care in interpreting the sacred books. Taken out of context or “twisted or spun” improperly to suit one’s own personal whims or perhaps disordered inclinations, many scriptural verses can be construed to say something totally alien and unfaithful to their intended meaning. It is only the teaching office of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which has been given the charism to authoritatively and accurately interpret Sacred Scripture. And, as the Catechism explains, “Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, ‘open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures’ (cf. Luke 24:25)” (CCC, n. 108).
The Catechism goes on to tell us that “God speaks to man in a human way” (CCC, n. 109) through the words of Sacred Scripture. Recalling an expression used in previous installments, our Creator uses human words to impart the testimony of divine speech as part of His “divine condescension.” A principle thus comes to light which includes two elements, both essential for correct interpretation of God’s written word, namely, that the reader must be attentive to what the human author wants to affirm and to what God wants to reveal to us by the human author’s words (cf. DV, n. 12 § 2).
Each Old and New Testament writer lived within a certain period of history with its associated customs and culture. Therefore, to obtain an accurate rendering of the sacred author’s intended meaning, it is important that biblical texts be traced back to their historical origin and be interpreted in light of their historical context. Depending on the text being examined, the meaning may often be contingent upon then-contemporary literary forms, local customs, and even particular circumstances that existed at the time of composition.
For example, let’s consider the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. To understand its meaning, it is imperative to uncover what Jeremiah was actually saying and to whom. Yet, although “the conditions of [the human author’s] time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current” (CCC, n. 110) must be taken into account and understood, there is another principle of critical importance that must be observed: “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by Whom it was written” (DV, n. 12 § 3); otherwise, Scripture would remain a “dead letter.” So, without delving deeper so as to understand what the Holy Spirit is seeking to convey, questions such as: “How does what Jeremiah had to say fit into the whole scheme of biblical Revelation? How is it completed in Christ? What does it have to say to us today?” wouldn’t be able to be answered.
To address this apparent quandary, the Catechism calls our attention to the fact that the Second Vatican Council has specified three criteria that must be part and parcel of an authentic interpretative approach toward the written word of God: 1) attentiveness to “the content and unity of the whole Scripture”; 2) a reading of Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”; and 3) attentiveness to the “analogy of faith” (cf. CCC, nn. 112-114). Both the “literal sense” and the “spiritual senses” of Scripture, a topic that will be taken up in next week’s installment, must be examined for an authentic interpretation.
With regard to the first of these criteria, Dei Verbum tells us that “serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out” (DV, n. 12 § 4). The Catechism highlights a beautiful quotation by Victor of St. Hugo to make clear that “all Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, ‘because all Divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all Divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ’” (CCC, n. 134).
As Pope Benedict XVI points out in his 2010 apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (VD), even though the Bible is “a collection of literary texts composed over the course of a thousand years or more, and its individual books are not easily seen to possess an interior unity, . . . the person of Christ gives unity to all the ‘Scriptures’ in relation to the one ‘Word’” (VD, n. 39). Indeed, there is a divinely planned unity between the Old and New Testaments: “God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New” (DV, n. 16) with their central figure being our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Before closing, it would be remiss to not include at least brief mention of the second and third norms, as listed above, for interpreting the Bible as divinely inspired. In the words of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, we must “read the Bible in light of the Church’s entire Tradition,” and “be attentive to the ‘analogy of faith,’ which means the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and in the context of the whole of Revelation” (The Faith, p. 32). More will be said on each in future installments of this series.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. Fier is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Pope Francis to German Bishops: Your Church is a mess! Fix it and … GO TO CONFESSION!

The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope. Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops discuss decentralizing the Church in meeting with Pope Francis

ROME, November 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops, sixty-seven of them, recently visited Rome together for their obligatory Ad Limina visit with the pope from November 16-20. This Ad Limina visit, which is obligatory for all bishops of the…Continue Reading

In Australia, Catholic Bishops Face Court Action, Huge Fines Over Traditional Views on Marriage

Australians have always viewed America’s litigious culture with suspicion. Our “no worries mate” approach to life means we tend not to rush off to court at the drop of a hat. So last week when a state government commissioner ruled…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl’s Embassy Row Penthouse

Walking through the posh neighborhood of Embassy Row in October, I stumbled across a scoop: that Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl lives in a penthouse atop a mansion priced north of $40 million. That Embassy Row mansion is the Our…Continue Reading

Australia investigating archbishop for distributing pamphlet defending true marriage

TASMANIA, Australia, November 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — An Australian Catholic archbishop is facing legal action after recently distributing a pamphlet to local Catholic school children that supported Catholic teaching on marriage being between a man and woman. “Dear Friends, I…Continue Reading

A ‘most powerful woman’ – National Geographic’s major hat tip to the Virgin Mary

Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2015 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Our Lady. Blessed Mother. Virgin Mary. Queen of Peace. Theotokos. Handmaid of the Lord. Mother Mary. These are just some of the titles used to describe the young woman to…Continue Reading

At Al Smith Dinner, Former Mayor Bloomberg Honors Vets

Speaking at the Al Smith Dinner on the eve of Veterans Day, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took time from his humorous political remarks to remind guests “there are a lot of places around the world where…Continue Reading

Bishop Rebukes Catholic College for Allowing Massive Planned Parenthood Display on Campus

A Catholic bishop in Indiana is calling out a Catholic college for promoting Planned Parenthood and abortion this week. As LifeNews previously reported, Saint Mary’s College, a Catholic school in Notre Dame, Indiana, hosted the large pro-Planned Parenthood display in…Continue Reading

Former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic reopens as pro-life pregnancy center

BRYAN, TX, November 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The former Planned Parenthood abortion facility where Abby Johnson once worked as director is now a pro-life haven for women in crisis pregnancy. The facility is now aptly named, “Hope.” It celebrated its…Continue Reading

Supreme Court agrees to rule on birth control insurance mandate

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to settle a widespread dispute between the Obama administration and religious non-profits over insurance coverage for birth control, which is sure to elevate issues of religious freedom and reproductive rights in next year’s…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell’s Office: New Books Contain ‘False and Misleading Claims’

The Vatican Secretariat for the Economy has said two new books, each containing leaked Vatican financial information, have “included false and misleading claims” regarding ”management of expenditure” and “expenditure incurred” by Cardinal George Pell, the Secretariat’s prefect. In a statement…Continue Reading

Paul Ryan Doubts Planned Parenthood Can Be Defunded ( Then what is the purpose of an investigative committee?)

Though the national pro-life community says newly elected House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is committed to its cause, Ryan is warning that he doubts Planned Parenthood can be defunded. Observing that President Obama is pro-abortion and the Senate’s process…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope’s Q-and-A on the Challenges of Education

“To rethink the works of mercy, the 14 works of mercy; to rethink how to do them, but in education” Rome, November 23, 2015 ( Staff Reporter On Saturday, the Holy Father received in audience participants in the World Congress “Education Today and Tomorrow: A Passion that Is Renewed” (Rome, November 18-21, 2015), organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Institutes of Studies) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration of…Continue Reading

“One who looks at the cross cannot help but see the surprising gratuitousness of love”

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on this solemnity of Christ the King and also the feast of St. Cecilia. * * * Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. And the Gospel of today brings us to contemplate Jesus as…Continue Reading

U.S. Bishops clash as Pope Francis appointees push to downplay battle for life and family

LifeSiteNews/ Lisa Bourne and Patrick B. Craine  Nov 20, 2015 – BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — A group of Pope Francis’ episcopal appointees and other like-minded prelates provoked an open clash at the American Catholic bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore this week as they pressed the conference to rewrite its election guide for 2016 to downplay the importance of the battle for life and family. Ahead of a vote on a revision to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: the Church must not worship “holy bribery


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said that the Church must not be obsessed by money or power, nor worship “holy bribes”. Instead her strength and joy should come from the words of Christ. He was speaking at the morning mass at Casa Santa Marta on Friday. The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees, which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, which had been destroyed by pagans and those…Continue Reading

Pope Francis at Audience: Door to God’s Mercy never closed

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, during which he focused his catechetical reflections on the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which opens on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In an impassioned address to the thousands of faithful pilgrims and tourists on hand, in which he departed frequently from his prepared text to emphasize his points, Pope Francis said, “If the door of God’s mercy is always…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke . . . Marriage Catechesis Should Be Priority For Catholic Schools

By ADAM CASSANDRA (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from the November 16 Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. All rights reserved.) + + + Sound catechesis on marriage is “a great, great responsibility” for Catholic schools and colleges, Raymond Cardinal Burke told a representative of The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Drug Smugglers Flow Across Our Border, Syrian Christians Don’t

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + Whom should Americans see as worthier candidates for entering our country? Syrian Christians fleeing persecution — and possible beheading by the Islamic State — or smugglers moving drugs across our…Continue Reading

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: A Forgotten Beatitude

By JAMES MONTI When reflecting upon the sacredness of all human life, a cemetery is probably not the first thing that comes to our mind. And yet a Catholic cemetery is actually one of the Church’s most profound expressions of this truth by affirming in practice that every human life is so sacred that even…Continue Reading

Escape From Cynicism

By DONALD DeMARCO Cynicism results when a person believes that he has conquered hope. Since it is a conquest of sorts, though surely a negative and counterproductive one, it can endow the cynic with a certain amount of pride. In a similar way, a younger brother can take pride in knocking over the tower of…Continue Reading

Paris And Freedom

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO The tragedy in Paris on November 13 has regrettably been employed as a catalyst for renewed calls by governments in Western Europe and even in the United States for more curtailment of personal liberties. Those who accept the trade of liberty for safety have argued in favor of less liberty. They…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Defenseless Europe A Lesson For Defending Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK While recently on retreat in New York, you might say I celebrated the Church’s year of consecrated life as I prayed daily Mass for the sisters who kindly hosted me. I invited them to kneel at the Communion rail to receive our Lord as I do at every Mass at my home parish. They all…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… “Sola Scriptura” — The End

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Here is a simple question for those people who believe in sola Scriptura: If every Christian had the ability — a God-given ability, of course — to interpret Scripture on his own, why is it that there are so many contradictory doctrines held by those who espouse it? Bible interpretation is not an easy thing…Continue Reading

Forms Of Consecrated Life Within The Church

By DON FIER Part 3 The majority of last week’s column dealt with the third form of consecrated life outlined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), that of religious life. Generally recognized as the most familiar and visible form of consecrated life in the Church, religious life encompasses many different expressions: from nuns or monks who devote their…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Regarding a recent reply about the steps to be taken by a man who wanted to return to the Catholic Church after having been a Mormon, I have a similar question, and I wonder if your answer would be the same. Someone close to me, who was a practicing Catholic, now denies the existence of God. If this person…Continue Reading

The Parable Of The Talents

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Jer. 33:14-16 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2 Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 In the Gospel reading today our Lord instructs us to “be vigilant at all times and to pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” In the context…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Virgo

By CAROLE BRESLIN When I visited my aunt in St. Louis, Mo., we would visit the basilicas, the museums, and other places of interest. She had many sites near her that were particularly special to her, such as her parish, The Little Flower, in Richmond Heights. In addition, she described a place where she frequently went for eucharistic adoration at…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Raphael Kalinowski

By CAROLE BRESLIN There are many terms we use in our language which are clichés. We hear people say that somebody “kicked the bucket,” meaning that he has died, or “I’ll send you to outer Mongolia,” meaning that they will ship you so far away no one will find you. Fr. Kalinowski not only went to a place just north…Continue Reading