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The topics below is a succinct presentation of what the Catholic understands about the Bible -- its quality (inspired), its number (canon), and how it is used in the Church.   References to the Catholic Catechism are marked as "CCC" followed by a numbered paragraph.


Bible or Scriptures - A collection of books, all written under God's inspiration , which are accepted by the Church as the word of God . Since the Bible is inspired, God is its author, and it can contain no errors. Hence the Bible is a unique book, the only one of its kind; no other book has God for its author …

The Bible is used in the Catholic Church chiefly for three purposes. (1) The Bible is a source of divine revelation. God has spoken to men in two ways, through Scripture and through Tradition (which see). The Council of Trent stated that both founts of revelation, Scripture and Tradition, are to be esteemed equally. (2) Scriptural passages are always used in the Church's liturgy. Both the praise of God and petitions to God found in liturgical prayer are either given in the words of the Bible or in a manner modeled after Scripture, e.g., the Psalms. Moreover, the reading and instruction that is incorporated in the liturgy is taken largely from Scripture. (3) Scripture is a religious book to be used also for one's personal spiritual life. Saint Jerome said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. No better book of personal spiritual reading could be found. [Source:  The Catholic Encyclopedia in "Welcome to the Catholic Church" CD-Rom of Harmony Media]

Canon of Scriptures (CCC, n. 120) - . The list of books which belong in the Bible is called the canon. There are 73 books in the Bible, 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, although the number might be somewhat higher or lower depending on how one separates or combines certain Old Testament books (i.e. there would be 72 books if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one .


The Inspired Books


The Bible is not an ordinary book. We assert this conviction whenever we say that the Bible is ‘inspired.’


1. What do Catholics mean by ‘Inspiration?’


1.1. Etymologically, the word "inspiration" is derived from the Latin words in + spirare, "to breathe into." This etymological meaning associates "inspiration" with the work of the Holy Spirit (‘Sanctus Spiritus’ = Holy Breathe). "Inspiration" has something to do with the Holy Spirit’s role in God’s Plan of Salvation.

1.2. As used in Theology, "divine inspiration" is used to describe the intimate connection between the Scriptures and the Word which God utters to reveal himself. CCC n. 105 states:


God is the author of Sacred Scriptures. The divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scriptures have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

2. The Doctrine of Divine Revelation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the doctrine of Divine Inspiration in the following way:


To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men, who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he cited in them and by them, it was a true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.

2.1. There are three important ideas in this paragraph:


2.1.1. God is the author of Scriptures. To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men... (He) acted in them and by them...

2.1.2. The human authors were true authors. (These chosen men)made full use of their own faculties and powers so that... it was as true authors that (they wrote).

2.1.3. The completeness of Scriptures. "...they ci\onsigned to writing whatever He wanted written and no more."

2.2. What "Inspiration is not." The doctrine on Divine Inspiration of Scriptures as explained above prevents the Catholic from accepting the following teachings on inspiration:

2.2.1. Inspiration-as-Dictation Theory. The words of Scriptures were actually "dictated" by God to the sacred writers. This theory accepts the authorship of God but minimizes the work of the human authors. It fails to explain the many differences in the texts of scriptures.

2.2.2. Inspiration-as-Negative-Assistance. God intervened in the writing of Scriptures only in those cases where the sacred authors were about to make a mistake. God’s involvement in the writing of Scriptures is negative, i.e. to prevent the sacred authors from making mistakes. This theory gives a lot of freedom to the human authors, but minimizes the action of God.

2.2.3. Inspiration-as-Subsequent-Approval. According to this theory, God made the writings His own after they have been accepted by the Church as approved, i.e. canonical. This is a mistake since admission into the canon presupposes inspiration, and not the other way around.

3. The Effects of Inspiration (The Divine Dimension of Scriptures). The divine action in the writing of scriptures has the following effects:


3.1. Revelation. Since God is the author of Scriptures, the sacred writings reveal Him. A cause is known in its effect. When we read Scriptures, we know something about God, his "kalooban", his "pagtingin" for men.

3.2. Unity of Scriptures. Since there is one author, there is unity in Scriptures: the Old Testament cannot be separated from the New Testament. The New Testament cannot be read apart from the Old Testament.

3.3. Sacramentality of the Scriptures. Since Scriptures reveals something of God, they are also a privileged place where God and Christ can be encountered. Scriptures facilitate the meeting of God and men.

3.4. Inerrancy. The Scriptures cannot err in the matter of faith and morals.

3.5. Completeness. Whatever God wanted written was faithfully consigned to writing "... and no more." God had the Scriptures written so that men and women would know how God relates with them and how to respond to Him. Scripture fulfill the purpose of the Divine Author.