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
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 Spirits role in Gods 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. Gods 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
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.