The Pontifical Biblical Commission is a group of theologians and scriptural scholars who help the Pope and the teaching mission of the Church exploring particular questions and concerns about the nature and reality of divine revelation and Christian life. The PBC is meeting this week in Rome led by Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the theme is “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible.” Interesting. Did we forget that the sacred Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit? One way of figuring out why something is important to the Pope or to sacred Magisterium is to be aware of the work done by these commissions. So, yes, there seems to be skepticism among the faithful that the Scriptures are revealed by God through the agency of human language. Recall, however, this is not the first time in salvation history that the Church has had to deal with this question: think of the various heresies from the early Church, the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment periods and even with the extreme use of the historical critical method of Scripture study. His Holiness reminds not only the professionally trained scholars but all of us that there can be in no way a reduction in how we interpret the Bible.

Here are the key points of what Benedict said to the PBC:

  • “Inspiration is certainly a key concept in understanding Sacred Scripture as the Word of God in human words”
  • “… an interpretation of sacred writings that ignores or forgets their inspiration does not take account of their most important and valuable feature”, in short their “coming from God”
  • Forgetting how we received the Scriptures “… does not access or allow access to the Word of God in human words and therefore loses the priceless treasure that Holy Scriptures contains for us. This kind of approach deals with purely human words, though they may be … words of extraordinary depth and beauty”
  • God Himself addresses His words to all of humanity because they “reveal Himself and make known the mystery of His will … His plan of salvation for humanity. The commitment to discovering more and more the truth of the Sacred books is therefore equivalent to trying to know God and the mystery of His saving will better”
  • “Theological reflection has always considered inspiration and truth as two key concepts for an ecclesial hermeneutics of Holy Scriptures. However, today the need for a proper study of these realities must be acknowledged, so as to better meet the requirements concerning the interpretation of Sacred texts according to their nature”
  • How do we judge the right way of interpreting the Bible? It is “in a good hermeneutics the criterion of inspiration, or that of absolute truth, can not be applied mechanically, extrapolating a single sentence or expression. The level where you can feel Holy Scripture as the Word of God is that of unity of God’s history, in a totality, in which individual elements illuminate and open each other up to understanding.”