Is the Bible Inspired and Inerrant in All its Parts?

Yes. But someone will object: Vatican II does not teach that. Vatican II only states:

“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” (Dei verbum, art. 11).

The objector comments: The council only teaches that a certain body of truth made it into the Scriptures for the sake of our salvation. Hence, the scriptures have errors in them, but also the basic truth. In short, they have inerrant truth, but also errors.

What are we to make of this objection? Sadly, scores of theology professors adhere to this very understanding. But there is no ground for this position.

A key hermeneutical rule is that a more precise and clear statement interprets a less precise and unclear statement. Now, Vatican I, Leo XIII, and other popes teach clearly that the books of Sacred Scripture are “sacred and canonical” in all their parts. Why? Because they were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Dei Filius, chap. 2).

Leo XIII had to make this teaching even clearer in his marvelous Providentissimus Deus:

“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” (art. 20).

Benedict XV backs him up in Spiritus Paraclitus:

“St. Jerome’s teaching on this point serves to confirm and illustrate what our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, declared to be the ancient and traditional belief of the Church touching the absolute immunity of Scripture from error: So far is it from being the case that error can be compatible with inspiration, that, on the contrary, it not only of its very nature precludes the presence of error, but as necessarily excludes it and forbids it as God, the Supreme Truth, necessarily cannot be the Author of error” (art. 16).

Before Vatican II, some rebels were already rejecting these teachings. Thus, Pius XII had to reiterate it in Divino afflante Spiritu:

“When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the “entire books with all their parts” as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as “obiter dicta” and – as they contended – in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules” (art. 1).

The case is closed. The papal teaching firmly and clearly establishes that the Scriptures are inspired and inerrant in all their parts. There is not one part of Scripture that is not inspired. They are all inspired. Hence, he goes against the Teaching of Holy Mother Church who contends otherwise.

But the objector returns: what about Vatican II? It doesn’t state that clearly.

The answer: We must interpret the unclear by the clear.

It goes without saying, though perhaps one must say it, that one must interpret the Scripture properly. The ancient fathers and the Magisterium are our surest guides in this matter.

4 thoughts on “Is the Bible Inspired and Inerrant in All its Parts?

  1. Though I wish it were more explicit, Dei Verbum itself clearly teaches complete inerrancy. For example, consider the whole sentence which contains the above quoted clause of article 11:

    “Cum ergo omne id, quod auctores inspirati seu hagiographi asserunt, retineri debeat assertum a Spiritu Sancto, inde Scripturae libri veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causa Litteris Sacris consignari voluit, firmiter, fideliter et sine errore docere profitendi sunt.”

    The clause which goes with “truth” could be put in parentheses to emphasize the right sense in English. Maybe something like this:

    “Since therefore everything, which the inspired authors or sacred writers assert, must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching truth (which God for the sake of our salvation willed to to be consigned to Sacred Writings) firmly, faithfully, and without error.”

    First of all, before even looking at the parentheses, notice the first part of the sentence. It plainly states that everything in Scripture “must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit.” This already settles it. God cannot speak falsehood; therefore everything in Scripture is without error.

    Second, I think it is misleading to add the word “that” before the clause “truth which God, for the sake of our salvation….”. Notice that it isn’t in the Latin. It doesn’t say: “illam veritatem, quam…” or something like that, but simply an unqualified “veritatem, quam…”. Thus the “quam…” clause is descriptive not determinative. Notice too that the “quam…” clause is enclosed by commas. Another telltale sign that the clause is descriptive and could thus be put in parentheses.

    Third, notice the references given in Dei Verbum itself in the footnote immediately after this sentence. Providentissimus Deus (Leo XIII) and Divino Spiritu Afflante (Pius XII) are referenced (among other references), and these two documents make it crystal clear (as seen in Dr. Malloy’s great post above) that there can be no error whatsoever in Scripture.

    1. Well, which is it? You wish it was more “explicit” and then follow that with it “clearly teaches.” I agree that it is not explicit and should be clear but that was the idea with the documents of VII. The war between the progressives/ modernists and traditionalists was won by the former as they were able to make the documents “pastoral” in their interpretations. This is how we got where we are today in the Church. Change dogma explicitly? No one will stand for that. But lets keep the dogma, ignore it, and apply the practice in a way that goes against dogma but call it “pastoral.” Brilliant! Remember that. Keep the dogma but ignore it. After the laity is used to practicing faith in an un-dogmatic fashion, they will refuse to go back to the traditional, and correct, manner of practice and the modernists have won.

      1. In fact, when someone finally comes to clear up the mess, those who wanted their ears tickled will depart from Christ (Jn 6:66). God permits this. In the end, the Church will be purified of the rebels. Right now, our biggest problem is occult heretics.

    2. Excellent comment and true. When we read carefully enough, many of the ambiguities fade. However, the rebels run with these and drill them into their students. People can’t get PhDs without saying “uncle” to their “VATERDOKTOR”.

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