Total Inspiration and Total Inerrancy in Sacred Scripture

“Non potest solvi Scriptura.”
“Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

There is a widespread heresy in the Church today concerning the Bible. It is the claim that inerrancy does not apply to all of Sacred Scripture, but only to certain parts of the Bible that express truths pertaining to salvation. Often, this false and heretical claim is supported by a misquote from the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, n. 11:

“…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.”

But this claim is a misrepresentation of the passage, and even of the sentence, being quoted. The way that the inner quote is used suggests that the idea of limited inerrancy was the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. But as will be shown below, the full sentence and the full passage in Dei Verbum actually contradicts the idea of narrow inerrancy (i.e. limited inerrancy).

The idea of limited inerrancy treats Scripture as if it were divided into parts, some parts of which are true, and other parts of which are false. In one sense, Sacred Scripture has many parts: the many books, passages, verses, phrases, and individual words. In another sense, Sacred Scripture is thoroughly one, due to its inspiration by the one God, and so it is often spoken of as if it were a single Word uttered directly by God: the Word of God. If Sacred Scripture is not inspired in each and all of its parts, then those parts cannot possibly be a unified whole, a single Word from God, a reflection of the one and only incarnate Word, Who proceeds from the Father, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.

And if some parts of Scripture are false and other parts are true, then all parts cannot be inspired. So this suggestion, that not all of Sacred Scripture is inspired, implies that inerrancy only applies to certain parts. Whatever is inspired must certainly be inerrant, for the God Who Is Truth cannot inspire the least falsehood or error on any subject. If inerrancy does not apply to all parts of Sacred Scripture, then neither does inspiration. However, it is one error to cast doubt on the total inspiration of Sacred Scripture, and it is another error to assert that inerrancy is limited to truths pertaining to salvation. Each of these errors is in direct contradiction to prior definitive teaching of the Sacred Magisterium, which teaches that Sacred Scripture is entirely inspired and entirely inerrant.

The Second Vatican Council

Now let’s take a look at the full passage from Dei Verbum on inerrancy. It is clear that this Vatican II document did not narrow inspiration and inerrancy to only certain parts of Sacred Scripture:

“Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.”

Notice that the Vatican II document specifies that the books of both Testaments “in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author.” Since the books of Sacred Scripture, with all their parts, were written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and truly have God as their author, no error is possible in any part, nor on any subject. For God who is Truth cannot err, nor can He choose to deny His very Nature by uttering any falsehood. Furthermore, Dei Verbum teaches that only those things which God wanted consigned to writing were, in fact, written into Sacred Scripture, and that all assertions made by the human authors are also made by the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore, 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. Therefore ‘all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).”

God is incapable of error of any kind on any subject. God Who is Truth cannot lie or speak a falsehood. For the Divine Nature of God is not merely truthful, as if truthfulness were a transient or superficial or non-essential quality in God, but rather the Divine Nature is Truth. Therefore, everything asserted by the Holy Spirit, on any subject whatsoever, is certainly the truth. For He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Since Dei Verbum teaches that “everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit,” there can be no error of any kind in Sacred Scripture, on any subject about which Sacred Scripture makes an assertion, and this doctrine must be believed.

Inspiration and inerrancy are inseparable. Whatever is asserted by the human authors of Sacred Scripture is asserted by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, whatever is asserted by the human authors is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not possible for the Holy Spirit to err on any subject or in any way. Therefore, whatever is asserted by the human authors is entirely without error. No one may claim that, while all of Sacred Scripture is inspired, only certain assertions are inerrant. All is inspired, therefore all is inerrant.

Now the phrase “that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” has been used by some theologians in order to attempt to narrow inspiration and inerrancy only to those assertions pertaining to faith and morals, or to salvation (or to some other scheme). But this passage from Dei Verbum, taken in its entirety, clearly does not narrow inspiration or inerrancy. The phrase “for the sake of our salvation” refers to the purpose that God had in mind for Sacred Scripture. The claim that this phrase narrows inspiration and inerrancy, or that it implies error in Sacred Scripture on subjects other than faith and morals, or other than salvation, is unsupportable. This interpretation ignores the earlier parts of the same passage of Dei Verbum, and even ignores the earlier part of the same sentence: “since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit….” Whoever claims that the sacred writers have erred claims that the Holy Spirit has erred. Such a claim necessarily implies a denial of essential doctrine on the Nature of God, that God is Truth.

Therefore, the attribution of a narrow view of inerrancy to Dei Verbum is contradictory to the plain teaching of the document and the Council, and contradictory to required belief of the Catholic Faith. Dei Verbum clearly teaches that inspiration and inerrancy pertain to all assertions made by the human authors, who, though personally fallible, could not err in any of the assertions of Sacred Scripture because these are also the assertions of the Holy Spirit. Sacred Scripture contains all those things and only those things that God wills, and God never wills any falsehood or error on any subject.

The Council of Trent

In the document “Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures,” the Council of Trent uses the term “dictation” to refer to the inspiration of Sacred Scripture and also Sacred Tradition. But the term should not be taken literally. The Council uses the term “dictation” in order to indicate, using the succinct metaphor of dictation, that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are entirely inspired and entirely inerrant, containing all those things and only those things that God wills. Similarly, a document that has been dictated will contain only what the one who dictated it wills, and nothing else. Certainly, the Council did not intend this figure to be understood literally, for it is explicitly applied by the Council even to unwritten Sacred Tradition, not only to Sacred Scripture. But literal dictation only applies to written words. Therefore, the Council used the term dictation as a metaphor, in order to teach the same doctrine also taught more explicitly in later documents of the Magisterium, namely, that Sacred Scripture must be entirely inerrant, in all its parts, because it is entirely inspired of God, in all its parts.

First Vatican Council

The First Vatican Council also uses the term “dictation,” when discussing and reaffirming the teaching of the Council of Trent on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Again, this is used as a figure in order to assert that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture contain all those things and only those things that God wills them to contain. God cannot err. God cannot utter falsehood.

More importantly, the First Vatican Council plainly states that Sacred Scripture is inspired of God in all its parts and contains revelation without error:

“The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical. These books the church holds to be sacred and canonical, not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.” [Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 2, On Revelation, n. 6-7.]

The Council teaches that both Testaments “with all their parts” are to be received as sacred and canonical, not only because “they contain revelation without error” but also because they were written “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” and truly “have God as their author.” The same document goes on to rebuke those who had misinterpreted the teaching of the Council of Trent on the same subject. And yet, this misinterpretation continues to the present day. Is it the work of the Holy Spirit when this teaching of the total inspiration and total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is continually undermined and attacked? Certainly not.

Pope Pius XII Cites the Councils

Pope Pius XII cites and expounds upon the teaching of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council:

“The sacred Council of Trent ordained by solemn decree that ‘the entire books with all their parts, as they have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the old vulgate Latin edition, are to be held sacred and canonical.’ In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical ‘not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself.’ 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.” [Divino Afflante Spiritu, n. 1.]

The above quote emphatically teaches that Sacred Scripture is free “from any error whatsoever” and that any scheme which attempts to narrow or limit inerrancy is itself an error. Pope Pius XII notes that Pope Leo XII, in Providentissimus Deus, “justly and rightly condemned” this narrow view of inerrancy. Pope Pius XII refers to the view opposed to complete inerrancy as “justly and rightly condemned.” Therefore, this teaching on inerrancy is not an open question; it is a definitive teaching on faith and morals. After citing two Ecumenical Councils to support this teaching on inerrancy, he calls the teaching a “solemn definition of Catholic doctrine.” The solemn definitions of Ecumenical Councils are infallible teachings and required belief. Therefore, this teaching falls under the infallible Sacred Magisterium of the Church, and it is a required belief that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture contain revelation without error.

Pope Leo XIII Exercises Papal Infallibility

And the passage in question from Providentissimus Deus is as follows:

“But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. 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 Spirit; 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. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.” [Providentissimus Deus, n. 20.]

Does the above statement on the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, by Pope Leo XIII, fall under papal infallibility? The conditions for a papal teaching to be infallible are these five — quoted from First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4:

1. “the Roman Pontiff”
2. “speaks ex cathedra” (“that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority”)
3. “he defines”
4. “that a doctrine concerning faith or morals”
5. “must be held by the whole Church”

The first two criteria for papal infallibility are met because, in this papal encyclical, the Pope is teaching the universal Church with papal authority. He is therefore discharging his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians. The third criterion, (which the Second Vatican Council phrases as “by a definitive act, he proclaims,”) is met because of the definitive wording of this teaching: “it is absolutely wrong and forbidden…. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church.” A teaching of the Pope to the universal Church, which calls a particular teaching “the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church,” and which calls the contrary view “absolutely wrong and forbidden,” could not be stated more definitively.

The fourth criterion is met because the doctrine of the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture certainly concerns faith and morals, since all that the Magisterium teaches on faith and morals is found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The fifth criterion is that the teaching be binding on the universal Church. This criterion is met because the Pope asserted that the same teaching has been solemnly defined by two Councils, and confirmed by the First Vatican Council, and that the contrary idea is “absolutely wrong and forbidden”. Therefore, it is binding on the universal Church. All the criteria for an infallible papal statement are met. The teaching quoted above from Providentissimus Deus is an infallible teaching of the Sacred Magisterium and is a required belief of all Catholics.

The teaching is infallible that all of Sacred Scripture is inspired and inerrant, in all its parts, such that no error of any kind can be found in Sacred Scripture. This belief requires the full assent of faith from all Christians. The contrary is therefore a heresy, and all who adhere to that heresy, as is the case for any heresy, fall under the sentence of automatic excommunication under Canon Law 1364, n. 1.

Errors of Particular Editions

Everyone who studies Sacred Scripture is cognizant that the ancient manuscripts of the Bible contain numerous copyist errors, that some printed Bibles contain printer errors, that some translations contain translation errors, and that some editions contain editing errors. But such errors are not of Sacred Scripture itself, they are of the particular edition. Errors in particular editions can be recognized by comparing various manuscripts, versions, editions, and the like, to one another. The total inspiration and total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture applies to Sacred Scripture itself, not to the particulars of individual editions. Therefore, the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture itself is unharmed by the errors particular to any edition.

Original Manuscripts

Some Christians claim that only the original manuscripts are inspired and inerrant. But it is well-known, even to those who make such a claim, that none of the original manuscripts are extant. And so they further say that scholars must reconstruct the original text to recover or determine what is inspired and inerrant. Such a scheme puts the inspired and inerrant text out of reach of the faithful, and makes Biblical scholars the arbitrators of what is and is not original, and therefore of what is and is not inspired and inerrant. Such a scheme, in effect, replaces Sacred Scripture with the majority decision of scholars, and thereby erroneously places scholarship above faith.

The error here is to assume that, after the authorship of each book was completed, the Holy Spirit withdrew and permitted the corruption of the text to almost any extent. To the contrary, the Holy Spirit remains with the Church to ensure that the infallible truths of Sacred Tradition are continually handed on in a manner that keeps even the smallest truth from being subtracted or corrupted, and that prevents the smallest falsehood from entering into Sacred Tradition. And the Holy Spirit remains with the Church to ensure that the infallible truths of Sacred Scripture are continually handed on in a manner that keeps even the smallest truth from being subtracted or corrupted, and that prevents the smallest falsehood from entering into Sacred Scripture.

Particular errors are permitted in particular editions. For the copyists, printers, translators, and editors of the text are not inspired by God. Yet the Holy Spirit nevertheless prevents error from being added, truth from being subtracted, and truth from being corrupted, in Sacred Scripture itself. No truth of Sacred Scripture has passed away from every extant edition. No error has been added to every extant edition. No corruption has occurred in every extant edition. Nor has any error, corruption, or subtraction reached such an extent in any set of editions that the truth cannot be discerned.

This protection that the Holy Spirit grants to Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture is an essential part of the indefectibility of the Church. For the Church guides us by means of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. And the Magisterium of the Church teaches only the truths that are either explicit or implicit in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. If the handing on of Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture could be corrupted, then the teachings of the Magisterium would be based on what is corrupt, and the indefectibility of the Church would be lost. Therefore, total inspiration and total inerrancy is not limited solely to the original manuscripts, but extends even to the body of the Sacred Texts which are extant in any generation, and are in use and being lived by any generation.

Solutions to Apparent Errors

Now if someone proposes a contradiction or an error in the Bible, I know by faith that there is a true faithful reasonable explanation as to why that proposal is incorrect. On many occasions, when I have sought a solution, I found one rather easily. But often times, I do not even bother to seek the explanation, because the claimed error is usually trivial, and I know with certainty by faith that it is not, in fact, an error.

But numerous persons, whose faith is either weak or absent, have attacked Sacred Scripture by claiming that certain contradictions or errors exist in the text. They compare what is said in different books, and find apparent contradictions. Or they compare assertions made by the ancient text to the views of modern science, or to current theories in archaeology, and, having found a disagreement, they assume that the Bible is in error. Most of these claimed errors can be easily refuted. Interestingly, when a solution to a claimed contradiction or error is presented, the complainant typically rejects the solution and continues to cling to the same claim of error.

If even reason itself, without faith, offers an explanation as to why a particular point is not an error in Sacred Scripture, why is the solution rejected? Many such persons, who arrogantly assert that the Bible is full of errors, use this claim to reject any teaching of the Bible that they dislike. They want the Bible to have errors so that they will not be bound by any of its teachings. A presentation of the Church’s infallible teaching on inspiration and inerrancy is rejected, with little or no explanation. For they know that if they accept the Bible as inerrant, they will have to change their lives to conform to the teaching of Christ in the Bible.

The Prevalence of the Heresy of Limited Inerrancy

As is clear in the above quotes from Popes and Councils, from Saints and Doctors and Fathers of the Church, the problem of Biblical scholars and other persons rejecting the total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is longstanding. However, in recent decades, this erroneous idea, that inerrancy is narrow and that errors are found throughout Sacred Scripture, has reached epidemic proportions. It is not only the common belief of the majority of Catholic Biblical scholars, but it is taught in most Catholic universities and colleges, even in some dioceses, as if it were the teaching of the Church. The document called ‘The Gift of Scripture’, issued by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has only worsened this trend.

Today, very many members of the laity not only hold to this error, but claim that it is the teaching of the Church. They, too, base this heretical claim on a misinterpretation and misquoting of Dei Verbum. When the above citations from various Popes and Councils are cited, they ignore them, or they explain that modern scholarship has now given us a better understanding of ‘the truth’ about Scripture (i.e. the truth that it is full of errors). We are to ignore the definitive teachings of past Councils and Popes, they say, and adhere to whatever is the current majority opinion among scholars. Scholarship thus presumes to replace Sacred Scripture as one of the cornerstones of the Catholic Faith.

The Danger of Limited Inerrancy

The claim that the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is limited to truths pertaining to salvation results in numerous problems which harm the Faith and the faithful. If Sacred Scripture contains errors mixed with truths, then Sacred Scripture is not the Word of God: one Word uttered by God, a flawless reflection of the living Word, Who is Jesus the Christ. If Sacred Scripture contains errors and truths, then it is divided against itself, and it cannot stand. If Sacred Scripture contains errors, then so does Sacred Tradition. If Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture contain errors, then the entire basis for the teaching of all the Bishops and of each Pope and each Council contains errors, and as a result, all the teachings of the Magisterium would be in doubt.

If anyone claims that there are some errors in what is asserted by Sacred Scripture, then those assertions cannot be inspired of the Holy Spirit, Who is certainly the Spirit of Truth and not of falsehood. As a result, Sacred Scripture would then be a patchwork of inerrant inspired truths and non-inspired non-inerrant human assertions. And unless the Magisterium were to go through Sacred Scripture verse by verse, and definitively teach which assertions of Sacred Scripture pertain to salvation, nearly every teaching of Sacred Scripture would be placed in doubt, and the Faith itself would be undermined.

Now some persons are claiming, contrary to faith and reason, that the Bible can be entirely inspired of God, and yet contain errors on various subjects. This version of the error results in the teaching of the Church on the Divine Nature of God being undermined. For if God inspires falsehood, then He is not Truth itself; instead, He would be a God who chooses when to speak a truth and when to speak a falsehood. Consequently, Truth could not be said to be descriptive of the very Nature of God. God would then be thought of as a Being who acts capriciously, like the pagan gods of ancient times.

But as for the error of limited inerrancy, one person might reasonably conclude that most assertions in Sacred Scripture do pertain to salvation, another person might conclude that fewer assertions pertain to salvation, yet another might conclude that very few assertions pertain to salvation. Again, there would be no way for the Magisterium to specify which assertions of Sacred Scripture pertain to salvation, and which do not, other than to teach definitively on the meaning of each and every verse, and whether or not the assertions of that verse are true or false. But notice how the prior definitive teaching of the Magisterium on the total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture has been utterly rejected by a majority of Catholic Biblical scholars, by some Bishops, priests, and religious, and by many members of the laity. So even if the Magisterium were to specify, in every case, which assertions are true, this would not result in Sacred Scripture being a sure foundation for the Faith; for if Sacred Scripture is not to be believed, neither is the Magisterium that teaches from Sacred Scripture.

And what would be the basis for any decision of the Magisterium as to which things pertain to salvation within Sacred Scripture, and which do not, if Sacred Scripture itself, and by implication Sacred Tradition, are both are said to contains errors? The teaching of the Magisterium is based solely on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. If a truth is not at least implicit in (i.e. having a necessary connection with) Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture, there would be no basis for the Magisterium to decide what is true. (The Magisterium can teach from natural law, but all the teachings of natural law are at least implicit in Tradition and Scripture.) The Faith would cease to be based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, and would be based solely on scholarship and the reason of fallen sinners.

As previously stated, there are implications for Sacred Tradition in this erroneous view of the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture. For Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one Sacred Deposit of Faith. So if Sacred Scripture can err, then Sacred Tradition can also err. Now someone might claim that Sacred Tradition cannot err in matters pertaining to salvation. But again, who determines what pertains to salvation? Any assertion that has become unpopular due to the dictates of sinful secular society will be said not to pertain to salvation. And if the Magisterium definitively teaches that a teaching of Sacred Tradition or of Sacred Scripture does pertain to salvation, and therefore is certainly true, the opponent can reply that the Magisterium is unable to teach without error on matters that do not pertain to salvation. So if the Magisterium states that a doctrine of Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture pertains to salvation, opponents can argue that it does not pertain to salvation, and that therefore the Magisterium is in error on the subject.

For example, suppose that Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition teaches that a particular act is a mortal sin. This teaching pertains to salvation, because an actual mortal sin causes the loss of the state of grace, and anyone who dies unrepentant from actual mortal sin loses his salvation. But someone could argue that the same act is not a sin at all, and therefore the teaching in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition about that act do not pertain to salvation, and are subject to error. The same faulty reasoning would apply to an assertion of Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition on a matter of faith. The result is that any teaching on any subject by Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition can be refuted, as if it were one of the many supposed errors in Divine Revelation, despite a claim that Scripture and Tradition are inerrant on matters of salvation.

The end result of this system, that the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is limited to truths pertaining to salvation, is that all truths taught by Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium would be placed in doubt. If an assertion is only inerrant if it pertains to salvation, then who can assert that it does pertain to salvation? The assertion that another assertion pertains to salvation is itself an assertion that is only true if it pertains to salvation. The end result is that no truth can be said with certitude to pertain to salvation, and therefore no truths would be inerrant. This conclusion is not an exaggeration, nor is it merely hypothetical, for there are already wolves among the sheep who do not believe that Tradition, Scripture, or the Magisterium can ever teach without error. They believe whatever they want to believe, and anything to the contrary must be an error. Yet their own beliefs change with the wind.

More in my booklet:
The Writing of the Gospels and Biblical Inerrancy

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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6 Responses to Total Inspiration and Total Inerrancy in Sacred Scripture

  1. Francisco says:

    Sacred Scripture comes from Tradition. Sacred Scripture does not come by itself, therefore, even though the original manuscripts of Sacred Scripture were lost or deteriorated (they were written on a fragile type of “paper” called papyrus) the subsequent copies that were written (yes, there were no printing machine at the time) also came from the same infallible Tradition, so the message remains truthful. In other words, Tradition and early Christians were witness that the subsequent copies from the originals were faithful to the Word of God.

    Example to try to illustrate what I’m trying to say: If the NY Post or Washington Post newspapers comes with the headlines that Argentina won the World Cup by beating Germany 1 – 0. Everyone who were witness or knows what happened in that event (and there are many!) will come to say, “hey!, that’s an error!, it was Germany that beat Argentina 1 – 0 in extra time. Similarly, the early Christians knew what writings were true and what writings were false or those that contain some falsehoods, because many were witnesses of those events, some were even still living. That’s why there are some non-Canonical writings, such as the “Gospel of Judas”, etc., early Christians knew that they were false, or that contain some falsehoods.

    On the other hand, it’s arrogant of those who say: “If something does not fit in my head, it must be false”. Truth does not depend on whether we like it or not, or on whether we understand it or not. We are not gods. We are limited creatures that need to keep learning with humility. Hell does not cease to exist if we do not believe in it. Hell is there, and remains there because Jesus who is God has said so, whether we like it or not. If you dare to trust in your limited mind rather than God, then you are in a big problem.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Well said, Francisco. I will add that in addition to Tradition protecting Scripture, the Magisterium also has a role in protecting Scripture from error. And just as the Holy Spirit protects Tradition from error as it is handed down, the Spirit also directly protects Scripture, by providence and grace, as well as through Tradition and Magisterium.

  2. warrenjwalker says:

    I agree with with Ron; very well put Francisco.

    I was not aware of the heresy of “Limited Inerrancey” before reading this article. I had never thought of scripture as being divided it against itself. I thought of it in this way: Holy Spirit -> Holy Tradition -> Holy Scripture. Each of which inherently fortify each other since the Holy Spirit cannot err.

    I do have a question, however, concerning copyist/printer/editorial errors. Does an Imprimatur imply that there are no such errors in a given text? Or does it simply imply that looking past those types of errors, the text is still free from moral or doctrinal error?

    You are a great apologetic, Ron.

    Peace be with you,

    – Jacob

    • Ron Conte says:

      Inerrancy does not protect Scripture from translator, copyist, printer, and editor errors, except to prevent such errors from ever causing a truth of Scripture to be lost, or a falsehood to be believed. The faithful can recognize translator, copyist, printer, editor errors by looking at multiple editions, so those types of errors generally do no harm.

      The imprimatur is of the fallible temporal authority of the Church. The imprimatur on a book does not prove or guarantee that it is free from moral or doctrinal error, because the person granting the imprimatur might err.

    • warrenjwalker says:

      Ron,

      Thank you for your reply.

      So maybe I was thinking of the Nihil obstat?

      – Jacob

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, the same thing applies to the Nihil Obstat. It’s not an exercise of the Magisterium. It’s a decision of the fallible temporal authority.

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