A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's “Dogmatik”
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With A Preface By Cardinal Manning

Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order
Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros.

[Pp. 50-70]


THE doctrine concerning the Sources of Revelation was formally defined by the Council of Trent (sess. iv.) and the Vatican Council (sess. iii., chap. 2). At Trent the principal object was to assert, in opposition to the early Protestants, the equal value of Oral and Written Tradition. As regards the Holy Scriptures, the controversial importance of which was rather overrated than otherwise by the Protestants, the Council had only to define their extent and to fix upon an authentic text. But the Vatican Council had to assert the Divine character of Scripture, which was not contested at the time of the earlier Council. Both Councils, however, declared that the Written Deposit was only one of the sources of theological knowledge, and that it must be understood and explained according to the mind and tradition of the Church.

SECT. 16.— Holy Scripture the Written Word of God.

I. The “Sacred and Canonical Books,” i.e. the definitive collection of the authentic documents of Revelation preserved and promulgated by the Church, have been considered in recent times by writers tinged with rationalistic Protestantism, as being documents of Revelation merely because the Church has acknowledged them to be historically trustworthy records of revealed truth. This, however, is by no means the Catholic doctrine. The books of Holy Scripture are sacred and canonical because they are the Written Word of God, and have God for their Author, the human writers to whom they are ascribed being merely the instruments of the Holy Ghost, Who enlightened their minds and moved their wills, and to a certain extent directed them as an author directs his secretary.

1. The Council of Trent had declared that the whole of the books of the Old and New Testaments with all their parts were to be held as sacred and canonical. To this the Vatican Council adds: “The Church doth hold these [books] for sacred and canonical, not because, after being composed by merely human industry, they were then approved by her authority; nor simply because they contain Revelation without any error: but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and as such have been handed down to the Church. ”And even before the Council of Trent the Council of Florence had said, “[The Holy Roman Church] professeth that one and the same God is the author of the Old and the New Testaments, because the holy men of both Testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Holy Ghost” (Decret. pro Jacobitis). Again, the Council of Trent takes the Divine origin of Scriptures for granted when it says, “The Holy Synod receiveth and venerateth with like devotion and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testament, since the one God is the author of both.”

2. The doctrine defined by the councils is likewise taught in Holy Scripture itself. Christ and His Apostles when quoting the Old Testament clearly imply that God is the author. “The Scripture must needs be fulfilled which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David “ (Acts i. 16). “David himself saith in the Holy Ghost” (Mark xii. 36; Matt. xxii. 43). Sometimes instead of “the Scripture saith” we find “God saith,” where it is the sacred writer who is speaking (Heb., passim). St. Paul distinctly declares that all Scripture is “breathed by God,” (2 Tim. iii. 16). St. Peter also speaks of the Prophets as instruments in the hands of the Holy Ghost: “No prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation; for prophecy came not by the will of man at any time, but the holy men of God spoke inspired by the holy Ghost, (2 Pet. i. 20, 21). This last text, it is true, applies primarily to prophecies strictly so called (foretelling events to come), but it refers also to the whole of the teaching of a Prophet, because he speaks in the name and under the influence of God (cf. I Kings x. 6; Mich. iii. 8).

3. The Fathers from the very earliest days taught the Divine authorship of Scripture.

(a) “The Divine Scriptures,” “the Divine Oracles,” “the Scriptures of God,” “the Scriptures of the Lord “ are the usual phrases by which they expressed their belief in Inspiration. “The Apostle moved by that Spirit by Whom the whole of Scripture was composed” (Tertull., De Or., 22). Gelasius (or, according to Thiel, Damasus) says that the Scriptures were composed “by the action of God.” And St. Augustine: “God having first spoken by the Prophets, then by Himself and afterwards by the Apostles, composed also the Scripture which is styled canonical “ (De civit. Dei, xi. 3). Origen, too, says that “the Scriptures were written by the Holy Ghost “ Praef De Princ.,nn. 4, 8). Theodoret (Praef in Ps.) says that it does not matter who was the human writer of the Psalms, seeing that we know that they were written under the active influence of the Holy Ghost. Hence the Fifth General Council (the second of Constantinople) calls the Holy Ghost purely and simply the author of Holy Writ, and says of Theodore of Mopsuestia that he rejects the book of Job, “in his rage against its author, the Holy Ghost.” The Fathers frequently call the Bible “an epistle from God.” “What is Scripture but a sort of letter from Almighty God to This creature?“ … “The Lord of Heaven hath sent thee His letters for thy life's sake….Study therefore, I pray thee, and meditate daily upon the words of thy Creator” (Greg. M., lib. iv., ep. 31). Further, the Scriptures are words spoken by God: “Study the Scriptures, the true words of the Holy Ghost” (Clem. Rom. ad Cor. i., n. 45). “The Scriptures were spoken by the Word and His Spirit” (Iren., Adv. Haeres, lib. ii., cap. 28, n. 2). Hence the manner of quoting them “The Holy Ghost saith in the Psalms” (Cypr., De Zelo, n. 8). “Not without reason have so many and such great peoples believed that when [the sacred writers] were writing these books, God spoke to them or through them “(Aug., De Civit. Dei, xviii. 41).

(b) The Fathers also determine the relation between the Divine author of Scripture and the human writer. The latter is, as it were, the secretary, or the hand, or the pen employed by God — analogies which are set forth in the following well-known passages. “[Christ] by the human nature which He took upon Himself is the Head of all His disciples, who are, as it were, the members of His body. Hence when they wrote what He manifested and spoke, we must by no means say that it was not He Who wrote, for His members have done what they learnt from the orders of their Head. Whatever He wished us to read concerning His words and works He ordered them, His hands, to write clown. Any one who rightly understands this union and this ministry of members performing in harmony their various functions under one head, will receive the Gospel narrative as though he saw the hand of the Lord writing, the very hand which belonged to His own body” (Aug., De Cons. Evang., 1. i., c. 35). “It is quite useless to inquire who wrote this, since the Holy Ghost is rightly believed to be the author of the book. He therefore Who dictated it is the writer; He is the writer Who was the Inspirer of the work and Who made use of the voice of the [human] writer to transmit to us His deeds for our imitation. When we receive a letter from some great man, and know from whom it comes and what it means, it is folly for us to ask what pen he wrote it with. When therefore we learn something, and know that the Holy Ghost is its author, any inquiry about the writer is like asking about the pen “(Greg. M., In Job, praef.). And St. Justin compares the human writer to a lyre played upon by God through the action of the Holy Ghost (Cohort. ad Graecos, n. 8).

(c) From this dependence of the human writer on the Holy Ghost, the Fathers infer the absolute truth and wisdom of every, even the minutest, detail of Scripture. “We who extend the perfect truthfulness of the Holy Ghost to the smallest lines and letters do not and dare not grant that even the smallest things are asserted by the writers without a meaning” (Greg. Naz., Orat., ii. n. 105). And the following passage of St. Augustine is especially worthy of notice “I acknowledge to your charity that I have learnt to pay only to those books of Scripture which are already called canonical, this reverence and honour, viz, to believe most firmly that no author of them made any mistake, and if I should meet with anything in them which seems to be opposed to the truth, not to doubt but that either the codex is incorrect, or that the translator has not caught what was said, or that my understanding is at fault” (Ep. ad Hieron. lxxxii. [al. 19.] n. 3).

II. The Catholic Church expressly teaches that God is the author of the Holy Scriptures in a physical sense. That God may be the author of Scripture in a physical sense, and that Scripture may be the Word of God as issuing from Him, it is not enough that the Sacred Books should have been written under the merely negative influence and the merely external assistance of God, preventing error from creeping in; the Divine authorship implies a positive and interior influence upon the writer, which is expressed by the dogmatic term Inspiration. Although a negative assistance, preserving from error such as is granted to the Teaching Apostolate, is not enough for the physical authorship of Holy Scripture, yet, on the other hand, a positive dictation by word of mouth is not required. The sacred writers themselves make no mention of it; nay, they expressly state that they have made use of their own industry; and the diversity of style of the different writers is distinctly opposed to it. Of course, when something previously unknown to the writer has to be written down by him, God must in some way speak to him; nevertheless, Inspiration in itself is “the action of God upon a human writer, whereby God moves and enables the writer to serve as an instrument for communicating, in writing, the Divine thoughts.” Inspiration arises in the first instance from God's intention to express in writing certain truths through the instrumentality of human agents. To carry out this intention God moves the writer's will to write down these truths, and at the same time suggests them to his mind and assists him to the right understanding and faithful expression of them. The assistance has been reduced by some theologians to a mere surveillance or watching over the writer; but the stress laid by the Fathers on the instrumental character of the writers in relation to God, and the Scriptural expression, [Greek text omitted] are plainly opposed to it (cf. St. Thom. 2a 2ae, q. 174, a. 2). The diversity of style in the different books is accounted for by the general law, that when God employs natural instruments for a supernatural purpose, He does not destroy their natural powers, but adapts them to His own purpose.

III. 1. Though the Bible is not mere history or mere literature, it nevertheless has to do with history, and it is literature in the highest sense of the word. It has a human element as well as a Divine element; and how far the books are human and how far Divine is the great Scripture problem. The two elements are united somewhat after the fashion of the soul and the body. Just as the soul is present in every part of the body, so too the action of the Holy Ghost is present in every part of Scripture. But the Schoolmen went on to say that though the soul is whole and entire in every part of the body, it does not exercise all its powers in each and every part, but some powers in some parts and other powers in other parts. Hence we must not restrict Inspiration to certain portions of Scripture. (''Nefas omnino fuerit inpirationem ad aliquas tantum S. Scripturae partes coangustare.” Leo XIII, Encl, Prov. Deus.) On the other hand, the action of the Holy Ghost is not necessarily the same throughout.

2. When it is said that God is the Author of the Sacred Books, we must not take this in the same sense as when it is said that Milton is the author of Paradise Lost. This would exclude any human authorship. The formula was originally directed against the Manichaeans, who held that the Evil Spirit was the author of the Old Testament.

3. The Church has never decided the question of the human authorship of any of the Books. There may be a strong opinion, e.g. that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, or that the whole of the Book of Isaias was written by the Prophet of that name; but no definition has ever been given.

4. We cannot admit that the Sacred Author Himself has been guilty of error. (“Nefas omnino fuerit…concedere sacrum ipsum auctorem errasse.” Leo XIII. id.) He may, however, make use of a story, not necessarily history, for the purpose of teaching some dogmatic principle or pointing some moral lesson. Again, He must adapt Himself to the circumstances of those whom He addresses. If He acted otherwise, He would fail to be understood. As St. Jerome says (In Jerem. Proph. xxviii.): “Multa in Scripturis Sanctis dicuntur secundum opinionem illius temporis quo gesta referuntur, et non juxta quod rei veritas continebat.” And St Thomas (I, q. 70, a. I): “Moyses autem rudi populo condescendens, sequutus est quae sensibiliter apparent.” (See Lagrange, Hist. Criticism and the 0.T., p. 112.)

5. On the Catholic canon of Scripture, see Franzelin, De Script, sect. ii.; Loisy, Hist. du Canon de l'A.T.; Hist. du Canon du N.T.

SECT. 17.—Holy Scripture as a Source of Theological Knowledge.

I. Holy Scripture, being the work of God Himself, far surpasses in value and excellence any human account of Revelation. The Old Testament is inspired by the Holy Ghost, “Who spake by the Prophets,” as well as the New. Both are of equal excellence, and form together one general source of theological knowledge. The Old Testament is not a mere history of Revelation. It contains a fuller exposition of many points of Faith and morals than the New; it is as it were the body of which the New Testament is the soul: the two pervade and complete each other.

II. There are two fundamentally distinct senses in Holy Scripture: the Literal, conveyed by the words, and the Spiritual, conveyed by the things expressed by the words, whence it is also called Typical. The former is that intended by the human writer, and conveyed by the letter of the text. The Spiritual Sense has its foundation in the all-embracing knowledge of the Holy Ghost, Who inspired the writer. Sentences and even single words written under Divine direction have, in some circumstances, a significance beyond that which they would convey if they were of merely human origin An historical fact, an institution, a precept, may stand isolated in the mind of the writer, whereas in the mind of God it may be related to other facts and truths, as a type, a confirmation, or an illustration. These relations are the basis of the Spiritual Sense of Scripture. We derive our knowledge of them from the things expressed by the words, and from the words themselves. Thus, to us the spiritual sense is mediate, but to the Holy Ghost it is immediate.

From these different senses of Holy Scripture it follows that a text is capable of many interpretations. All of them, however, must be based upon the Literal Sense. A text may have several spiritual or mediate meanings, but usually only one Literal Sense. Many applications of the Sacred Text commonly adopted by the Church may be regarded as belonging to the Mediate Sense, i.e. as being foreseen by the Holy Ghost, although in purely human writings such interpretations would appear to be distortions. Familiar instances are the passages Prov. viii. and Ecclus. xxiv. as applied to the Blessed Virgin.

A demonstrative argument that a certain doctrine is revealed can be obtained from any sense demonstrably intended by the Holy Ghost, whether literal, or logically inferred from the literal, or purely spiritual. The Literal Sense affords the most obvious proof. Where, however the language is figurative, the meaning of the figure must be ascertained before an argument can be drawn from it. The Inferential Sense is equal in demonstrative force to the Literal Sense, but in dignity it is inferior because only intended, and not directly expressed by the Holy Ghost The Spiritual Sense likewise offers a cogent argument, provided that the relation between the type and the thing typified be either directly stated in the Literal Sense or contained in it as an evident consequence. Indirectly, the Spiritual Sense acquires demonstrative force from explanations given in Scripture itself or handed down by Apostolical Tradition. Such explanations are often insufficient to determine the Spiritual Sense with complete certainty, and give us only probabilities. Sometimes a number of them, taken together, form a strong argument. See Wiseman's Essays Miracles of the New Testament, where arguments in favour of many Catholic doctrines are drawn from the typical signification of various miracles.

The principal object of Holy Scripture is to give us certain knowledge of Revelation. But the constant practice of the Church has made it serve another purpose, which, however, is quite in keeping with the former. In the book of nature we have a faithful though imperfect image of God's Wisdom, but in the Inspired Books the defects are remedied, and a more perfect representation is set before us, destined to kindle in our minds a manifold knowledge of the supernatural world. This purpose is attained by that sense and interpretation of Holy Writ, whereby we gather from the Sacred Text pious considerations and suggestions, not necessarily intended by the Holy Ghost in the precise form which they take in the reader's mind, and yet not wholly arbitrary.

III. The careful study and comparison of different passages of Holy Scripture throws great light on the dogmatic teaching of the Church; and, on the other hand, a sound knowledge of this teaching gives us a deeper insight into the Written Word. Theological Exegesis far surpasses mere philological criticism, and attains results beyond the reach of the latter. Scripture, for instance, tells us that God has a Son, and that this Son is the Word, the Image (Figure), the Mirror, the Wisdom of His Father. The combination and comparison of these expressions are of great help towards understanding the Eternal Generation of the Son; and, on the other hand, the theological knowledge of generation is the only basis of an accurate interpretation of these expressions.

SECT. 18. — The false and Self-contradictory Position of Holy Scripture in the Protestant System.

We have seen that Holy Scripture holds a very high position as a source of Faith. This, however, does not mean that it is the only source, or even a source accessible and necessary to each and all of the Faithful. Indeed, without the intervention of some living authority, distinct from Holy Scripture, we should never be able to prove that Scripture is a source of Faith at all. Nevertheless, Protestants reject the Teaching Apostolate, and maintain that the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the sole Source and Rule of Faith. We shall prove in §21 that Oral Tradition is a substantial part of the Apostolic Deposit, and consequently that Holy Scripture is not the only source of Faith. That it is not the only rule may be seen from the following considerations.

I. The Rule of Faith should be materially complete, that is, it should embrace the entire sphere of revealed truth: formally perfect, that is, it should not need to be supplemented by any other: and universal, that is, applicable to all men, always and everywhere. None of these characteristics can be affirmed of Holy Scripture. There are, as we shall see, a number of revealed truths handed down by Oral Tradition only. Moreover, the Bible, notwithstanding the excellence of its contents, is but a dead letter, wanting in systematic arrangement, often obscure and hard to be understood, and exposed to many false interpretations. Some means must be provided by God to remove these difficulties, otherwise the object of Revelation would be frustrated. And, lastly, some of the very circumstances which constitute the excellence of the Bible — its being a written document of considerable dimensions, full of deep and difficult matter expressed in the metaphorical language of the East — make it unfit for the general use of the people.

Protestants cannot help feeling the force of these arguments. They usually admit more or less explicitly some other rule of Faith; for instance, the mind of the reader guided by a private supernatural revelation, or by its own natural light and inclination. The result has been that the Bible has become the sport of innumerable sectaries and the source of endless divisions. Practically, however, the mischief has been to a great extent prevented by the submission of the people to the guidance of others, or even to “Confessions of Faith and Formularies,” though the latter have no recognized authority.

After what has been said it is clear that the reading of the Bible is not necessary for salvation, or even advisable for every one under all circumstances. Hence the Church has with great wisdom imposed certain regulations on the subject. See The Pope and the Bible, by Rev. R. F. Clarke, S.J.

II. But the Protestant theory is not only false, but also contradictory. Inspiration is the result of such a mysterious influence of God that its very existence can be known only by means of Revelation. We cannot infer it from the character of the writers or the nature of their writings. There have been Prophets and Apostles who were not inspired (in the technical sense), and some of the inspired writers were neither Apostles nor Prophets. Some of the Sacred Books, indeed, state that their writers were animated by the Holy Ghost, but this does not necessarily mean that particular Divine influence which goes by the name of Inspiration. Even if we admit this, there still remains the question whether these statements themselves were inspired. The only way to avoid a vicious circle is to appeal to some testimony external to the Inspired Books. The consoling effect upon the reader, the “gustus spiritualis” of the early Protestants, cannot seriously be put forward at the present day as a test of Inspiration. There must be some public and authentic witness to the fact of Inspiration and this we have seen to be the Teaching Body in the Catholic Church (cf. Card. Newman's Idea of a University p. 270).

Moreover, there is another difficulty in the Protestant theory. Even if we were to grant that the inspired character of all the books of the Bible was made known at the time of their original publication, we should still require official testimony of this fact. Besides, how could we be sure that the copies which we now possess agree with the originals? Apart from the authority of the Church, the common belief in the canon of Holy Scripture and the identity of later copies, rests on evidence which is by no means historically conclusive. And this common belief has, as a matter of fact, been produced by the action of the Church. We may still assert what St. Augustine said long ago: “I, for my part, should not believe the Gospel except on the authority of the Catholic Church.” (Ego vero Evangelio non crederem, nisi me Catholicae Ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas” (Contra Ep. Manichaei, Fundam., n. 6).)

SECT. 19 — The Position and Functions of Holy Scripture in the Catholic System.

The position and functions of Holy Scripture in the Catholic System may be briefly expressed in this proposition : Scripture is an Apostolic Deposit entrusted to the Church; in other words, the Apostles published Holy Scripture as a document of Divine Revelation, and handed it over as such to their successors. It is on this ground that the Teaching Body claims the right of preserving and expounding the sacred writings. Protestants, on the other hand, have no right to call the Bible the, or even an, Apostolic Deposit. They reject the authoritative promulgation by the Apostles, and the necessity of entrusting the Deposit of Revelation to a living Apostolate; and consequently the word “deposit” is in their mouth devoid of meaning. To them the Bible is a windfall, coming they know not whence.

I. Catholics maintain, and they can prove their doctrine by evidence drawn from the earliest centuries, that the Apostles promulgated by God's order both the Old and New Testaments, as a document received from God, and thus gave it the dignity and efficacy of a legitimate source and rule of Faith. This promulgation might have been expected from the nature of Holy Scripture and the functions of the Apostles. God would not have cast His Word upon the world to be the sport of conflicting opinions. Rather He would have committed the publication of it to the care of those whom He was sending to preach the Gospel to all nations, and with whom He had promised to be for all days, even to the consummation of the world. This fact of promulgation by the Apostles is generally treated of by the Fathers in connection with the transmission of Holy Scripture. The mere writing and publishing, even by an Apostle, were not deemed a sufficient promulgation of inspiration. It was necessary that the document should be put on a footing with the Old Testament, and approved for public reading in the Church. As St. Jerome says of the Gospel of St. Mark: “When Peter had heard it, he both approved of it and ordered it to be read in the churches” De Script. Eccl.).

II. Besides promulgating Holy Scripture as a Divine document, the Apostles transmitted it to their successors with the right, the duty, and the power to continue its promulgation, to preserve its integrity and identity, to expound its meaning, to make use of it in demonstrating and illustrating Catholic doctrine, and finally to resist and condemn any attacks upon its teaching, or any abuse of its meaning. All this again is implied in the nature of the Apostolate, and the character of the Sacred Writings. See the passages quoted from St. Irenaeus and Tertullian in § 9, III.

III. The function of Holy Scripture in the Catholic Church is determined by the two facts, that it is an Apostolic Deposit, and that its lawful administration belongs to the Church. Hence:—
1. Holy Scripture, in virtue of its permanent and official promulgation, is a public document, the Divine authority of which is evident to all the members of the Church.

2. The Church necessarily possesses an authentic text of the Scriptures, identical with the original. If either by constant use or by express declaration a certain text has been approved of by the Church, that text thereby receives the character of public authenticity; that is to say, its conformity with the original must be not only presumed juridically, but admitted as certain on the ground of the infallibility of the Church.

3. The authentic text, duly promulgated, becomes a Source and Rule of Faith; but it is still only a means or instrument of instruction and proof in the hands of the members of the Teaching Apostolate, who alone have the right of authoritatively interpreting it.

4. Private interpretation must submit to authoritative interpretation.

5. The custody and administration of the Holy Scriptures is not entrusted directly to the body of the Church at large, but to the Teaching Apostolate; nevertheless, the Scriptures are the common property of all the members of the Church. The duty of the administrators is to communicate its teaching to all who are in the obedience of the Faith. The body of the Faithful thereby secure a better knowledge than if each one were to interpret according to his own light. Besides, such private handling of Scripture is really opposed to the notion of its being the common property of all.

6. The Bible belongs to the Church and to the Church alone. If, however, those who are outside her pale use it as a means of discovering and entering the Church, such use is perfectly legitimate. But they have no right to apply it to their own purposes, or to turn it against the Church. This is the fundamental principle of Tertullian's work, De Praescriptionibus Haereticorum. He shows how Catholics, before arguing with heretics on single points of scriptural doctrine, should contest the right of the latter to appeal to the Scriptures at all, and should thus defeat their action at the outset (praescribere actionem, a mode of defence corresponding to some extent with demurrer).

7. Lastly, the rights of the Teaching Apostolate include that of taking and enforcing disciplinary measures for promoting the right use, or preventing the abuse of Scripture.

SECT. 20.—Decisions of the Church on the Text and Interpretation of Scripture.

The principles laid down in the preceding section were applied by the Councils of Trent (sess. iv.) and the Vatican sess. iii.).

I. The Council of Trent issued two decrees on the Sacred Text, one of which is dogmatic, and the other disciplinary. These decrees, however, did not so much confer upon the Vulgate its public ecclesiastical authenticity, but rather declared and confirmed the authenticity already possessed by it in consequence of its long-continued public use. “If any one,” says the Council, “receiveth not, as Sacred and Canonical, the said books, entire with all their parts (libros integros cum omnibus suis partibus) as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition let him be anathema … Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod — considering that no small profit may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the Sacred Books is to be held as authentic — ordaineth and declareth that the said old and Vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many ages, hath been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons, and expositions, held as authentic ; and that no one is to dare to reject it under any pretext whatsoever.

1. These decrees are not exclusive. They affirm the authenticity of the Vulgate, but say nothing about the original text or about other versions. Hence the latter retain their public and private value. No Hebrew text has ever been used in the Church since the time of the Apostles; but the Greek text in public use during the first eight centuries must be considered as fully authentic for that time; since the schism, however, its authenticity is only guaranteed by the use of the Greek Catholics.

2. The conformity of the Vulgate with the original is not to be taken as absolute. Differences in distinctness and force of expression, even in dogmatic texts, may be admitted, and also additions, omissions, and diversities in texts not dogmatic. But in matters of Faith and morals the Vulgate does not put forth anything as the Word of God which either openly contradicts the Word of God or is not the Word of God at all. Again, the entire contents of the Vulgate are substantially correct, and are upon the whole identical with the original. Cf. Kaulen, History of the Vulgate (in German), p. 58 sqq.; Franzelin, De Script., sect. iii.

3. In demonstrating and expounding doctrines of Faith and morals the Vulgate may confidently be used, and its authority may not be rejected. It should be used in all public transactions relating to Faith and morals, as possessing complete demonstrative force within the Church. Hence the saying, “The Vulgate is the theologian's Bible.” At the same time, the decree does not forbid the use of other texts, especially the originals, even in public transactions, in order to support and illustrate the Vulgate, or against non-Catholics as an argumentum ad hominem, or in purely scientific disquisitions.

Clement VIII., in execution of the Tridentine decrees, published an official edition of the Vulgate which came into general use, and must now be considered as an authentic reproduction of the text approved by the Council.

II. The Council of Trent also issued a decree concerning the Interpretation of Scripture. This decree, although further explained in the Creed of the council drawn up by Pius IV., was in later days very much misunderstood. Hence the Vatican Council has explained its true extent and meaning. The Tridentine decree quoted above continues, “Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits [the council] decrees that no one, relying on his own skill shall, in matters of faith and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the Sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said Sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which Holy Mother Church — to whom it belongeth to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures — hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never intended to be at any time published.” The passage in the Creed runs thus: “I also admit the Holy Scriptures according to that sense which Holy Mother Church hath held and doth hold, to whom it belongeth to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” The conclusion of the Vatican decree is as follows: “Forasmuch the wholesome decree of the holy and sacred council of Trent concerning the interpretation of the Divine Scripture … hath been perversely explained by divers persons, We, while renewing the said decree, declare this to be its meaning: in matters of Faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Sacred Scripture which Holy Mother Church hath held and doth hold, to whom it belongeth to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures ; and therefore it is lawful to no man to interpret the said Sacred Scripture against this sense or even against the unanimous Consent of the Fathers.” Hence, according to the explanation given by the Vatican Council, the meaning of the Tridentine decree is that the Church has the right to give a judicial decision on the sense of Holy Scripture in matters of Faith and morals; that is, to give an interpretation authentic, infallible, universally binding, not only indirectly and negatively, but also directly and positively. To oppose such a decision is unlawful, because to do so would be a denial of the true sense of Scripture and not merely an act of disobedience. Moreover, the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers, whose writings reproduce the authentic teaching of the Church, has a similar value.

A very little thought will convince any one that the Catholic rule of Scriptural interpretation does not clash with a reasonable liberty and the development of scientific exegesis. On the contrary, the period subsequent to the Council of Trent produced the most famous Biblical commentators (see supra, Introd., p. xxxi.), while the principle of private judgment has produced nothing but errors and destructive criticism.

Stapleton, Princ. Fid. Demonstr., 11. x. et xi.; Franzelin, De Script., sect. iii. ; Vacant, Etudes Theol. sur Ie Concile du Vatican, t. i. p. 405, sqq.

SECT. 21.— The Oral Apostolic Deposit — Tradition, in the narrower sense of the word.

The Protestant rejection of a permanent Teaching Apostolate while, as we have seen, injurious to the Written Word, destroys the very existence of Oral Tradition. The Catholic doctrine, on the other hand, maintains that the preaching of the Apostles, unwritten as well as written, is an independent and trustworthy Source of Faith, and is, like the Holy Scriptures, an essential part of the Apostolic Deposit. The Council of Trent “seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand, following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receiveth and venerateth, with an equal affection of piety, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testaments … and also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to Faith as to morals, as having been dictated either by Christ's own word of mouth or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession “ (sess. iv.).

1. The Catholic doctrine is an evident consequence of the perpetuity of the Apostolate. It is plain from Holy Scripture and the testimony of the early Fathers that the Apostles handed over to their successors, together with the written documents of Revelation, the contents of their oral teaching as an independent and permanent Source of Faith. This Oral Deposit can, by reason of the natural and supernatural qualifications of the depositary, be transmitted as securely and perfectly as the Written Deposit.

I. Scripture nowhere says plainly, or even implies, that it is to be the only Source of Faith. The whole composition of the books supposes the existence of a Teaching Body, and the fact of the perpetuity of the Apostolate implies also the perpetuity of the authority of their teaching. St. Paul expressly enjoins the holding of the things which he preached as well as of those which he wrote. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which yen have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle” (2 Thess. ii. 14; cf. St. John Chrysostom in h. 1.). And again, “Hold the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith, and in the love which is in Christ Jesus. Keep the good thing committed to thy trust by the Holy Ghost” (2 Tim. i. 13-14); “The things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also” (ib., ii. 2). In the earliest ages of the Church, too, it was universally held that the contents of the apostolic preaching were transmitted to the Church as a permanent Source and Rule of Faith. See above, §9 iii. The same doctrine is proved by the fact that in patristic times the true interpretation of Scripture was ruled by the Teaching Apostolate. Many truths not contained in Scripture were held on the authority of the Apostolate. Cf. Stapleton, 1. c., 1. xi., c. 3.

2. Protestant objections on the ground that an Oral Deposit cannot be perfectly transmitted, by reason of the imperfection of the Apostolate, do not touch the Apostolate as we conceive it, viz., as infallible through the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Any force that these objections may have can be turned against the transmission of Scripture itself. Even from a merely human point of view, the constitution and organization of the Apostolate afford an almost perfect guarantee for the purity of the doctrine transmitted. The cohesion of the different members, their fidelity to and respect for apostolical traditions, the constant mutual watchfulness, the daily application of most of the truths in question in private practice and public worship — all of these are admirably adapted for the preservation of truth and the prevention of error (cf. Franzelin, De Trad., th. ix.; Kuhn, Dogmatik, introd., § 5). The very fact that a doctrine is universally held in the Church is a sufficient proof of its apostolic origin and faithful transmission. “Granted that all (the churches) have erred, … that the Holy Ghost hath looked down upon none of them to lead them into the truth, although it was for this that He was sent by Christ and asked of the Father that He might be a Teacher of truth; granted that God's steward, the Vicar of Christ, hath neglected his duty, … is it likely that so many and such great churches should have gone astray into one faith? Never is there one result among many chances. The error of the churches would have taken different directions. Whatever is found to be one and the same among many persons is not an error but a tradition” (Tertull., De Praescr., c. 28). (''Nullus inter multos eventus unus est. Exitus variasse debuerat error ecclesiarum. Caeterum quod apud multos unum invenitur, non est erratum sed traditum.”)

II. Oral Tradition could, absolutely speaking, be the sole Source of Faith, because it could hold its own even if no Written Deposit existed, whereas, as we have shown, the inspiration and interpretation of Scripture cannot be known without the aid of Tradition. Nevertheless, the Holy Scriptures have a value of their own, and are in a certain sense even necessary. They contain not only the Word, but also the language of God, and they give details, developments, and illustrations to an extent unattainable by Tradition. They are a sort of text-book of Tradition, enabling the Faithful to acquire a vivid knowledge of revealed truths. There is no revealed doctrine which has not at least some foundation in the Bible. The most important truths are explicitly stated there. On the whole, we may say that Oral Tradition is the living and authentic commentary upon the written document, yet, at the same time, not a mere commentary, but something self-subsistent, confirming, illustrating, completing and vivifying the text.

III. The Fathers and the Schoolmen often insist upon the completeness and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, but they do so in the sense of the present section. The Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of the Teaching Apostolate, and this implicitly contains the whole of Revelation. Hence we may say that the Bible itself is complete and sufficient. Sometimes, however, the Fathers speak of the completeness of Scripture merely with regard to certain points of doctrine. Thus in the well-known passage of St. Vincent of Lerins (Common., c. 2) where it is said that “the canon of the Scriptures is perfect, and of itself enough more than enough for everything” (“Scripturarum canon perfectus sibique ad omnia satis superque sufficiens.”) the Saint is really putting an objection, which he proceeds to answer in favour of the necessity of tradition. And Tertullian's saying, “I :worship the fulness of Scripture,” refers to the doctrine of creation (cf. Franz., De Trad., th. xix.). On the other hand, certain texts of the Fathers which at first sight might be quoted in support of our thesis refer to discipline rather than to dogma.

There are many regulations which have been handed down with apostolic authority, but not as revealed by God. These are called Merely-Apostolic Traditions, in contra-distinction to the Divino-Apostolic Traditions. This distinction, though clear enough in itself, is not easy of application, except in matters strictly dogmatical or strictly moral. In other matters, such as ecclesiastical institutions and discipline, there are various criteria to guide us; e.g. (1) the distinct testimony of the Teaching Apostolate or of ecclesiastical documents that some institution is of Divine origin — for instance, the validity of baptism conferred by heretics; (2) the nature of the institution itself — for instance, the essential parts of the sacraments as opposed to the merely ceremonial parts. Where these criteria cannot be applied and the practice of the Church does not decide the point, it remains an open question whether a given institution is of Divine right and belongs to the Deposit of Faith. In any case we are bound to respect such traditions, and also those which are merely ecclesiastical. Thus in the Creed of Pius IV. we say: “I most steadfastly admit and embrace Apostolical and Ecclesiastical Traditions and all other observances and institutions of the said Church. …I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church used in the solemn administration of all the Sacraments.”