Dei Verbum

One of the things that Vatican II changed was the basic understanding of the importance of Scripture — not just in the liturgy but as a central source of our faith. Chapter III of ‘Dei Verbum’ highlights the importance of inspiration and interpretation of sacred scripture as a whole. It contains three paragraphs (nn. 11-13).

N. 11 explains what is meant by inspiration: “For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles…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.” (The details here in n.11 are based on a number of sources including the Council of Trent, Vatican I, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius XII, St. Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, and from scripture, the Letter to the Hebrews, 2Sam 23:2 and Matt 1: 22.)

Interpretation of Sacred Scripture is dealt with in nn.12-13. In n.12 we see what should come first when interpretation is to be made — “the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.” What the sacred writers really intended and what God wanted to show through their words forms the basis of interpretation. Within that the literary form needs to be taken into consideration as well — “For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse.”

Finally, the unity of the Sacred Scripture has to be kept in mind – “since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith.”

What we have been given in the inspired word is profound and important in living out our faith. It is crucial in the revelation of God to us, his people.