Pope Benedict to the Pontifical Biblical Commission

On May 2 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a short message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of its plenary assembly, which meets to discuss the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. (At the time of writing this post, an English translation of the message has not yet been posted on the Vatican's website, so the link is to the original Italian.)

Taking up themes of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the pope affirms the necessity of considering the inspiration of Scripture in order to rightly interpret it: "Inspiration, as God's activity, brings it about that the Word of God is expressed in the human words. Consequently, the theme of inspiration is 'decisive for an adequate approach to the Scriptures and their correct interpretation,' (Verbum Domini, n. 19) Indeed, an interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures that disregards or forgets their inspiration does not take account of their most important and precious characteristic, their coming from God."

The pope further recalls the connection between inspiration and truth: " "The Synod Fathers also stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books.' (Verbum Domini, n. 19)… Through his Word, God wills to communicate the whole truth about himself and about his plan of salvation for humanity. The commitment to discover more and more the truth of the sacred books is therefore equivalent to seeking to know better God and the mystery of his salvific will."

Finally, the Pope affirms the need to interpret individual passages in the context of the whole of Scripture in order to correctly understand them. ""Finally I would like to just mention that in a good hermeneutics it is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration in a mechnical manner, as of an absolute truth, extracting a single phrase or expression. The plan in which it is possible to perceive Sacred Scripture as the Word of God is that of the unity of God's history, in a totality in which individual elements recriprocally shed light on its other and mutually open understanding of each other."

When the Pope here speaks against interpreting individual passages as containing a truth that is "absolute", this does not mean that they only contain truth in a qualified sense, but that they contain a truth that is "relative", in the sense of standing in a relation to the whole truth about God, in relation to the whole of the Scriptures.

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