Page 1, 15th October 1943

15th October 1943
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Organisations: Council of Trent


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While the safety of the Holy See is threatened by the course of war, the Holy Father, indefatigable in his normal doctrinal and pastoral work, has given to the Church a new Encyclical.

On the fiftieth anniversary of Leo XIII's " Providentissimus Deus "—the great Encyclical which established a definite landmark in the development of the doctrine of inspiration in the Bible— Pius XII has issued " Divino Afflante Spiritu " on biblical studies.

The document is dated September 30, the feast of St. Jerome.

In the first part the Holy Father reviews all that has been done in the last half-century by the Supreme Pontiff and by the whole Church to give other more effective advancement to the study of Sacred Scripture. In the second part, the Pope turns his attention to the actuat state of biblical studies, first giving instructions on the manner of utilisiug the results obtained and of furthering this work.


To-day the study of ancient languages is so diffused and there are so many means at our disposal to learn them that the modern interpreter of Sacred Scripture cannot shirk the duties of mastering biblical languages, namely, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, along with the other Oriental,. languages. However, this is not meant to detract from the work of the Latin Vulgate, decreed authentic by thr Council of Trent, since the Holy Fathers of the Council recommended recourse to the original texts for the most exact and sure explanation of the Vulgate itself.


Equipped with a profound knowledge of languages and with a sound and solid critical sense, the exegist turns to the special task of sortingout and expounding the real mind or the sacred authors. His first aim will he to render the literal sense, directly icepressed by the words of the sacred text, but he must not neglect the spiritual or typical sense. Here the encyclical reaches the point of fundamental importance. It affirms that Revelation alone can manifest to us whether or not a determined spiritual or typical sense is contained in a given biblical text.

In the second place, it recalls that figurative meanings of another kind. as, for example, certain eymbolisms of things or of numbers can indeed be used with due moderation and restraint.

PRESENT-DAY ADVANTAGES The agreement of the Fathers and tbejudgment of the Church constitute the law for the Catholic interpretation of the Bible. But these two keys are helpful to but a few points in relation to the vast content of the Bible, as can be gathered from the immense mass of material which present-day knowledge of the ancient Oriental world offers to us. In this connection, a conspicuous place must be assigned to an understanding of the manner of thought and expression of those ancient peoples, in consequence of which through observations of the literary usages employed by them we can better determine the thoughts of the biblical writers.

MORE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS With the new approach alluded to, many difficulties bequeathed to us unsolved from antiquity have in our day beers happily explained. Many and indeed serious questions still -remain without a completely satisfactory solution, hut this should not discourage a Catholic interpreter who, drawing his primary inspiration from his love for the Word of God. must feel impelled to do his utmost to find a positive solution to questions that still arise.


The vast amount of newly-diecovered knowledge acquired through a greater understanding of Holy Scripture must also benefit the ordinary faithful. Therefore priests should see to it that this great treasury of scriptural knowledge be imparted to their Hock through the medium of preaching and through the press, especially in the form of periodicals.

In concluding the encyclical the thoughts of the Holy Father turned again to the terrible war which is afflicting the peoples of the world. The sole remedy of its evils is a return to Christ, and Christ reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures, as St. Jerome wrote, is ignorance of Christ.

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