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Is Holy Scripture free from error? / Are all parts of the Bible free from error?

 

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Yes, Holy Scripture is free from error. Note that this refers to Holy Scripture in general and not to any particular translation of it or to any item which is not part of the original text (e.g. footnotes, titles/headers, referencing, commentary, etc.). Furthermore, it refers to what the writer was intending to convey and not to any interpretation of what was written. Again, note that the inerrancy of the Bible does not extend to any particular translation / printing or to any item which is not part of the original text (e.g. footnotes, titles, headers, referencing, commentary, etc.). Some relevant quotations appear below...

"Brethren, be contentious and zealous for the things which lead to salvation! You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true and are of the Holy Spirit. You well know that nothing unjust or fraudulent is written in them." (Pope St. Clement of Rome, 1st century A.D.)

"We must neither doubt nor hesitate with respect to the words of the Lord; rather, we must be fully persuaded that every word of God is true and possible, even if our nature should rebel against the idea - for in this lies the test of faith." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[I hold Scripture] in such reverence and honor that I do most firmly believe that none of their authors has erred in anything that he has written therein. If I find anything in those writings which seems to be contrary to the truth, I presume that either the codex is inaccurate, or the translator has not followed what was said, or I have not properly understood it." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 406 A.D.)

"St. Jerome's teaching on this point serves to confirm and illustrate what our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, declared to be the ancient and traditional belief of the Church touching the absolute immunity of Scripture from error: So far is it from being the case that error can be compatible with inspiration, that, on the contrary, it not only of its very nature precludes the presence of error, but as necessarily excludes it and forbids it as God, the Supreme Truth, necessarily cannot be the Author of error." (Pope Benedict XV, "Spiritus Paraclitus", 1920 A.D.)

"God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures - and... therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures." (Pope Leo XIII, "Providentissimus Deus", 1893 A.D.)

Error condemned by Pope St. Pius X in "Lamentabili": "Divine inspiration does not so extend to all Sacred Scripture that it fortifies each and every part of it against all error." (Pope St. Pius X, This proposition was condemned in "Lamentabili", 1907 A.D.)

Error condemned by Pope St. Pius X in "Lamentabili": "In many narratives the Evangelists related not so much what is true, as what they thought to be more profitable for the reader, although false." (Pope St. Pius X, This proposition was condemned in "Lamentabili", 1907 A.D.)

"[W]hen some propose by way of rebuke that the Sacred Authors have strayed away from historical truth, or have not reported events accurately, it is found to be a question of nothing other than the customary natural methods of the ancients in speaking and narrating, which in the mutual intercourse among men were regularly employed, and in fact were employed in accord with a permissible and common practice. Therefore, intellectual honesty requires that when these matters are found in divine speech which is expressed for man in human words, they be not charged more with error than when they are uttered in the daily use of life. By this knowledge and exact appreciation of the modes of speaking and writing in use among the ancients can be solved many difficulties, which are raised against the veracity and historical value of the Divine Scriptures, and no less efficaciously does this study contribute to a fuller and more luminous understanding of the mind of the Sacred Writer." (Pope Pius XII, "Divino Afflante Spiritu", 1943 A.D.)

"It can happen, indeed, that transcribers in copying manuscripts do so incorrectly. This is to be considered carefully and is not to be admitted readily, except in those passages where it has been properly demonstrated; it can also happen that the true sense of some passage remains ambiguous; the best rules of interpretation will contribute much toward the solution of this problem; but it would be entirely wrong either to confine inspiration only to some parts of Sacred Scripture, or to concede that the sacred author himself has erred. For the method of those is not to be tolerated, who extricated themselves from these difficulties by readily granting that divine inspiration pertains to matters of faith and morals, and nothing more. The books, all and entire, which the Church accepts as sacred and canonical, with all their parts, have been written at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; so far is it from the possibility of any error being present to divine inspiration, that it itself of itself not only excludes all 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 uniform faith of the Church, defined also by solemn opinion at the Councils of Florence and of Trent, finally confirmed and more expressly declared at the [First] Vatican Council, by which it was absolutely declared: 'The books of the Old and New Testament ... have God as their author'. Therefore, it matters not at all that the Holy Spirit took men as instruments for the writing, as if anything false might have slipped, not indeed from the first Author, but from the inspired writers. For, by supernatural power He so roused and moved them to write, He stood so near them, that they rightly grasped in mind all those things, and those only, which He Himself ordered, and willed faithfully to write them down, and expressed them properly with infallible truth; otherwise, He Himself would not be the author of all Sacred Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. 'Therefore,' says St. Augustine, 'since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.' And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: 'Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things - we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution.' It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. And so utterly convinced were all the Fathers and Doctors that the holy works, which were published by the hagiographers, are free of every error, that they were very eager, no less skillfully than reverently, to arrange and reconcile those not infrequent passages which seemed to offer something contrary and at variance (they are almost the very passages which are now thrown up to us under the name of the new science); and they professed unanimously that these books, both in whole and in part, were equally of divine inspiration, and that God Himself, speaking through the sacred authors, could have set down nothing at all at variance with the truth. Let what the same [St.] Augustine wrote to [St.] Jerome sum this up: '... If I shall meet anything in these works which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to believe anything other than that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.' ... For many objections from every kind of teaching have for long been persistently hurled against Scripture, which now, quite dead, have fallen into disuse; likewise, at times not a few interpretations have been placed on certain passages of Scripture (not properly pertinent to the rule of faith and morals) in which a more careful investigation has seen the meaning more accurately. For, surely, time destroys the falsities of opinions, but 'truth remaineth and groweth stronger forever and ever.'" (Pope Leo XIII, "Providentissimus Deus", 1893 A.D.)


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