The Basics of Scripture
by Theologian Father William G. Most
Scripture is Inspired;
Inspiration really means that God Himself is the
Chief Author of the Scriptures.
He uses a Human Agent, in so marvelous a way that the Human writes what the Holy
Spirit wants him to write, does so without Error, yet the Human
Writer is Free, and keeps his own Style of Language. It is only because God is
Transcendent that He can do this - insure Freedom
from Error, while leaving the Human Free. To say
He is Transcendent means that He is
above and beyond all our Human Classifications and Categories. A Poetic Portuguese Proverb says:
God can write Straight, with Crooked Lines!
Relation of Scripture and Tradition
Let us take a minute to see how the Gospels developed. Then we can see better what is
the Relation of Scripture and Tradition.
First came the Teaching and
Acts of Jesus. Of course, He, like any
good speaker, would Adjust His Wording to the
Second, the Men Jesus sent out, the
Apostles, would Preach what He had said and done. They too would
Adjust their Wording to the Audience, but of course would be careful to keep the same Meaning.
Third, some Individuals, Inspired by the
Holy Spirit, would write-down part of this Basic Preaching; that became the
So the Gospels are really part of the Original Ongoing Teaching of those
Commissioned to Teach, by Jesus. So the Church
has something more basic than even the Gospels; its own Ongoing Teaching! This Living,
Ongoing Teaching is really what we mean by Tradition.
Vatican II, in its 'Constitution-on-Divine Revelation'
Dei Verbum), §9, tells us that Sacred Tradition and
Sacred Scripture are closely connected with each other. For both coming from the same
Divine Font, in a way 'Coalesce' into One (1), and tend
to the Same Goal. For Sacred Scripture is the Word of
God inasmuch as it is set down in Writing, under the Inspiration of the
Holy Spirit; Sacred Tradition takes the
Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and
the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and hands it on to their Successors to be transmitted in
Full Purity. Hence, the Council added, "It
is not only from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws its certainty about all revealed things". Its own Ongoing
Teaching, which is called Tradition, is also a place where Revelation is to be found, and
also interpreted, since the Gospels are really part of that
Tradition, written down under Inspiration. Section 10 of the same
Dei Verbum adds, logically: "The task of Authoritatively Interpreting the Word of God,
whether written or handed on [Scripture or
Tradition] has been entrusted exclusively to the Living Teaching Office of the Church, whose
Authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ".
The Deposit of Faith and Development
Hence there is a Deposit of Faith which is not to be changed, for
"the Christian Regime, as the New and Final Covenant will never pass away, and now no New Public
Revelation is to be expected before the Glorious Manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" at the 'End'
Dei Verbum), §4.
This does not mean there should be no progress in the Doctrine of the
Church. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised to send the
Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all
Truth (John 14:26; 16:13). He did
not mean there would be New Public Revelations. He did mean the
Church would be led over the Centuries to an ever Deeper Understanding
of the Truths contained in the Original Deposit of
Faith (which was Complete when the Last Apostle Died
and the New Testament was finished).
Hence it happened, for example, that the Immaculate Conception, which was not explicitly
mentioned in the First Centuries, and was even denied by some great Theologians in the
Middle Ages, finally, under the Guidance of the Holy
Spirit, emerged to be defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
Claims of Errors in Scripture
Some people today say there are a lot of Errors in the
Bible. But the Church says there are not. On the Authority of
Christ, we believe what She says.
But even working on our own, we can see for ourselves there are no Errors. Of
course there are no Errors or Contradictions
in Scripture, since the Holy Spirit is the
And so on, for countless other cases. Today we can solve Problems that were insoluble to
people even as close as the start of this Century. Those Early Scholars were Men of Faith.
They could not always find the answer to some Difficulty, but they said to themselves:
Even if we cannot find it, we know there must be an answer, for Scripture, the Work of the Holy Spirit, cannot
be in error. They were quite right. Today, we are Privileged to know how to Solve Numerous
Problems, Earlier Times could not handle.
We should thank God for giving us Scripture,
and His Church to Interpret it for us.