Rev José Mario O Mandía
“God’s Letter to Men.” This is how St John Chrysostom (347-407) called the Sacred Scripture. And this is what we believe since the time of the Apostles: that the Bible came from God.
The CCC (no 105) tells us that “God is the author of Sacred Scripture. ‘The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit’ (Dei Verbum 11).”
The Catechism adds, “‘For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, 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’ (DV 11; cf Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:19-21; 3:15-16).”
This doesn’t mean that God sent the whole book of the Bible from heaven to men. He employed human authors to express His words in human language. This is what we mean by “inspiration.”
From where did we get this word? The word “inspiration” comes from St Jerome’s translation of the Greek word θεοπνευστος (theopneustos, literally, “God-breathed”) into Latin as “divinitus inspirata.” This word is in the passage in II Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
The CCC (no 106) explains it as follows: “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. ‘To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more’ (DV 11).”
The fact that the Bible is from God gives it certain properties.
(1) UNITY OF CONTENT. There is only one source (God) and this source does not contradict Himself. Consequently, there are no contradictions in the Bible. When there seems to be contradictions, we have to take into account the criteria for interpreting Scripture. These we will tackle next week.
(2) VERACITY AND INERRANCY. God is Being and Truth and is the source of all being and truth. Veracity means that the Bible contains the truth about our salvation (no, it does not pretend to teach scientific truth). Inerrancy means that it teaches the truth without error. The CCC (no 107) says: “The inspired books teach the truth. ‘Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures’ (DV 11).”
(3) SANCTITY OR HOLINESS. (3.1) The Bible is holy first because it came from God, who is not only holy, but is Holiness Himself. (3.2) Moreover, the Bible is holy because its purpose is holy: the salvation of all and the glory of God. (3.3) It is also holy because of its precepts: it commands us not only to be good, but to be holy and, with God’s grace, to strive for perfection. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). “You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).