The Magisterium has repeatedly infallibly taught that the Bible is infallible in all that it asserts as true on any subject, whether faith, morals, salvation, history, or science. Now it is clear that some of the Bible’s assertions are by way of appearances, such as that the sun rises in the east, and that other assertions are figurative, not literal, such as the forbidden fruit and talking serpent of Adam and Eve. But this does not imply that any falsehood is stated on any subject.
Below are seven quotes from the Magisterium on the infallibility of Sacred Scripture. Pope Leo XIII calls this teaching “the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent….” A teaching so described must be infallible.
And yet very many Catholics, including teachers of the faith, feel free to contradict this infallible teaching, as if it were obvious that the Bible contains error. This is a very common heresy today. And no one seems to care that they themselves, or their teachers, or their peers, are asserting this grave error. In my discussions on heresy in my blog, this is the most remarkable thing, that the faithful do not care if an idea is heretical. And that is the main reason, at any time in the Church, that heresies rise up and harm souls.
The first Ecumenical Council (Nicaea) in 325 condemned the heretical teachings of Arius. But the controversy continued, and many subsequent local Council of Bishops continued to promote the error and to give authority to its adherents. It took a second Ecumenical Council (the first at Constantinople) in 381, about 56 years later, to crush this heresy and depose from authority its principle proponents. How remarkable! An Ecumenical Council condemned an idea as heresy, and yet it continued to be promoted, even by local Councils of Bishops, until a second Ecumenical Council condemned the heresy again.
Seven Words on the Inerrancy of Sacred Scripture
Whoever contradicts, denies, rejects, or obstinately doubts the total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture commits the grave sin of heresy. The rejection of Biblical inerrancy is one of the most common heresies among Catholics today. We have even reached the point where this heresy of denying total inerrancy is being taught by many persons as if the heresy were actually a doctrine of the Church.
1. Pope St. Clement I: “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them.” (Letter to the Corinthians, chap. 45).
2. Pope Leo XIII: “But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred…. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with 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 unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.” (Providentissimus Deus, n. 20).
3. Pope St. Pius X condemned the idea that “Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.” (Lamentabili Sane, ‘Syllabus of Errors,’ n. 11).
4. Pope Benedict XV: “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…. But although these words of our predecessor leave no room for doubt or dispute, it grieves us to find that not only men outside, but even children of the Catholic Church — nay, what is a peculiar sorrow to us, even clerics and professors of sacred learning — who in their own conceit either openly repudiate or at least attack in secret the Church’s teaching on this point…. Divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, and that no error can occur in the inspired text….” (Spiritus Paraclitus, n. 16, 18, 21).
5. Pope Pius XII: “they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.” (Humani Generis, n. 22).
6. Pope Pius XII: “The sacred Council of Trent ordained by solemn decree that ‘the entire books with all their parts, as they have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the old vulgate Latin edition, are to be held sacred and canonical.’ In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical ‘not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself.’ When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the ‘entire books with all their parts’ as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as ‘obiter dicta’ and — as they contended — in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules.” (Divino Afflante Spiritu, n. 1).
7. Second Vatican Council: “everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit….” (Dei Verbum, n. 11).
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