Documents of the Pontifical Biblical Commission Translated

Taken from “The Replies of the Biblical Commission.” In A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Translated by E. F. Sutcliffe, S.J. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1953. 67-75. Digitized by Catholic Apologetics Information.

Abbreviations: ASS: Acta Sedis Sanctae; AAS: Acta Apostolicae Sedis; EB: Enchiridion Biblicum; Dz: Denzinger

Authority of the commission:

Pope St. Pius X, Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907 (ASS [1907] 724ff; EB nn. 278f; Dz 2113f): “We now declare and expressly enjoin that all Without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault.”

This authority was later revoked by Pope St. Paul VI in Sedula Cura in 1971. After this, decisions of the PBC do not have magisterial authority. Fr. Sutcliffe only translated documents from up to 1948, so that is all that will be included below. We plan to translate the remaining documents of the PBC that have magisterial authority for this blog soon.

On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

June 27, 1906 (ASS 39 [1906-07] 377f; EB 174ff; Dz 1997ff)

I: Are the arguments gathered by critics to impugn the Mosaic authorship of the sacred hooks designated by the name of the Pentateuch of such weight in spite of the cumulative evidence of many passages of both Testaments, the unbroken unanimity of the Jewish people, and furthermore of the constant tradition of the Church besides the internal indications furnished by the text itself, as to justify the statement that these books are not of Mosaic authorship but were put together from sources mostly of post-Mosaic date?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Does the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch necessarily imply a production of the whole work of such a character as to impose the belief that each and every word was written by Moses’ own hand or was by him dictated to secretaries ; or is it a legitimate hypothesis that he conceived the work himself under the guidance of divine inspiration and then entrusted the writing of it to one or more persons, with the understanding that they reproduced his thoughts with fidelity and neither wrote nor omitted anything contrary to his will, and that finally the work composed after this fashion was approved by Moses, its principal and inspired author, and was published under his name?
Answer: In the negative to the first and in the affirmative to the second part.

III: Without prejudice to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, may it be granted that in the composition of his work Moses used sources, written documents namely or oral traditions, from which in accordance with the special aim he entertained and under the guidance of divine inspiration he borrowed material and inserted it in his work either word for word or in substance, either abbreviated or amplified?
Answer: In the affirmative.

IV: Subject to the Mosaic authorship and the integrity of the Pentateuch being substantially safeguarded, may it be admitted that in the protracted course of centuries certain modifications befell it, such as : additions made after the death of Moses by an inspired writer, or glosses and explanations inserted in the text, certain words and forms changed from archaic into more recent speech, finally incorrect readings due to the fault of scribes which may be the subject of inquiry and judgement according to the laws of textual criticism?
Answer In the affirmative, saving the judgement of the Church.

Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis

June 30, 1909 (AAS 1 [1909] 567ff; EB 332ff; Dz 2121ff)

I: Do the various exegetical systems excogitated and defended under the guise of science to exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis rest on a solid foundation?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Notwithstanding the historical character and form of Genesis, the special connection of the first three chapters with one another and with the following chapters, the manifold testimonies of the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, the almost unanimous opinion of the holy Fathers and the traditional view which the people of Israel also has handed on and the Church has always held, may it be taught that: the aforesaid three chapters of Genesis Contain not accounts of actual events, accounts, that is, which correspond to objective reality and historical truth, but, either fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and accommodated by the sacred writer to monotheistic doctrine after the expurgation of any polytheistic error; or allegories and symbols without any foundation in objective reality proposed under the form of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or finally legends in part historical and in part fictitious freely composed with a view to instruction and edification?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: In particular may the literal historical sense be called in doubt in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters which touch the foundations of the Christian religion: as are, among others, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original felicity of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given by God to man to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: In the interpretation of those passages in these chapters which the Fathers and Doctors understood in different manners without proposing anything certain and definite, is it lawful, without prejudice to the judgement of the Church and with attention to the analogy of faith, to follow and defend the opinion that commends itself to each one?
Answer: In the affirmative.

V: Must each and every word and phrase occurring in the aforesaid chapters always and necessarily be understood in its literal sense, so that it is never lawful to deviate from it, even when it appears obvious that the diction is employed in an applied sense, either metaphorical or anthropomorphical, and either reason forbids the retention or necessity imposes the abandonment of the literal sense?
Answer: In the negative.

VI: Provided that the literal and historical sense is presupposed, may certain passages in the same chapters, in the light of the example of the holy Fathers and of the Church itself, be wisely and profitably interpreted in an allegorical and prophetic sense?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VII: As it was not the mind of the sacred author in the composition of the first chapter of Genesis to give scientific teaching about the internal Constitution of visible things and the entire order of creation, but rather to communicate to his people a popular notion in accord with the current speech of the time and suited to the understanding and capacity of men, must the exactness of scientific language be always meticulously sought for in the interpretation of these matters?
Answer: In the negative.

VIII : In the designation and distinction of the six days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis may the word Yom (day) be taken either in the literal sense for the natural day or in an applied sense for a certain space of time, and may this question be the subject of free discussion among exegetes?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Authors and Date of the Psalms

May 1, 1910 (AAS II [1910] 354f; EB 340ff; Dz 2129ff)

I: Have the titles Psalms of David, Hymns of David, Book of the Psalms of David, Davidic Psalter, employed in ancient collections and in the Councils themselves to designate the book of 150 psalms of the Old Testament; and also the opinion of a number of Fathers and Doctors, who held that all the psalms of the Psalter without exception were to be ascribed to David alone, such weight that David should be held to be the only author of the whole Psalter?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Does the agreement of the Hebrew text with the Greek Alexandrine text and other ancient versions give ground for a valid argument that the titles of the psalms prefixed to the Hebrew text are more ancient than the Septuagint version ; and consequently, if not from the very authors of the psalms, at least derive from an ancient Jewish tradition?
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: Can the aforesaid titles of the psalms, witnesses of Jewish tradition, be prudently called in doubt when there is no serious reason against their being genuine?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: In view of the not infrequent testimonies of sacred Scripture to the natural talent, helped by a special gift of the Holy Ghost, which David had for the composition of religious songs, of his arrangements for the liturgical chant of the psalms, of the attribution of psalms to him both in the Old Testament and in the New as well as in the superscriptions prefixed of old to the psalms; in view, moreover, of the agreement of the Jews, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, can it be prudently denied that David was the principal author of the songs of the Psalter, or on the contrary, affirmed that only a few songs are to be assigned to the royal psalmist?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

V: In particular is it right to deny the Davidic origin of those psalms which are explicitly cited under David’s name in the Old or New Testament, among which are to be mentioned more especially psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt gentes; psalm 15 Conserva me, Domine; psalm 17 Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea; psalm 31 Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates; psalm 68 Salvum me fac, Deus; psalm 109 Dixit Dominus Domino meo?
Answer: In the negative.

VI: May the opinion of those be admitted who hold that among the psalms of the Psalter there are some, either of David’s or of other authors, which on account of liturgical and musical reasons, the negligence of scribes, or other causes unknown have been divided into several or united into one; also that there are other psalms, like the Miserere mei, Deus, which for the purpose of being better adapted to historical circumstances or solemnities of the Jewish people, were subjected to some slight rehandling or modification by the omission or addition of one or two verses, without prejudice however to the inspiration of the whole sacred text?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

VII: Is it possible to maintain as probable the opinion of those more recent writers who, relying on purely internal indications or an incorrect interpretation of the sacred text, have attempted to show that not a few psalms were composed after the times of Esdras and Nehemias and even in the Maccabean age?
Answer: In the negative.

VIII: On the authority of the manifold witness of the sacred books of the New Testament and the unanimous agreement of the Fathers in harmony with the acknowledgement of Jewish writers, is it necessary to admit a number of prophetic and Messianic psalms, which foretold the future Saviour’s coming, kingdom, priesthood, passion, death, and resurrection; and consequently is it necessary to reject altogether the opinion of those who pervert the prophetic and Messianic character of the psalms and limit these oracles about Christ merely to the foretelling of the future lot of the chosen people?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

Concerning the Character and Author of the Book of Isaias

June 29, 1908 (ASS 41 [1908] 613f; EB 287ff; Dz 2115 ff)

I: May it be taught that the predictions read in the Book of Isaias-and throughout the Scriptures- are not predictions properly so called, but either narrations put together after the event, or, if anything has to be acknowledged as foretold before the event, that the prophet foretold it not in accordance with a supernatural revelation of God who foreknows future events, but by conjectures formed felicitously and shrewdly by natural sharpness of mind on the basis of previous experience?
Answer : In the negative.

II: Can the opinion that Isaias and the other prophets did not put forth predictions except about events that were to happen in the immediate future or after no long space of time, be reconciled with the predictions, in particular Messianic and eschatological, certainly put forth by the same prophets concerning the distant future, and also with the common opinion of the holy Fathers who unanimously assert that the prophets also made prophecies that were to be fulfilled after many centuries?
Answer: In the negative.

III: May it be admitted that the prophets, not only as correctors of human depravity and preachers of the divine word for the benefit of their hearers, but also as foretellers of future events, must consistently have addressed, not future, but present contemporary hearers in such a manner that they could be clearly understood by them; and that in consequence the second part of the Book of Isaias (chapters 40-66), in which the prophet addresses and consoles, not the Jewish contemporaries of Isaias, but as if living among them, the Jews mourning in the Babylonian exile, could not have Isaias, long since dead, for its author, but must be ascribed to some unknown prophet living among the exiles?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: Should the philological argument drawn from language and style to impugn identity of authorship throughout the Book of Isaias be deemed of such force as to compel a man of sound judgement with competent knowledge of Hebrew and of the art of criticism to recognize several authors in the same book?
Answer: In the negative.

V: Do there exist arguments which even when taken together avail to demonstrate that the Book of Isaias must be attributed not to Isaias himself alone, but to two or even several authors?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Gospel according to Matthew

June 19, 1911 (AAS 3 [1911] 294ff; EB 401ff; Dz 2148 ff)

I: Having regard to the universal and unwavering agreement of the Church ever since the first centuries, an agreement clearly attested by the express witness of the Fathers, by the titles of the Gospel manuscripts, the most ancient versions of the sacred books and the lists handed on by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, by Popes and Councils, and finally by the liturgical use of the Church in the East and in the West, may and should it be affirmed as certain that Matthew, the Apostle of Christ, was in fact the author of the Gospel current under his name?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should the verdict of tradition be considered to give adequate support to the statement that Matthew wrote before the other Evangelists and wrote the first Gospel in the native language then used by the Jews of Palestine for whom the work was intended?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: Can the composition of this original text be postponed till after the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about that destruction were written after the event ; or should the oft-quoted text of Irenaeus (Ads. Haer. Lib. 3, cap. 1, n. 2), of uncertain and controverted interpretation, be considered to have such weight as to impose the rejection of the opinion more in harmony with tradition according to which the composition of the Gospel was completed even before the arrival of Paul in Rome?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

IV: Can even probable arguments be given in support of that opinion of certain recent writers according to which Matthew did not write a Gospel properly and strictly so-called, such as has been handed down to us, but merely a collection of the sayings or discourses of Christ which were drawn on by another anonymous author, whom they make the editor of the Gospel itself?
Answer: In the negative.

V: Can the fact that all the Fathers and ecclesiastical Writers and even the Church itself from its very cradle have used as canonical only the Greek text of the Gospel known under the name of Matthew, not even those being excepted who explicitly taught that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, provide certain proof that the Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by that Apostle in his native tongue?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VI: Do the facts that the aim of the author of the first Gospel is chiefly dogmatic and apologetic, namely, to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messias foretold by the prophets and born of the lineage of David, and that moreover in the arrangement of the facts and discourses which he narrates and reports, he does not always follow chronological order, justify the deduction that they ought not to be accepted as true? Or may it also be affirmed that the accounts of the deeds and discourses of Christ, which are read in that Gospel, underwent a certain alteration and adaptation under the influence of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the more mature condition of the Church and are consequently not in conformity with historical truth?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VII: In particular ought it to be held that there is no solid foundation to the opinions of those who call in doubt the historical authenticity of the first two chapters, in which an account is given of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, as also of certain passages of great dogmatic importance, such as are those which concern the primacy of Peter (16:17-19), the form of baptism entrusted to the Apostles together with the mission of preaching everywhere (28:19f), the Apostles’ profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (14:33), and other similar matters which are found in a special form in Matthew?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Authors, Dates, and Historical Truth of the Gospels according to Mark and Luke

June 26, 1912 (AAS 4 [1912] 463ff; EB 4O8ff; Dz 2155ff)

I: Does the clear verdict of tradition showing extraordinary unanimity from the beginnings of the Church and confirmed by manifold evidence, namely the explicit attestations of the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, the quotations and allusions occurring in their writings, the use made by ancient heretics, the versions of the books of the New Testament, almost all the manuscripts including the most ancient, and also internal reasons drawn from the text of the sacred books impose the definite affirmation that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and Luke, the doctor, the assistant and companion of Paul, were really the authors of the Gospels that are attributed to them respectively?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Are the reasons by which certain critics strive to prove that the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) were not written by Mark himself but were added by another hand, of such a character as to justify the statement that they are not to be accepted as inspired and canonical? Or do they prove at least that Mark was not the author of the said verses?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: Similarly is it lawful to doubt the inspiration and canonicity of Luke’s accounts of the infancy of Christ (chapters 1 and 2); or of the apparition of the Angel strengthening Jesus and the sweat of blood (22:43f)? Or can it at any rate be shown by solid reasons-a view preferred by ancient heretics and favoured also by certain modern critics-that the said accounts do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

IV: Can and should those very few and altogether exceptional documents in which the Canticle Magnificat is attributed not to our Blessed Lady but to Elizabeth, in any way prevail against the unanimous testimony of almost all manuscripts both of the original Greek text and of the versions, and against the interpretation which is clearly demanded no less by the context than by the mind of our Lady herself and the constant tradition of the Church?
Answer: In the negative.

V: As regards the chronological order of the Gospels is it right to depart from the opinion supported by the very ancient and constant testimony of tradition, which avers that after Matthew, who before all the others wrote his Gospel in his native tongue, Mark was the second in order, and Luke the third to write? Or on the other hand is opposition to be found between this opinion and that which asserts the second and third Gospels to have been written before the Greek version of the first Gospel?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VI: Is it lawful to postpone the date of composition of the Gospels of Mark and Luke till after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem? Or, on the ground that our Lord’s prophecy concerning the destruction of that city appears more detailed in Luke, can it be maintained that his Gospel at least was written after the siege had begun?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VII: Should it be affirmed that the Gospel of Luke preceded the Acts of the Apostles; and as this book, written by the same Luke (Acts 1:1f), was finished at the close of the Apostle’s imprisonment at Rome (Acts 28:30f), that his Gospel was not composed after this time?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VIII: In view both of the witness of tradition and the internal evidence concerning the sources used by each Evangelist in writing his Gospel, is it prudent to doubt the opinion that Mark wrote in accordance with the preaching of Peter and Luke in accordance with that of Paul, and also that these Evangelists had, besides, other trustworthy sources, whether oral or written?
Answer: In the negative.

IX: Do the words and deeds which are reported by Mark accurately and almost in verbal agreement with Peter’s preaching, and are faithfully set forth by Luke who had “diligently attained to all things from the beginning” through the help of entirely trustworthy witnesses “who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2f) rightly claim for themselves as historical that entire belief that the Church has always placed in them? Or on the contrary ought the same facts and deeds to be regarded as in part at least destitute of historical truth, either on the ground that the writers were not eye-witnesses or that in the ease of both Evangelists defects of order and disagreement in the succession of events are not seldom detected, or that, as they came on the scene and wrote rather late, they could not help recording ideas foreign to the mind of Christ and the Apostles or events already more or less distorted by popular imagination, or finally, that they indulged in preconceived dogmatic ideas, each one in accordance with his own aim?
Answer: In the affirmative to the first part, in the negative to the second.

On the Synoptic Problem or the Mutual Relations of the First Three Gospels

June 26, 1912 (AAS 4 [1912] 465; EB 117f; Dz 2164ff)

I: Provided all is safeguarded that according to previous decisions must be safeguarded, especially concerning the authenticity and integrity of the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the substantial identity of the Greek Gospel of Matthew with its original text, and the chronological order in which they were written, in order to explain their mutual similarities and dissimilarities, is it lawful for exegetes, given the many different and contradictory opinions proposed by writers, to discuss the question freely and to have recourse to the hypotheses of tradition, whether written or oral, or also of the dependence of one Gospel on another or on others that preceded it?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Ought those to be considered faithful to the above prescriptions, who without the support of any traditional evidence or historical argument readily embrace what is commonly called the two-document hypothesis’, the purpose of which is to explain the composition of the Greek Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke chiefly by their dependence on the Gospel of Mark and a so-called collection of the discourses of our Lord; and are they consequently free to advocate it?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

Concerning the Author and Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel

May 29, 1907 (ASS 40 [1907] 383f; EB 180ff; Dz 2110)

I: Does the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church dating back to the second century and witnessed to principally : (a) by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, and even by heretics, whose testimonies and allusions must have been derived from the disciples or first successors of the Apostles and so be linked with the very origin of the book; (b) by the name of the author of the fourth Gospel having been at all times and places in the canon and lists of the sacred books; (c) by the most ancient manuscripts of those books and the various versions; (d) by public liturgical use in the whole world from the very beginnings of the Church; prove that John the Apostle and no other is to be acknowledged as the author of the fourth Gospel, and that by an historical argument so firmly established (without reference to theological considerations) that the reasons adduced by critics to the contrary in no way weaken this tradition?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should, further, internal reasons derived from the text of the fourth Gospel considered by itself, from the witness of the writer and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself to the first Epistle of John the Apostle, be judged to confirm the tradition that unhesitatingly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle? And can the difficulties which arise from a comparison of the same Gospel with the other three, in view of the differences of time, aim, and hearers, for whom or against whom the author wrote, be given reasonable solutions, as has been done by the holy Fathers and Catholic exegetes in various works?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: Notwithstanding the practice which has flourished consistently in the whole Church from the earliest times, of arguing from the fourth Gospel as from a strictly historical document, and in consideration no less of the special character of the same Gospel and the manifest intention of the author to illustrate and vindicate the divinity of Christ from the very acts and discourses of our Lord, may it be said that the facts narrated in the fourth Gospel were invented wholly or in part, as allegories or doctrinal symbols and that the discourses of our Lord are not properly and truly the discourses of our Lord himself but the theological compositions of the writer though placed in the mouth of our Lord?

Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Acts of the Apostles

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 291f; EB 419ff; Dz 2166ff)

I: In view especially of the tradition of the whole Church dating back to the earliest ecclesiastical writers, and in consideration of the internal characteristics of the book of Acts whether considered in itself or in its relation to the third Gospel, and especially of the mutual affinity and connection of both prologues (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1f), should it be held as certain that the volume with the title Actus Apostolorum or Praxeis Apostolon had the Evangelist Luke for its author?
Answer : In the affirmative.

II: Can critical reasons derived from language and style, from the character of the narrative, and from the unity of aim and teaching, demonstrate that the Acts of the Apostles should be attributed to only one author; and that consequently there is no foundation at all for the opinion of recent writers according to which Luke was not the only author of the book but different authors are recognized in the said book?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: In particular, do those sections, so noticeable in the Acts, in which the use of the third person is abandoned and the first person plural introduced (We passages), weaken the unity of composition and the authenticity; or, historically and philosophically considered, should they rather be said to confirm it?
Answer: In the negative to the first part ; in the affirmative to the second.

IV: Does the fact that the book hardly mentions the two years of Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome and ends abruptly, warrant the inference that the author wrote a second but lost work or intended to write one, and consequently can the date of the composition of the Acts be postponed till long after the said captivity? Or rather is it legitimately and rightly to be maintained that Luke finished the book towards the close of the first imprisonment of the Apostle Paul at Rome?
Answer: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

V: If consideration be given both to the frequent and easy intercourse that without doubt Luke had with the first and chief founders of the Church in Palestine and with Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, whom he helped in his preaching of the Gospel and accompanied on his journeys, and to his habitual industry and diligence in seeking witnesses and in personal observation of events, and finally to the frequently obvious and remarkable agreement of the Acts with Paul’s own Epistles and with the more exact historical records, should it be held for certain that Luke had at his disposal entirely trustworthy sources and used them carefully, honestly, and faithfully, so that he rightly claims for himself full authority as an historian?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VI: Are the difficulties commonly raised both from the supernatural facts narrated by Luke, and from the report of certain discourses, which on account of their brevity are thought to be invented and adapted to circumstances, and from certain passages in at least apparent disagreement with history, whether profane or biblical, and finally from certain narrations in apparent conflict either with the author of Acts himself or with other sacred authors, of such a nature as to throw doubt on or at least in some measure to diminish the historical authority of Acts?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Integrity, and the Date of the Pastoral Epistles of St Paul

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 292f; EB 425ff; Dz 2172ff)

I: In view of the tradition of the Church universally and firmly maintained from the beginning, as is witnessed in many ways by ancient ecclesiastical records, should it be held as certain that the Pastoral Epistles, the two, namely, to Timothy and another to Titus, notwithstanding the effrontery of certain heretics, who without giving any reason expunged them from the number of Pauline Epistles as being opposed to their tenets, were written by the Apostle Paul himself and were always listed among the genuine and canonical Epistles?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Can the so-called fragmentary hypothesis introduced and propounded in different ways by certain recent critics, who without any plausible reason and even at variance among themselves, maintain that the Pastoral Epistles were put together by unknown authors at a later date out of fragments of the Epistles or out of lost Pauline Epistles with notable additions, cause even any slight weakening of the clear and unshaken testimony of tradition?
Answer: In the negative.

III: Do the difficulties commonly alleged on many grounds, either on account of the style and language of the author, or of the errors, especially of the Gnostics, described as already then current, or of the presupposition that the ecclesiastical hierarchy was in an already developed state, and other similar arguments to the contrary, in any way weaken the opinion that holds the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles to be established and certain?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: As the opinion that the Apostle Paul was twice imprisoned at Rome should be considered certain on account no less of historical reasons than of ecclesiastical tradition in harmony with the testimonies of the holy Fathers both in East and West, and also on account of the evidence readily available both in the abrupt conclusion of the Acts and in the Pauline Epistles written at Rome and especially in the second to Timothy; can it be safely stated that the Pastoral Epistles were written in the interval between the liberation of the Apostle from the first imprisonment and his death?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Author and Manner of Composition of the Epistle to the Hebrews

June 24, 1914 (AAS 6 [1914] 417f; EB 429ff; Dz 2176ff)

I: Are the doubts about the divine inspiration and Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews which influenced certain minds in the West in the first centuries, chiefly because of its abuse by heretics, of such importance that, bearing in mind the unbroken, unanimous, and unwavering affirmation of the eastern Fathers supported after the fourth century by the entire assent of the whole western Church, due weight also being given to the acts of the Popes and sacred Councils, especially that of Trent, and to the constant usage of the universal Church, it is lawful to hesitate about reckoning it definitively not only among the canonical Epistles-which has been defined as a matter of faith -but also among the genuine Epistles of the Apostle Paul?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Can the arguments commonly based either on the unusual absence of Paul’s name and the omission of the customary introduction and salutation in the Epistle to the Hebrews-or on the purity of its Greek, the elegance and perfection of its diction and style-or on the character of its quotations and arguments from the Old Testament-or on certain differences alleged to exist between the doctrine of this and the other Pauline Epistles, in any way invalidate its Pauline origin? Or rather do the perfect unanimity in teaching and thought, the resemblance of the admonitions and exhortations, and the agreement in phrase and even in words pointed out also by some non-Catholics, which are seen to exist between it and the other writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, clearly indicate and confirm the same Pauline origin?
Answer: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

III: Should the Apostle Paul be considered the author of this Epistle after such manner that he must necessarily be said, not only to have conceived and expressed it all under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but also to have given it the form that it actually has?
Answer: In the negative, saving the further judgement of the Church.

Concerning the Parousia or Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Epistles of the Apostle St Paul

June 18, 1915 (AAS 7 [1915] 357f; EB 432ff; Dz 2179ff)

I: In order to meet the difficulties occurring in the Epistles of St Paul and other Apostles in passages which treat of the “Parousia”, as it is called, or second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, is it allowed to a Catholic exegete to assert that, though the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost teach nothing erroneous, they none the less express their own human opinions which may rest on error or misconception?
Answer In the negative.

II: In view of the correct concept of the apostolic office and the undoubted fidelity of St Paul to the teaching of the Master ; in view also of the Catholic doctrine concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture according to which whatever a sacred Writer asserts, declares, suggests, should be held to be asserted, declared, suggested by the Holy Ghost and after a careful examination on their own merits of the passages in the Epistles of St Paul which are in complete harmony with our Lord’s own manner of speaking, should it be asserted that the Apostle Paul said nothing whatever in his writings which is not in complete harmony with that ignorance of the time of the Parousia which Christ himself proclaimed to belong to men?
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: After consideration of the Greek phrase hemeis hoi zontes hoi perileipomenoi; and after careful examination of the exposition of the Fathers, above all of St John Chrysostom, who was completely at home both in his native language and in the Pauline Epistles, is it lawful to reject as far-fetched and destitute of any solid foundation the interpretation traditional in the Catholic schools (and retained even by the Reformers of the sixteenth century) that explains the words of St Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, without in any way involving the assertion that the Parousia was so near that the Apostle counted himself and his readers among the faithful who will be left alive and go to meet Christ?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the False Interpretation of Two Biblical Texts

July 1, 1933 (AAS 25 [1933] 344; Dz 2272-3)

I: Is it right for a Catholic, especially after the authentic interpretation given by the Princes of the Apostles (Acts 2:24-33; 13:35-37) to interpret the words of Psalm 15:10f: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life”, as if the sacred author did not speak of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Is it licit to assert that the words of Jesus Christ, which are read in St Matthew 16:26: “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” and similarly those in St Luke 9:25: “What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself and cast away himself?” in the literal sense do not regard the eternal salvation of the soul, but only man’s temporal life, notwithstanding the tenor of the words themselves and their context besides the unanimous interpretation of Catholics?
Answer: In the negative.

On Implicit Quotations in Holy Scripture

February 13, 1905 (ASS 37 [1904-05] 666; EB 153; Dz 1979)

To secure a directive norm for students of Holy Scripture the following question was proposed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, namely:

To solve difficulties occurring in certain texts of Holy Scripture that appear to relate historical facts, may a Catholic exegete assert that the passage in question is a tacit or implicit quotation of a document written by a non-inspired author, all of whose assertions the inspired author does not mean to approve or make his own, and that these assertions cannot therefore be held immune from error?

Answer: In the negative, except in a case where without prejudice to the mind and judgement of the Church, it is proved by solid arguments: (1) that the sacred Writer does in fact cite the sayings or documents of another, and (2) neither approves nor makes the same his own, so that he is legitimately regarded as not speaking in his own name.

On Narratives Historical only in Appearance in Books of Holy Scripture Historical in Form

June 23, 1905 (ASS 38 [1905-06] 124f; EB 154; Dz 1980)

Is it possible to admit as a principle of sound exegesis that books of sacred Scripture which are regarded as historical, at times do not relate, either wholly or in part, history properly so-called and objectively true, but present only the appearance of history with the purpose of expressing some meaning differing from the strictly literal or historical sense of the words?

Answer: In the negative, except in a case neither easily nor rashly to be admitted, in which the mind of the Church not being contrary and without prejudice to its judgement, it is proved by solid arguments that the sacred Writer intended not to recount true history, properly so-called, but under the guise and form of history to set forth a parable, an allegory, or some meaning distinct from the strictly literal or historical signification of the words.

Concerning the Addition of Variant Readings in Editions of the Vulgate Version of the Old and New Testament

November 17, 1921 (AAS 14 [1922] 27; EB 509)

In the Preface to the Reader of the Clementine edition of the Vulgate version of the Sacred Scriptures it is said: “Further in this edition there is nothing not canonical. no parallel passages in the margin (the addition of which in that position is not prohibited in the future), no notes, no variant readings, finally no prefaces. But as the Apostolic See does not condemn the industry of those who have inserted in other editions parallel passages, variant readings, the prefaces of St Jerome, and similar matter, so neither does it forbid that with the use of different type such helps should be added in the future for the advantage and utility of students in this same Vatican edition; with the exception, however, that Variant readings may not be noted in the margin of the text”.

But as some are of opinion that these last words forbid the addition of variant readings not only in the margin at the side but also at the foot of the text, the question has been put to the Pontifical Biblical Commission: Is it lawful in editions of the Vulgate version both of the New and the Old Testaments to add variant readings and other similar helps for students at the foot of the text?

After examination of the matter, the Pontifical Biblical Commission replied: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches

April 30, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 315)

The following question was proposed by his Excellency the Bishop of S’Hertogenbosch [otherwise called Bois-le-Duc] in the name also of their Excellencies the other Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Holland:

Can it be allowed to read to the people in Church the liturgical passages of the Epistles and Gospels in a translation not from “the ancient Vulgate Latin version”, but from the original texts whether Greek or Hebrew?

The Pontifical Biblical Commission decided that the following answer should be given: In the negative; a translation should be publicly read to the Faithful made from the text approved by the Church for the sacred liturgy.

Concerning Translations of Holy Scripture in Modern Languages

August 22, 1943 (AAS 35 [1943] 270; CR 23 [1943] 524)

To answer a question proposed to it concerning the use and authority of biblical translations in modern languages, especially those made from the original texts, and to give further clarification to its decree Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches of April 30, 1934, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has considered it opportune to publish and commend the following norms:
Since Pope Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical Providentissimus Deus (Acta Leonis XIII, Vol. 13, p 342; EB 91), for the more intimate knowledge and more fruitful explanation of the divine word recommended the use of the original texts of the Bible and since that recommendation, which clearly was not made for the exclusive advantage of exegetes and theologians, has seemed and seems almost to advise that the same texts, of course under the vigilant care of the competent ecclesiastical authorities, should be translated in accordance with the approved principles of sacred and indeed of profane science into the vernacular languages known to the mass of the people;

Since, moreover, it is from the Vulgate translation, which alone and exclusively among the Latin versions then in circulation the oecumenical Council of Trent declared authoritative (Conc. Trid., sess. IV, decr. De editione et usu Ss. Librorum; EB 46) that the biblical passages in the liturgical books of the Latin Church to be read publicly at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office have for the most part been taken ; presupposing the observance of whatever should be observed:

1° Translations of Holy Scripture in modern languages whether made from the Vulgate or from the original texts, provided they have been published with the permission of the competent ecclesiastical authority in accordance with canon 1391, may be duly used and read by the faithful for their private devotion; moreover, if any translation, after a diligent examination both of the text and of the notes by men eminent in biblical and theological knowledge, is found to be more faithful and suitable, it may, if so desired, be especially recommended by the Bishops, either individually or in provincial or national meetings, to the faithful committed to their care.

2° The vernacular translation of the biblical passages which priests celebrating Mass are to read to the people, as custom or occasion demands, after the reading of the liturgical text, should, in accordance with the reply of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (Acta Ap. Sedis, 1934, p. 315), agree with the Latin liturgical text, though it remains permissible, if judged expedient, to give suitable explanation of the said translation by the help of the original text or of another clearer translation.

Concerning the Work of R. D Frederic Schmidtke entitled Die Einwanderung Israels in Kanaan

February 27, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 130f)

As the question has been addressed to this Pontifical Biblical Commission what is to be thought of the work entitled Die Einwassderung Israels in Kanaan, published at Breslau in the year 1933 by R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, it has decided that the following answer should be given:

R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, Professor Extraordinary of the Old Testament in the Theological Faculty of the University of Breslau in the volume mentioned above: in his treatment of the Pentateuch follows the opinions of rationalistic criticism to the complete neglect of the decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 27, 1906; moreover, in the history of the Old Testament, without any attention to the decree of the same Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 23, 1905, he introduces a type of literature consisting of popular traditions mingling falsehood with truth; contrary to the clear evidence of the sacred books he makes, among others, the assertions that the stories about the Patriarchs, at least in large part, give the history, not of individual men, but of tribes; that Jacob was not the son of Isaac, but represents some Aramean tribe; that the whole people of Israel did not enter Egypt but a part only, in particular the tribe of Joseph; also, doing violence to the sacred text, he explains many miracles of the Old Testament as purely natural events.

The author, consequently, at least implicitly, denies the dogma of biblical inspiration and inerrancy; he entirely neglects the norms of Catholic hermeneutics he contradicts the Catholic doctrine most clearly set forth in the Encyclicals Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII and Spiritus Paraclitus of Benedict XV.

Hence the aforesaid work deserves reprobation on various grounds and should be kept out of Catholic schools.

The Pontifical Commission, moreover, takes this occasion to warn Catholic commentators to obey with due reverence the dogmatic Constitution of the Vatican Council, renewing the Decree of the sacred Council of Trent, by which it was solemnly ordained “that in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of sacred Scripture which was, and is, held by our holy mother the Church, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, and therefore no one may interpret holy Scripture contrary to this sense or also against the unanimous consent of the Fathers”.

Letter to Cardinal Suhard

(AAS 40 [1948] 45-8)

The Holy Father graciously entrusted to the Pontifical Biblical Commission the examination of two questions recently submitted to His Holiness concerning the sources of the Pentateuch and the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. As the result of their deliberations His Holiness deigned to approve the following reply. on 16 January 1948.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission. desires to promote biblical studies by assuring to them the most complete liberty within the limits of the traditional teaching of the Church. This liberty has been proclaimed in explicit terms by the present Pope in his Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu: “The Catholic exegete. ought not by any manner of means to debar himself from taking in hand, and that repeatedly, the difficult questions which have found no solution up to the present time. in an attempt to find a well-founded explanation in perfect harmony with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with that of biblical inerrancy, and at the same time capable of fully satisfying the certain conclusions of the secular sciences. The labours of these worthy workers in the vineyard of the Lord deserve to be judged not only with equity and justice, but with perfect charity; and this is a point which all others sons of the Church should bear in mind. It is their duty to avoid that most imprudent zeal which considers it an obligation to attack or suspect whatever is new”, AAS (1943) 319.

If this recommendation of the Pope’s is borne in mind in the interpretation of the three official replies given formerly by the Biblical Commission in connection with the above-mentioned questions, namely June 23, 1905, on narratives in the historical books of Holy Scripture which have only the appearance of history (EB 154), June 27, 1906, on the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch (EB 174-7), and June 30, 1909, on the historical character of the first three chapters of Genesis (EB 332-9), it will be agreed that these replies are in no way a hindrance to further truly scientific examination of these problems in accordance with the results acquired in these last forty years.

As regards the composition of the Pentateuch, in the above-mentioned decree of June 27, 1906, the Biblical Commission recognized already that it could be affirmed that Moses “in order to compose his work made use of written documents or of oral traditions” and that post-Mosaic modifications and additions could also be admitted (EB 176-7). No one today doubts the existence of these sources or rejects a gradual increase of Mosaic laws due to the social and religious conditions of later times, a process manifest also in the historical narratives. However, even among non-Catholic exegetes very diverse opinions are held today concerning the character and the number of these documents, their names and dates. There are even authors in different countries, who for purely critical and historical reasons quite unconnected with any religious purpose resolutely reject the theories most in favour up to the present, and seek the explanation of certain editorial peculiarities of the Pentateuch, not so much in the alleged diversity of documents as in the special psychology, the peculiar mental and literary processes of the ancient Orientals which are better known today, or again in the different literary forms which are required by the diversity of subject-matter. Hence we invite Catholic scholars to study these problems with an open mind in the light of sane criticism and of the results of other sciences which have their part in these matters, and such study will without doubt establish the large share and the profound influence of Moses as author and as legislator.

The question of the literary forms of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is far more obscure and complex. These literary forms do not correspond to any of our classical categories and cannot be judged in the light of the Greco-Latin or modern literary types. It is therefore impossible to deny or to affirm their historicity as a whole without unduly applying to them norms of a literary type under which they cannot be classed. If it is agreed not to see in these chapters history in the classical and modern sense, it must be admitted also that known scientific facts do not allow a positive solution of all the problems which they present. The first duty in this matter incumbent on scientific exegesis consists in the careful study of all the problems literary, scientific, historical, cultural, and religious connected with these chapters; in the next place is required a close examination of the literary methods of the ancient oriental peoples, their psychology, their manner of expressing themselves and even their notion of historical truth the requisite, in a word, is to assemble without preformed judgements all the material of the palaeontological and historical, epigraphical and literary sciences. It is only in this way that there is hope of attaining a clearer view of the true nature of certain narratives in the first chapters of Genesis. To declare a priori that these narratives do not contain history in the modern sense of the word might easily be understood to mean that they do not contain history in any sense, whereas they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding f mankind at a lower stage of development, the fundamental truths underlying the divine scheme of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origins of the human race and of the chosen people. In the meantime it is necessary to practise patience which is part of prudence and the wisdom of life. This also is inculcated by the Holy Father in the Encyclical already quoted: “No one”, he says, “should be surprised that all the difficulties have not yet been clarified or solved. But that is no reason for losing courage or forgetting that in the branches of human study it cannot be otherwise than in nature, where beginnings grow little by little, where the produce of the soil is not gathered except after prolonged labour. There is ground, therefore, for hoping that (these difficulties) which today appear most complicated and arduous, will eventually, thanks to constant effort, admit of complete clarification” (AAS [1943] 318).

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