Church Documents

Church Documents and Writings Related to Biblical Studies

Ecumenical Councils

  1. Council of Trent (ed. J. Waterworth, 1848; another copy online at EWTN Library):
  2. Dei Filius (VI) ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith ) – April 24, 1870) Cf. Session III.2 – “On Revelation”.
  3. Dei V erbum (VII) ( Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; – November 18, 1965) English translation (Vatican website); Spanish translation

Papal Documents

  1. Pope Leo XIII:
    • Providentissimus Deus (Encyclical On the Study of Holy Scripture – November 18, 1893) This encyclical marks the beginning of the great revival of Catholic biblical studies and research. Leo XIII affirms the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures, which are always to be interpreted in the light of faith. However, sound scientific methods have their proper place in the specialized study of the sacred books because there can be no conflict between the Bible and the natural sciences.
    • Vigilantiae Studiique [Latin] (Apostolic Letter Instituting a Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies – October 30, 1902)
  2. Pope Pius X:
    • Quoniam in re biblica (Apostolic Letter On the Study of Scripture in Seminaries – March 27, 1906) Continuing the work of Leo XIII, St. Pius X sets out the requirements for the systematic study of the Scriptures in seminaries so that priests can better proclaim the word of God
    • Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Encyclical On the Doctrines of the Modernists – September 8, 1907) Pius condems the umbrella philosophy and theology of Modernism
    • Praestantia Scripturae Sacrae (Apostolic Letter On the Decisions of the Biblical Commission – November 18, 1907)
  3. Pope Benedict XV:
    • Spiritus Paraclitus (Encyclical On St. Jerome – September 15, 1920) Benedict XV used the anniversary of Jerome’s death to reaffirm the divine inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures and to encourage the reading and study of the Bible. He also corrects a misinterpretation of the teaching of Leo XIII.
  4. Pope Pius XI:
    • Bibliorum Scientiam (Apostolic Letter On Academic Standards for Teachers of Scripture – April 27, 1924)
  5. Pope Pius XII:
    • DIVINO AFFLANTE SPIRITU (Encyclical On the Most Opportune Way to Promote Biblical Studies – September 30, 1943) – another copy from CIN With this important guide to the study and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, Pius XII opened the way for rapid developments in Catholic biblical research. The use of modern methods in analyzing the sacred texts is allowed and encouraged; however the word of God is to be studied in the light of the faith of the Church. A knowledge of the ancient biblical languages, the scientific study of manuscripts and biblical archaeology may all serve to deepen expertise in scriptural research. It is sometimes refered to as the Magna Carta of Catholic Biblical Scholarship.
    • Humani Generis (Encyclical On Certain False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine – August 12, 1950) Pius XII examined various current problems in Humani Generis. He proposed caution when studying the origin of the human race and the theory of evolution. The early chapters of Genesis cannot be dismissed as non-historical myths. While the way the truth is expressed may change, the doctrines of the Church may never be changed or reinterpreted in the light of passing modern theories and philosophies – see esp. paragraphs 21-25 & 35-39
  6. Pope Paul VI:
    • Apostolic Letter Sedula Cura (On New Laws Regulating the Pontifical Biblical Commission – June 27, 1971) The Pontifical Biblical Commission is provided with new regulations to guide and assist its work not only in the Church but also in the ecumenical field.
    • Address to the Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission : “On the Ecclesial Role of Biblical Studies” (March 14, 1974) – in French only Warmly encouraging scriptural scholars in their work for God’s People, Paul VI calls them to be free from Rational or unduly narrow academic interests. They are to collaborate with other disciplines in the Church. In their valuable work they are to be open to the grace of the God of Love.
  7. Pope John Paul II:
  8. Pope Benedict XVI:

Pontifical Biblical Commission:

  1. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (April 23, 1993)
  2. Instruction on the Historical Truth of the Gospels (a.k.a. “Sancta Mater Ecclesia“; April 21, 1964)
  3. Instruction on Scripture and Christology This document was published in 1984 in France in two languages. Latin was called the “official text” and French “the working text”. There are very many differences between the two versions. There was no official English translation. In 1985, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. published his own translation of the document, including numerous notations to indicate translation variances between the Latin [L] and French [F] texts. This annotated English translation is posted on the Boston College Website
  4. Unity and Diversity in the Church (1991) from the Catholic Catholic Culture Website. In Italian and French on the Vatican Website.
  5. The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (May 24, 2001)
  6. The Bible and Morality. Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct (May 11, 2008) Italian Only There is a published English translation available from Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  7. All documents issued by the PBC – listed in reverse chronological order, from the Vatican Website

Congregation For Clergy

  1. The Word of God and its Fullness in Christ
  2. The Church and the Ministry of the Word of God

Fathers of the Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2ed (October 11, 1992 – Vatican website):

  1. Part One: The Profession of Faith; Section One: “I Believe” – “We Believe”; Chapter Two: God Comes to Meet Man

Other Articles 

  1. The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church – the “Instrumentum Laboris” of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (meeting in Rome on Oct. 5-26, 2008)
  2. Liturgiam authenticam (Fifth Instruction “For the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council”); from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (March 28, 2001)
  3. Biblical Fundamentalism: What Every Catholic Should Know – a short book by biblical scholar Ronald Witherup, S.S. (Liturgical Press, 2001)
  4. “The Fundamentalist Challenge” – a four-page flyer, by biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown, S.S. (May 1990, Catholic Update series)
  5. Toward Your Happiness: Catholicism and Fundamentalism: A Contrast” – A Pastoral Letter to Catholics in Mississippi and Alabama (June 29, 1989)
  6. A Pastoral Statement for Catholics on Biblical Fundamentalism” – from the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Biblical Fundamentalism (Washington: USCCB, 1987)
  7. “A Word Addressed by God to His People”: Benedict XVI and the Interpretation of Sacred Scripture Article by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | (Ignatius Insight, May 19, 2009)