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Pope insists that Bible’s truth is found in its totality

An open Bible is seen inside Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston (CNS photo from Reuters)

While Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it is true, one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“It is possible to perceive the Sacred Scriptures as the word of God” only by looking at the Bible as a whole, “a totality in which the individual elements enlighten each other and open the way to understanding,” the Pope wrote in a message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

“It is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, extrapolating a single phrase or expression,” the Pope wrote in the message released today at the Vatican.

The commission of biblical scholars, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met at the Vatican from May 2 to May 6 to continue discussions about “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible”.

In his message, the Pope said clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature while others believe that each line was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said.

“An interpretation of the sacred writings that disregards or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and precious characteristic, that they come from God,” he said.

The Catholic position is that the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers so that “human words express the word of God”, he said.

“Through his word God wants to communicate to us the whole truth about himself and his plan of salvation for humanity,” the Pope wrote. “A commitment to discovering ever more the truth of the sacred books, therefore, is a commitment to seeking to better know God and the mystery of his saving will.”