Pope Francis' Address to Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

Here is the translation of the address delivered by Pope Francis to the  members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission earlier today. The commission concluded their Plenary Assembly under the theme: “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible.”

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Venerable Brother,

Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,

I am happy to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the president, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, for his greeting and his concise exposition of the topic which was the object of attentive reflection in the course of your works. You came together again to reflect on a very important argument: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a topic that concerns not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, because the life and mission of the Church are founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and, at the same time, the inspiration of all Christian existence.

As we know, the Sacred Scriptures are the written testimony of the Divine Word, the canonical memorial that awaits the event of Revelation. Hence the Word of God precedes and exceeds the Bible. It is because of this that our faith does not only have a book at the center, but a history of salvation and above all a Person, Jesus Christ., Word of God made flesh. Precisely because the horizon of the Divine Word embraces and extends beyond Scripture, to understand it adequately the constant presence of the Holy Spirit is necessary, who “guides all to the truth” (John 16:13). We must place ourselves in the current of the great Tradition that, under the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Magisterium, has recognized the canonical writings as Word addressed by God to his people and has never ceased to meditate on them and discover in them inexhaustible riches. The Second Vatican Council confirmed this with great clarity in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum: “For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.” (n. 12).

As the aforementioned Constitution reminds us, there is an indissoluble unity between Sacred Scripture and Tradition, because both come from the same source: “There exists a close connection and communication between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.” (Ibid., 9).

Hence the exegete must be attentive to perceiving the Word of God present in the biblical texts, placing them within the faith itself of the Church. The interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be only an individual scientific effort, but must always be compared, inserted and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church. This norm is decisive in specifying the correct and reciprocal relation of exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The texts inspired by God have been entrusted to the community of believers, to the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and guide the life of charity. Respect for this profound nature of the Scriptures conditions the very validity and efficacy of the biblical hermeneutic. This highlights the insufficiency of every subjective interpretation or simply limited analysis incapable of receiving in itself that global sense that in the course of the centuries has constituted the Tradition of the whole People of God, which “in credendo falli nequit” (Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 12).

Dear Brothers, I wish to end my address expressing to you all my gratitude, encouraging you in your precious work. May the Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God Incarnate and Divine Teacher, who opened the mind and heart of his disciples to the intelligence of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:45), always guide and sustain your activity. May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to receive fully the inexhaustible richness of Sacred Scripture not only through intellectual research, but in prayer and in all your life of believers, above all in this Year of Faith, so that your work contributes to make the light of Sacred Scripture shine in the heart of the faithful. Wishing you a fruitful continuation of your activities, I invoke upon you the light of the Holy Spirit and I impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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