May 27, 2011

The Divine Dimension of the Bible

Near the end of the first section of Verbum Domini, the Holy Father gives us three "fundamental criteria for an appreciation of the divine dimension of the Bible": the unity of scripture, the living tradition of the Church, and the analogy of faith. These are echoed in the Catechism, paragraphs 111-114. Together these mean that while Scripture is a collection of multiple books and letters, it is also a unity - one Bible.

1) We must consider any given passage in the light of the rest of Sacred Scripture. We must look for other examples or counterpoints in other books. For example, Jesus' statement "call no man father" cannot be taken literally. If it were, Jesus would be contradicting other parts of the inspired Word of God where people refer to others, or themselves, as "father"(cf 2 Kings 2:12, 2 Kings 6:21, Acts 7:2, Romans 9:10).

2) We must also look to Sacred Tradition, handed down through the Church's teaching, for, as St. John tells us, not everything Jesus taught was written down (John 21:25). Scripture does not include vital words like "trinity", nor does it tell us what books are inspired. Christian worship from the very beginning included the reading and study of Sacred Scripture but did not focus exclusively on it.

3) Lastly, no single belief stands or falls on its own. "(E)very individual statement of belief must be understood in the light of the Church's whole objective body of faith." (Hardon) We see this same concept in Scripture, when Paul tells prophets to prophecy "in proportion to the faith" (Romans 12:6). (This is handily explained in more detail in the Feb 1993 edition of This Rock magazine.)

Together, these criteria speak of the breadth and unity of our faith. The Catholic faith is one body of different parts, just like the Church is one Body of Christ. There is a unity and connectedness between everything.


Hardon, John. 1999. "Analogy of faith". In The Modern Catholic Dictionary. Inter Mirifica.

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