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Sacred Scriptures

The Divinely Inspired Word of God is Living and Effective
The Wisdom and Truth of Sacred Scripture

The Church exhorts all the faithful to embrace the full benefit of what is contained in Sacred Scripture in order that it might serve to contribute to the life of the faithful. In referring to the life of St. Paul, whose 2000th anniversary of his birth is celebrated in the Church from 2008 through 2009, the document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission refers to him in stating what the goal of Sacred Scripture is to accomplish:

"Even in our time everyone realizes the wisdom of what St. Paul wrote: The Sacred Writings can instruct (us) for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is divinely inspire and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in uprightness, so that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work."[1]

Realizing the important evangelical task of proclaiming the Word of God to the world that Sacred Scripture calls all faithful followers of Christ to carry out in their lives, the preface of the New American Bible explains the purpose of making Sacred Scripture understandable, accessible to the vast languages, and yet authentically preserved in its original Hebrew, Greek and Latin sources:

On September 30, 1943, His Holiness Pope Pius XII issued his now famous encyclical on scripture studies, Divino afflante Spiritu. He wrote: "We ought to explain the original text which was written by the inspired author himself and has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation whether ancient or modern. This can be done all the more easily and fruitfully if to the knowledge of languages be joined a real skill in literary criticism of the same text."

Early in 1944, in conformity with the spirit of the encyclical, and with the encouragement of Archbishop Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, the Bishops' Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine requested members of The Catholic Biblical Association of America to translate the sacred scriptures from the original languages or from the oldest extant form of the text, and to present the sense of the biblical text in as correct a form as possible.

The first English Catholic version of the Bible, the Douay-Rheims (1582-1609/10), and its revision by Bishop Challoner (1750) were based on the Latin Vulgate. In view of the relative certainties more recently attained by textual and higher criticism, it has become increasingly desirable that contemporary translations of the sacred books into English be prepared in which due reverence for the text and strict observance of the rules of criticism would be combined.

The New American Bible has accomplished this in response to the need of the church in America today. It is the achievement of some fifty biblical scholars, the greater number of whom, though not all, are Catholics. In particular, the editors-in-chief have devoted twenty-five years to this work. The collaboration of scholars who are not Catholic fulfills the directive of the Second Vatican Council, not only that "correct translations be made into different languages especially from the original texts of the sacred books," but that, "with the approval of the church authority, these translations be produced in cooperation with separated brothers" so that "all Christians may be able to use them."

The text of the books contained in The New American Bible is a completely new translation throughout. From the original and the oldest available texts of the sacred books, it aims to convey as directly as possible the thought and individual style of the inspired writers. The better understanding of Hebrew and Greek, and the steady development of the science of textual criticism, the fruit of patient study since the time of St. Jerome, have allowed the translators and editors in their use of all available materials to approach more closely than ever before the sense of what he sacred authors actually wrote.[2]

The teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the unity of the Old and New Testaments states that all Sacred Scripture is joined and bounded with unity, though each book is different from one another, because they tell of God's divine plan for salvation.[3] The unity of Sacred Scripture contains the same central theme, the revelation of God to man and his plan to save all humankind, and the center of all Scripture is Jesus Christ.

Two examples of this unity of Sacred Scripture are first, that the single, most fundamental aspect of the covenant, which from the ancient covenants made with God's chosen people in the Old Testament, each are brought to fulfillment in the single, new and everlasting covenant made through the death and resurrection of his Son to save us from sin. A second example of unity in Sacred Scripture is God calling ordinary people to establish a covenant with them, an interpersonal relationship of love. Their belief in God inspires them to speak his saving truth. From these chosen people their prophecies can be reinterpreted in light of the same inspiring revelation found in the New Testament, their bearing witness to the same message of hope as promised through a savior, the Son of God.

Since the days when God spoke through the divinely inspired writers of the books contained in the pages of Sacred Scripture, its message is both living and effective for both then and now, and all time. The people of God, through the reading, prayerful meditating, and living out of the saving messages of truth contained in the Bible, will carry out in their lives the ongoing transmission and progress of evangelization as living encounters of God to those around them, thus spreading the effective action of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, in and throughout the world.

by Rev. William W. Hennecke

Click here to begin your exploration into the depth and richness of the Word of God:

[1] Instruction Concerning the Historical Truth of the Gospels, English trans. By Joseph A Fitzmyer, S.J. (Theological Studies 25, 1964), 402-408.
[2] New American Bible, preface,
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 112.

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