By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic faith is not centered simply on a book — the Bible — but on Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, Pope Francis said.
“The sacred Scriptures are a written testimony to the divine Word,” which came before the Bible and exceeds it, the pope said April 12 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an international body of scholars that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Commission members met at the Vatican April 9-12 to conclude work on a document about inspiration and truth in the Bible, which is likely to be published in the coming months.
Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the doctrinal congregation and president of the commission, told the pope the aim was to help people interpret the Scriptures “in accordance with the nature” of the Bible itself. The focus on “inspiration,” he said, was an attempt to explain the divine origin of the Bible and the focus on “truth” was an attempt to describe what the Bible says “about God and his plan for salvation.”
The archbishop said the commission recognized that when the church describes the Scriptures as being divinely inspired and true certain “challenges come from the Bible itself,” including when passages seem to contradict scientific or historical evidence.
Another challenge, he said, is posed by “the violence in some passages” that seems to contradict basic Christian teaching and even phrases the Bible attributes directly to Jesus.
The point of the document, he said, is to help Catholics “overcome both fundamentalism and skepticism.”
Pope Francis said the themes of biblical inspiration and truth are important not only for individual believers, “but for the whole church because its life and mission are based on the Word of God, who animates theology and inspires all of Christian existence.”
Interpreting the Bible in an honest and authentic way means respecting its nature and recognizing its purpose, the pope said.
“The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the community of believers, the church of Christ, to increase the faith and guide the life of charity,” he said. It is only with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and with full respect for the tradition and teaching of the church that the Scriptures’ true meaning can be understood.
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