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Scriptural Infallibility according to Dei Verbum

Daniel J. Castellano (2005)

In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.

From the above citation of Dei Verbum, we can ascertain the position of the Second Vatican Council on the infallibility of Scripture. First, we observe that the sacred authors "consigned to writing everything and only those things" which God wanted. In other words, as Dei Verbum explicitly affirms, whatever is asserted by the sacred author is also asserted by God the Holy Spirit. Since God can neither err nor teach falsehood, "it follows that the books of Scripture" teach "without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings."

The last phrase "for the sake of salvation" has been a red herring for many peopleTo them it implies that only a subset of Scripture is infallible, and that there is no guarantee of infallibility for those truths not directly ordered to our salvation, such as truths of history and natural science. In fact, the phrase "for the sake of salvation" simply asserts the purpose of Scripture as a whole; it is not intended to be restrictive. The proof of this is that if we were to interpret the phrase in a restrictive sense, we would blatantly contradict what the Council had just previously expounded

The Council derives Scriptural inerrancy from the fact that "everything asserted by the inspired authors" is "asserted by the Holy Spirit", as evidenced by the phrasing, "therefore...it follows that..." We may ask: what is this "truth that God wanted put into sacred writing"? According to the Council, it is "everything that is asserted by the sacred authors." The inspired authors wrote "only those things which He wanted," and nothing else. The force of the argument for the infallibility of Scripture clearly comes from God's inability to lie or deceive. Therefore, if a sacred author asserts something as historically or scientifically true, God willed that he assert that, and God himself asserts it, hence it is without error. This argument is just as powerful for natural truths as religious truths; to restrict it to the latter is not only arbitrary and illogical, but totally contrary to the immediate context of the "for the sake of salvation" citation.

In examining supposed historical and scientific data in Scripture, we must ask whether the inspired author intends to assert this as historical or scientific fact. If the answer is affirmative, we must acknowledge its infallibility, for Dei Verbum expressly eliminates the possibility that the author could assert anything in Scripture not asserted by the Holy Spirit.

We may further observe, more generally, that where a teaching of the Magisterium admits of more than one interpretation - though here, strictly speaking, it does not, as we have shown - we are bound to admit only the interpretation consistent with the depositum fidei. In the Council's own words: "This Magisterium is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on... it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (DV II, 10)

Thus the Second Vatican Council has in no way abandoned or mitigated the doctrine of Scriptural infallibility, as expounded in previous documents such as Providentissimus Deus.

© 2005 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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