Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Unraveling Scripture: Dei Verbum and ‘Limited Inerrancy’

St. Pius X says that “amongst the chief points of [Modernist] teaching” is the “intrinsic evolution of dogma”—that the faith must evolve and become something of a different substance, conforming to the modern world [1]. If this is the central error, it depends upon foundational principles that are false. One of these foundational principles is the error of Limited Inerrancy. This was the claim that the original text of the Holy Scriptures contain errors in some way — whether in faith, morals, or simple historical or scientific facts.

The reasoning is simple. Since this archaeological discovery was made, or evolution was discovered, or some other modern assertion got popular, we found out that the Holy Bible actually has an error in it. Since we discovered this error, we must then correct it using our sophisticated modern scholarship. But since there is an error in the Word of God, then God did not inspire it as we thought, therefore the entire Tradition must also be in error on this point. If that’s the case, then God also did not inspire the Tradition as we thought. If these errors exist, then certainly God does not ask us to hold Scripture and Tradition as sources of revelation in all cases, but merely in some cases.

If Scripture and Tradition contain errors, then “Modern Man” ultimately become the source of revelation. It is up to the Modernist to use his great erudition to find out which points of the Holy Bible he is willing to follow (which of them accord with his great intellect). This all ends up making a fool out of the entire Deposit of Faith, and that is what Modernism does.

It for this reason that “limited inerrancy” was condemned by Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XII before Vatican II [2]. The Catholic doctrine on the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures is summed up with acumen by St. Augustine:

On my part I confess [concerning] those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand. [3]

Thus could Ven. Pius XII say in an encyclical in 1950 that this error has been “already often condemned” [4]. Naturally, then, the original document at Vatican II on Divine Revelation, De Fontibus Revelationis, addressed this point with these words:

Because divine Inspiration extends to everything, the absolute immunity of all Holy Scripture from error follows directly and necessarily. For we are taught by the ancient and constant faith of the Church that it is utterly forbidden to grant that the sacred author himself has erred, since divine inspiration of itself necessarily excludes and repels any error in any matter, religious or profane, as it is necessary to say that God, the supreme Truth, is never the author of any error whatever.

The teaching was rooted firmly on the Tradition of the Church as well as the recent encyclicals confirming this. It took into account all the implications of this error, in that it would ascribe to God Himself an error that, as we have said, would only play completely into the hands of the Modernists.

But the Nouvelle théologie thinkers were deeply offended by this document, causing an uproar at the Council. They campaigned fiercely to have the whole document thrown out, and they succeeded. Ratzinger wrote of the document:

The basic orientation was there, but on the other hand there was much to improve. Primarily, that it be less dominated by the current Magisterium, and had to give greater voice to the Scriptures and the Fathers. [5]

The Magisterium of the last few popes had all but dogmatized the complete inerrancy of Scripture. Where did Ratzinger and his allies wish to take the document other than the current Magisterium? The Nouvelle théologie periti believed they had progressed so much in their learning that they could circumvent the “current Magisterium” and interpret Scripture and Tradition in a new and better way.

On the floor of the Council, some bishops openly called for the document to concede the error of Limited Inerrancy. Franz Cardinal König of Vienna stated openly that the Holy Word contains errors (a veritate deficere), based on the recent archaeological discoveries [6]. The Nouvelle théologie and its allies battled against Lefebvre, Ottaviani, and their allies for the whole of the Council over this document. It was not until the very end, in November of 1965, when this document on the very foundation of the Faith was finally promulgated by Paul VI.

What did the document say about limited inerrancy? In the end, because the Nouvelle théologie party held such power at the Council, there had to be a compromise between the defenders of inerrancy and the advocates for error:

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. [7]

This phrase on limited inerrancy is an equivocation. It can be read to exclude all errors, or it can be read to include errors, since inspiration extends only to “that truth” that is “for the sake of salvation.” Benedict XV addressed this exact reasoning when he said decades earlier:

Their notion is that only what concerns religion is intended and taught by God in Scripture, and that all the rest — things concerning ‘profane knowledge,’ the garments in which Divine truth is presented — God merely permits, and even leaves to the individual author’s greater or less knowledge. Small wonder, then, that in their view a considerable number of things occur in the Bible touching physical science, history and the like, which cannot be reconciled with modern progress in science! (Spiritus Paraclitus, 19)

Thus was this phrase hailed by the liberal heretics as a gateway out of which they could conjure up the wicked spirit of Alfred Loisy. The Modernists then went wild. America magazine would write decades later in triumph:

In the postconciliar years the phrase [from Dei Verbum] “for the sake of our salvation” became a critical principle militating against any literal interpretation of those parts of the Bible that legitimated sexual or social oppression.

Indeed, as Benedict XV and the other popes had predicted, the Holy Word of God was now under the Modernists’ control, who could then reinterpret even moral commands to be simply “ancient history” and not necessary for salvation. Even “Conservatives” have been carried away into this error [8].

This nefarious effort is on display with impunity by James Martin, foremost exponent of the Jesuit religion. In a 2018 lecture, Martin ridiculed the Law of Moses as outdated, censuring its prohibition against sodomy.

Most recently, in a tweet last month, he used his characteristic equivocating to advocate the same thing. Ever the apostle of Twitter, His Excellency Bishop Strickland, duly criticized his errors, which Martin deflected:

With the coolness of a python, Martin casually brushed off the remark from Strickland by shifting the blame while adding in the ad hominem “fundamentalists.” He ended with a haughty reference to Dei Verbum and a laugh of “many thanks.” He then prattled on to celebrate how smart he is with his chosen Protestant scholar. Naturally, in his second self-aggrandizement, he cited Dei Verbum again.

How could a bishop respond to this? The equivocations started with Dei Verbum and the overhaul of the Magisterium by Nouvelle théologie. But as Bp. Strickland pointedly asked: “If we go down that road, where do we stop?” Indeed, Your Excellency.

[1] Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907), 13

[2] Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 21; St. Pius X, Lamentabili, 11; Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, 19; Ven. Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1; Humani Generis, 22

[3] Ep. lxxxii., i. et crebrius alibi. Quoted in Leo XIII Providentissimus Deus,  21. Leo XIII allowed certain expressions from the Holy Scriptures to be “ordinary speech,” which simply “comes under the senses.” For example, the cosmological concept of the “firmament of heaven” (Gen. 1:6) need not be considered as a physical dome in the sky out of which pours rain. Rather, this was simply a description of what the naked eye tells a reasonable man.

[4] Humani Generis, 22

[5] Benedict, Last Testament: In His Own Words (Bloomsbury: 2017), 99

[6] Denis Farkasfalvy, O. Cist. “Inspiration and Interpretation,” Vatican II: Renewal within Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2008), 86

[7] Dei Verbum, 11. Emphasis mine.

[8] In an ostensibly Conservative Catholic volume, Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition (Lamb and Levering, ed., Oxford: 2008), Conservative biblical scholar Fr. Francis Martin states on page 67 that this phrase from Dei Verbum “eliminates many of the problems of the inerrancy debate and allows a simple acknowledgement of the inaccuracies (historical, textual, and so forth) that appear in the sacred text.”

Image: Pete via Flickr.

2 thoughts on “Unraveling Scripture: Dei Verbum and ‘Limited Inerrancy’”

  1. The scholastics perjured themselves against Tradition. Thomism is the synopsis of the mixture “of” TheoLogy “with” Greco-Roman pagan pseudophilosophy and mythology under the specious name of “scholasticism” with the illusion of “depth” which Popes Saints Sylvester, Siricius, Leo I, and Gregory I condemned. I triple-dog dare you to talk that fancy scholastic psychobabble to a bunch of inner city teens and see how fast they literally knock some sense into you. Palamism is a mixture “of” TheoLogy “with” Greco-Roman and Asian pagan pseudophilosophy and mythology, neoPlatonic hallucinations, yoga, hinduism, and “pantheism” under the specious name of “hesychasm”. Both the West and the East apostatized from Christianity in the 11th century. The apostate invalid “VatiCan 2” is the result of scholasticism.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...