The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII/The Study of Holy Scripture


Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, November 18,


The God of all providence, who in the adorable designs of His love at first elevated the human race to the partici- pation of the divine nature, and afterwards delivered it from universal guilt and ruin, restoring it to its primitive dignity, has, in consequence, bestowed upon man a splen- did gift and safeguard — making known to him, by super- natural means, the hidden mysteries of His divinity. His wisdom and His mercy. For although in divine revelation there are contained some things which are not beyond the reach of unassisted reason, and which are made the objects of such revelation in order "that all may come to know them with facihty, certainty, and safety from error, yet not on this account can supernatural revelation be said to be absolutely necessary; it is only necessary because God has ordained man to a supernatural end." ^ This super- natural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten tradition and in written books, which are, therefore, called sacred and canonical because, "being written under the inspiration of ji the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and as such \ have been dehA/ered to the Church," ^ This belief has^ been perpetually held and professed by the Church in re- gard to the Books of both Testaments; and there are well- knowTi documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earhest times, which proclaim that God, who

' Cone. Vat. sess iii. cap. ii. de reveL * Ibid.




spoke first by the prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the apostles, composed also the canonical Scrip- tures,^ and that these are His own oracles and words ^ — a Letter written by our Heavenly Father and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country.^ If, then, such and so great is the excellence and dignity of the Scriptures, that God Himself has composed them, and that they treat of God's marvellous mysteries, counsels and works, it follows that the branch of sacred theology which is concerned 'I with the defence and elucidation of these divine books I must be excellent and useful in the highest degree.

Now We, who by the help of God, and not without fruit, ,• ""have by frequent Letters and exhortation endeavored to Wpromote other branches of study which seem capable of advancing the glory of God and contributing to the salva- tion of souls, have for a long time cherished the desire to give an impulse to the noble science of Holy Scripture, and t^-iBipart to Scripture stiidy'a'direction suitable to the needs of the present day. The solicitude of the apostolic office naturally urges, and even compels us, not only to desire that this grand source of Catholic revelation should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ, but also not to suffer any attempt to defile or corrupt it, either on the part of those who impiously or openly assail the Scriptures, or of those who are led astray into fallacious and imprudent novelties. We are not igno- rant, indeed. Venerable Brethren, that there are not a few Catholics, men of talent and learning, who do devote them- selves with ardor to the defence of the sacred writings and to making them known and better understood."' But whilst giving to these the commendatiOTrthey deserve, We cannot but earnestly exliort others also, from whose skill

  • S. Aug. de civ. Dei. xi. 3.

^S. Clem. Rom. 1 ad. Cor. 45; S. Polycarp. ad Phil. 7; S. Iren. c. haer. ii. 28, 2.

^ S. Chrys. in Gen. horn. 2, 2; S. Aug. in Ps. xxx., serm., 2, 1; S, Greg. M. ad Theo. ep. iv. 31.


and piety and learning we have a right to expect good re- sults, to give themselves to the same most praiseworthy work. It is Our wish and fervent desire to see an increase in the number of the approved and persevering laborers in the cause of Holy Scripture; and more especially that those whom divine grace has called to holy orders should, day by day, as their state demands, display greater dihgence and industry in reading, meditating, and explaining it.

Among the reasons for which the Holy Scripture is so worthy of commendation — ^in addition to its o'^m excellence and to the homage which we owe to God's Word — the chief of all is, the innumerable benefits of which it is the source; according to the infallible testimony of the Holy Ghost Himself, who says: All Scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work. That such was the purpose of God in giving the Scripture to men is shown by the example of Christ our Lord and of His apostles. For He Himself who "obtained authority by miracles, merited belief by au- thority, and by behef drew to himself the multitude" ^ was accustomed, in the exercise of His divine mission, to appeal to the Scriptures. He uses them at times to prove that He is sent by God, and is God Himself. From them He cites instructions for His disciples and confirmation of His doctrine. He vindicates them from the calumnies of objectors; He quotes them against Sadducees and Phari- sees and retorts from them upon Satan himself when he dares to tempt Him. At the close of His life His utterances are from the Holy Scripture, and it is the Scripture that He expounds to His disciples after His resurrection, until He ascends to the glory of His Father. Faithful to His pre- cepts, the apostles, although He Himself granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands,^ nevertheless used with the greatest effect the sacred writings, in order to

1 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17, ^^ S. Aug. de util. cred. xiv 32.

s Act xiv. 3.


persuade the nations everywhere of the wisdom of Chris- tianity, to conquer the obstinacy of the Jews, and to sup- press the outbreak of heresy. This is plainly seen in their discourses, especially in those of St. Peter; these were often little less than a series of citations from the Old Testa- ment making in the strongest manner for the new dispen- sation. We find the same things in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John and in the Catholic Epistles; and, most remarkable of all, in the words of him who "boasts that he learned the law at the feet of GamaUel, in order that, being armed with spiritual weapons, he might after- wards say with confidence, 'the arms of our warfare are not carnal but mighty unto God.'" ^ Let all, therefore, especially the novices of the ecclesiastical army, under- stand how deeply the sacred books should be esteemed, and with what eagerness and reverence they should ap- proach this great arsenal of heavenly arms. For those whose duty it is to handle Catholic doctrine before the learned or the unlearned will nowhere find more ample matter or more abundant exhortation, whether on the sub- ject of God, the supreme Good and the all-perfect Being, or the works which display His glory and His love. No- where is there anything more full or more express on the subject of the Saviour of the world than is to be found in the whole range of the Bible. As St. Jerome says, to be ignorant of the Scripture is not to know Christ.^ In its pages His Image stands out, living and breathing; diffusing everywhere around consolation in trouble, encourage- ment to virtue, and attraction to the love of God. And as to the Church, her institutions, her nature, her office and her gifts, we find in Holy Scripture so many references and so many ready and convincing arguments that, as St. Jerome again most truly says, "A man who is well grounded in the testimonies of the Scripture is the bulwark of the Church." ^ And if we come to morahty and disci-

' St. Hier. de stud. Script, ad Paulin. ep. liii. 3.

" in Isaiam. Prol. ^ in Isaiam liv. 12,


pline, an apostolic man finds in the sacred writings abun- dant and excellent assistance; most holy precepts, gentle and strong exhortation, splendid examples of every virtue, and finally the promise of eternal reward and the threat of eternal punishment, uttered in terms of solemn import, in God's name and in God's own words.

And it is this peculiar and singular power of Holy ScriptX ure, arising from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which gives authority to the sacred orator, fills him with apostolic ' liberty of speech, and communicates force and power to his eloquence"." For those who infuse into their efforts the spirit and strength of the Word of God speak not in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fulness} Hence, those preachers are foolish and improvident who, in speaking of religion and proclaim- ing the things of G^d, u se no words but those of h uman science and human prud ence, trusting to their own rea snn- ings rather than to those of God. Their discourses may be brilliant and finSpbut they must be feeble and they must be cold, for they are without the fire of the utterance of God ^ and they must fall far short of that mighty power which the speech of God possesses: for the Word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two- edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit.^ But, indeed, those who have a right to speak are agreed that there is in the Holy Scripture an eloquence that is Wonderfully varied and rich and worthy of great themes. This St. Augustine thoroughly under- stood and has abundantly set forth.* This, also, is con- firmed by the best preachers of all ages, who have grate- ^ fully acknowledged that they owed their repute chiefly to the assiduous use of the Bible, and to devout meditation %n its pages.

The Holy Fathers well knew all this by practical experi- ence, and they never cease to extol the sacred Scripture

^ 1 Thess. i. 5. ^ Hebr. iv. 12.

^ Jerem. xxiii. 29. * De doctr. Chr. iv. 6, 7.


!^ ^^^i^'^and its fruits. In innumerable passages of their writings V^ we find them applying to it such phrases as an inexhaust-

\ ible treasury of heavenly doctrine,^ or an overflowing foun-

tain of salvation,^ or putting it before us as fertile pas- tures and beautiful gardens in which the flock of the Lord is marvellously refreshed and delighted.' Let us listen to the words of St. Jerome, in his Epistle to Nepo- tian: "Often read the divine Scriptures; yea, let holy reading be always in thy hand; study that which thou thyself must preach. . . . Let the speech of the priest be ever seasoned with Scriptural reading."^ St. Gregory the Great, than whom no one has more admirably described the pastoral office, writes in the same sense. "Those," he says, "who are zealous in the work of preaching must never cease the study of the written Word of God." ^ St. Augustine, however, warns us that " vainly does the preacher utter the Word of God exteriorly unless he listens to it interiorly";® and St. Gregory instructs sacred orators " first to find in Holy Scripture the knowl- edge of themselves, and then carry it to others, lest in re- proving others they forget themselves." ' Admonitions such as these had, indeed, been uttered long before by the apostolic voice which had learned its lesson from Christ Himself, who " began to do and teach." It was not to Timothy alone, but to the whole order of the clergy, that the command was addressed: Take heed to thyself and to doctrine; he earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.^ For the saving and for the perfection of ourselves and of others

  • S. Chrys. in Gen. Horn. xxi. 2; Horn. Ix. 3; S. Aug. de Disc.

Christ, ii.

^ S. Athan. ep. fest. xxxix.

^ S. Aug. serm. xxvi. 24; S. Ambr. in Ps. cxviii, serm. xix. 2.

  • S. Hier. de vita cleric, ad Nepot.

» S. Greg. M. Regul. past. ii. 11 (al. 22); Moral, xvii. 26 (aL 14).

' S. Aug. serm. clxxix. 1.

' S. Greg. M. Regul. past. iii. 24 (aL 14).

H Tim. iv. 16.


there is at hand the venr best of Lelp in the Hohr Seiipt- tires, as the Book of Psalms. amnTig otheis. so consiaiLilj insists; birt those only -will •ft-n>'l it "who brmg to this drdne reading not onJr dodirrT and aitention birr also inefTT B.-nd an innocent Bfe. Tor the sacred Sei ^^riire is noT TTk-f other books. I>ictflt«d by the Holr GSost. ~ cricts^mi" "fhTri r^ of the deererr

and explti.lrt sucn t"^izs mefe 3S aJvsys r-'

    • coming"^ of the same Holy SjniTt: ihat is;. :,_^ . His

hght and His grape: and â– Lhese.. as the rojal psahnisi so freqnenthr insists, are to be song ht br humbk prayer and guarded by holiness of hfe.

t is in this that the "vri.- " ' " fre of the CiTirai si.ine?

'rth conspicaonsly. P" ' -"^r.-le laws and regulations., she has sho"5m heiseif s: . ' _.- thai "' the celestial "nreaszTr of the sacred books, so bouTitffuDy bestowed upon ^-f-r by the Hohr Spirrr . should noi he neglected.'" ' She has prescribed that a considerable ponion of thfim s"Vts.TI be re^d and piously reSecied upon by sJl her ministers in the daily o5?e of the sacred ps alm ody. She has ordered that in cathedral chtrrches, in manast-eries, and in other cod- vents in ■srhich study can conveniently be pmsosd. they gbitJI be erpoxmded and interpreted by capable men; Knr\ she has strictly commanded xhai her children ^h j^T I be fed "WTth the saving words of the GospeQ at le.a5i on Simda]!^ and solemn feasts.® MoreoT-er, it is owing to the wisdoim and exerrions of the CSiiirch thai there has ahrays been coaferaed, from century to eentmy, that PuMratJcai of HoilT Scripture which has been so remarkable BT>rl has borne such ample fruit.

And here, in order t.o sirengthen Our Taacbing and Our eshorT.aT3on5, it is weD to recall how, frcjn the b^:inning of Christianity, aH who have been renowmd for holiness of

  • S. BSer. in ICc i 10.

' Ccmc. Trid. seas. v. decret de TsScsrm, 1.

»Itad 1, 2.


./pfe and sacred learning have given their deep and constant ('attention to Holy Scripture. If we consider the im- mediate disciples of the apostles, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp — or the apologists, such as St. Justin and St. Irenseus, we find that in their letters and books, whether in defence of the Catholic faith or in its commendation, they drew faith, strength, and unction from the Word of God. When there arose, in various sees, catechetical and theological schools, of which the most celebrated were those of Alexandria and of Antioch, there was little taught in those schools but what was contained in the reading, the interpretaticjn, and the defence of the divine written word. From them came forth numbers of Fathers and writers whose labori- ous studies and admirable writings have justly merited for the three following centuries the appellation of the golden age of biblical exegesis. In the Eastern Church the greatest name of all is Origen — a man remarkable alike for penetration of genius and persevering labor; from whose numerous works and his great Hexapla almost all have drawn who came after him. Others who have widened the field of this science may also be named, as especially eminent; thus, Alexandria could boast of St. Clement and St. Cyril; Palestine, of Eusebius and the other St. Cyril; Cappadocia, of St. Basil the Great and the two Gregories, of Nazianzus and Nyssa; Antioch, of St. John Chrysostom, in whom the science of Scripture was rivalled by the splendor of his eloquence. In the Western Church there are as many names as great: Ter- tullian, St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Great; most famous of all, St. Augustine and St. Jerome, of whom the former was so marvellously acute in penetrating the sense of God's Word and so fertile in the use that he made of it for the promotion of the Catholic truth, and the latter has re- ceived from the Church, by reason of his pre-eminent knowledge of Scripture and his labors in promoting its


use, the name of the "great Doctor."* From this period down to the eleventh century, although biblical studies did not flourish with the same vigor and the same fruit- fulness as before, yet they did flourish, and principally by the instrumentality of the clergy. It was their care and solicitude that selected the best and most useful things that the ancients had left, arranged them in order, and published them with additions of their own — as did St. Isidore of Seville, Venerable Bede, and Alcuin, among the most prominent; it was they who illustrated the sacred pages with "glosses" or short commentaries, as we see in Walafrid Strabo and St. Anselm of Laon, or ex- pended fresh labor in securing their integrity, as did St. Peter Damian and Blessed Lanfranc. In the twelfth cen- tury many took up, with great success, the allegorical ex- position of Scripture. In this kind, St. Bernard is pre- eminent; and his writings, it may be said, are Scripture all through. With the age of the scholastics came fresh and welcome progress in the study of the Bible. That the scholastics were solicitous about the genuineness of the Latin version is evident from the Correctoria Biblica, or list of emendations, which they have left. But they ex- pended their labors and industry chiefly on interpretation and explanation. To them we owe the accurate and clear distinction, such as had not been given before, of the various senses of the sacred words; the assignment of the value of each "sense" in theology; the division of books into parts, and the summaries of the various parts; the investigation of the objects of the writers; the demonstra- tion of the connection of sentence with sentence, and clause with clause; all of which is calculated to throw much light on the more obscure passages of the sacred volume. The valuable work of the scholastics in Holy Scripture is seen in their theological treatises and in their Scripture commentaries; and in this respect the greatest name among them all is St. Thomas Aquinas.

^ See the Collect on his feast, September 30.


When Our predecessor, Clement V., established chairs of Oriental literature in the Roman College and in the principal universities of Europe, Catholics began to make more accurate investigation on the original text of the Bible as well as on the Latin version. The revival amongst us of Greek learning, and, much more, the happy invention of the art of printing, gave a strong impetus to bibUcal studies. In a brief space of time, innumerable editions, especially of the Vulgate, poured from the press and were diffused throughout the Catholic world; so honored and loved was Holy Scripture during that very period against which the enemies of the Church direct their calumnies Nor must we forget how many learned men there were, chiefly among the religious orders, who did excellent work for the Bible between the Council of Vienna and that of Trent; men who, by the employment of modern means and appliances, and by the tribute of their own genius and learning, not only added to the rich store of ancient times but prepared the way for the suc- ceeding century, the century which followed the Council of Trent, when it almost seemed that the great age of the Fathers had returned. For it is well known, and We recall it with pleasure, that Our predecessors, from Pius IV. to Clement VIII., caused to be prepared the celebrated editions of the Vulgate and the Septuagint, which, having been published by the command and authority of Sixtus V., and of the same Clement, are now in common use. At this time, moreover, were carefully brought out various other ancient versions of the Bible, and the Polyglots of Antwerp and of Paris, most important for the investigation of the true meaning of the text; nor is there any one book of either Testament which did not find more than one expositor, nor any grave question which did not profitably exercise the abihty of many inquirers, among whom there are not a few— ^more especially of those who made most use of the Fathers — who have acquired great reputation. From that time downwards


the labor and solicitude of Catholics have never been Avanting; for, as time went on, eminent scholars have if carried on biblical studies -^ith success, and have defended pHoly Scripture against r ationalism with the same weapons of philology and kindred sciences with which it had been attacked. The calm and fair consideration of what has been said vdW clearly show that the Church has never failed in taking due measures to bring the Scriptures within reach of her children, and that she has ever held fast and exercised profitably that guardianship conferred upon her by Almighty God for the protection and glory of His Holy Word; so that she has never required, nor does she now require, any stimulation from without.

We must now, Venerable Brethren, as Our purpose demands, impart to you such counsels as seem best suited for carrjdng on successfully the study of bibhcal science.

But first it must be clearly understood whom we have to oppose and contend against, and what are their tactics and their arms. In earher times the contest was chiefly wdth those who, relying on private judgment and repudi- ating the di\ine traditions and teaching office of the Church, held the Scriptures to be the one source of revela- tion and the final appeal in matters of faith. Now W( have to meet the rationahsts, true children and iaheidtoi of the older heretics, who, tmsting in their turn to thei, own way of thinking, have rejected even the scraps an| remnants of Christian belief which had been handed do^ to them. They deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration, or Holy Scripture at all; they see, instead, only the forgeries and falsehoods of men;^ they set dowm the Scripture narratives as stupid fabl^^ and Ijdng stories: the prophecies and oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the fight of nature; the miracles and wonders of God's power are not what they are said to be, but the startling effects of natural law, or else mere tricks and myths; and the apostolic Gospels and writings are



^"^ 282





C not the work of the apostles at all. These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a newly invented jree science; a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it. And there are some of them who, notwithstanding their impious opinions and utterances about God, and Christ, the Gospels and the rest of Holy Scripture, would fain be con- sidered both theologians and Christians and men of the Gospel, and who attempt to disguise by such honorable names their rashness and their pride. To them we must add not a few professors of other sciences who approve their views and give them assistance, and are urged to attack the Bible by a similar intolerance of revelation. And it is deplorable to see these attacks growing every day more numerous and more severe. It is sometimes men of learning and judgment who are assailed; but these have little difficulty in defending themselves from evil consequences. The efforts and arts of the enemy are chiefly directed against the more ignorant masses of the people. They diffuse their deadly poison by means of books, pamphlets, and newspapers; they spread it by addresses and by conversation; they are found every- where; and they are in possession of numerous schools, taken by violence from the Church, in which, by ridicule and scurrilous jesting, they pervert the credulous and unformed minds of the young to the contempt of Holy Scripture. Should not these things. Venerable Brethren, stir up and set on fire the heart of every pastor, so that to

this knowledge, falseh

lUed^ may be opposed the

ancient and true science vCllMl l'lie-€hureh_lhrough the apostles, has. rPfpivpH frnrn CbxiiJ.) 11,11(1 TTiiiy Scripture may find the champions that are needed in so momentous a battle?

Let our first care, then, be to see that in seminaries and

» 1 Tim. iv. 20.


academical insti tutions the study o f Holy Scripture is trlaced OR gUdTaT footing as its own im portance and the circumstances of the time demand" With ttus \aew, The first- thing -whtctTTeqiatrenttefltidh is the wise choice of professors. Teachers of sacred Scripture are not to be appointed at haphazard out of the crowd; but they must be men whose character and fitness are proved by their love of, and their long famiharity with, the Bible, and by suitable learning and study.

It is a matter of equal importance to provide in time for a continuous succession of such teachers; and it will be well, wherever this can be done, to select young men of good promise who have successfully accomplished their theo- logical course, and to set them apart exclusively for Holy;, Scripture, affording them facilities for full and complete studies. Professors thus chosen and thus prepared] may enter wnth confidence on the task that is appointee for them; and that they may carry out their work we! and profitably, let them take heed to the instructions We now proceed to give.

At the commencement of a course of Holy Scripture, let the professor strive earnestly to form the judgment of the young beginners so as to train them equally to defend the sacred writings and to penetrate their meaning. This is the object of the treatise which is called "Intro- duction." Here the student is taught how to prove the integrity and authority of the Bible, how to investigate and ascertain its true sense, and how to meet and refute objections. It is needless to insist upon the importance of making these preliminary studies in an orderly and thorough fashion, with the accompaniment and assistance of theology; for the whole subsequent course must rest on the foundation thus laid and make use of the hght thus "^:cquired. Next, the teacher will turn his attention to that more fruitful division of Scripture science which has to do -uath interpretation, wherein is imparted the method (//of using the Word of God for the advantage of religion


and piety. We recognize, without hesitation, that neither the extent of the matter nor the time at disposal allows each single book of the Bible to be separately gone through. But the teaching should result in a definite and ascer- »J,ained method of imerpretation — and, therefore, the professor should equally avoid the mistake of giving a mere taste of every book, and of dwelling at too great a length on a part of one book. If most schools cannot do what is done in large institutions — take the students through the whole of one or two books continuously and with a certain development — yet at least those parts which are selected should be treated with suitable fulness, in such a way that the students may learn from the sample that is put before them to love and use the remainder of the sacred book during the whole of their lives. The professor, following the tradition of antiquity, will make use of the Vulgate as his text; for the Council of Trent decreed that "in public lectures, disputations, preaching, and exposition," ^ the Vulgate is the "authentic" version; and this is the existing custom of the Church. At the same time, the other versions, which Christian antiquity has approved, should not be neglected, more especially the more ancient MSS. For, although the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek is substantially rendered by the Vulgate, nevertheless, wherever there may be ambiguity or want of clearness, the "examination of older tongues,"^ to quote St. Augustine, will be useful and advantageous. But in this matter we need hardly say that the greatest pru- dence is required, for the "ofRce of a commentator," as St. Jerome says, "is to set forth not what he himself would prefer but what his author says." ^ The question of "reading " having been, when necessary, carefully dis- cussed, the next thing is to investigate and expound the meaning. And the first counsel to be given is this: that

  • Sess. iv. deer, de edit, et usu sacr, libror,

' De doctr. chr. iii. 4. ' Ad Pammachium.


the more our adversaries contend to the contrary, so much the more solicitously should we adhere to the received and approved canons of interpretation. Hence, whilst weighing the meaning of words, the connection of ideas, the parallelism of passages, and the like, we should by all means make use of such illustrations as can be drawn from opposite erudition of an external sort; but this should be done with caution, so as not to bestow on ques- tions of this land more labor and time than are spent on the sacred books themselves, and not to overload the minds of the students with a mass of information that will be rather a hindrance than a help.

The professor may now safely pass on to the use of Scripture in matters of theology. On this head it must be observed that, in addition to the usual reasons which make ancient writings more or less difficult to understand, there are some which are peculiar to the Bible. For the language of the Bible is employed to express, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, many things which arft beyond the power and scope of the reason of man — that is to say, di\'ine mysteries and all that is related to them. There is sometimes in such passages a fulness and a hidden depth of meaning which the letter hardly expresses and which the laws of interpretation hardly warrant. More- over, the literal sense itself frequently admits other senses, adapted to illustrate dogma or to confirm morahty.

^'Wherefore, it must be recognized that the sacred wTit- ings are A\Tapped in a certain religious obscurity, and that no one can enter into their interior without a guide;*

-€»od so disposing, as the holy Fathers commonly teach, in order that men may investigate them with greater ardor and earnestness, and that what is attained with difficulty may sink more deeply into the mind and heart, and, most of all, that they may understand that God has delivered the Holy Scripture to the Church, and that in

  • S. Hier. ad Paulin. de studio Script, ep. liii. 4.





reading and making use of His Word they must follow \ ^he Church as their guide and their teacher. St. Irenseus ^ long since laid down that where the chrismata of God e, there the truth was to be learned, and the Holy cripture was safely interpreted by those who had the . ^ostolic succession.^ His teaching and that of other m)ly Fathers is taken up by the Council of the Vatican, which in renewing the decree of Trent declared its "mind" to be this — that "in things of faith and morals, belonging to the building up of Christian doctrine, that it is to be considered the true sense of Holy Scripture, which has been held and is held by our Holy Mother the Church, whose place it is to judge of the true sense and interpre- tation of the Scripiuresy alldT^heretore, that it"is*per- rnmed to'no onB^t'STnterpret Holy Scripture against such sense or also against ^ the unanimous agreement of the ^Fathe rs." ^ By this most wise decree the Church by no means prevents or restrains t ]^ pursuit jo f biblical science, but rather protects it from error, and largely assists its reial progress. A wide— fretd" 15 "Still left open~lo the'"'piTvate student, in whiph his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal_ effect ariH' tg~'t he— advanfages~of th e C&urch. OrTThe one hand7~nrTHose passages of Holy

  • Scripture which have not as yet received a certain and

/definite interpretation, such labors may, in the benignant [providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity

vli^^Ji^-^^SP^^^ °^ ^ Church; on the other, in passages already defined, the private student may do work equally valuable, either by setting them forth more clearly to the .-' flock or more skilfully to the scholars, or by defending them more powerfully from hostile attack. Wherefore the first and dearest object of the Catholic commentator •^ should be to interpret those passages which have received \ an authentic interpretation either from the sacred writers J

»C. haer. iv. 26, 5.

' Sess. iii. cap. ii. de revel.; cf . Cone. Trid. sess. iv. decret de edit, et usu sacr. libror.




themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost (as in many places of the New Testament), or from the Church, under the assistance of the same Holy Spirit, whethfij by her solemn judgment or by her ordinary and uiuyers^ magisterium'^— to interpret these passagesiTrrKatTdentical sense, and to prove by all the resources of science that sound hermeneutical laws admit of no other interpretation. In the other passages the analogy of faith should be fol- lowed, and Catholic doctrine, as authoritatively proposed by the Church, should be held as the supreme law; for, seeing that the same God is the author both of the sacred books and of the doctrine committed to the Church, it is clearly impossible that any teaching can, by legitimate means, be extracted from the former which shall, in any respect, be at variance with the latter. Hence it ^ws that all interpretation is foolish or false w^hich either makes the sacred writers disagree one with anothe ^ris opposed to the doctrine of the Church. The professor^ of Holy Scripture, therefore, amongst other recomme: dations, must be well acquainted with, the whole circle of theolog}'" and deeply read in the commentaries of the holy Fathers and Doctors, and in other interpreters of mark.^ This is inculcated by St. Jerome, and still more frequently by St. Augustine, who thus justly complains: "If there is no branch of teaching, however humble and easy to learn, which does not require a master, what can be a greater sign of rashness and pride than to refuse to study the books of the divine mysteries by the help of those who have interpreted them?" ^ The other Fathers have said the same, and have confirmed it by their example, for they "endeavored to acquire the undei*standing of the Holy Scriptures not by their own Hghts and ideas but from the writing and authority of the ancients, who, in their turn, as we know, received the rule of interpreta- tion in direct line from the apostles." * The holy Fathers

  • Cone. Vat. sess. iii. cap. ii. de fide. ^ Ibid.
  • Ad Honorat de util. cred. xvii. 35. * Rufinus Hist. eccL li. 9.


"to whom, after the apostles, the Church owes its growth — who have planted, watered, built, governed, and cher- ished it";^ the holy Fathers, We say, are of supreme authority, whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith and morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the apostles as a matter of Cathohc faith. The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight when they treat of these mat- ters in their capacity of Doctors unofficially; not only because they excel in their knowledge of revealed doctrine and in their acquaintance with many things which are useful in understanding the apostolic books, but because they are men of eminent sanctity and of ardent zeal for the truth, on whom God has bestowed a more ample measure of His light. Wherefore the expositor should make it his duty to follow their footsteps with all rever- ence, and to use their labors with intelligent appreciation. But he must not on that account consider that it is for- bidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposi- tion beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he care- fully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augus- tine — not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, ex- cept only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; ^ a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and the unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. Neither should those passages be neglected which the Fathers have understood in an alle- gorical or figurative sense, more especially when such in- terpretation is justified by the literal, and when it rests on the authority of many. For this method of interpretation has been received by the Church from the apostles, and has been approved by her own practice, as the holy Liturgy attests; although it is true that the holy Fathers did not

'S. Aug. c. Julian, ii. 10, 37. » De Gen. ad litt. Iviii. c. 7. 13.


thereby pretend directly to demonstrate dogmas of faith, but used it as a means of promoting virtue and piety, such as, by their own experience, they knew to be most valu- able. The authority of other Church interpreters is not so great; but the study of Scripture has always continued to advance in the- Gfamrh, ^nd, therefo re, these- commen t taries also have theiF own honorable place, and are serv- iceable in many ways for the refutation of assailants and the explanation of difficulties. But it is most unbe- coming to pass by, in ignorance or contempt, the excellent

work w hich CathohcS hg yp l^ft. in nVmnrIn ^ jHiil III liiTTA

recourse to the wo rk of non-Cathol ics — and to seek in them, to the detriment oi sound doctrine and often to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and their labor. For although the studies of non-Catholics, used with prudence, may sometime s be of use to the_ ^p•'•h^^l^V- student, he shoul d^lievertlieless. bear well in mind — a s the i*atners also teach m numerous passages ^ — that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only know the bark of sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith.

Most desirable is it, and most essential, that the whole teaching of theology should be pervaded and animated by the use of the d ivine _ Word of God . That is what the Fathers and tEe"greatest theologians of all ages have de- sired p.nd reduced to practice. It is chiefly out of the' sacred writings that they endeavored to proclaim and estabhsh the_Articlesj)f Faith and^ the tru ths therewit h connected, and it was m'them, together with divine tra - di tioiiTt hat they tound the refutation of heretica Terfo r, and the reaso'hableness, the Li'uein(iamilg, and the mutual relation of the truths of Catholicism. Nor will any one wonder at this who considers that the sacred books hold

' Cfr. Clem. Alex. Strom, vii. 16; Orig. de princ. iv. 8; in I.evit. hom. 48; Tertull. de praescr. 15, seqq.; S. Hilar. Pict. in Matth. 13, 1.




such an eminent position among the sources of revelation that "without their assiduous study and use theology can- not be placed on a true footing, or treated as its dignity demands. For although it is right and proper that stu- dents in academies and schools should be chiefly exercised

14n acquiring- a scientific knowledge jjlilopftftf^T ineans of" reasoning from the Articles of Faith to their consequences, According to the rules of approved and sound philosophy — nevertheless the judicious and instructed theologian will by no means pass by that method of doctrinal demonstra- tion which draws its proof from the authority of the Bible; "for theology does not receive her first principles from any other science, but immediately from God by revela- tion. And, therefore, she does not receive of other sciences as from a superior, but uses them as her inferiors or hand- maids." ^ It is this view of doctrinal teaching which is laid down and recommended by the prince of theologians, St. Thomas of Aquin; ^ who moreover shows — such being the essential character of Christian theology — how she can defend her own principles against attack: "If the ad- versary," he says, "do but grant any portion of the divine revelation, we have an argument against him; thus, against a heretic we can employ Scripture authority, and against those who deny one article we can use another. But if our opponent reject divine revelation entirely, there is no way left to prove the Articles of Faith Ijy' reasoning f we" can only sotve'the Tlifficulties which are raised against them." ^ Care must be taken, then, that beginners ap- proach the study of the Bible well prepared and furnished; otherwise, just hopes wdli be frustrated, or, perchance, what is worse, they will unthinkingly risk the danger of error, falling an easy prey to the sophisms and labored erudition of the rationalists. The best preparation will be a conscientious application to philosophy and theology

» S. Greg. M. Moral xx. 9 (al. 11), Summ. Theol. p. i. q. i. a. 5 ad 2. Ubid. a. 8.


under the guidance of St. Thomas of Aquin, and a thor- ough training therein — as We Ourselves have elsewhere pointed out and directed. By this means, both in biblical studies and in that part of theology which is called positive, they will pursue the right path and make satisfactory progress.

To prove, to expound, to illustrate Catholic doctrine by the legitimate and skilful interpretation of the Bible is much; but there is a second part of the subject of equal importance and equal difficulty — the maintenance in the strongest possible way of its full authority. This cannot be done 'completely or satisractorriy"e'xce ^ by meanJoTni e livings aird^oper magisfenuin oTthe Church. The Church, byT^ason"©!' her wondertul propapttolTTter distinguished sanctity, and inexhaustible fecundity in good, her Catholic unity, and her unshaken stability, is herself a great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an unassailable testi- mony to her own divine mission." * But, since the divine and in fallible magist erium of the Church rests also on Holy Scripture , the first thmg to be done is to vinciicate the trustw orthiness of sacred records, at least as human docu- ments from wM^^^canHBelele^

tive and authentic testimony, the divinity and the missio n rif rj]^rigf fi•l^r fXrH ^ +V|p JT^ stitution of a hierarchical Chu rch

and the primacy of Peter and his successors. , It is mostj

desirable, therefore, that there should be numerous mem- bers of the clergy well prepared to enter on a contest of this naturej..mid^...r£pulse_hostne_assa^^ in the armor of God recommended by the Apostle,^ but also not unaccustomed to modern methods of attack. This is beautifully alluded to by St. John Chrj^sostom, when de- scribing the duties of priests: "We must use every endeavor that the 'Word of God may dwell in us abundantly'; ^ not merely for one kind of a fight must we be prepared — for the contest is many-sided and the enemy is of every sort;

  • Cone. Vat. sess iii. c. ii. de fide. ' Eph. vi. 13, seqq.

^Gr. Coloss. iii. 16.


and they do not all use the same weapons nor make their onset in the same way. Wherefore it is needful that the man who has to contend against all should be acquainted with the engines and the arts of all — that he should be at once archer and slinger, commandant and officer, general and private soldier, foot-soldier and horseman, skilled in sea-fight and in siege; for unless he knows every trick and turn of war, the devil is well able, if only a single door be left open, to get in his fierce bands and carry off the sheep." ^ The sophisms of the enemy and his manifold arts of attack we have already touched upon. Let us now say a word of advice on the means of defence. The first means is the study of the Oriental languages and of the art of crillclam. Th e i jy Uvu acqui roi ucnts arc in thcM ti dayti h eld in high feSti- mation, and, therefore, the clergy, by making themselves fully acquainted with them as time and place may demand, will the 5etter"Be able to discharge their office with be- coming credit; for they must make themselves all to all,^ alwaiywrmdy to satisfy every one that asketh them a reason for the hope that is in them.^ Hence it is most proper that professors .,ol_s_ai;rad_SiiriptU.ra and. -theologians shotild mast^ those tongues in which the sacred books were nginally written; and it would be well that Church stu- ents al§Tr' them^ r nnrA pc^p pmaiiy thnsp jwho aspire to academic degrees. And endeavors should e~ihade Lo eyLablish in all academic institutions — as has jalready been laudably done in many—chairs of the other ncient languages, especially the Semitic, and of subjects onnected therewith, for the benefit, principally, of those who are intended to profess sacred literature. These latter, with a similar object in view, should make them- selves well and thoroughly acquainted with the art of true criticism. There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method, dignified by the name of the " higher criticisin ," which pretends to judge the origin,

» De Sacerdotio iv. 4. I Cor. ix. 22. » 1 Peter iii. 15.


integrity and authority of each book from internal indica- tions alone. It is clear, on the other hand, that in historical questions, such as the origin ancHiaiidlli^ down ot writing s, thg-vritriess"~bf histo ry is of primary importance, and that historical investigation should be made with the utmos t care; and that m this manner in ternal evid ence is seldom o f great value, except as conhrmation. 'I'o look upon it in any other light will be to open the door to many evil consequences. It will make the enemies of religion much more bold and confident in attacking and mangling the sacred books; and this vaunted_" higher criticism will_ resolve itself into jhejreflection of the bias and_the preju- dice of tJTP jrTtip R. it wTll not throw on the Scripture tji^ U gEt" which is sought, or prove of any advantage to doc- tnne; it will only give rise to disagreeiTient and dissension, ITTose sure notes of error which the critics in question so plentifully exhibit in their own persons; and seeing that

)st of them are tainted with false philosophy and ration- ilism, it must lead to the elimination from the sacred

itings of all prophecy and miracle, and of everything . ejse that is outside the natural order.

In the second place, we have to contend against those who, making an e\dl use of physical science, m.inu telv scrutinize the sacr^(±~btJoK m order to detect the win ters in a mistake, and to take occasion to vilify its co ntend At- tacks ot this kind, beanng as they do on matters ot sensible e xperience, are peculiarly dangerous to the masses, and Mso to the young who are beginning their literary studies; for the young, if they lose their reverence for the Holy Scripture on one or more points, are easily led to give up believing in it altogether. It need not be pointed out how the nature of science, just as it is so admirabty adapted to show forth the glory of the Great Creator, provided it is taught as it should be, so, if it be perversely imiparted to the youthful intelligence, it may prove most fatal in de- stroying the principles of true philosophy and in the cor- ruption of morahty. Hence, to the professor of sacred


Scripture a knowledge of natural science will be of very gr<$a?r assTstancg in dulbctiii^ isucn att acks on tnesaT!T5 d bVoks, arid m refULlllg tlieili. mere can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself vvdthin his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known." ^ If dissension should arise between them, here ie- the rule also laid down by vSt. Augustine, for the theologian: "Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they as- sert i n their treatises which is cont rar y to these Script- ures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either pfove It as well as we can to b e entirely false, or at all even ts we^mtlstT- without -thErBmallest hesitation, believe it to be so." ^ To understand how just is the rule here formu- lated we must remember, first, that the sacred writers, or, to speak more accurately, the Holy Ghost "who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation." ^ Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers — as the Angelic Doctor also reminds us — "went by what sensibly appeared," * or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to.

  • In. Gen. op. imperf. is. 30.
  • De Gen, ad litt. i. 21, 4?

3 S, Aii^. ib. ii. 9, 20.

  • Summa Theol. p. i. q. Ixxx. a. 1 ad 3.


The unshrinking defence of the Holy Scripture, how- ever, does not require that we should equally uphold all the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect. Hence, in their inter- pretations, we must carefully note what they lay down as belonging to faith, or as intimately cormected with faith— w^hat they are unanimous in. For "in those things which do not come under the obligation of faith, the saints were at liberty to hold divergent opinions, just as we ourselves are," ^ according to the saying of St. Thomas. And in another place he says most admirably: "When philosophers are agreed upon a point, and it is not contrary to our faith, it is safer, in my opinion, neither to lay down such a point as a dogma of faith, even though it is perhaps so presented by the philosophers, nor to reject it as against faith, lest we thus give to the wise of this world an occasion of despising our faith." ^ The Catholic interpreter, although he should show that those facts of natural science which investigators affirm to be now quite certain are not contrary' to the Script- ure rightly explained, must, nevertheless, always bear in mind that much which has been held and proved as cer- tain has afterwards been called in question and rejected. And if wTiters on physics travel outside the boundaries of their own branch, and carrj' their erroneous teaching into the domain of philosophy, let them be handed over to phil- osophers for refutation.

The principles here laid dowm will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to liistorj'. It is a lamentable fact that there are many who wot h^ great lab o r carry out and publish in vestigations on the rnonuments ot antiquitv. th e manners and institutions of nations, and other illustrative

' In Sent. iL Dist. q. i. a. 3. * Opusc. x.



subjects, and whose chief purp ose in all this is to find mis- taj^es in ^!ie saB'g?tWHT!nss"and so to shake a nd"WeaR en tTieir authorityr'-Bome of th ese wi'itefs"3IspTay not only extreme hostility but the greatest unfairness; in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture, if they only find in it a suspicion of error, is set down -wdth the shghtest possible discussion as quite untrustworthy. It is true, no doubt, that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible; this question, when it arises, should be carefully considered on its merits, and the fact not too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear. It jnay al so hap pen that the sense of a passage remains ambiguous, a nd in this case good hermeneutical methods will greatly assist 'irTCtearmg up thfe Obb!(3UriLy. But it is absOluLul^; wi-ong BTt HorbiddLiu dllie i- t u na rrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of those difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that di^/ine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly \\ think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage j ^we should consider not so much what God has said as the/ ' Xp reason and purpose which He had in mind when sayin^i*^ ^•JT fthis system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which

he Church receives as sac red and canonical are w ritten

holly and entiTely7""WrETrair their "parts, at the dictation )f the Holy Ghost; and so far i s jt from being; possible that mv error can co-exist w ith i nspir a-'^ir.n, t.ViRt. i^pipjy^tinn QQtjmljLi ^essentialiy mcompa.tiblewith error^ b ut excludes iects it as absolut ely and necessarilv as it is impoasi-


ble that Gol

e Supreme Trtith. ^an iijt^^ ^^^^'

-~ ^ is pn| , f,-nip This is the ancient and unchanging ffithof the Church, solenmly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: "The books of the Old and New


Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enu- merated by the decree of the same Council (Trent) and_^ in the ancient Latin "\^ulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor only because they contain revelation without error, but because, ha\dng been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their Author." ^ Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot, therefore, say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primar}^ author. For, by supernatural power. He so moved and impelled them to wTite — He was so present to them — that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to vrnte down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. "Therefore," says St. Augustine, "since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His mem bers executed what their head dictated." ^ And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wTote these things — we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the author of the Book. He wrote it who dictated it for writing; He WTote it who inspired its execution." ^

It follows th at those who maintain that pn pr rn^ ^'^ p^*^"

sible in any ge nuine passage of the sao r<^fl wrifing<; ^ithf^*

jefvertr the uathoiic notion of inspiration or make God

^lie^anihui' uf suL'li yiruf. — Xncl so emphatically were all

re FaLlifel's and- Dot LiXRT agreed that the divine writings,

as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error, that

Sess. iii. c. ii. de Rev. ' De consensu Evangel 1. 1, c. 35. ^ Praef. in Job, n. 2.



they labored earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance — the very passages which in a great meas- re .lmy.e J)eeji.,-taken up by the "higher criticism"; for 'they were unanimous in lajdngit down that those writings, in their entirety and in all their parts were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything that was not true. The words of St. Augustine to St. Jerome may sum up what they taught: "On my own part I confess to your charity that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor 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." ^

But to undertake fully and perfectly, and with all the weapons of the best science, the defence of the Holy Bible is far more than can be looked for from the exertions of commentatoi's and theologians alone. It is an enterprise in which we have a right to expect the co-operation of all those Catholics who have acquired reputation in any branch of learning whatever. As in the past, so at the present time, the Church is never without the graceful support of her accomplished children; may their service to the Faith grow and increase! For there is nothing which We believe to be more needful than that truth should find defenders more powerful and more numerous than the enemies it has to face; nor is there anything which is better calculated to impress the masses with respect for truth than to see it boldly proclaimed by learned and dis- tinguished men. Moreover, the bitter tongues of objectors will be silenced, or at least they will not dare to insist so

  • Ep. Ixxvii. 1, et crebrius alibi.


shamelessly tha ^aith is the enemy of s cience, when they s^that scientific men of eminence~n their proffssiun show'ToW aidy - f t tilh lli e niusl mar ked honor and Tesp'ect. Seeing, then, that those can do so much for the advantage of rehgion on whom the goodness of Almighty God has bestowed, together with the grace of the faith, great natural talent, let such men, in this bitter conflict of which the Holy Scripture is the object, select each of them the branch of study most suitable to his circumstances, and endeavor to excel therein, and thus be prepared to repulse with credit and distinction the assaults on the Word of God. And it is Our pleasing duty to give deserved praise to a work which certain Catholics have taken up — that is to say, the formation of societies and the contribution of considerable sums of money for the purpose of sup- plying studios and learned men with every kind of help and assistance in carrj'ing out complete studies. Truly an excellent fashion of investing money, and well suited to the times in which we live! The less hope of public pat- ronage there is for Catholic study, the more ready and the more abundant should be the liberality of private persons — those to whom God has given riches thus willingly making use of their means to safeguard the treasure of His revealed doctrine.

In order that all these endeavors and exertions may really prove advantageous to the cause of the Bible, let scholars keep steadfastly to the principles which We have in this Letter laid down. Let them loyally hold that God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures — .and that, therefore, nothing; can b e D roved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures. If, then, apparent con- tradiction be met with, every effort should be made to remove it. Judicious theologians and commentators should be consulted as to what is the true or most probable meaning of the passage in discussion, and hostile arguments should be carefully weighed. Even if the difficulty is after all not cleared up and the discrepancy seems to remain, the contest must not be abandoned; tru th cannot contradict "truth, an d we may be sure that some mistake hfe been made either in the interpretation of the sacred words or in the polemical discussion itseK; and if no such mistake can be detected, we must then suspend judgment for the time being. There have been objections without number perseveringly directed against the Scripture for many a long year, which have been proved to be futile and are now never heard of; and not infrequently interpretations have been" placed on certain passages of Scripture (not belonging to the rule of faith or morals) which have been rectified by more careful investigations. As time goes on, mistaken views die and disappear; but truth remaineth and groweth stronger forever and ever} Wherefore, as no one should be so presumptuous as to think that he understands the whole of the Scripture, in which St. Augustine himself confessed that there was more that he did not know than that he knew,^ so, if he should come on anything that seems incapable of solution, he must take to heart the cautious rule of the same holy doctor: "It is better even to be oppressed by unknown but useful signs than to interpret them uselessly, and thus to throw off the yoke only to be caught in the trap of error." ^

As to those who pursue the subsidiary studies of which We have spoken, if they honestly and modestly follow the counsels We have given — if by their pen and their voice they make their studies profitable against the enemies of truth, and useful in saving the young from the loss of their faith — they may justly congratulate themselves on their worthy service to the sacred writings, and on affording to Catholicism that assistance which the Church has a right to expect from the piety and learning of her children.

Such, Venerable Brethren, are the admonitions and the instructions which, by the help of God, We have thought

» 3 Esdr. iv. 38. ^ Ad lanuar. ep. Iv. 21.

^ De doctr. chr. iii. 9, 18.


it Vv'ell, at the present moment, to offer to you on the study of Holy Scripture. It will now be your province to see that what We have said be observed and put in practice with all due reverence and exactness; that so We may prove our gratitude to God for the communication to man of the words of His wisdom, and that all the good results so much to be desired may be realized, especially as they affect the training of the students of the Church, which is our own great solicitude and the Church's hope. Exert yourselves with wilhng alacrity, and use your authority and j^our persuasion in order that these studies may be held in just regard and may flourish in seminaries and in educational institutions which are under your jurisdiction. Let them flourish in completeness and in happy success, under the direction of the Church, in accordance with the salutary teaching and example of the holy Fathers, and the laudable traditions of antiquity; and, as time goes on, let them be widened and extended as the interests and glory of truth may require — the interests of that Catholic truth which comes from above, the never-failing source of man's salvation. Finally, We admonish with paternal love all students and ministers of the Church al ways to approach the sacred waitings with reverence and piety; for it is impossible to attain to the profitable understanding thereof unless the arrogance o f "earthly" science be laid aside, and the ^^ be pY^1^^^orl■i n the heart the holy desire for that wisdom " which is from above." In this way the intelligence which is once admitted to these sacred studies, and thereby illuminated ^ and strengthened, will acquire a marvellous facility in ^^{?n^ detecting and avoidin g the fallacies of human science^ //t^- and in gathermg and "u sing for eternal salvation^aU^ that j^

is valuable and precious; whilst, at the same time, the /*-fv<l^^- heart will grow warm, and will strive, with ardent longing, ^U/ to advance in virtue and in divine love. Blessed are tlvey V^^% who examine His testimonies; they shall seek Him with -^i ■• '^ their whole heart}

' Ps. cxviii. 2.


And now, filled with hope in the divine assistance, and trusting to your pastoral solicitude — as a pledge of heavenly grace, and a sign of Our special good-will — to you all, and to the clergy, and to the whole flock entrusted to you, We lovingly impart in Our Lord the Apostolic Benediction.