Belief in the Bible

Catholic attitudes to the Bible

In the nineteenth century, Roman Catholic belief in the truth of the Bible did not change, even in the light of hostile biblical criticism.

For Roman Catholics:

  • the Bible was God's true word to humans about himself and his purposes
  • it had a special authority which marked it out from all other books
  • it was truly a sacred text - or Scripture, the term frequently used.

However, whereas the Protestant belief was that the Bible contained all the truth necessary for salvation, Catholics, however Bible-believing, also saw authority for their faith in other things, especially:

  • in the traditional teaching of the Church
  • in the doctrinal statements of the Pope made in certain circumstances.

How Catholics interpreted the Bible

Catholics had a certain tradition of Bible interpretation, going back to medieval times. One level of interpretation was fairly literal and historical, but others were more symbolic or allegorical.

Ordinary Catholics would not be expected to understand all these levels, but the priests were trained to teach the Bible in this way. So ordinary believers, on the whole, were not expected to puzzle out the Bible for themselves; that was the duty of their priests.

Of course, the various Catholic theologians from the past did not always agree with each other. So there were different groups within the Catholic church who emphasized some teachers more than others.

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