Background for Dei Verbum


  • Biblical movement – Considerable growth in biblical scholarship in the 1st half of the 20th century.
  • Liturgical movement – influencing biblical scholarship too.
  • Patristic revival.
  • A desire for Council to address 3 concerns: (1) inspiration; (2) inerrancy; (3) sources of revelation.
  • Theological Commission: A conservative body of theologians was the Preparatory Commission for DV. They treated these 3 concerns as theological issues for dogmatic theology & not scriptural issues.

Key Issue = Scope of Scripture & Tradition:

  • Conservatives = Tradition serves constitutive role (broader than Scripture & has a contribution for revelation).
  • Progressives = Wanted to leave the question open for more discussion.

Schemas, Council Floor, and Commission Work

  • 1st Schema: Double source of revelation was considered by Fr. Ratzinger as a canonization of the Roman school of theology. Ratzinger helped Rahner lead a counter-schema.
  • Council Floor: (1) Cardinal Lionel of France not pleased with 2 sources of revelation (saw it as cold and scholastic). Wanted 1 source = the one Word of God – Christ! (2) Cardinal Frings saw schema as lacking pastoral tone, wanted priority to One source – Word of God. The Vote: Although the motion to reject schema failed, John 23 intervened to withdraw schema. This was the 1st time the majority of the fathers were for a more progressive & pastoral view. Sent to a mixed commission to continue the work…
  • Mixed Commission: 3 points of disagreement:
    • (1) Relationship of Scripture & Tradition:
      • Conservative = wanted to say tradition has a Constitutive role (broader than scripture), that tradition has something to contribute to revelation.
      • Progressive = wanted to leave that question open  – not to condemn Geiselmann’s theory (Scripture is materially sufficient for revelation).
    • (2) Inerrancy: 
      • Conservative = Scripture cannot err on anything religious or profane.
      • Progressive = Scripture should be open to things like scientific developments.
    • (3) The historicity of the Gospels:
      • Conservative: Gospels tell us the true historical straightforward story.
      • Progressive: Wanted a more nuanced presentation.
  • 3rd period: Doctrinal commission, headed by Cardinal Florit of Folrence, took over. He was a conservative and presented a similar structure in which Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium presented as a dynamic living reality, not a set of propositions to be held by faith.
  • Council FloorKey change regarding inerrancy. Said that Scripture is without error in those things which pertain to salvation (in the saving truths). This became the subject of attack by minority – because it is open to error on things not about salvation!
  • 4th period: Large support but over 1,400 MODI. Paul 6th intervened. Listed 7 ways to clarify the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Said to drop expression “saving truths” because open to erroneous interpretation. Paul 6th wanted to give assurance that the historical quality of Gospels is sure. Firmly, faithfully and without error.
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