Summary of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum”

Background (click here)


  • “Hearing the word of God with reverence” (receiving – contemplative) “and proclaiming it with faith” (giving – salvation).
  • Goal = “set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love” (1). 

Ch. 1: Divine revelation

  • Trinitarian – economy of revelation = way God manifests His will & arranges things through deeds & words to reveal “the deepest truths about God and the salvation of man” (2).
  • Revelation – begins with creation, Adam & Eve, then through stages of salvation history.
  • Incarnation – Christ is the complete & perfect revelation of the Father: “Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it” (4).
  • Economy & Covenant –
  • Faith & revelation = full submission of intellect & will to God who reveals.
  • Reason & revelation = We can know God from the created world – with ease, certainty, free of error. But God reveals Himself so we can know religious truths with ease, certitude, and without error.

Ch. 2: Transmission of Divine Revelation

  • Revelation & Tradition – Apostles hand on from Christ to Bishops — person + action + words = all connected.
    • Tradition = the “teaching, life, and worship” (8) that the Church has been entrusted to hand down “in its full purity” (9) to all generations.
  • What was handed on? All the Church is & all She believes = everything that serves to make the people of God live a life of holiness, doctrine, life, worship – the Church’s very existence & life is a process of handing on a tradition.
  • Development of tradition & doctrine – the Holy Spirit helps in various ways.
  • Tradition & Scripture – the canon of Scripture was determined by means of tradition.
    • Tradition & Scripture = both flow from same divine wellspring – form 1 thing & move toward the same goal. 1 sacred deposit of the Word of God. Demand the same reverence and loyalty.
    • Scripture = the word of God consigned to writing under divine inspiration.
    • Tradition = the word of God transmitted
  • Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium — SS ST MG are so connected that one cannot stand without the others. All contribute effectively to the salvation of souls
    • Magisterium = living teaching office of the Church that authentically interprets & serves the word of God, whether written (Scripture) or handed on (Tradition).

Ch. 3: Sacred Scripture: Inspiration and Interpretation

  • Inspiration – The inspired authors act as true authors using all their faculties but at the same time, they say all that God wants & no more.
    • All of SS = divinely inspired – so must understand in the whole of context (content & unity of the whole of Scripture) with the tradition of Church & analogy of faith.
  • Inerrancy – emerges from inspiration.
    • “Firmly, faithfully and without error teach that truth for which God for the sake of our salvation wished to confide to SS” (11).
  • Literary forms – should be considered by God speaks in SS through men in human fashion.
    • What meaning did the sacred writer intend to express? Must consider the historical, cultural, literary forms of that writer’s time.

Ch. 4: Old Testament

“The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was:

  1. to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom,
  2. to announce this coming by prophecy (see Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10), and
  3. to indicate its meaning through various types (see 1 Cor. 10:12)” (15).

Old Testament books:

  • “Show us true divine pedagogy” (15)
  • Express a “lively sense of God”
  • “Contain a store of sublime teachings about God”
  • Give us “sound wisdom about human life”
  • Have a “wonderful treasury of prayers”
  • Reveal “the mystery of our salvation in a hidden way”

Ch. 5: New Testament

  • Word of God = is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.
    • Should not be studied in a purely intellectual way.
  • Gospels = have a special place:
    • Apostolic origin = they themselves and apostolic men…
    • The historicity of the Gospels = faithfully hand on what Jesus really did and taught.
    • Sacred authors selected many elements to be handed on – didn’t say everything they could have said = “the honest truth” – historical truth.

Ch. 6 SS in the life of the Church

  • Scripture & Eucharist = venerate both.
  • Translations – go to original translations & also provide easy access to Scripture for faithful.
  • Study of Church Fathers & liturgy – Scripture embraces the whole life of Church and everything is integrated with liturgy.
  • Theology – “the study of the sacred page is the soul of theology” (24).
    • Against the danger of making theology too much philosophic type system – rather nourished by Word.
  • Spiritual life prayer accompany readings – the new impulse of spiritual life may be expected from increased veneration of Word which stands forever
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