I believe there is only one version of the Bible which the church, via a doctrinal council, has stated that is free from error.
Not quite. Trent said two different things about Biblical inerrancy:
- a) Original Manuscript by each Holy Author is totally free from error;
- b) The Vulgate (one of the versions) is free from error in matters pertaining to doctrine and morals.
Note that what Trent says about the Vulgate version is very close to what Vatican II says about the Bible as such.
What Trent does not actually state is whether factual errors crept into Vulgate through careless copying or translation from wrong Hebrew text can always or only sometimes be corrected through non-Vulgate versions.
The Church Father St Augustine states that the LXX has a higher authority than the post-Christian Hebrew manuscripts that St Jerome was translating. The Martyrologium Romanum for 25 of December gives for birthyear of Our Lord (after Creation, after Flood, after Abraham, after Moses, after the Temple or King David, after foundation of Rome) not St Jerome's calculus after his own Vulgate translation, but his calculus after LXX.
If nearly all manuscripts of St Luke state that Emmaus is 60 (LX) stades from Jerusalem, and we know a city called in Arabic Amwaz that is 160 (CLX) stades from Jerusalem, there is after all one Syriac manuscript that has not sixty but one hundred sixty stades in the Gospel text for Easter Monday (if their Liturgy uses same Gospel for same day of Easter Week, that is).
There is a difference between there being two accounts of something and two contradictory accounts. There is a also a difference between apparent contradictions and logically necessary contradictions. When we see what appears to be a contradiction, it is our duty as Catholics to acknowledge that we have come to a misunderstanding of the text. Let me ask you a question. Why do you rest your interpretation of Scripture on the judgment of the Church when that same Church has judged Scripture to be free of error and contradiction?
Agree totally with QNDNNDQDCE. This has however been debated, by one VeritasLuxMea, and I intersperse here my comments:
There is a difference between there being two accounts of something and two contradictory accounts.
Yes, but there are contradictory accounts.
No. In pictorial art, there is no contradiction between a broad panorama and a close up on one detail. In cinema and comics you do it all the time.
Genesis 1 contains a panorama of the creation of all there is, Genesis 2 a close up on the creation of man and the special creation of woman.
There is a also a difference between apparent contradictions and logically necessary contradictions.
Yes, but there are logically necessary contradictions.
When we see what appears to be a contradiction, it is our duty as Catholics to acknowledge that we have come to a misunderstanding of the text.
Ironically, the same approach the Biblical redactors took.
Hoping we belong to the same Church as they, I see no irony therein. I take exception to the word "redactors" as if every final author every time were only redacting earlier collected material. That is of course true for Genesis, Paralipomenon and the Four Books of Kings (a k a Two Books of Samuel and Two Books of Kings, a k a Book of Samuel and Book of Kings).
OK, since when are Catholics Biblical inerrantists: is this new or have we been doing it all along?
We Catholics have been Biblical Inerrantists all along. Only very lately - perhaps before you were born - did certain theologians start to end this.
When we contradicted Protestants on the Mass, we did not say Epistle to the Hebrews was wrong, we said they misunderstood it. We pointed, for instance, to the verse "habemus altare". A verse which puts the Holy Mass in a parallel and an opposition to the Pagan Sacrifices and to the Temple Sacrifices not yet finished but already tainted by Kaiaphas' treason.
When we contradicted Protestants on Mary Queen of Heaven, we did not say Cananeans had any right to worship "the queen of Heaven" as in Astarte, nor that the Prophets were wrong to denounce Israelites taking part of that evil cult, we said that "Queen of Heaven" when applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary means something totally other, since Christ is King of Heaven, just as he is King of the Jews. And that among the Jewish Kings, it was the mother of the King who was Queen.
When we contradicted Protestants on prayers to the saints, we did not say that Exodus or Deuteronomy is wrong to forbid "consulting the dead" (i e through mediums, in cases like Shaul going to a Witch to conjure the ghost of Samuel or other practises to force or allure the dead to speak). We say that even when speaking to the saints, our prayer reaches them through God, not through magic, since God is the source of their bliss, including their right to intercede before his face on our behalf. Like the souls of martyrs under the altar in Heaven who pray for "revenge" - on persecution and not necessarily of each more or less participating in it. Thus for the freedom of the Church. Also in other ways can they intercede for the Church. We also say that the deceased are now in another position than Old Testament dead down in Sheôl, since now Christ has opened the gates of the final paradise for souls who die believing in Him.
When it has been said we were not literalists but believed the allegorical sense, it is not untrue that we believed the allegorical sense, like Christological senses in Creation story, like ecclesiological senses in the Flood story. But this does not at all preclude we believed the literal sense as not just true, but also inerrantly true.
Trent was directed against all the schisms and heresies of 1517. Luther is one of them. Zwingli and Oecolampadius is another. Münzer is a third. The uncle and nephew Sozzini are the fourth (Bucer branching out to Cranmer, and to Calvin, Knox are originally a kind of compromise between Lutherans and Zwinglians). Now, Socinians did attack Biblical inerrancy as well as the already dogmatised Christology of Nicea and of Constantinople, of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Therefore in defining the Bible as inerrantly true, Trent condemned what remained to condemn in Socinianism.
What do we have to gain from playing this game? Besides, does this approach really rescue the Bible? If we have to jam truth down the Bible's throat like pureed squash into a baby, are you really making the Bible any more credible than those who acknowledge obvious mistakes and contradictions?
I would not admit there are any obvious mistakes or contradictions in the Bible.
Let me ask you a question. Why do you rest your interpretation of Scripture on the judgment of the Church when that same Church has judged Scripture to be free of error and contradiction?
It depends what you mean by "free of error." On more than one occasion, the Bible says both X and ~X are true. If the Church, likewise, is saying that both X and ~X are true, then the Church is assaulting the laws of logic and the gift of human reason. In which case, no one can acknowledge the credibility of the Church because it would be physically impossible: we would be living in a world devoid of any meaning, heck - even this conversation that we are having about the subject would be meaningless.
Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that the Church doesn't want us to think that way.
I do not think the Church or the author of the Bible wants us to think that way either, that is the one point where we agree. Let's take the rest one by one.
It depends what you mean by "free of error." On more than one occasion, the Bible says both X and ~X are true.
Never in the same sense and applied to the same context, no.
If the Church, likewise, is saying that both X and ~X are true, then the Church is assaulting the laws of logic and the gift of human reason.
The Church - I speak for historical Catholicism, not for reinterpretations that found favour with modernist bishops - more usually has been pointing out what is the different occasion when X and ~X are respectively true. Or why ~Y is not ~X, or why X is not Y. Which is not assaulting the laws of logic, though it may appear so to an impatient rhetoric monger who sadly enough borrows his rhetoric from the laws of logic.
In which case, no one can acknowledge the credibility of the Church because it would be physically impossible: we would be living in a world devoid of any meaning, heck - even this conversation that we are having about the subject would be meaningless.
Has or has not the Church of St Thomas Aquinas the kind of credibility this guy acknowledges?
Believing the world was young and earth its centre and angels moving the stars and planets did not seem self-contradictory to St Thomas Aquinas.
The kind of "science" that now seems to stamp Creation story or Joshua chapter ten as erroneous would not have seemed meaningful to a man for whom human science (as opposed to divine, whether kept in God's privy or revealed to man) was limited as to not being there of:
- the contingent past (confer palaeo-sciences)
- the contingent future (confer climate scare and population scare)
- the contingent absent (confer stellar distances) or
- the contingent hidden (whether inside the neighbour's heart or inside a closed room or box)
The kind of harmonising which to the writer I am quoting would have been "squeazing truth down the throat of the Bible" did not seem at all meaningless to St Thomas.
There is another earlier comment by VeritasLuxMea I would like to comment on:
We know that Gnosticism is not "true" because the Church tells us, not because it isn't represented in the Bible. It is.
Gnosticism is represented in the Bible, not as truth but as error. If you count Simon Magus as a gnostic or if you refer to certain warnings against gnosticism in epistles.
Biblical inerrancy is not equal with "Bible alone" or disbelieving everything not explicitly found in the Bible (even if not contradicting it). The Church condemned Gnosticism because it contradicted the Bible as much as because it contradicted tradition. What the Church says is not our ultimate source of religious truth, but one proximate one, not optional, but neither replacing what are the sources of the Church itself: Bible and Tradition. Which means that if Catholic Hierarchs or what seem to be such start contradicting Bible (as previously understood by Catholics, obviously, not as misunderstood by Protestants) or Tradition (whether against Lutherans or against Socinians) it cannot be real Catholic Hierarchy.
It is possible that Trent is a true council and Vatican II not, but hardly that Vatican II is a true council and Trent is not. Even if it could be imagined that Orthodox Churches were in 16th C real parts of the Church, that would not have left automatically Roman Catholics - Latin Rite and Uniates - outside the Church, and Trent would at least have been a local council - like its Orthodox part parallels, Jerusalem and Iasi.
At last, unless someone accuse me of Gnosticism in denying Heliocentrism and Billion Years Old Earth, here are some earlier parts of this blog:
Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ... on Young Earth Creationism Denying Gravity (with a certain levity towards the matter, thank God!)
... on Geocentrism being arrogant or disproven