Divino Afflante Spiritu

Divino Afflante Spiritu

Divino Afflante Spiritu (Inspired by the Divine Spirit) is an encyclical letter issued by Pope Pius XII on September 30, 1943. It inaugurated the modern period of Roman Catholic Bible studies by permitting the limited use of modern methods of biblical criticism.[1] The Catholic bible scholar Raymond E. Brown described it as a 'Magna Carta for biblical progress'.[2]

The timing (a year and a half after the Wannsee Conference, at the height of World War II) of an encyclical which encouraged the study of Scripture within its Jewish context, was also a veiled message of support to the Jewish people.

The first purpose of the encyclical was to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the issuing of Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII in 1893, which had condemned the use of higher criticism. In the encyclical, Pius XII noted that since then, advances had been made in archaeology and historical research, making it advisable to further define the study of the Bible.

Previously, Catholic translations of the Bible into modern languages were usually based on the Latin Vulgate, the text used in the liturgy. They generally used the original texts, in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, only to clarify the exact meaning of the Latin text.

In his encyclical the Pope stressed the importance of diligent study of these original languages and other cognate languages, so as to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of the meaning of the sacred texts. He stated that "the original text ... having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern" (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 16).

Since then, Catholic translations of the Bible have been based directly on the texts found in manuscripts in the original languages, taking into account also the ancient translations that sometimes clarify what seem to be transcription errors in those manuscripts, although the Latin Vulgate remains the official Bible in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

See also

  • École Biblique


  1. ^ R.Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, Westminster John Knox Press, page 49
  2. ^ William James O'Brian, Riding Time Like a River: The Catholic Moral Tradition Since Vatican II, Georgetown University Press, 1993, page 76.

External links

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