Divino Afflante Spiritu

Divino Afflante Spiritu is Pope Pius Xii’s Encyclical on Biblical Studies and it commemorates the 50th anniversary of Providentissimus Deus, the last encyclical (1893) on the study of the Holy Scriptures by Pope Leo XIII.

The Encyclical by Pope Leo is where it all started and Pius XII here is recaps the whole of the history of Biblical studies from the Sacred writers being inspired by God to write to the time of Augustine where he encourage those who knew the ancient languages (Hebrew/Greek) to study the Bible sadly at the time it was mostly Greek that was understood and this continued into the Medieval age where Scholastic Theology met it’s heights most study was done in Latin as most scholar didn’t know Greek. They were relying on St. Jerome’s Vulgate which was made the official text of the Church at the Council of Trent (1563) but had been around in various translations since around 400.

In the encyclical Pius calls for a new translation using the original languages Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek and finding out what they writers meant as Pius writes “ought we to explain the original text which, 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; this can be done all the more easily and fruitfully, if to the knowledge of languages be joined a real skill in literary criticism of the same text.” This mention of literary criticism, comparing one text with another, is a game changer, Pius also mentions the historical-critical method which is another way to look at the Bible where we look at what the world looked like at the time and who wrote it. Pope Leo condemned back the historical-critical method in 1893 but Pius here says that with the advanced in archeology and historical research this is another way to look at the Bible. This is the way I came into studying the Bible using both method and I am thankful for that just as noted Bible Scholar the late Father Raymond Brown, S.S. says this encyclical the “Magna Carta for biblical progress.”

If you have some time pick up your Bible and read something or pull out two Bibles and compare translations, this was something that me and my cousin would do on Thanksgiving to waste some time between football and all that food.


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