The  Bible

                     A collection of writings which the Church of God has solemnly recognized as
                     inspired. The name is derived from the Greek expression biblia (the books),
                     which came into use in the early centuries of Christianity to designate the whole
                     sacred volume. In the Latin of the Middle Ages, the neuter plural for Biblia (gen.
                     bibliorum) gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia,
                     gen. bibliae, in which singular form the word has passed into the languages of
                     the Western world. It means "The Book", by way of eminence, and therefore well
                     sets forth the sacred character of our inspired literature. Its most important
                     equivalents are: "The Divine Library" (Bibliotheca Divina), which was employed by
                     St. Jerome in the fourth century; "the Scriptures", "the Holy Scriptures"--terms
                     which are derived from expressions found in the Bible itself; and "the Old and
                     New Testament", in which collective title, "the Old Testament" designates the
                     sacred books written before the coming of Our Lord, and "the New Testament"
                     denotes the inspired writings composed since the coming of Christ.

                     It is a fact of history that in the time of Christ the Jews were in possession of
                     sacred books, which differed widely from one another in subject, style, origin and
                     scope, and it is also a fact that they regarded all such writings as invested with a
                     character which distinguished them from all other books. This was the Divine
                     authority of every one of these books and of every part of each book. This belief
                     of the Jews was confirmed by Our Lord and His Apostles; for they supposed its
                     truth in their teaching, used it as a foundation of their doctrine, and intimately
                     connected with it the religious system of which they were the founders. The
                     books thus approved were handed down to the Christian Church as the written
                     record of Divine revelation before the coming of Christ. The truths of Christian
                     revelation were made known to the Apostles either by Christ Himself or by the
                     Holy Ghost. They constitute what is called the Deposit of Faith, to which nothing
                     has been added since the Apostolic Age. Some of the truths were committed to
                     writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and have been handed down to us
                     in the books of the New Testament. Written originally to individual Churches or
                     persons, to meet particular necessities, and accommodated as they all were to
                     particular and existing circumstances, these books were gradually received by
                     the universal Church as inspired, and with the sacred books of the Jews
                     constitute the Bible.

                     In one respect, therefore, the Bible is a twofold literature, made up of two distinct
                     collections which correspond with two successive and unequal periods of time in
                     the history of man. The older of these collection, mostly written in Hebrew,
                     corresponds with the many centuries during which the Jewish people enjoyed a
                     national existence, and forms the Hebrew, or Old Testament, literature; the more
                     recent collection, begun not long after Our Lord's ascension, and made up of
                     Greek writings, is the Early Christian, or New Testament, literature. Yet, in
                     another and deeper respect, the Biblical literature is pre-eminently one. Its two
                     sets of writings are most closely connected with regard to doctrines revealed,
                     facts recorded, customs described, and even expressions used. Above all, both
                     collection have one and the same religious purpose, one and the same inspired
                     character. They form the two parts of a great organic whole the centre of which is
                     the person and mission of Christ. The same Spirit exercised His mysterious
                     hidden influence on the writings of both Testaments, and made of the works of
                     those who lived before Our Lord an active and steady preparation for the New
                     Testament dispensation which he was to introduce, and of the works of those
                     who wrote after Him a real continuation and striking fulfilment of the old Covenant.

                     The Bible, as the inspired recorded of revelation, contains the word of God; that
                     is, it contains those revealed truths which the Holy Ghost wishes to be
                     transmitted in writing. However, all revealed truths are not contained in the Bible
                     (see TRADITION); neither is every truth in the Bible revealed, if by revelation is
                     meant the manifestation of hidden truths which could not other be known. Much
                     of the Scripture came to its writers through the channels of ordinary knowledge,
                     but its sacred character and Divine authority are not limited to those parts which
                     contain revelation strictly so termed. The Bible not only contains the word of
                     God; it is the word of God. The primary author is the Holy Ghost, or, as it is
                     commonly expressed, the human authors wrote under the influence of Divine
                     inspiration. It was declared by the Vatican Council (Sess. III, c. ii) that the sacred
                     and canonical character of Scripture would not be sufficiently explained by
                     saying that the books were composed by human diligence and then approved by
                     the Church, or that they contained revelation without error. They are sacred and
                     canonical "because, having been written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that
                     have God for their author, and as such have been handed down to the Church".
                     The inerrancy of the Bible follows as a consequence of this Divine authorship.
                     Wherever the sacred writer makes a statement as his own, that statement is the
                     word of God and infallibly true, whatever be the subject-matter of the statement.

                     It will be seen, therefore, that though the inspiration of any writer and the sacred
                     character of his work be antecedent to its recognition by the Church yet we are
                     dependent upon the Church for our knowledge of the existence of this inspiration.
                     She is the appointed witness and guardian of revelation. From her alone we know
                     what books belong to the Bible. At the Council of Trent she enumerated the
                     books which must be considered "as sacred and canonical". They are the
                     seventy-two books found in Catholic editions, forty-five in the Old Testament and
                     twenty-seven in the New. Protestant copies usually lack the seven books (viz:
                     Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and I, II Machabees) and parts
                     of books (viz: Esther 10:4-16:24, and Daniel 3:24-90; 13:1-14:42) which are not
                     found in the Jewish editions of the Old Testament.

                     The Bible is plainly a literature, that is, an important collection of writings which
                     were not composed at once and did not proceed from one hand, but rather were
                     spread over a considerable period of time and are traceable to different authors of
                     varying literary excellence. As a literature, too, the Bible bears throughout the
                     distinct impress of the circumstances of place and time, methods of
                     composition, etc., in which its various parts came into existence, and of these
                     circumstances careful account must be taken, in the interests of accurate
                     scriptural interpretation. As a literature, our sacred books have been transcribed
                     during many centuries by all manner of copyists to the ignorance and
                     carelessness of many of whom they still bear witness in the shape of numerous
                     textual errors, which, however, but seldom interfere seriously with the primitive
                     reading of any important dogmatic or moral passage of Holy Writ.

                     In respect of antiquity, the Biblical literature belongs to the same group of ancient
                     literature as the literary collections of Greece, Rome, China, Persia, and India.
                     Its second part, the New Testament, completed about A.D. 100, is indeed far
                     more recent than the four last named literature, and is somewhat posterior to the
                     Augustan age of the Latin language, but it is older by ten centuries than our
                     earliest modern literature. As regards the Old Testament, most of its contents
                     were gradually written within the nine centuries which preceded the Christian era,
                     so that its composition is generally regarded as contemporary with that of the
                     great literary works of Greece, China, Persia, and India. The Bible resembles
                     these various ancient literatures in another respect. Like them it is fragmentary,
                     i.e. made up of the remains of a larger literature. Of this we have abundant proofs
                     concerning the books of the Old Testament, since the Hebrew Scriptures
                     themselves repeatedly refer us to more ancient and complete works as
                     composed by Jewish annalists, prophets, wise men, poets, and so on (cf.
                     Numbers 21:15; Josue 10:13; II Kings 1:18; I Paralip. 29:29; I Mach. 16:24; etc.).
                     Statements tending to prove the same fragmentary character of the early
                     Christian literature which has come down to us are indeed much less numerous,
                     but not altogether wanting (cf. Luke 1:1-3; Colossians 4:16; I Corinthians 5:9).
                     But, however ancient and fragmentary, it is not to be supposed that the Biblical
                     literature contains only few, and these rather imperfect, literary forms. In point of
                     fact its contents exhibit nearly all the literary forms met with in our Western
                     literatures together with other peculiarly Eastern, but none the less beautiful. It is
                     also a well-known fact that the Bible is so replete with pieces of transcendent
                     literary beauty that the greatest orators and writers of the last four centuries have
                     most willingly turned to our sacred books as pre-eminently worthy of admiration,
                     study, and imitation. Of course the widest and deepest influence that has ever
                     been, and ever will be, exercised upon the minds and hearts of men remains due
                     to the fact that, while all the other literatures are but man's productions, the Bible
                     is indeed "inspired of God" and, as such, especially "profitable to teach, to
                     reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice" (II Timothy 3:16).

                     FRANCIS E. GIGOT
                     Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II
                                    Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                   Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

The Catholic Encyclopedia: newadvent.org