Vatican II – Dei Verbum
One of the primary themes underlying Dei Verbum is that the word of God – from both Scripture and Tradition – is completely true and that the fullness of God’s revelation to man is His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both the historical man as described in Scripture as well as the Word of God who exists consubstantially with God the Father from all of eternity. The person of Jesus Christ is completely trustworthy and believable; so too is Scripture and Tradition that describes Him.
The revelation of God is understood by both deeds and words. “The deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (DV, 2). And these words and deeds are for the sake of mankind because through them, God reveals Himself to man to bring us eternal life. Our faith in God is in fact a gift from God in which “man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’ and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him. To make this act of faith, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy Spirit must precede and assist.” (DV, 5). So while we must fully participate with God’s grace, faith is not from us, but comes from the Holy Spirit which we are free to receive or deny.
Divine Revelation is passed on to all generations through both Scripture and Tradition. St Paul tells us of this when he warned the faithful “to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter” (DV, 8). The authentic interpretation of Scripture and Tradition has been “entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church” (DV, 10). But, this office “is not above the word of God, but serves it” (DV, 10).
All of the Scripture and Tradition have God as their author coming from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Further, the entirety of Scripture is inspired even while at the same time acknowledging the writers of the Scripture were “true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted” (DV, 11). In regards to the Old and New Testaments, both are relevant and necessary revelations by God to man for He “wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New” (DV, 16).
Dei Verbum, from my understanding, is written to extent to clarify the confusion about Scripture scholarship. Since Bismarck (and before with the Reformers like Martin Luther), how to “interpret” the Bible has become convoluted, so much so that people will say today that “I believe in the truth of the Bible, but it isn’t historically accurate” or something along that train of thought. For the most part, I think Dei Verbum does a good job clarifying things like the historical accuracy of the Bible and that Tradition and Scripture are both necessary.
However, there are a couple phrases that can easily be interpreted to whichever way depending on which “spirit” one listens to. For example, “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.” (DV, 8) By itself, this gives the false impression that the fullness of divine truth is not already present in the Church or that we still need to “discover” the fullness of divine truth (which is usually “discovered” by theologians to be, strangely enough, in the superman who killed God…man completes God in their opinion, but the other way around.) Further, it can be used to support the progressives’ view that today is better than yesterday merely because it is “newer” and succeeded yesterday.
This phrase, given the surrounding context, can also mean that we further understand that truth which has been fully revealed and the deficit in understanding lies not with God’s revelation, not with the Apostolic understanding, but with our own selves. The latter is an appropriate understanding; the former is heresy.
My thoughts are, as you can tell, are sorely lacking… contribute your thoughts below in our comments! Or, for the especially vigorous, write your own article on Dei Verbum!