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Divino afflante Spiritu ("Inspired by the Holy Spirit") is a papal encyclical letter issued by Pope Pius XII on 30 September 1943 calling for new translations of the Bible into vernacular languages using the original languages as a source instead of the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate, completed by Jerome and revised multiple times, had formed the textual basis for all Catholic vernacular translations until then. Divino afflante Spiritu inaugurated the modern period of Roman Catholic biblical studies by encouraging the study of textual criticism (or lower criticism), pertaining to text of the Scriptures themselves and transmission thereof (for example, to determine correct readings) and permitted the use of the historical-critical method (or higher criticism), to be informed by theology, Sacred Tradition, and ecclesiastical history on the historical circumstances of the text, hypothesizing about matters such as authorship, dating, and similar concerns.[1] The eminent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown described it as a "Magna Carta for biblical progress".[2]



The encyclical appeared on the 50th anniversary of Providentissimus Deus, an 1893 encyclical in which Pope Leo XIII condemned the use of higher criticism. Pius XII noted that advances had been made in archaeology and historical research, which made 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 referred back to the source texts (in Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Greek) only to clarify the exact meaning of the Latin text.[3]

In his encyclical, Pius stressed the importance of diligent study of the original languages and other cognate languages to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of the meaning of the sacred texts:

We ought to explain the original text which was written by the inspired author himself and 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.[4]

Newer Catholic translations of the Bible have been based directly on the texts found in manuscripts in the original languages, taking into account as well the ancient translations that sometimes clarify what seem to be transcription errors in those manuscripts. However, the Latin Vulgate remains the official Bible in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Soulen & Soulen 2001, p. 49.
  2. ^ Brown, Raymond E. (1990). "Church Pronouncements". In Brown, Raymond E.; Fitzmyer, Joseph A.; Murphy, Roland E. (eds.). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 1167. Cited in Donahue 1993, p. 76.
  3. ^ Cunningham, Philip A.; Radtke, Barbara A. (2015). "Catholic Approach to the Bible". The Birth of Jesus: Two Gospel Narratives. Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts: Boston College. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  4. ^ The New American Bible 2011, p. xxi, xxiii.
Donahue, John R. (1993). "The Challenge of the Biblical Renewal to Moral Theology". In O'Brien, William James (ed.). Riding Time Like a River: The Catholic Moral Tradition Since Vatican II. Washington: Georgetown University Press. pp. 59–80. hdl:10822/551477. ISBN 978-0-87840-542-8.
Soulen, Richard N.; Soulen, R. Kendall (2001). Handbook of Biblical Criticism (3rd ed.). Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-22314-4.
The New American Bible (rev. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-529803-1.

External linksEdit

Pius XII (1943). Divino afflante Spiritu (encyclical letter). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 18 October 2017.