Bible of Reservations

by Fiona Hudson

Catholic Church leaders say they can’t swear by the truth of the some parts of the Bible.

UK church leaders have issued a teaching document called The Gift of Scripture, advising those who study the Bible not to expect total accuracy.

Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland wrote the booklet to celebrate 40 years of Dei Verbum, the statement about the Bible from the Vatican Council II. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” the document says. The booklet says the early chapters of Genesis contain “historical traces” but should not be taken literally, as their main purpose is as religious teaching, not historical writing. The authors noted the Bible is “God’s word expressed in human language” and while passages are true, it should not all be taken literally. And they write that apocalyptic prophecies described in Revelation are symbolic, and the language should be respected for what it is. “We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come,” they wrote. They warned about dangers of fundamentalism. “Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others,” they wrote.

The 60-page document was presented to Pope Benedict last month.

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