General Introduction to Holy Scripture, A


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A General Introduction to Holy Scripture, by Fr. A.E. Breen, PhD, DD

The Catholic approach to Holy Scripture? Here’s the volume that showed the way, a century ago.
In 1908, when this book was written, the traditional Catholic understanding of Scripture was under attack from Protestants and rationalists. A few modernists also began to be heard.

Enter Scripture scholar A.E. Breen, who composed this massive work to defend the orthodox Catholic view against its critics—and to guide the ordinary faithful, chapter by chapter, through the treasures of the Bible. The errors refuted by Fr. Breen are more widespread today, even among priests. Fortunately, his groundbreaking study is back in print.

This is the first comprehensive overview of the Bible ever attempted for both priests and intelligent laymen, encompassing:

  • a masterful explanation of the correct Catholic approach to Holy Scripture
  • a critique of erroneous views and theories about Scripture, especially those of Protestants, modernists and Bible “critics”
  • a history of the development of the scriptural canon, highlighting the role of the Church in selecting the books that constitute the Bible
  • a history of the various versions and translations of Scripture, and an evaluation of their relative importance
  • most importantly, a guide for both laymen and clergy on how best to profit from the study of Scripture
  • Just how relevant is this book to present-day controversies? “The preface could have been written yesterday,” comments our editorial reviewer. It warns that we live in an age when many want a “reduced Christianity” or a “natural religion,” and that the Church’s worst enemies are some of her own who are “making dishonorable compromises with rationalists.” Chapters and topics include:
  • The “first great law” for proper interpretation of Scripture
  • How Scripture developed in the early centuries, and later became fixed. History and motives of Protestant alterations
  • Four different kinds of Scriptural “sense,” or meaning
  • What exactly does it mean to say that Scripture is “inspired”? Are there “degrees” of inspiration?
  • God as the true author of Scripture. How human authors cooperated
  • Erroneous views—Protestant, Jewish, rationalist, modernist—of biblical revelation and inspiration
  • What the Bible owes to the Catholic Church
  • What the Council of Trent decreed concerning the interpretation of Scripture
  • Which versions of Scripture does the Church consider the most authentic, and trustworthy?
  • Different kinds of Biblical truth
  • Refuted: the view that the Bible includes folklore and myth
  • How Scripture’s meaning can be greater than what the inspired writer himself may have comprehended
  • Consequences of “demythologizing” Old Testament miracles. Pius IX’s prophetic warning
  • How historical fact and allegory combine in Genesis
  • Errors of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wycliff and other Protestant reformers concerning Scripture
  • “Private revelation” and Protestant private interpretation
  • Did a Jewish canon of Scripture ever exist? The influence of Ezra
  • The special importance of the Septuagint (the version of Scripture quoted by Christ and the Apostles), and of the Vulgate (Latin) version
  • The protocanonical and deuterocanonical books of the Bible (a.k.a. the Apocrypha)
  • Disputed interpretations of key Scriptural passages, resolved
  • Teachings of the various Church councils on Scripture, including Trent and Vatican I
  • “Lost” books of the Bible?
  • “Types” and “Antitypes” in the Old Testament


Teachings of the popes, saints, Fathers and Doctors of the Church concerning Scripture—among them:

Albertus Magnus * Ambrose * Athanasius * Augustine * Basil * Bede * Bellarmine * Bonaventure * Cardinal Cajetan * Clement of Alexandria * Clement of Rome * Cyril of Jerusalem * Eusebius * Gregory the Great * Innocent I * Irenaeus * Jerome * John Chrysostom * John Damascene * Leo XIII * Cardinal Newman * St. Paul * Pius IX * Pius X * Thomas Aquinas * Thomas More

Excerpts from A General Introduction to Holy Scripture: We live in an age of great activity. It is also an age wherein material progress and the love of worldly pleasure tend to enfeeble man’s hold on the supernatural world. It is most evident that there is a general movement away from the spiritual world. In non-Catholic thought the idea of a reduced Christianity is dominant. A mere natural religion recommends itself to many. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually examined.” [I Cor. II. 14.] Instead of accepting religion as a mysterious message from Heaven, men make a religion that is not religious. A religion is sought that will not interfere with man’s worldly tastes and pleasures. Human reason is made the judge of all the works of God. Arianism is recrudescent under another name and formula. The mystery of Christ’s Divinity, the miracles of the Bible, the extraordinary action of God in the Revelation and Inspiration of the Scriptures are made the special object of attack in this modern fashion of thought.

That which is most deplorable is that this tendency has in some degree invaded the minds of some Catholic scholars. Clear calls of warning come from Christ’s Vicar; the danger is grave. The demon of unbelief finds strong allies in the pride and rebellion of fallen human nature.

During the last twenty-five years the Church has waged a fierce battle in defense of the Holy Scriptures. In this fight her worst enemies are those of her own children, who, making dishonorable compromises with the Rationalists, the “true children and inheritors of the older heretics,” make a breach in the walls which they have sworn to defend. While conservative opinion holds that Job is a historical personage, the great drama of the Book of Job is largely a creation of the poet’s inspired mind to illustrate infallibly true principles. Hence in judging of an inspired book, we must have regard to its character to determine in what sense it is true. Prophecy has a peculiar character, its visions and its symbols; poetry has its poetic flights of imagination; parable and allegory make fictitious entities act and speak their message; while real history declares its message by relating facts….

We must realize also that inspiration is only a partial participation of the divine light. God does not speak to us in the Scriptures more divino, but in a human manner. He condescends to us as we condescend to address a child. The books therefore of Sacred Scripture contain the evidences of imperfection due to their human origin; but God’s inspiration moves the writers to write nothing but the truth.

EXTRA: Complete text in English of Leo XIII’s seminal encyclical on Scripture, Providentissimus Deus

Large Oversized Hardcover


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