Apostolic Constitution SCRIPTURARUM THESAURUS"Promulgating the Neo-Vulgate Edition of the Holy Bible"Pope John Paul IIPromulgated on April 25, 1979
The Treasure of the Scriptures, in which is contained the message of salvation given by God to the human race for Saint Augustine rightly says: "from that country, whence we are sojourning, letters have come to us: they themselves are the ones... which exhort to live well" (Enarr. in Ps. 90, s. 2, 1; PL 37, 1159) — has always been deservedly held by the Church in the highest honor and has been guarded with special care. Indeed from her very beginnings she never ceased to make sure that the Christian people might enjoy the fullest possible opportunity of receiving the word of God, especially in the sacred Liturgy, in the celebration of which "the importance of Sacred Scripture is very great" (Conc. Vat. II, Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 24).
Therefore in the regions of the West the Church has preferred to the others that edition which is usually called the Vulgate and which, composed for the most part by the excellent teacher Saint Jerome, has been "confirmed in the Church herself by the usage of so many centuries" (Conc. Trid., sess. IV; Enchir. Bibl., n. 21). As a proof of such a great esteem there is also her concern for preparing a text according to critical methodology, and precisely by means of the edition which is still being arranged along scientific guidelines by the monks of the Abbey of Saint Jerome in Rome founded for that purpose by our predecessor of happy memory Pius XI (Const. Apost. Inter Praecipuas, 15 June 1933; AAS vol. XXVI, 1943, pp. 85 ff.).
However in our own time the Second Vatican Council, while confirming the respect given to that edition which people call the Vulgate (Conc. Vat. II, Const. Dei Verbum, n. 22) and while striving zealously so that the understanding of the Psalter in the Liturgy of the Hours might be made easier, decreed that the successfully initiated work of revising it "should be terminated as soon as possible. It shall take into account the style of Christian Latinity as well as the entire tradition of the Latin Church" (Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 91).
Our predecessor of recent memory, Paul VI, was moved by all these considerations to set up even before the end of the same Council, that is on 29 November 1965, a special Pontifical Commission whose task it would be to carry out the command of the same General Council and to revise all the books of Sacred Scripture so that the Church might be enriched with a Latin edition which advancing biblical studies demanded and which might serve especially in the Liturgy.
In realizing this revision, "the old text of the Vulgate edition was taken into consideration word for word, namely, whenever the original texts are accurately rendered, such as they are found in modern critical editions; however the text was prudently improved, whenever it departs from them or interprets them less correctly. For this reason Christian biblical Latinity was used so that a just evaluation of tradition might be properly combined with the legitimate demands of critical science prevailing in these times." (cf. Allocution of Paul VI, 23 December 1966; AAS vol. LIX, 1967, pp. 53 ff.)
The text born out of this revision —which, indeed, was quite demanding in certain books of the Old Testament which Saint Jerome did not touch— was published in separate volumes from 1969 to 1977, but now it is being offered in a "typical" edition contained in one volume. This New Vulgate edition will also be of such a nature that vernacular translations, which are destined for liturgical and pastoral use, may be referred to it; and, to use the words of our predecessor Paul VI, "it is permissible to think that it is a certain sort of foundation on which biblical studies... may rest, especially where libraries open to special studies can be consulted only with greater difficulty, and where the diffusion of suitable research materials is more hindered" (cf. Allocution, December 22, 1977; cf. L'Osservatore Romano, 23 December 1977, p. 1).
In past times the Church considered that the old Vulgate edition was sufficient and was abundantly effective for sharing the word of God with the Christian people: something indeed which this New Vulgate edition will be able to accomplish all the more fully.
Consequently we are now happy to entrust to the Church the printed work which Paul VI greatly desired but was unable to see completely finished, which was followed up with enthusiastic support by John Paul I who had decided to send the books of the Pentateuch, revised by the aforementioned Pontifical Commission, as a gift to the Bishops about to meet in the city of Puebla, and which work we ourselves together with many people from the Catholic world have ardently awaited.
These things being so, by virtue of this Letter we declare the New Vulgate edition of the Holy Bible as "typical" and we promulgate it to be used especially in the sacred Liturgy but also as suitable for other things, as we have said.
Finally we decree that this Constitution of ours be firm and forever efficacious and be scrupulously observed by all concerned, notwithstanding any obstacles whatsoever. Given in Rome at St. Peter's, 25 April, on the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist, in the year 1979 the first of our Pontificate.
OLD TESTAMENT ESSENTIAL TO KNOW JESUSTo the Pontifical Biblical Commission Pope John Paul II
"You are called to help Christians have a good understanding of their identity, an identity that is defined first and foremost by faith in Christ, the Son of God. But this faith is inseparable from its relationship to the Old Testament, since it is faith in Christ who 'died for our sins, according to the Scriptures' and 'was raised ... in accordance with the Scriptures' (1 Cor 15:34)", the Holy Father said to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission when he received them in audience with their President, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on Friday, 11 April.
The Pope discussed the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and the implications this has for Catholic-Jewish relations. Here is a translation of his address, which was given in Italian.
Your Eminence, I cordially thank you for the sentiments you have just expressed in presenting to me the Pontifical Biblical Commission at the beginning of its mandate. I cordially greet the old and new members of the Commission attending this audience. I greet the "old" members with warm. gratitude for the tasks already completed and the "new" members with special joy inspired by hope. I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet you all personally and to say again to each of you how much I appreciate the generosity with which you put your competence as exegetes at the service of the Word of God and the Church's Magisterium.
The theme you have begun to study at this plenary session is of enormous importance: it is, in fact, fundamental for a correct understanding of the mystery of Christ and Christian identity. I would first like to emphasize this usefulness, which we could call ad intra. It is also inevitably reflected in a usefulness, so to speak, ad extra, since awareness of one's own identity determines the nature of one's relations with others. In this case it determines the nature of the relations between Christians and Jews.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 2. Since the second century A.D., the Church has been faced with the temptation to separate the New Testament completely from the Old, and to oppose one to the other, attributing to them two different origins. The Old Testament, according to Marcion, came from a god unworthy of the name because he was vindictive and bloodthirsty, while the New Testament revealed a God of reconciliation and generosity.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 2. The Church firmly rejected this error, reminding all that God's tenderness was already revealed in the Old Testament. Unfortunately the Marcionite temptation is making its appearance again in our time. However what occurs most frequently is an ignorance of the deep ties linking the New Testament to the Old, an ignorance that gives some people the impression that Christians have nothing in common with Jews.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 2. Centuries of reciprocal prejudice and opposition have created a deep divide which the Church is now endeavoring to bridge, spurred to do so by the Second Vatican Council's position. The new liturgical Lectionaries have given more space to Old Testament texts, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been concerned to draw constantly from the treasures of Sacred Scripture.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 3. Actually, it is impossible fully to express the mystery of Christ without reference to the Old Testament. Jesus' human identity is determined on the basis of his bond with the people of Israel, with the dynasty of David and his descent from Abraham. And this does not mean only a physical belonging. By taking part in the synagogue celebrations where the Old Testament texts were read and commented on, Jesus also came humanly to know these texts; he nourished his mind and heart with them, using them then in prayer and as an inspiration for his actions.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 3. Thus he became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in his own people's long history. When he began to preach and teach, he drew abundantly from the treasure of Scripture, enriching this treasure with new inspirations and unexpected initiatives. These - let us note - did not aim at abolishing the old revelation but, on the contrary, at bringing it to its complete fulfillment. Jesus understood the increasing opposition he had to face on the way to Calvary in the light of the Old Testament, which revealed to him the destiny reserved for the prophets. He also knew from the Old Testament that in the end God's love always triumphs.
Old Testament prepared for mystery of Incarnation 3. To deprive Christ of his relationship with the Old Testament is therefore to detach him from his roots and to empty his mystery of all meaning. Indeed, to be meaningful, the Incarnation had to be rooted in centuries of preparation Christ would otherwise have been like a meteor that falls by chance to the earth and is devoid of any connection with human history.
Help Christians to understand their identity 4. From her origins, the Church has well understood that the Incarnation is rooted in history and, consequently, she has fully accepted Christ's insertion into the history of the People of Israel. She has regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as the perennially valid Word of God addressed to her as well as to the children of Israel. It is of primary importance to preserve and renew this ecclesial awareness of the essential relationship to the Old Testament. I am certain that your work will make an excellent contribution in this regard; I am delighted with it and deeply grateful to you.
Help Christians to understand their identity 4. You are called to help Christians have a good understanding of their identity, an identity that is defined first and foremost by faith in Christ, the Son of God. But this faith is inseparable from its relationship to the Old Testament, since it is faith in Christ who "died for our sins, according to the Scriptures" and "was raised ... in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4). The Christian must know that by belonging to Christ he has become "Abraham's offspring" (Gal 3:29) and has been grafted onto a cultivated olive tree (cf. Rom 11:17-24), that is, included among the People of Israel, to "share the richness of the olive tree" (Rom 11: 17). If he has this firm conviction, he can no longer allow for Jews as such to be despised, or worse, ill-treated.
Help Christians to understand their identity 5. In saying this I do not mean to disregard the fact that the New Testament preserves traces of obvious tension between the early Christian communities and some groups of non-Christian Jews. St Paul himself testifies in his Letters that as a non-Christian Jew he had proudly persecuted the Church of God (cf. Gal 1:13; 1 Cor 15:9; Phil 3:6). These painful memories must be overcome in charity, in accordance with Christ's command. Exegesis must always seek to advance in this direction and thereby help to decrease tensions and clear up misunderstandings.
Help Christians to understand their identity 5. Precisely in the light of all this the work you have begun is highly important and deserves to be carried out with care and commitment. It involves certain difficult aspects and delicate points but it is very promising and full of great hope. I trust it will be very fruitful for the glory of God. With this wish, I assure you of a constant remembrance in prayer and I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Taken from:L'Osservatore RomanoWeekly Edition in English23 April 1997, page 2 L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by: The Cathedral FoundationL'Osservatore Romano English EditionP.O. Box 777Baltimore, MD 21201Subscriptions: (410) 547-5380