Pope Pius XII on the Importance of Textual Criticism

I’ve posted on textual criticism for the past two days.  This will probably be the last post on the topic for a while.  Yesterday, I posted on video I used in attempting to show my students the importance of textual criticism.  I also used this quote from Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu to try to communicate this:

17. The great importance which should be attached to this kind of criticism was aptly pointed out- by Augustine, when, among the precepts to be recommended to the student of the Sacred Books, he put in the first place the care to possess a corrected text. “The correction of the codices” — so says this most distinguished Doctor of the Church — “should first of all engage the attention of those who wish to know the Divine Scripture so that the uncollected may give place to the corrected.”[23] In the present day indeed this art, which is called textual criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books, because of that very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles. For its very purpose is to insure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries.

18. It is scarcely necessary to observe that this criticism, which some fifty years ago not a few made use of quite arbitrarily and often in such wise that one would say they did so to introduce into the sacred text their own preconceived ideas, today has rules so firmly established and secure, that it has become a most valuable aid to the purer and more accurate editing of the sacred text and that any abuse can easily be discovered. Nor is it necessary here to call to mind — since it is doubtless familiar and evident to all students of Sacred Scripture — to what extent namely the Church has held in honor these studies in textual criticism from the earliest centuries down even to the present day.

19. Today therefore, since this branch of science has attained to such high perfection, it is the honorable, though not always easy, task of students of the Bible to procure by every means that as soon as possible may be duly published by Catholics editions of the Sacred Books and of ancient versions, brought out in accordance with these standards, which, that is to say, unite the greatest reverence for the sacred text with an exact observance of all the rules of criticism. And let all know that this prolonged labor is not only necessary for the right understanding of the divinely-given writings, but also is urgently demanded by that piety by which it behooves us to be grateful to the God of all providence, Who from the throne of His majesty has sent these books as so many paternal letters to His own children.

This is kind of picks up in the middle of the document, but you can read the rest HERE.  Of course, a quote from a pope may not work quite so well in other institutions ;-).  But, I imagine it worked okay in mine.

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