The Pontifical Biblical Commission
The original Commissio Pontificia de Re Biblica
The body which today is known as the Pontifical Biblical Commission was
constituted by Leo XIII with the apostolic Letter Vigilantiae studiique
of 30th October 1902 (cfr. ASS 35 [1902-1903], 234-238). The Holy Father
assigned a threefold task to the new institution: a) to promote biblical study
effectively among Catholics; b) to counteract erroneous opinions regarding
Sacred Scripture by scientific means, and c) to study and illuminate debated
questions and emerging problems in the biblical field.
Some years later, Pius X, with the apostolic Letter Scripturae Sanctae of
23rd February 1904, granted to the Biblical Commission the faculty of conferring
the academic degrees of licentiate and doctorate in Biblical Studies (cfr.
ASS 36 [1903-1904], 530-532).
Leo XIII and Pius X had granted to the Biblical Commission ample competence in
relation to the emerging biblical questions and controversies provoked by modern
critical study. From 13th February 1905 until 17th November 1921 the Biblical
Commission issued fourteeen decrees and two declarations in the form of
responses to questions or doubts proposed to them. Under Pius XI (until 30th
April 1934) there followed two more decrees, making a total of eighteen
The new Pontifical Biblical Commission
On 27th June 1971, in the context of the great work of post-conciliar reform,
Paul VI, with the Motu proprio Sedula cura (cfr. AAS 63 , 665-669),
established new norms for the organisation and functioning of the Biblical
Commission, in order to make its activity more fruitful for the Church and
better adapted to the contemporary situation.
This apostolic Letter marks a radical change for the role and organisation of
the Commission. In fifteen brief articles the new structure is defined: the
Members are no longer Cardinals, who are assisted by consultors, but teachers in
biblical sciences coming from various schools and nations, who are distinguished
‘for their learning, prudence and Catholic respect for the ecclesiastical
Magisterium’ (art. 3).
From this change of structure there follows necessarily a change of nature and
of functions. Since it is no longer composed of Cardinals, on the model of the
Roman Congregations, the new Biblical Commission becomes a consultative body,
placed at the service of the Magisterium and linked to the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, the Prefect of which is also the President of the
Commission (cfr. art. 1).
II. Activities and Documents
The Biblical Commission organises its own plenary Assembly every year, in the
second week after Easter, on a topic previously chosen by the President, at the
proposal of various organisms, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, the Episcopal Conferences, or the Commission itself.
The new Biblical Commission held its first plenary Assembly in 1974, and on this
occasion the exam programmes for the conferral of academic degrees in biblical
sciences were reviewed
In the following years (1975-1976) the Members tackled a study of femininity in
the Bible and, more precisely, the role of woman in society according to Sacred
Scripture. The conclusions reached by the Biblical Commission were not
published, but only placed at the disposal of the Holy See, according to what is
provided for in article 10 of the apostolic Letter Sedula cura.
In 1977-1978 the theme of the use of Sacred Scripture in the theology of
liberation, at the time a topic of great and burning relevance, was considered,
without however producing any document.
In the plenary assembly of 1979 the theme of inculturation in Sacred Scripture
was examined, and the contributions were published in a volume entitled Fede
e cultura alla luce della Bibbia (LDC, Torino, 1981).
In 1980 it was decided that a very demanding and diverse theme should be
tackled: the relationship between hermeneutics and christology. This study
continued until the plenary Assembly of 1983 and it ended with the publication
of the document Bible et Christologie (Cerf, Paris, 1984), which was
immediately translated into the principal languages.
From 1985 until 1988 the Biblical Commission took time to study the complex
connections between local churches and the universality of the one People of
God, featuring an approach which was biblical, ecclesiological and ecumenical. A
document of twenty pages was produced with the title Unité et diversité dans
l’Eglise and this was made public, together with the text of the
presentations of the different Members (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del
Vaticano, 1989), and translated into the principal languages.
In 1989 the important theme of the interpretation of the Bible was tackled.
Various presentations were made and work was taken forward on many controversial
aspects which for some years had been raising heated discussions in scientific
circles. The work continued for some years and finally, in 1993, the document
L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Eglise (Libreria Editrice Vaticana,
Città del Vaticano, 1993) was published.
From 1994 until 1996 the work of the Biblical Commission was focussed on the
theme of the universality of salvation through Christ and the diversity of the
religions. From 1997 an in-depth study of the relationship between the New and
Old Testaments, and between Christians and Jews, was undertaken. This
investigation concluded in the plenary session of 2000 and, the following year,
the document entitled Le peuple Juif et ses Saintes Écritures dans la Bible
chrétienne was published in various languages.
In the following years the Commission took up new and important topics, and its
reflections were published in the following documents:
- The Bible and Morality. Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct (11th May 2008).
- The Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture: The Word That Comes from God
and Speaks of God for the Salvation of the World (22nd February 2014).
III. Composition of the Commission
The President of the Biblical Commission is the Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith, who is assisted by a Secretary chosen from among the
twenty Members of the Commission, and by a technical Secretary. The members of
the Biblical Commission, including the Secretary, are nominated by the Holy
Father for a period of five years, on the recommendation of the President. Once
the five year period has ended, they can be reconfirmed for a second mandate.
They come from various schools and nations and are distinguished for their
learning and Catholic respect of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. The present
composition of the Biblical Commission is as follows:
Card. Luis Francisco LADARIA FERRER, S.I.
Rev.do P. Pietro BOVATI, S.I.
Rev.do Knut BACKHAUS
Rev.do P. Pietro BOVATI, S.I.
Rev.da Sr. Nuria CALDUCH-BENAGES, M.N.
Rev.do Eduardo CÓRDOVA GONZÁLEZ
Sig.ra Bruna COSTACURTA
Rev.do Mons. Pierre DEBERGÉ
Rev.do Juan Miguel DÍAZ RODELAS
Rev.do Luís Henrique ELOY E SILVA
Rev.do Adrian GRAFFY
Sig.ra Mary HEALY
Rev.do John Chijioke IWE
Rev.do Thomas MANJALY
Rev.do Hugo Orlando MARTÍNEZ ALDANA
Rev.do Levente Balázs MARTOS
Rev.do Jean Bosco MATAND BULEMBAT
Rev.do Fearghus Ó FEARGHAIL
Rev.do Johan Yeong_Sik PAHK
Rev.do Eleuterio Ramón RUIZ
Rev.do Henryk WITCZYK
Rev.do Don Alessandro BELANO, F.D.P.
Address: Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
00120 Città del Vaticano.