(The following is a summary of Dei Verbum, of the Second Vatican Council. It retains the original preface and the chapter and numbering according to the actual ordered sections of the document.)

ON NOVEMBER 18, 1965


1. Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: “We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.

Chapter 1 – Revelation Itself

2. God chose to reveal himself and his will through Christ. Through Jesus, God speaks to man as friends for the purpose of friendship. The deeds performed by God agree and clarify the words spoken by Him, as do the words agree with and clarify the deeds of God; all of this is captured in Jesus Christ, the fullness of Revelation.

3. Through the Word, God creates and sustains all things. After the fall, men were filled with hope and God used Patriarchs like Abraham and Moses to keep alive the hope of salvation and the coming of a Messiah.

4. As told through the prophets, Jesus came to mankind as a man, speaking the Word of God and completing the works of salvation. He did this by perfecting all revelation, through his works and glorious resurrection, and sending of the Spirit of truth. Man was thus freed from the powers of darkness and sin and death. This revelation is complete, the covenant is definitive, it will never pass away, as we will receive no new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim 6:14, Tit 2:13).

5. Obedience of faith is to be given to God in full submission of the intellect and will. This is done by the Grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit by moving the heart, turning to God, opening the eyes of the mind. The Holy Spirit brings gifts to help attain a deeper understanding of this revelation.

6. It is through His divine revelation that God communicated Himself and His will about our salvation, which transcend man’s understanding. A synod confirmed that God can be known for certain through the light of reason, but through his revelation the religious truths can be known with ease, certitude, and no error.

Chapter II – Handing on Divine Revelation

7. God’s revelation is perpetually transmitted through all generations. The Apostles were commissioned to preach the Gospel, and faithfully did so through oral preaching about Jesus’ teaching and some chose with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to commit this to writing. In order to maintain the Gospel’s continuity, the Apostles had bishops as their successors, “handing them” the authority to teach in their own place. This tradition, and the Scriptures of the New and Old Testaments, are like mirrors of the Church looking at God until we see Him face to face.

8. This transmission of the Gospel, Apostolic Tradition, is to continue until the end of time through bishops who warn us to “hold fast to the traditions” (2 Thess 2:15). This message includes everything that is needed to live a holy and faithful life for God’s people. The tradition develops by the help of the Holy Spirit, but by a growth in understanding that comes through the contemplation of believers who hold these as treasures in their hearts. This living voice resounds in the Church, who leads those who believe into all truth.

9. Sacred Scripture and Tradition are connected, while one is the written word of God, the other is the spoken word of God. It is not by scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about revelation. They are both to be accepted and revered.

10. Tradition and Scripture form one deposit of the word of God, held together as one common effort by the bishops and the faithful. Though, the interpretation of the word of God, both written and spoken, are the exclusive task of the living office of the Church, whose authority is given in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but is its servant, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church cannot stand apart from one another.

Chapter III – Sacred Scripture, Its Inspiration and Divine Interpretation

11. The Church relies on the testimony of the Apostles that the books contained in the Old and New Testaments, in their entirety, with all parts, are sacred and canonical because they are written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and God is their author (2 Tim 3:16). With Him acting in them and through them, they wrote what God wanted. Because of this, the writings are without error for the sake of salvation.

12. The interpreter must carefully determine what the writers of the Scriptures intended. To do this, “literary forms” must be sought, as there is a variance of the forms of scripture. Some are poetical, prophetic, and others are historic forms of discourse. Circumstance, culture, and meaning must be investigated. The Church has final judgment on interpretation of Scripture by its divine commission and ministry.

13. The “condescension” of God’s eternal wisdom is made known through scripture.

Chapter IV – The Old Testament

14. God chose a people in which to entrust his promises. From Abraham and Moses, with Israel, He made his covenant. The plan of salvation was spoken through the authors of the Old Testament and because of their divine inspiration, they remain permanently valuable.

15. The purpose of the Old Testament was to prepare for the coming of the Christ and to show to all men how God interacts and deals with mankind in justice and mercy. The writings contain prayers, wisdom, a sense of the liveliness of God, and the mystery of salvation.

16. God wisely arranged for the New Testament to be hidden in the Old, and the Old to be made manifest in the New. While Christ made the new covenant with His blood, the Old Testament sheds light on and explains this mystery.

Chapter V – The New Testament

17. The New Testament is a special and most excellent writing. The fullness of the Word among us is explained so that we may have eternal life. The New Testament stands as a perpetual and divine witness to the reality of salvation.

18. The Gospels, among the entire canon of Scripture, have a special preeminence for they are the principal witness to the life and teaching of the incarnate word. They are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and as such are of apostolic origin.

19. The Church has unceasingly held that the contents of the named Gospels accurately hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among us, taught about salvation and did until the day he ascended into heaven. The four authors wrote about things handed on by word of mouth or in writing, sometimes a synthesis, sometimes as a proclamation, but always the honest truth about Jesus.

20. The New Testament also contains the epistles of St. Paul and other apostolic writings which were too written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These more fully state the Lord’s teachings, the saving power of the divine work of Jesus, and the story of the early Church is told. For the Lord Jesus assured the Apostles that he would send an advocate, the Holy Spirit, that would lead them into truth and remind them of everything He had told them (John 16:13).

Chapter VI – Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church

21. The Church has always venerated the scripture together with the tradition as the supreme rule of faith. All preaching must be nourished and regulated by scripture, for in these texts the Father speaks to his children. In turn, His children speak with the words of their Father, and in them are the living and active power of God.

22. The scriptures should be made available to all Christians, which is why the Church has accepted the ancient Greek Septuagint, the many Eastern translations, and favored Latin, particularly the Vulgate translation. Though these were considered popular and vernacular translations, the Church sees it suitable to also make available the scriptures in various languages. If authorized by Church authorities, and our separated brethren agree, all Christians will be able to use these.

23. In addition to private reading, the Church encourages the study of the Church Fathers as well as those exegetes who so well illuminate the teaching within the scriptures. This should be done so that as many as possible are able to properly and effectively share the scriptures with the people of God. Those individuals should read with enthusiasm, following the mind of the Church.

24. Theology is strengthened by the reading of the scriptures for they are really the word of God and thus are the soul of theology.

25. All clergy must read the scriptures with diligence. The same is encouraged for the laity and Religious. All faithful should not forget that prayer should always be the companion to reading God’s word. Bishops are then urged to provide their flock with editions adequate for learning.

26. In this way, therefore, the Church will receive a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God, which lasts forever.

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Read it on the Vatican’s website here.