Does the Catholic Church Teach “Partial Inerrancy”? By J. Luis Dizon

In the Second Vatican Council document Dei Verbum, the official position of the Catholic Church on Bibliology (the study of the nature, authority and proper interpretation the Bible) is explained. Of particular interest is the section that speaks on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture (§11). In it, we read the following:

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind.”[1]

Two conflicting interpretations have emerged over what this passage means. On the one hand, there are those who hold to a more traditional “Full Inerrancy” view, which states that the Scripture does not contain errors of any kind. On the other hand, there are those who hold to a “Partial Inerrancy” view, according to which Scripture is only inerrant when it speaks on matters of faith and morals. Due to the promotion of the latter view by some highly influential Catholic theologians and bible scholars, it has become very common in academia.

But which view makes better sense of the text? In this article, I will make the case that Dei Verbum, when read in light of historic Christian teaching on Scripture, should be taken as teaching the Full Inerrancy position. I will also explore what ramifications a proper view of inerrancy has on biblical exegesis, and see what a Full Inerrantist view of the Bible does and does not entail.

The Partial Inerrantist Position Stated

To begin with, let us look at the Partial Inerrancy view, as expounded by some of its most prominent advocates. One of the main proponents of Partial Inerrancy in the modern period was the late Jesuit theologian Cdl. Avery Dulles, who has taught theology in several major Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. In the multi-author work, Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, Cdl. Dulles lays out what he understands to be the Catholic view of Scripture. First, he gives a basic definition of what he understands inerrancy to mean:

The concept of inspiration is often connected with that of inerrancy, meaning freedom from error. In accepting the Bible as the basis for its own belief and teaching, the church certifies that the Bible, taken as a whole, is a reliable witness to God’s revelation as communicated in the formative period. The inspiration given to the sacred writers prevented them from falsifying what God has revealed.[2]

Cdl. Dulles then quotes from Dei Verbum §11. After this, he interprets the conciliar document to be teaching that inerrancy does not extend to those things which the Biblical authors teach which are not directly connected to salvation:

This statement is carefully phrased. It affirms the value of the Bible as a whole for transmitting in its purity the truth that leads to salvation, but it leaves open the possibility that individual authors may have erred, especially with regard to scientific and historical matters not connected with salvation. This does not mean that the Bible is a patchwork of errant and inerrant passages. As understood by the council, the whole Bible is authoritative and trustworthy in what it affirms about the revelation of God and the plan of salvation.[3]

Cdl. Dulles is not the only major Catholic scholar who holds this position. Another noteworthy example from recent times was Fr. Raymond E. Brown. Fr. Brown was widely considered one of the most erudite Catholic biblical scholars of the 20th century. Because of his expertise in Biblical studies, he was twice appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, first in 1972, and again in 1996. His work continues to be highly influential in Biblical studies to this day, both among Catholics and non-Catholics.

In one of his more popular level books, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, Fr. Brown answers a variety of questions that are frequently asked regarding the Bible. In a number of his answers, he applies a Partial Inerrantist approach in solving the problems that are posed to him. The first of these is Question 19, where he answers the question of what it means for the Bible to be the “word of God.” In his answer, he provides the following definition of what he believes to Bible to be: “The Bible is the library of Israel and the library of the Early Church that preserves the basic experience that can serve as a guide to the subsequent people of God.”[4] Although he affirms that God guides people through the Bible, he places most of his emphasis on the human element of Scripture. In his view, this human element means that we must allow for errors to occur in the text. He writes: “The more that one allows a true human element in the Scriptures, the more one can allow for limitations of knowledge and, at times, errors. I am sure that other questions will cause me to expand that observation”[5]

Moving on, we see this anthropocentric understanding of Scripture at play in his answer to Question 50, where he answers the question of whether or not the demon possessions portrayed in the Gospels are real events. His response is that, while we may choose these accounts as historical, we are under no obligation to do so:

You are free not to accept as historical the situation implied in the parabolic saying of Jesus about a demon who goes out from a person and wanders through desert places seeking rest (Luke 11:24)—that is not far from the notion of haunted country houses. But if you choose to believe that in Jesus’ time demons actually did dwell in such places, you have no right to force that belief on others in the name of Gospel inerrancy. Similarly, with demons leaving a possessed man and invading a herd of pigs (Mark 5:12). One must allow for a different first-century worldview shared by Jesus and the evangelists.[6]

This understanding also comes up in his answer to Question 64, which deals with the question of whether and how one may believe in the Virgin Birth. His response is that, in judging whether the one must accept the Gospels’ accounts of the Virgin Birth at face value, one cannot rely on authorial intention alone, but must also determine whether the human author’s teaching belongs in the category of things that are taught “for the sake of our salvation.” He writes:

Many Christians understand biblical inspiration to mean that whatever the writer thought was inspired by God and inerrant. Consequently, when I say that both Matthew and Luke were thinking of a literal virginal conception, they would respond that then there can be no doubt that such a conception happened, since God guided the evangelists in every message they chose to communicate. In my judgment, Catholics do not share such a simple sense of biblical inerrancy. The Bible teaches faithfully and without error that truth that God intended for the sake of our salvation, says Vatican Council II (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 3:11). I understand that to mean that in judging inerrancy we cannot simply ask what did the writer intend; we have to ask about the extent to which what the writer communicated is for the sake of our salvation.[7]

Finally, the clearest statement of Fr. Brown’s view of inerrancy appears in an appendix at the end, where he explains how he believes the Catholic faith differs from “Biblical Fundamentalism.” One of the areas, in his view, is in the scope of Biblical Inerrancy, which he argues is “limited by salvific intent,” rather than extending to the entire Scripture:

(Literal Inerrancy of the Bible vs. inerrancy limited by salvific intent) The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Bible communicates without error that truth which God intended for the sake of our salvation. Affirming biblical inerrancy in that sense, it also resists modern attempts to make the Bible answer problems that the biblical authors never thought of. It resists attempts to take biblical texts which envisioned other situations and apply them without qualification to situations of our times. Some of the conflicts between Roman Catholic practices and “literal” interpretations of the Bible rest precisely on this point. The Roman Catholic Church believes that none of its positions are in conflict with the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, when “literal” means what the author intended in his times as a communication of the truth that God wanted for the sake of our salvation. It resists the use of biblical interpretation to support scientific or historical statements that lay beyond the competency of the biblical authors in their times.[8]

As we can see from this, the Partial Inerrancy view is held by a number of well-respected figures within Catholic academia. Whether one accepts this viewpoint or not, it is undeniable that it is not a position to be taken lightly as far as the academic study of Bibliology is concerned.

The Case for Full Inerrancy

But is the teaching on Biblical Inerrancy by Frs. Brown and Dulles the historic Catholic position? In order to answer that question, we must take a look at the state of the question in the decades leading up to the publication of Dei Verbum, in order to situation the conciliar teaching in light of what came before it.

To begin with, it should be noted that the Inerrancy of Scripture has been a historic teaching since the Patristic Period. Scott Hahn in his Catholic Bible Dictionary states: “The ancient Church believed this in no uncertain terms,” and cites Sts. Clement of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Justin Martyr as examples of early church fathers who held that Scripture was perfect and free from errors and contradictions. He further argues: “Similar sentiments were expressed throughout the patristic and medieval periods, all the way up to the European Enlightenment, when the sweeping consensus of Christian tradition was first seriously challenged.”[9]

It is only during the nineteenth century that we begin to see a concerted effort among some Catholic theologians, under the influence of modern historical criticism, to limit the scope of Inerrancy to those parts of Scripture that have a bear on theology and praxis. Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893), notes that this teaching “Partial Inerrancy” was already becoming widespread in his day. He then condemns this as an error in the following words:

But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.[10]

Two things ought to be noted regarding this statement. First, Pope Leo states in no uncertain terms that teaching Partial Inerrancy is not just wrong, but that it is forbidden to teach it. From this, we can infer that he is not just speaking his own opinion, but the official position of the Church. Second, he declares this to be “the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church.” This means that this view has always been held by Catholics, and the Church would never change this position.

Later, Pope Benedict XV taught the same teaching in Spiritus Paraclitus (1920). In this encyclical, he restates Pope Leo’s arguments (§§ 18-19). After doing so, he makes note of some who try to reframe their teaching in such a way that, they claim, is in harmony with Pope Leo’s teaching. Pope Benedict rejects this riposte, saying that it too violates the traditional Catholic teaching, and that one may not affirm that Scripture contains any error:

Some even maintain that these views do not conflict with what our predecessor laid down since – so they claim – he said that the sacred writers spoke in accordance with the external – and thus deceptive – appearance of things in nature. But the Pontiff’s own words show that this is a rash and false deduction. For sound philosophy teaches that the senses can never be deceived as regards their own proper and immediate object. Therefore, from the merely external appearance of things – of which, of course, we have always to take account as Leo XIII, following in the footsteps of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, most wisely remarks – we can never conclude that there is any error in Sacred Scripture.[11]

Pope Leo’s judgment was again reaffirmed by Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). In it, he writes:

When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the “entire books with all their parts” as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as “obiter dicta” and – as they contended – in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules.[12]

As we can see, the consistent teaching of the Magisterium in the decades leading up to Vatican II has been that Inerrancy is not limited to specific elements of Scripture, but extends to all of Scripture. Therefore, to interpret Dei Verbum as teaching Partial Inerrancy is to interpret the conciliar document from a hermeneutic of rupture, rather than a hermeneutic of continuity.

Furthermore, Hahn argues that, when read in context, Dei Verbum is in harmony with previous Magisterial teaching in affirming Unlimited Inerrancy. He presents the following three arguments in support of the view that Dei Verbum is upholding traditional Catholic teaching:

  1. The disputed expression “for the sake of our salvation” (Latin, nostrae salutis causa) is a prepositional phrase used as an adverbial phrase modifying “recorded” (Latin, consignari). In other words, it tells us why God wished truth to be recorded in the Bible, namely, to facilitate our salvation. It is not an adjectival phrase that modifies the noun “truth.” In fact, it should be noted that the penultimate schema of Dei Verbum did refer to “saving truth” (Latin, veritatem salutarem), but at the request of numerous Council Fathers and the urging of Pope Paul VI, it was amended to read “truth” (Latin, veritatem) alone, so that its scope would not be restricted by the adjective “saving” to matters of faith and morals and nothing beyond. The final and official wording of the Constitution thus tells us the purpose of inerrancy, not its extent.

  2. Attached to Dei Verbum’s statement on the truth of Sacred Scripture is a footnote citing earlier Church teachings—the single longest footnote in the entire Constitution. Included are statements from Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XII, all of which affirm the Bible’s divine inspiration and complete freedom from error. Since virtually all the footnotes running throughout the Constitution highlight the continuity of the document with earlier ecclesiastical teaching, it is highly improbable that the expression “for the sake of salvation” represents a departure from the Church’s constant belief in unlimited inerrancy.

  3. Pope Leo XIII called the doctrine of unlimited inerrancy “the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church” (Providentissimus Deus §41). This was the view of patristic and medieval theologians, and it was taught authoritatively by popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII. There is thus an unbroken line of continuity from earliest Christianity to the middle of the twentieth century on what it means to say that the Bible is free from error. Surely the Council Fathers at Vatican II had a grave obligation to alert the faithful if in fact a new understanding of inerrancy was being advanced in 1965. That they did not is a telling indication that they intended no real change of position from classical Catholic teaching on this subject.[13]

In addition to all these arguments, we may include two more. First, it is not entirely clear that Scripture itself makes a division between saving and non-saving teachings, nor is it clear how to divide the contents of Scripture between those things which were taught for the sake of our salvation, and those which were not. It would seem that proponents of Partial Inerrancy arbitrarily decide for themselves which parts of Scripture they regard as for the sake of our salvation, and exclude the rest from being inerrant. What is to stop someone from denying the Virgin Birth, for example, on the grounds that it is not directly connected to our salvation? It would make more sense to regard everything that is asserted in Scripture as being for the sake of our salvation, whether directly or indirectly.

Second, the central teachings of Scripture often hang on the on what appear to be its smaller details. We see Biblical authors frequently making much of incidental details such as points of grammar (e.g. St. Paul makes much of Genesis’ plural use of “seeds” in Galatians 3:16), and using these to teach salvific doctrine. Thus, once we allow for the possibility of error in the smaller details of Scripture, it will inevitably lead to positing errors in its central teachings. Or, to put it in the words of Jesus: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16:10, NABRE).

Thus, we can conclude that Partial Inerrancy as a doctrine does not pass muster, either on logical or historical grounds. Also, since no subsequent papal document has ever overturned the traditional teaching on Full Inerrancy, we may safely regard this as the Catholic view on inerrancy right down the present day. As Hahn puts it: “Vatican II has issued no repeal of this teaching, neither has it given us signs of a real departure from the solemn decrees of the modern popes. One can legitimately speak of a new emphasis introduced by the Council, but not a new understanding of the doctrine.”[14] In light of these facts, we must reject “Partial Inerrancy” as an unsupported theological novum.

Inerrancy and Biblical Interpretation

Despite the above criticisms of Partial Inerrancy, its proponents do bring up a number of valid points regarding the relationship between inerrancy and biblical interpretation. Particularly helpful to note is their rejection of what is colloquially regarded as “Fundamentalist” interpretation of Scripture.[15] One must be careful not to read Biblical texts simplistically, without regard for literary genre or authorial intent. Often, there are layers of meaning in the text that are not immediately obvious in a surface level reading. This criticism of a “Fundamentalist” reading of Scripture is expounded in the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s document The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. In its criticism, it states:

Fundamentalism is right to insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the word of God and other biblical truths included in its five fundamental points. But its way of presenting these truths is rooted in an ideology which is not biblical, whatever the proponents of this approach might say. For it demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research.[16]

The PBC further criticizes the “Fundamentalist” attempt to historicize passages that are not meant to be taken as history. It states:

Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning.[17]

This being said, the Church does not definitively tell us which parts of Scripture are to be taken as historical and which are not, so there is room for debate among Catholics on this matter. The PBC is merely criticizing the assertion by some that, for the Bible to be inerrant, all texts must be historical, regardless of authorial intent. In fact, authorial intention is one of the keystones of proper Biblical hermeneutics, according to Dei Verbum. In the section immediately following the one on inerrancy, the following guideline is laid out for how to find out what the Biblical authors intended:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking, and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another.[18]

What this means for our interpretation of Scripture is that we should not try to force an inflexibly literalistic interpretation upon it unless we can determine that this is what the author actually intended to say. This applies even in those passages where the authors are intending to write history in a true sense. The fact that a text is meant to be taken as history doesn’t preclude the possibility that the authors used literary devices such as the rounding of numbers,[19] paraphrasing/summarizing,[20] hyperbole (the exaggeration of details in the story),[21] spotlighting (the emphasizing of one character in a narrative to the exclusion of others),[22] telescoping (the presentation of events taking place over an extended period of time as though they all took place in a single moment or day),[23] and transposition (the rearranging of events out of their chronological order).[24]

The recognition of these literary devices is not meant to compromise inerrancy, but to safeguard it, as errors, contradictions and other problematic readings are bound to result if these are not factored in. Once they are factored in, however, any perceived problems in the text invariably disappear. This is not to say that it is always obvious or easy to harmonize apparently discrepant passages. While many apparent errors and contradictions are easy to harmonize, there are others that take significantly more effort to resolve. However, if we believe that Scripture is inerrant, we must assert that any problem can be resolved, even if the resolution eludes us at present.[25]

This leads us to one final issue, which is what to do with stories in the Bible that appear to be mythical in quality. It should be pointed out that “myth” in this sense can mean one of two things: In a literary sense, it can mean a religious story that is meant to convey the worldview of those who regard the story as sacred. However, in common parlance, it often means a story that is patently untrue, and is often used pejoratively.[26] Thus, we could say that the Bible contains “myths” in the literary sense, but not in the sense in which the word is often used

Also, that a story may be regarded as “myth” (in the literary sense) does not mean that it isn’t also a true historical account. This is taught clearly by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis. In discussing the question of whether Old Testament stories (such as the first eleven chapters of Genesis) may be regarded as history, Pope Pius affirms that these stories are indeed to be regarded as history, even if they are often not written the way we normally expect history to be:

Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies. This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

He also rejects the common suggestion that the Biblical stories are on par with the religious myths of other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, although he does so while affirming that the Biblical authors may make use of literary forms and motifs that are common to them:

Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.[27]

In conclusion, we affirm that the Bible is fully inerrant, and is free of all falsehood and contradiction, which is the historic teaching of the Church. Moreover, this affirmation should be balanced by a proper view of Biblical hermeneutics, which will prevent us from adopting unwarranted and indefensible readings of Biblical texts.

[1] “Dei Verbum,” §11, The Holy See,

[2] Avery Dulles, “Faith and Revelation,” in Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, ed. Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin, Second Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 100–101.

[3] Dulles, “Faith and Revelation,” 101. Italics mine.

[4] Raymond Edward Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), 29.

[5] Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, 29. All italics are mine.

[6] Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, 70.

[7] Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, 90.

[8] Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, 142.

[9] Scott Hahn, ed., Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 387. For the specific patristic texts Hahn cites in support of this argument, see St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.28.2, St. Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 45.2, and St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 65.

[10] Pope Leo XIII, “Providentissimus Deus,” §20, The Holy See,

[11] Pope Benedict XV, “Spiritus Paraclitus,” §20, The Holy See,

[12] Pope Pius XII, “Divino Afflante Spiritu,” §1, The Holy See,

[13] Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary, 388–389.

[14] Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary, 389.

[15] It is difficult to define what exactly a “Fundamentalist” is, as different people use the word differently. When the term was originally coined in the early 20th century, it referred to those conservative Protestants who adhered to the doctrines set out in a set of documents called The Fundamentals (1910-1915). Although coming from a Protestant perspective (and at times critical of Catholicism), the view of inspiration and inerrancy taught in The Fundamentals does not differ significantly from the Catholic view, and is certainly more sophisticated than the simplistic view of Scripture often derided by Catholics and mainline Protestants as “Fundamentalist.” Nowadays, this term is used of persons whose religious views are significantly more conservative than one’s own. In that regard, the term “Fundamentalist” is similar to how “Traditionalist” is often used among Catholics today.

[16] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993). The full text of this document may be accessed online here:

[17] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.

[18] “Dei Verbum,” §12.

[19] E.g. Acts 13:32 states that King Saul reigned over Israel for forty years, whereas 1 Samuel 13:1 states that he actually ruled for forty-two years.

[20] E.g. Matthew 16:13-20 gives us a more complete version of Jesus’ conversion with Simon Peter where the latter affirms His Messiahship, whereas Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-21 only give us a summary.

[21] E.g. The book of Joshua tells us that the Israelites under Joshua wiped out all of the Canaanites and left none alive, whereas Judges shows that there were still many Canaanites left in the land afterwards. In fact, we see Canaanites mentioned right up to the time of David (see 2 Samuel 24:7). This will be further explored in detail in a forthcoming article that I am currently writing on the Israelite Conquest.

[22] E.g. Matthew 8:38-34 reports that Jesus healed two demoniacs at Gadara, whereas Mark 5:1-20, and Luke 8:26-39 only mention one. Also, John 20 only mentions Mary Magdalene at the Resurrection, without mentioning the other women (although their presence is subtly hinted at, as evidenced by the use of the word “we” in verse 2).

[23] E.g. Matthew 21:19ff tells us that when Jesus cursed the fig tree, it withered immediately, whereas Mark 11:20ff states that the fig tree only appeared withered the next day.

[24] E.g. Matthew 5-7 presents Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount as being given all at once, whereas Luke spreads them out over several sermons (then again, Jesus could have been reusing sermon material more than once; a common practice among preachers to this day). Also John places the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, whereas the Synoptic Gospels place it at the end. This second example is debatable, as some interpreters posit that there were actually two cleansings. For a further discussion of this, see Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd edition (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 216-219.

[25] For a defense of the practice of harmonization, see my article, “In Defense of Harmonization,” EACanada, published September 5, 2016,

[26] Tthe New Testament frequently uses the term “myth” in the pejorative sense we have just described (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:4, 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:14, and 2 Peter 1:16). In every instance, this pejorative use of the word “myth” is explicitly differentiated from truth, as the Biblical author defines it. For an academic discussion of how this word is used in the NT, see Gustav Stählin, “Μῦθος,” in ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 781–792.

[27] Pope Pius XII “Humani Generis,” §§38-39, The Holy See,

5 thoughts on “Does the Catholic Church Teach “Partial Inerrancy”? By J. Luis Dizon

  1. venera fazio

    Well done J. Luis Dizon!
    Thank you for an informative article on Partial Inerrancy. The article was well written with strong points to defend your argument.
    I enjoyed reading it a lot.

    May God Bless you,
    Venera in Toronto

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