Catholic leaders back off on Bible accuracy

LONDON – At a time when some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation as told in Genesis taught alongside Darwin‘s theory of evolution in U.S schools, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible aren’t actually true.

According to the UK’s Times newspaper, the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland have warned their 5 million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect "total accuracy" from the Bible. "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision," they explain in The Gift of Scripture, which says the Bible must be approached with the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language.”

The bishops go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and warn of “significant dangers.” They write, “Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”

Among the parts of the Bible that cannot be "historical," they add, are the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and conflicting stories of creation are told. At most, they may contain "historical traces," argue the religious leaders.

They also refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast, and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb. “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally,” the Bishops write. “We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”