Providentissimus Deus
Providentissimus Deus
Deus is Latin for "god" or "deity".Latin deus and dīvus "divine", are descended from Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, from the same root as *Dyēus, the reconstructed chief god of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon...

, "On the Study of Holy Scripture", was an encyclical
An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Catholic Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop...

 issued by Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

 on 18 November 1893.
In it, he reviewed the history of Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 study from the time of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 to the present, spoke against the errors of the Rationalists
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and "higher critics", and outlined principles of scripture study and guidelines for how scripture was to be taught in seminaries
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

He also addressed the issues of apparent contradictions between the Bible and physical science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, or between one part of scripture and another, and how such apparent contradictions can be resolved.

Providentissimus Deus responded to two challenges to biblical authority, both of which rose up during the 19th century.

The physical sciences, especially the theory of evolution and geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

's theory of a very old earth
Age of the Earth
The age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years This age is based on evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples...

, challenged the traditional Biblical account of creation taking place 6,000 years ago, although it is now believed that Scripture was interperted wrongly in this case (by who?).

Pope Leo XIII wrote that true science cannot contradict scripture when it is properly explained, that errors the Church Fathers made do not demonstrate error in Scripture, and that what seems to be proved by science can turn out to be wrong.

The historical-critical method of analyzing scripture questioned the reliability of the Bible.
Leo acknowledged the possibility of errors introduced by scribes but forbade the interpretation that only some of scripture is inerrant, while other elements are fallible. Leo condemned that use that certain scholars made of new evidence, clearly referring to Alfred Firmin Loisy and Maurice d'Hulst
Maurice Le Sage d'Hauteroche d'Hulst
Maurice Le Sage d'Hauteroche d'Hulst was a French Roman Catholic prelate, writer, and orator. He was the founder of the Institut Catholique de Paris.- Life :...

, although not by name.

At first, both conservatives and liberals found elements in the encyclical to which to appeal. Over the next decade, however, Modernism spread and Providentissimus Deus was increasingly interpreted in a conservative sense.

This encyclical was part of an ongoing conflict between Modernists and conservatives. In 1902, Pope Leo XIII instituted the Pontifical Biblical Commission
Pontifical Biblical Commission
The Pontifical Biblical Commission is an organism established within the Roman Curia to ensure the proper interpretation and defense of Sacred Scripture.-The Commission 1901-1971:...

, which was to adapt Roman Catholic Biblical studies to modern scholarship and to protect Scripture against attacks.

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