A theological science which establishes the principles and proximately prepares the student of Scripture to defend and interpret Holy Writ.
It treats of the Divine and human origin and the collection and preservation of the books of the Bible.
Introduction may be general or special.
General introduction discusses questions concerning the Bible in its entirety.
Its scope is usually narrowed considerably by regarding biblical theology, archaeology, geography, and history as distinct sciences.
Inspiration, the Canon or collection of the sacred books, their text and translations, the laws and history of their interpretation are properly regarded today as general introductory questions; see also hermeneutics and exegesis.
Special introduction discusses the Divine and human authorship, the date and place of composition, the purpose, analysis, and division of contents, the integrity and veracity of each book of the Bible.
The method of treatment is literary but at the same time critical and historical, because the Bible is literature and contains and teaches history.
Since the Bible is a Divinely inspired book committed to the custodianship of the Church whose duty is to safeguard Holy Writ and its exposition against erroneous, capricious, and wilful treatment, biblical introduction must not be considered merely as a chapter of universal literature, but as a theological science which calls literary and historical criticism to its aid, and thus offers scientific proof that all the books of the Bible are what the Church teaches them to be, canonical and inspired, and preserved to us substantially unaltered and free from falsification.
In patristic and medieval times questions of biblical introduction were treated incidentally, e.g., by Origen and Jerome; more systematically by Cassiodorus.
The separate questions were not grouped into a system until the time of Sixtus of Sienna (died 1599).
The Oratorian, Richard Simon (died 1712) applied to the subject the critico-historical method.
His objective criticism supported by external argument was methodically correct.
Since the close of the 18th century rationalistic Bible study has given incentive and impetus to the publication of Catholic works of biblical introduction.
Scholars other than Catholic have marred their introductory studies, quite generally, by subjectivism and radicalism.
Undue insistence upon internal arguments has led them to no certain results, and today, in many quarters, a tendency toward more objective reasoning, made necessary by archeological finds, has checked these lawless methods.
The persistent denial of the supernatural is still characteristic of their higher criticism.
The objections to the traditional views and the criticism of their historical basis accounts in part for the apologetical and polemical tone of Catholic higher criticism.
New Catholic Dictionary