Alfred Williams Momerie.

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discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audienceces may differ,
God's dealings with them are always and every-
where the same. An unjust Deity would be a
contradiction in terms. Nothing but self-conceit
could ever have led men to the conclusion that
their own scriptures were not only superior to all
others, but that they owed their origin to a unique
act of mercy on the part of the Almighty.

Those who have adopted this irrational doctrine
have tried to find reasons for it in the Scriptures
themselves. In John v. 39 they read, " Search the
Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal
life." The passage answered their purpose better
by the omission of " ye think," which they accord-
ingly proceeded to omit, and henceforth quoted
the text as, "Search the Scriptures; for in them
ye have eternal life." Now, as a matter of fact,
Christ said just the opposite. Instead of " search,"
the translation should be " ye search " ; and what
Christ said was this, " Ye search the Scriptures ; for
in them ye think ye have eternal life : but ye have
not; they testify of me, and ye will not come to
me, that ye might have life." In other words, the
religious life is something very different from the
worship of a book. In this passage Christ is not
praising, but emphatically condemning, bibliolatry.

There is another text by which the current view



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The Evolution of the Bible. 5

of inspiration is supported — viz., 2 Tim. iii 16,
" All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for correction, for reproof," &c. This
also is a mistranslation. You know, of course, that
the word scripture merely means writing, just as
the word bible means book. In course of time
these terms have come to be restricted to the
writings and to the book, which we regard as
the writings and the book j^ar excdlence. But it
is constantly assumed that the restriction existed
from the beginning, and that it is implied in this
particular passage in Timothy. Now manifestly
the assumption is absurd ; for the writings which
we call Scripture had not then been collected into
a single whole ; many of them had not even been
written ; the very epistle in which this text occurs,
an epistle which now forms part of our Scriptures,
was at the time in process of composition. It will
save confusion if we translate the word, not scrip-
ture, but writing. But the important mistrans-
lation is in what follows. The apostle does not
say " every writing is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable;" but every writing given by
inspiration of God is profitable. Whether it be
given by inspiration must be critically determined
in each particular case ; but if it be inspired, then
the apostle asserts it is profitable, whenever, wher-



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6 Inspiration.

ever, by whomsoever it was written. This is in
harmony with, whereas the mistranslation contra-
dicts, the teaching of St James, that " every good
and perfect gift cometh from the Father of lights."

There is only one other passage in the Bible
which bears directly upon the question of inspira-
tion — ^viz,, 2 Peter i. 21, " Holy men of old spake
as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Of
course they did; and so they will to the end of
time!

Why, then, is it that we regard the Bible as pre-
eminently inspired, more inspired than other books?
Are we right in so regarding it ? I think we axe.
But the reasons by which this view is justified are
generally wrong.

Let us consider some of the grounds on which
the common view might be often vindicated. And
the first and most obvious is that of style. If the
Bible be altogether unique in its origin, if it ajber-
ally had God for its author, we should naturally
expect the style to be diflferent from that of other
books, and not only different but superior. Now,
when we examine the Bible, what do we find?
Why, we find among its writers the same literary
excellences and defects that exist among profane
authors; we find all possible varieties of style,
from the most primitive portions of the Pentateuch



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The Evolution of the Bible, 7

up to the perfect art of Job. No one can honestly
say that the books of Kings or of Chronicles are
better written, or indeed as well, as the histories
of Thucydides or of Freeman. And even suppos-
ing we discovered in all the books of the Bible the
same proofs of genius as we do in the Book of Job,
still we have works in profane literature which in
point of ability fall little, if at all, short of that
great poem. The difference in artistic merit be-
tween Job and Faust, e.g., is not such as to war-
rant the supposition that while Goethe wrote the
one, God alone could have been author of the other.
Secondly, it may be said that, though the style
and idiosyncrasies of the Scriptural writers were not
interfered with, they were nevertheless divinely
and miraculously compelled, one and all of them,
to give a full, perfect, infallible representation of
Deity. But when we come to examine the Bible
carefully for ourselves, we see that the representa-
tion of the Deity diflfers from writer to writer, and
from age to age. We find, what we find everywhere
else, an evolution of the idea of G^d. Just look at
1 Sam. XV. 1-3. Samuel said unto Saul, " Hearken
thou unto the voice of the voice of the Lord. Go
and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they
have ; slay both man and woman, infant and suck-
ling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." If a modem



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8 Inspiration.

general were to give such an order, he would be
considered a monster of iniquity. But the eaxly
Jewish writers imagined that the cruelty and fierce-
ness of their own savage natures were actually
characteristics of the Deity. Or look at Numbers
XV. 32-36 : " While the children of Israel were in
the wilderness, they found a man that gathered
sticks upon the Sabbath-day. And they brought him
to Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
And they put him in ward, because it was not
declared what should be done unto him. And the
Lord said unto Moses, The n^an shall surely be put
to death : all the congregation shall stone him with
stones without the camp. And all the congrega-
tion brought him without the camp, and stoned
him with stones, and he died; as the Lord com-
manded Moses." What do you suppose Christ
would have thought of such proceedings?

Here, perhaps, I ought to say a word in extenua-
tion of these early writers. At first sight it may
appear as if they were dishonest, not to say blas-
phemous, in so boldly announcing that their own
crude opinions were the opinions of the Lord, in
justifying their own cruelty by the assertion that
they were fulfilling the divine behests. But I
must point out to you that by all sudi expressions
as " Thus saith the Lord," they merely meant to



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The Evolution of the Bible. 9

assert the strength of their own conscientipus con-
victions. We ourselves speak of conscience as the
voice of God, and yet we know that we have some-
times done conscientiously what we afterwards dis-
covered to be wrong. Many of the greatest crimes
in history, such as the tortures of the Inquisition,
have been perpetrated by those who felt perfectly
certain that they were acting in harmony with the
will of God. I do not want you to condemn these
Old Testament writers ; I only want you to see that
their views of God were sometimes very low.

Further, let me ask you to notice, not only do
we find in the Bible different theological views ob-
taining in different ages, but we also find them co-
existing in the same age. The controversies between
the priests and the prophets of Judaism, both of
whom professed to believe in inspiration, were very
much the same as between the Bitualists and Broad
Churchmen of to-day. The priests observed to the
very last the ceremonialism of early times ; and they
were perfectly satisfied when they had offered up
the proper number of doves and oxen, when they
had duly changed the shewbread, and lighted the
proper number of lamps. The prophets looked
upon all this with more or less of contempt The
sacrifices of God they taught, the only sacrifices
worth offering, were a broken and contrite heart.



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lo Inspiration.

We cannot possibly overestimate the difference
— ^it is practically infinite — between the Grod of
Samuel who ordered the infants and sucklings to
be slaughtered, and the God of the Psalmist whose
tender mercies are over all His works ; between the
God of the patriarchs who was always repenting,
and the God of the apostles who is the same yester-
day, to-day and for ever, with whom is neither
variableness nor shadow of turning; between the
God of the Old Testament who walked in the
garden in the cool of the day, and the God of the
New Testament whom no man hath seen or can
see ; between the God of Leviticus who was so par-
ticular about the sacrificial furniture and utensils,
and the God of the Acts who dwelleth not in
temples made with hands; between the God who
hardened Pharaoh's heart, and the God who will
have all men to be saved.

The Bible, then, cannot be distinguished from
other books by the uniformity of its teaching any
more than by the uniformity of its style. Between
the covers of this little volume we find opinions as
diverse and contradictory as have ever existed in
the world. And, in particular, we can trace in it
the development of the idea of God from barbarism
up to Hegel.

Meantime, let me commend to your consideration



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The Evolution of the Bible. 1 1

one idea. The authors of Genesis discovered the
truth — and the discovery redounds to their eternal
glory — that the spirit of every man is in degree
divine. If we forget this, however cultivated and
clever we may think ourselves, we have really
degenerated, — we are in this respect in more than
antediluvian ignorance. The inspiration of the
Almighty, however its manifestations may differ,
is not restricted to any age or country;

" The whole round world is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."



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12



Inspiration.
II.

INACCURACIES OF THE BIBLE.

TTTE are engaged in considering the subject of
'* Inspiration. The view at one time held,
even by persons of some amount of culture, is
represented very well in the following words of
Burgon's : " The Bible is none other than the voice
of Him that sitteth on the throne. Every book of
it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word
of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the
direct utterance of the Most High. The Bible is
none other than the word of God ; not some part
of it more, some part of it less, but all alike the
utterance of Him who sitteth upon the throne, su-
preme, absolute, faultless, unerring." Or as Baylee
put it, " The Bible cannot be less than verbally in-
spired. Every syllable is just what it would be



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Inaccuracies of the Bible. 13

had God spoken from heaven, without the inter-
vention of any human agent."

Now I was beginning to explain to you last week
that this theory of inspiration could not possibly be
true. If God were in a literal sense the author of
the Bible the style of composition must always be
perfect, and therefore the same. Whereas, on the
contrary, we find in the books of the Bible all pos-
sible varieties of style, more than sufficient to show
that they must have been written in the ordinary
way by men. Moreover, if God were literally the
author of the Bible, it must contain one uniform
representation of the Deity; or at any rate, the
representations must be consistent with each other.
But we find here — as elsewhere — contradictory
ideas of G<5d. The superhimian cruelty of the
Jehovah of the Pentateuch, and the superhuman
tenderness of the heavenly Father of Christ, could
not possibly be attributes of one and the self -same
Being.

To-day I pass on to another argument. If the
Bible were in a literal sense the work of God, its
statements must be always true, scientifically and
historically true. But when we come to examine
it, we find that it contains innumerable mistakes.
And first of the scientific errors. I might give you
dozens of illustrations, but one must suflBce, — viz.,



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14 Inspiration.

the Scriptural account of the creation. The authors
of the Pentateuch teach that the world was made
in six days. Well, it was not. Science has long
since proved that the process of creation must have
occupied millions of years. The validity of the
scientific doctrine is admitted nowadays even by
those who are in other respects orthodox. These
semi-orthodox persons are accustomed to say that
the Scriptural writers, when they spoke of days,
meant indefinite periods of tune. But it is mani-
fest that they intended nothing of the kind. The
injunction to keep the fourth commandment was
distinctly based on the six days' theory of creation.
" Eemember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. For
in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the
sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh
day : wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day,
and hallowed it."

And even if we were willing to renounce the
teaching of modem science, we should still be un-
able to accept the Biblical account of creation as
correct, for it contains within itself a number of the
most palpable contradictions. In fact, we have in
the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis two
distinct stories of creation. This is practically
recognised in our lectionary. The first lesson on
Septuagesima Sunday, takes in the first chapter



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Inaccuracies of the Bible. 1 5

and the first three verses of the second chapter.
That is one account of creation. The other begins
at the fourth verse and finishes with verse twenty-
five. How these two different theories come to
be placed together, I shall explain to you another
day. But that they are different, and in many re-
spects mutually destructive, is evident on the most
cursory examination.

In the first account (i. 20, 24, 26), the birds and
beasts are created before man. In the second (ii.
7, 19), man is created before the birds and beasts.
In the first (L 20), fowls are made out of the
waters ; in the second (ii. 19), out of the ground.
In the first (L 28), man and woman are created
together, as the closing and completing work of the
whole creation; created also, as is evidently im-
plied, in the same kind of way, to be the comple-
ment of one another; and thus created they are
blessed together. In the second (iL 7, 8, 15, 22), the
beasts and birds are created between the man and
the woman. First, the man is made of the dust of
the ground, and is placed by himself in the garden ;
then the beasts and birds are made and the man gives
them names ; and lastly, after all this, the woman is
made out of one of his ribs, not as the complement,
but only as a helpmate for the man. The Biblical
account of the creation, therefore, is erroneous, not



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1 6 Inspiration.

only because it contradicts the teaching of modem
science, but because it contradicts itself.

In the face of all this, it is pitiful to see able
men like Dr Kinns and Mr Gladstone wasting their
time in elaborate attempts to reconcile the Penta-
teuch with science. These attempts are bound to
end in the most ludicrous failure. If the sciences
of geology and palaeontology did not yet exist, the
Scriptural account of the creation might still be
seen to be erroneous, because it contains its own
refutation. And even if it were otherwise, even if
the authors of the Pentateuch did know as much
science as we know, what then ? The Bible
would be a more interesting literary curiosity
certainly, but its real value — ^as a book of moral
and spiritual teaching — would not be one iota
increased.

Once more, the historical inaccuracies in the
Bible are as numerous and as striking as the scien-
tific. This must be seen at once by any careful
student. The fact is established by internal evi-
dence. DiflFerent writers in the Bible often give
contradictory accounts of the same event ; and of
two contradictory statements both cannot be true.
Compare, e,g,y Gen. vi. 20 with Gen. vii. 3. "Of
fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their
kind, of every creeping thing of this earth after his



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Inaccuracies of the Bible. 1 7

kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee to keep
them alive/' " Of fowls also of the air by sefoens, the
male and the female to keep seed alive upon the
face of all the earth." Or compare again the state-
ments as to the number of people returned in
David's census. In 2 Sam. xxiv. 9, Israel is
reckoned at 800,000, and Judah at 500,000. In
1 Chron, xxi. 5, the return is 1,100,000 for Israel,
and 470,000 for Judah. Or compare again the
price which David paid for the threshing-floor.
According to 2 Sam. xxiv. 24, it was fifty shekels
of silver ; according to 1 Chron..xxi. 25, six hundred
shekels of gold.

And so of dates. In 1 Kings vi. 1, we read, " In
the 480th year after the children of Israel were
come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of
Solomon's reign." But according to all the other
Scriptural reckonings, the fourth year of Solomon's
reign would be almost 580 years after the exodus.
In St Paul's speech in the New Testament, the
period from Joshua to Samuel alone is given at 450
years. Some semi - orthodox commentators have
suggested leaving out the obnoxious sentence. But
it is needless to say this only hides the discrepancy
from the English reader, and seems a disrespectful
way of treating an inspired historian. It aflfords,
however, an interesting example of the manner in

B



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1 8 Inspiration.

which men sometimes play fast and loose with the
theory of verbal inspiration.

Look again at the dates in connection with Ho-
shea, as you have them in the 2d Book of Kings.
The writer has evidently been copying from two
distinct documents, and he has not noticed the dis-
agreement between them. In xv. 30, he tells us
that Hoshea began to reign in Israel in the twen-
tieth year of Jotham, king of Judah. This he takes
from the records of the northern kingdom. In the
next paragraph (v. 33), copying from the southern
records, he tells us that Jotham only reigned six-
teen years altogether. In chapter xvii. he goes back
to the records of the northern kingdom, and tells
us that Hoshea came to the throne in the reign of
Ahaz, who was Jotham's successor. If now he
had said in the fourth year of Ahaz, we could see
our way through the difficulty, for the fourth year of
Ahaz would be at any rate twenty years from the
beginning of Jotham's reign. He says however,
not in the fourth, but in the twelfth year of Ahaz,
king of Judah. The dates here, you see, are hope-
lessly and inextricably confused.

Many of these discrepancies, no doubt, are acci-
dental. But some of them are attributed by all
eminent Hebraists to deliberate dishonesty. When
the writings of the chronicler — that is to say, the



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Inaccuracies of the Bible. 19

author of the two books of Chronicles, Ezra and
part of Nehemiah — are carefully examined, it ap-
pears that he has wUfully altered the older records.
Those alterations were made for the most part in
the interests of the clerical body, to which in all
probability the writer belonged. He copies large
portions, word for word, from the books of Kings
and other existing scriptures, but by omissions,
additions and alterations, he gives an entirely
different representation of the whole course of
events. Upon this, however, I need not dwell. It
forms no part of my argument, which is simply
this: the fact of historical discrepancies — and
their existence cannot possibly be denied — dis-
proves, once and for ever, the doctrine of Biblical
infallibility.

The New Testament also contains a large number
of discrepancies. Sometimes we are able to correct
one writer by another ; but in any case the fact re-
mains that all the writers are not always accurate.
One illustration must sulBftce. The synoptic gospels
assume that the Lord's Supper was the Passover
feast. St John shows that it was not. The mis-
take into which the synoptic writers fell was very
natural. It was known that Christ went up to
Jerusalem for the purpose of eating the Passover ;
it was known that he actually had a supper with



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20 Inspiration.

His disciples ; and we need not be surprised, there-
fore, that the two were regarded as identical. In
Matthew and Mark their identity is implied, in St
Luke it is explicitly stated. In verse 15, Christ is
represented as saying, " with desire I have desired
to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." No
reader of these narratives could for a moment doubt
that Jesus actually ate the Passover. But He did
not. He sent His disciples to make ready the Pass-
over ; the night before He had supper with them in
the prepared room ; and no doubt He said that He
had desired to eat the Passover with them. But
He did not eat it. He himself was that year to be
a paschal Lamb ; and on the afternoon of the day
on which the feast would be kept — somewhere
about the time when the lambs were killed — He
was dying on the cross. All this is made very
plain by St John. In chapter xviii. 28, we read
how, in the evening after the last supper, the Jews
led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Pretorium, "and
they themselves entered not into the Pretorium
that they might not be defiled, but might eat the
Passover," which shows of course that the Passover


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Online LibraryAlfred Williams MomerieInspiration, and other sermons: delivered in the chapel of the Foundling ... → online text (page 1 of 19)