Joseph Benjamin M'Caul.

Bishop Colenso's criticism criticised : in a series of ten letters addressed to the editor of the Record newspaper ; with notes and a postscript online

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Online LibraryJoseph Benjamin M'CaulBishop Colenso's criticism criticised : in a series of ten letters addressed to the editor of the Record newspaper ; with notes and a postscript → online text (page 1 of 7)
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Jof?eph B. McCaul

Bishop GoleriFo's Criticifm Criticiped



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" The place whereon thou standest is holy ground."— ^arod. iii. S.












"The Law breathes the air of the desert. Enactments intended for a
" people with settled habitations, and dwelling in walled cities, are
"mingled up with temporary regulations, only suited to the Bedouin
" encampment of a nomad tribe. There can be no doubt that the statute-
" book of Moses, with all his particular enactments, still exists, and that
" it recites them in the same order, if it may be called order, in which
" they were promulgated." — Dean Milman. History of the Jews. Second
Edition. Vol. I., pp. 95, 96.

" Who, born within the last forty years, has read one word of Collins,
" and Toland, and Tiudal, and Chubb, and Morgan, and that whole race
" that called themselves Freethinkers ? "Who now reads Bolingbroke ?
" Who ever read him through ? Ask the booksellers of London, what is
" become of these 'lights of the world.' In as few yeai's, their few suc-
" cessors will go down to the family vault of ' all the Capidets.' "—Edmund
Burke, Rejlections on the Revolution in France.


Preface v

Letter I.— Whether the Law of Moses enjoins upon the Prtests
TO carry offal on their backs 1

Letter II. — On the same subject .4

Letter III. — On the same subject ...'.... 9

Letter IV. — Dr. Colenso and the "National Review" . .14

Letter V. — Whether, in order to the historic veracity of
Moses, the Door of the Tabernacle should have been
twenty miles wide, and on other matters , . . .21

Letter VI. — Whether the Israelites offered Sacrifices in the
Wilderness * 27

Letter VII. — Dr. Colenso's Objections as to the Cattle, com-
pared with those of Voltaire 35

Letter VIII. — Dr. Colenso on Sheep-farming, and the Beasts of

the Field 44

Letter IX. — Dr. Benisch'.i Opinion of Bishop Colenso's Book . 53

Letter X. — How Dr. Colenso has been "enabled more deci-
sively TO establish" some of his positions . . . .55

Postscript, containing the Strictures of Learned Jews . 60

* Letters VI., VIL, and VIII. were not forwarded to the Editor of
the " Eecord," in order to save time. Letters IV. and X. were not included
in the former Editions. The wTiter desires to express his thanks for the
courtesy shown to him, and also for the great accuracy, with one or two
very trifling exceptions, with which his letters were printed.


It will be observed that the following Letters treat exclusively
upon points of scholarly, and philological criticism. I have
endeavoured, as far as possible, to avoid pronouncing any
opinion upon the theological merits of the Bishop's volume. I
felt certain before I began to write — and the result has shown
that I was not mistaken — that the question of his Lordship's
orthodoxy would be abundantly discussed by abler pens than
mine. Already a number of most conclusive, and fairly- written
replies have made their appearance. The cause of religious
certainty has gained a hundredfold, by so avowed an attempt
to overturn all the ancient landmarks, at one fell swoop.
Would that it might be granted to my clerical brethren hence-
forward to be in a state of readiness, and prepared to give an
answer to every one that asketh, respecting the reasons of the
hope that is in them ! Mere piety and zeal are in themselves
inadequate defenders of the faith. Had the study of Hebrew
been hitherto made an indispensable portion of an English
clergyman's education, I venture to say, we should not have now
to mourn over the sad exhibition of rash incompetence, which
the volume under consideration so abundantly furnishes. No
one who has drunk into the spirit of the sacred writings, at the
vernacular fountain-head, could speak lightly concerning their
historic value.

There is a convincing grandeur and propriety of diction, in
every line of the Hebrew Scriptures, which carry with them a
general and preliminary conviction of their genuineness, and
authentic chronological antiquity. The Rationalistic writers
of Germany, and more especially Dr. Ewald {GeschicJde des
Folks Israel), aiford in this respect a striking and a happy
contrast to Dr. Colenso. Unsound, and fanciful as the conclu-
sions at which they arrive undoubtedly are, they nevertheless
handle these most ancient records of the human race, and of the
ways of God to man, at least with an outward show of scholarly

reverence for what bears on its forefront the majestic tokens of
a hoary antiquity.

In considering a book such as the one before us, it is exceed-
ingly difficult for a clergyman to divest his mind of all theo-
logical bias, in weighing the merits of each several argument.
But when I beheld the panic created even in clerical circles, I
felt persuaded that mere exclamations of indignant astonishment
would tend only to increase the alarm and distrust. It is quite
true that the same shafts were before launched against Moses,
years ago, by the English Deists, and refledged by Voltaire,
dipped in the corrosive sublimate of sarcastic venom. It is also
true that these attacks have been again and again so triumph-
antly repelled and refuted, that they for a long time fell into
discredit and well-merited oblivion. But mere assertions to this
effect, would go a very little way to calm the present excitement.
Men would naturally inquire, " If these old-fashioned Deistic
" objections are really so invalid and so inconclusive, how does
" it happen, that a Bishop of the Church of England has not
*' hesitated to stake his professional character, and his reputa-
'* tion for Christian candour and theological attainments, by
** restating them, as if they had never been disposed of, and not
** only so, but by taking no small credit to himself on the score
" of their originality ?"

The question at issue seemed therefore to me, to limit itself
to a very narrow compass. It is simply this, — Have Dr.
Colenso's statements any intrinsic value, independently of their
emanating from an Episcopal chair ? In other words, does the
weight of learning accompany the weight of exalted position ?

If it can be shown that his Lordship is philologically and
critically incompetent for the stupendous responsibility which
he has voluntarily assumed, in declaring himself to be the
apostle of a new Reformation, with the demonstration of such
deficiency, the greater portion of our apprehensions must fall
to the ground. An adversary at whom we can afford to smile,
is no longer dangerous. To a cursory student of the ensuing
pages, it will be apparent that neither Dr. Colenso's erudition,
nor his powers of observation, are of a formidcible character.

His Lordship^s book is intrinsically weak. He has fallen
into some blunders, which would be ludicrous, if the conse-
quences were not so unspeakably grave, both to himself, and to
those who shall receive the poison without receiving an
antidote. And in this respect I make bold to say that his
Lordship's partisans, who pushed forward the publication of the
volume, proclaiming its advent long before it actually appeared,
must bear a large portion of the blame. The public has been
led to believe, that the present crude production has passed
through the hands of several eminent scholars, who revised it
prior to its publication. Either Dr. Colenso has been the
subject of an ill-timed pleasantry, when he received the
assurance that his volume was in a fitting state to be given to
the world, or else the unhappy author had committed the task
of revision, to hands no better qualified to prune, than his own
to write.

Meanwhile, what is to be done to set our Church right
in the eyes of Christian scholars all over the world ? / would
earnestly call upon my clerical brethren 'publicly to disclaim the
volume, not only as a sample of English orthodoxy, but of that
ripe scholarship and sound common-sense for which the Church
of England has been so long and so justly celebrated. By a
public and united expression of disapp?-oval alone, can the
mischief be in some measure undojie. The adoption of such a
course could not possibly be construed into persecution. It is a
duty which we owe to Christ, to ourselves, and to our glorious

St. Edmund the King, Lombard-street, Dec. 9, 1862.


A SERIES of letters like the present, treating upon dry topics of
Hebrew, and other antiquarian criticism, and appearing chiefly
in the uninviting shape of reprints from the columns of a
newspaper, would, upon any ordinary occasion, have excited
little attention, and found few purchasers. The rapid distribu-
tion of the First and Second Editions is a very encouraging


token that the interest excited by Dr. Colenso's book, is of a
deeper and more intelligent character, than a mere craving after
party polemics.

It aifords to my mind, a pretty evident indication that the
people of England are thoroughly aroused, and are prepared
to take real pains, to sift the Bishop's allegations to the bottom.
This is indeed a hopeful sign of the times. It shows that the
Word of God has a deep hold upon the affections of the nation
at large ; that men are not indifferent spectators of the present
organized combination to uproot the hallowed sway, which the
Bible has exercised hitherto over the minds and the consciences
of Christian Englishmen, to whatever shade of religious
opinions they may belong. It demonstrates, moreover, that
they have not yet arrived at the requisite point of mental
obfuscation, which will qualify them for appreciating the zeal
which seeks to secure for the Bible " its due honour and autho-
rity" (Colenso, p. xxxiv), by placing its teaching on a level
with the cloudy nonsense contained in the writings of the Sikh
Gooroos, or even of " such living truths " as those which
cheered the Indian sage, who declares, with a touching sublimity,
" I take for my spiritual food, the water and leaf of Ram."
(Colenso, p. 156). And again, " God is my clothing and my
dwelling. He is my ruler , myhody, and my soul" ! {Ibid. -p. 157.)

In the days of our former ignorance, such sentiments would
probably have gone under the vigly designation of Pantheism.
Their general adoption in Christian England, would doubtless
enable us, as the Bishop significantly suggests, " to meet the
Mahomedan, and Brahmin, and Buddhist, as well as the un-
tutored savage of South Africa, and the South Pacific, upon other,
and better terms, than we do now." (p. 150.) As to their present
desirability I will not hazard an opinion. But I will venture
to say, that had such enlightened sentiments of universal charity
prevailed in the Apostolic ages, the preaching of the Cross
must have lost much of its offensive dogmatism. Possibly its
necessity would have been altogether superseded. Are ye ripe,
O ye Christians of England, to adopt the comfortless rhapsodies
of this clumsy eclecticism from the creeds of ancient and modern
Paganism, in place of the glorious " Gospel which bringeth
salvation " ? Have ye " so learned Christ " ?

♦S"^, Edmund the King, Lombard-street, Jan. 31, 1863.




Sir, — No one has looked forward to the publication of Dr.
Colenso's critical examination of the Pentateuch and the Book
of Joshua* with more painful anxiety than myself. After the
most unwonted, and oft-reiterated flourish of trumpets which
announced the concluding throes of the Episcopal labour, I
confess I was duly prepared for the apparition of some hitherto
undreamt-of prodigy in criticism — for something that would
throw^ all foreign scholarship into the shade, and give the whole
world of theologians subject for meditation for the next twenty
years at least. On opening the volume, however, and tremblingly
examining its contents, my astonishment waxed greater and
greater, as I turned over each successive page. The book I
found to be full of the most astounding inaccuracies and ludicrous
mistakes. I confess that I felt devoutly thankful to see the
nature of the objections which were brought against the historic
trustworthiness of the sacred writers. Take, for example,
Chapter VI. of Dr. Colenso^s treatise. His palpable ignorance
of the Hebrew idiom is calculated to excite a titter amongst
true critics, to whatever shade of orthodoxy or unorthodoxy

* "The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined, by the
Right Rev. John William Colenso, D.D., Bishop of Natal." London:
Lomjmans. 1862. 8vo.


tliey may belong, all over the world. Foreigners will ask, Can
it be possible that the author of such sciolistic trash is a Bishop
of the far-fcimed Church of England ? In the aforesaid chapter,
Dr. Colenso draws a somewhat grotesque picture of the impos-
sible labours imposed upon the priest in the discharge of his
sacerdotal functions. The chapter is headed, " The Extent of
the Camp, compared with the Priest's Duties, and the Daily
Necessities of the People." In Lev. iv. 11, 12, we read the
following, " And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with
his head and legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole
bullock, shall he (the priest) carry forth without the camp
unto a clean place," &c. Dr. Colenso inclines to adopt Scott's
measurement of the camp, who computes it to have " formed a
moveable city of twelve miles square." " In that case," says
the Bishop, " the offal of these sacrifices would have had to be
*' carried by Aaron himself, or one of his sons, a distance of six
" miles ; and the same difficulty would have attended each of
" the other transactions above mentioned. In fact, we have to
" imagine the priest having himself to carry on his back, on foot,
*' from St. Paul's to the outskirts of the metropolis, the * skin,
" and flesh, and head, and legs, and inwards, and dung, even the
" whole bullock,' and the people having to carry out their
" rubbish in like manner, and bi'ing in their daily supplies of
** water and fuel, after first cutting down * the latter, where they
" could find it ! Further, we have to imagine half a million of
" men going out daily — the 22,000 Levites, for a distance of
*' six miles — to the suburbs, for the common necessities of
" nature. The supposition involves, of course, an absurdity, but
*' it is our duty to look plain facts in the face." (Pp. 38 — 40.)
So it is. Dr. Colenso ! But unfortunately your Lordship has
not done so ! If you will have the goodness to refer to your
Hebrew Bible, you will there see not one word about the
priests "carrying offal on their backs!" The word which we
have translated " he shall carry forth " is in the original N"'15in')
(vekotzi), " he shall cause to go forth," i.e., have conveyed. It
is the Hiphil, or causative conjugation of the verb ^^^ {yatza) f

* " We lighted cowdung fires "in every pot we had." W. C. Baldwin.
" African Hunting," etc. London. 1862. 8vo. p. 11.

t For many examples see Gesenius, "Lexicon Manuale Hebraicum
et Chaldaicura." Lipsia3. 1847. 8vo. p. 397.


=:exivit.* A very pretty specimen of scholarship this to go
forth to the savans of the civilized world ! Is this the summa
Theologies of our great Episcopal arithmetician? It might he
well for Dr. Colenso to read the Pentateuch at least once
through in the original before he gives the promised continua-
tion of his lucubrations to the world. So also, with respect to
the 22,000 Levites, above cited. If Dr. Colenso will refer to
his English Bible even, he will discover that he makes himself
merry at the expense of a sanatory regulation intended for
warriors in the field (Deut. xxiii. 12 — 14), and not for the
general congregation. It only applied to a military detachment
or army on active service. Does Dr. Colenso suppose that the
22,000 Levites carried the weapon with the paddle to it wher-
ever they went? Were they men of warf or of peace ? No
doubt, to an impure imagination, there would be little difficulty
in conjuring up a very comical picture of these Hebrew priests
and warriors, starting daily for their six miles' pilgrimage, upon
"urgent private affairs."

So also the notion of the priest staggering forth under his
repulsive burden may not altogether be free from a touch of the
ludicrous. But, to my mind, such pleasantries, at the expense
of God's Word, savour somewhat of the buffooneries of Voltaire,
and are doubly offensive when they lack the appearance of
scholarship which made his sneering blasphemies so dangerously

I am yours, &c.,


St, Edmund's, Lomhard-street,
Nov. 6, 1862.

* It is -northy of remark that to Moses himself, and personally, are
addressed the commandments respecting the making of the altar, &c. See
Exod. XXX. I,— nil? n'-ari, "And ihou shalt make an altar;" and, again,
viN n'B?i, " And thou shalt overlay it ; " and yet we have no reason for
supposing that Moses included, amongst his varied accomplishments, either
the handicrafts of a carpenter or a goldsmith.

t I am quite aware that Michaelis considers that, for a time, the sons of
Levi acted as a kind of body-guard to Moses. This, however, does not affect
the general question of their peaceful and sacred calling.




Sir, — In my letter of Nov. 6th, I stated that Dr. Colenso's
book was full of " astounding inaccuracies and ludicrous mis-
takes." I wrote Strongly, because I felt strongly upon the
subject. I felt, with many others, that, independently of the
injury inflicted upon the cause of Christ and true religion, a
grievous, however unintentional slight, had been offered to
the Church of England, and her reputation for learning as well
as orthodoxy had been deeply wounded by the publication of
that ill-advised and worse-digested volume. Many people sup-
pose that the mere fact of a man's possessing the rashness to
revile the Word of God openly, is sufficient guarantee for the
excellence of his intentions. For myself, I feel under no
pressing obligation to take such a flattering opinion upon trust.
Impugners of the Bible must not expect to be dealt with more
tenderly than writers up6n other subjects. Their motives must
be measured by their performances ; their candour by the
impartial fairness of their statements. No preliminary appeals
ad miser icordiam, such as we find on p. xii. or p. xxxiv., ought
to weigh for one moment in dealing with such an unpleasant
task as Dr. Colenso has forced upon all his brethren in the
Church. He has placed himself at the bar of public opinion,
and invites the most searching criticism. If, therefore, he be
weighed in the balance and found wanting, he has himself alone
to blame for the deplorable position which he has voluntarily
taken up. To my mind, the tu quoque style of self-exculpation
which he adopts in the Preface, only aggravates his offence a
thousandfold. He would have the world believe that the larger
number of the clergy and laity of the Church of England are as
far gone in scepticism as himself, and that it is for their sakes
chiefly, if not entirely, that he has been induced to write. (See
Preface, p. xxvi.) It is, to say the least, an impertinence to
assume that the orthodox clergy, i.e., the great bulk of the
ministers of our Church, systematically suppress the truth and


keep back their own convictions that the discoveries of modern
science and revelation are utterly at variance. " It is a miser-
able policy," writes Dr. Colenso, " which now prevails, un-
worthy of the truth itself, and one that cannot long be main-
tained, to * keep things quiet.' " (P. xxiv.) Here, then, we have
a direct insinuation of wilful fraud cast upon those who presume
to differ from the Bishop and his misguided synipathizers ! And
in the note on the same page his Lordship illustrates his mean-
ing, by instancing the omission of a remarkable passage in Col.
Sabine's English translation of Humboldt's " Cosmos," " in
which the expression of the author's views as to the origin of
the human race from one pair, would have, perhaps, offended
the religious prejudices of English readers " !

Would Dr. Colenso think me very uncharitable were I to
instance the following passage from pp. 66, 67, of his own work
before us, as containing a gross suppressio veri? The Bishop
quotes Deut. viii. 15, to show that the Israelites were without
water in the wilderness, and that " the rock did not follow
them, as some have supposed." He gives the passage thus :
"Beware that thou forget not Jehovah, thy God, who led thee
through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery
serpents and scorpions, and drought, tvhere there ivas no water."
The italics are the Bishop's; and here he breaks off. Who
would suppose that the very next words of the sacred writer are
as follows : — *' Wiio brought thee forth water out of the rock
of flint " ! !

Far be it from me to say the omission was intentional, but to
say the least, it was the result of a most unfortunate accident ! *

* A very glaring example of the injustice and unsoundness of making
quotations from the Word of God from memory, and apai-t from the context
(retaining the sound, but perverting the sense), is to be found in Professor
Jowett's " Essay on the Interpretation of Scripture '' : — " It will not do to go
" into the world saying, ' Woe unto you, ye rich men,' or on entering a noble
" mansion to repeat the denunciation of the prophet about ' cedar and ver-
" milion,' or on being shown the prospect of a magnificent estate to cry out,
" ' Woe unto them that lay field to field, that they may be placed alone in the
" midst of the earth.' Times have altered, we say, since these denunciations
" were uttered; what appeared to the Prophet or Apostle a violation of the
" appointment of Providence has now become a part of it." — Essays and
Meriews, Ninth Edition, p. 362. In the first place they are not the words of an
apostle, but of our blessed Lord Himself, that the Rev. Mr. Jowett thus


In my previous letter, I called attention to the trustworthi-
ness of Dr. Colenso's assertion that (in Lev. iv. 11, 12) it
is enjoined that the priest should " carry on his back " the
*' offal " of the sacrifices a distance of six miles to a clean place
without the camp, the Hebrew word simply meaning, " he
shall have conveyed" [vehotzi). The word M|^^ {yatza), of
which f^'^V'n'l {vehotzi) is the hiphil or causative conjugation,
signifying " to go forth," and not having the remotest necessary
connexion with " carrying." I rejoice to see, from a letter
addressed by his Lordship to the " Morning Post," that I have
done his critical attainments aio wrong. " Your reviewer, who
•finds fault with me for supposing that the priest was com-
manded to carry out in person the ofial of certain sacrifices for
a distance of six miles from the tabernacle in the centre of the
camp to the place ' where the ashes were thrown ' outside the
camp, and who thinks that he might have ordered another to
carry it, on the principle that ' qui facit per alium, facit per se,'
has surely not observed the passage, Lev. vi. 10, 11, 'And the
priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches
shall he put on his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire
has consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall
put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments,

parodies (Luke vi. 24), although it is evident that he fancies he is citing from

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Online LibraryJoseph Benjamin M'CaulBishop Colenso's criticism criticised : in a series of ten letters addressed to the editor of the Record newspaper ; with notes and a postscript → online text (page 1 of 7)