Isreal Smith Clare.

Library of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) online

. (page 56 of 60)
Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 56 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

opinion of the best critics, a "mosaic work" of materials derived from
different sources, and I do not understand that this statement is chal-
lenged. The only other Gospel, the third, which contains something
like it, makes not only the discourse, but the circumstances under
which it was delivered, very different. Now, it is one thing to say
that there was something real at the bottom of the two discourses
which is quite possible; and another to affirm that we have any right
to say what that something was, or to fix upon any particular phrase
and declare it to be a genuine utterance. Those who pursue theology
as a science, and bring to the study an adequate knowledge of the
ways of ancient historians, will find no difficulty in providing illustra-
tions of my meaning. I may supply one which has come within range
of my own limited vision.

In Josephus's " History of the Wars of the Jews" (chap, xix) that
writer reports a speech which he says Herod made at the opening of a
war with the Arabians. It is in the first person, and would naturally
be supposed by the reader to be intended for a true version of what
Herod said. In the "Antiquities," written some seventeen years later,
the same writer gives another report, also in the first person, of
Herod's speech on the same occasion. This second oration is twice as
long as the first, aud though the general tenor of the two speeches is
pretty much the same, there is hardly any verbal identity, and a good
deal of matter is introduced into the one which is absent from the
other. Now Josephus prides himself on his accuracy; people whose
fathers might have heard Herod's oration were his contemporaries;
and yet his historical sense is so curiously undeveloped, that he can,
quite innocently, perpetuate an obvious literary fabrication ; for one of
the two accounts must be incorrect. Now, if I am asked whether I
believe that Herod made some particular statement on this occasion;
whether, for example, he uttered the pious aphorism, "Where God is,
there is both multitude and courage," which is given in the " Antiqui-
ties," but not in the " Wars," I am compelled to say I do not know.
One of the two reports must be erroneous, possibly both are : at any
rate, I can not tell how much of either is true. And, if some fervent
admirer of the Idumean should build i>p a theory of Herod's piety



upon Josephus's evidence that he propounded the aphorism, is it a
" mere evasion " to say, in reply, that the evidence that he did utter it
is worthless?

It appears again that, adopting the tactics of Conachar when
brought face to face with Hal o' the Wynd, I have been trying
to get my simple-miuded adversary to follow me on a wild-goose chase
through the early history of Christianity, in the hope of escaping
impending defeat on the main issue. But I may be permitted to
point out that there is an alternative hypothesis which equally fits the
facts; and that, after all, there may have been method in the madness
of my supposed panic.

For suppose it to be established that Gentile Christianity was
a totally different thing from the Nazareuism of Jesus and his imme-
diate disciples; suppose it to be demonstrable that, as early as the
sixth decade of our era at least, there were violent divergencies of
opinion among the followers of Jesus; suppose it to be hardly doubt-
ful that the Gospels and the Acts took their present shapes under the
influence of these divergencies; suppose that their authors, and those
through whose hands they passed, had notions of historical veracity
not more eccentric than those which Josephus occasionally displays
surely the chances that the Gospels are altogether trustworthy records
of the teachings of Jesus become very slender. And as the whole of
the case of the other side is based on the supposition that they are
accurate records (especially of speeches, about which ancient histo-
rians are so curiously loose), I really do venture to submit that this
part of my argument bears very seriously on the main issue; and, as
ratiocination, is sound to the core.

Again, when I passed by the topic of the speeches of Jesus on the
cross, it appears that I could have had no other motive than the
dictates of my native evasiveness. An ecclesiastical dignitary may
have respectable reasons for declining a fencing-match "in sight of
Gethsemane and Calvary"; but an ecclesiastical "infidel"! Never.
It is obviously impossible that, in the belief that " the greater includes
the less," I, having declared the Gospel evidence in general, as to the
sayings of Jesus, to be of questionable value, thought it needless to
select, for illustration of my views, those particular instances which
were likely to be most offensive to persons of another way of thinking.
But any supposition that may have been entertained that the old
familiar tones of the ecclesiastical war-drum will tempt me to engage
in such needless discussion had better be renounced. I shall do
nothing of the kind. Let it suffice that I ask my readers to turn to
the twenty-third chapter of Luke (revised version), verse thirty-four,
and he will find in the margin

Some ancient authorities omit: And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do."

So that, even as late as the fourth century, there were ancient
authorities, indeed some of the most ancient and weightiest, who
either did not know of this utterance, so often quoted as characteristic
of Jesus, or did not believe it had been uttered.

Many years ago, I received an anonymous letter, which abused me
heartily for my want of moral courage in not speaking out. I
thought that one of the oddest charges an anonymous letter-writer
could bring. But I am not sure that the plentiful sowing of the pages
of the article with which I am dealing with accusations of evasion,



may not seem odder to those who consider that the main strength of
the answers with which I have been favored (in this review and else-
where) is devoted not to anything in the text of my first paper, but to
a note which occurs at page 171.* In this I say :

Dr. Wace tells us : "It may be asked how far we can rely on the accounts we possess of our
Lord's teaching on these subjects." And he seems to think tke question appropriately answered
by the assertion that it " ought to be regarded as settled by M. Kenan's practical surrender of tha
advene case."

I requested Dr. Wace to point out the passages of M. Kenan's works*
in which, as he affirms, this "practical surrender" (not merely as to
the age and authorship of the Gospels, be it observed, but as to their
historical value) is made, and he has been so good as to do so. Now
let us consider the parts of Dr. Wace's citation from Renan which are
relevant to the issue :

The author of thie Gospel [Lube] is certainly the same as the author of the Acts of the Apostles
Now the author of the Acts seems to be a companion of St. Paul a character which accords
completely with St. Luke. I know that more than one objection may be opposed to this reason-
ing ; but one thing, at all events, is beyond doubt, namely, that the author of the third Gospel
and of the Acts is a man who belonged to the second apostolic generation; and this suffices
for our purpose.

This is a curious "practical surrender of the adverse case." M.
Eenan thinks that there is no doubt that the author of the third
Gospel is the author of the Acts a conclusion in which I suppose
critics generally agree. He goes on to remark that this person seems
to be a companion of St. Paul, and adds that Luke was a companion of
St. Paul. Then, somewhat needlessly, M. Renan points out that there
is more than one objection to jumping, from such data as these, to the
conclusion that " Luke " is the writer of the third Gospel. And,
finally, M. Renan is content to reduce that which is " beyond doubt "
to the fact that the author of the two books is a man of the second
apostolic generation. Well, it seems to me that I could agree with all
that M. Renan considers "beyond doubt" here, without surrendering
anything, either "practically or theoretically.

Dr. Wace ("Nineteenth Century/' March, p. 363)f states that
he derives the above citation from the preface of the fifteenth edition
of the " Vie de Jesus." My copy of " Les Evangiles," dated 1877,
contains a list of Renan's " (Euvres Completes," at the head of which
I find " Vie de J6sus," 15 s Edition. It is, therefore, a later work than
the edition of the "Vie de Jesus" which Dr. Wace quotes. Now
"Les Evangiles," as its name implies, treats fully of the questions
respecting the date and authorship of the Gospels ; and any one who
desired, not merely to use M. Renan's expressions for controversial
purposes, but to give a fair account of his views in their full significance,
would, I think, refer to the later source.

If this course had been taken, Dr. Wace might have found some as
decided expressions of opinion in favor of Luke s authorship of the third
Gospel as he has discovered in "The Apostles." I mention this
circumstance because I desire to point out that, taking even the strong-
est of Renan's statements, I am still at a loss to see how it justifies that
large-sounding phrase "practical surrender of the adverse case." For,
on p. 438 of " Les Evangiles," Renan speaks of the way in which Luke's
" excellent intentions" have led him to torture history in the Acts ; he
declares Luke to be the founder of that "eternal fiction which is
called ecclesiastical history" ; and, on the preceding page, he talks of
the "myth" of the Ascension with its mise en scene voulue. At p.

* Page 10 t Page 40.



435, I find " Luc, on 1'anteur quel qu'il soit du troisiSme Evangile "
[Luke, or whoever may be the author of the third Gospel] ; at p. 280,
the accounts of the Passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus
are said to be "pen historiques" [little historical]; at p. 283, "La
valeur historique du troisime Evangile est suremeut moindre que
celles des deux premiers" [the historical value of the third Gospel is
surely less than that of the first two].

A Pyrrhic sort of victory for orthodoxy this " surrender" ! And, all
the while, the scientific student of theology knows that the more
reason there may be to believe that Luke was the companion of Paul,
the more doubtful becomes his credibility, if he really wrote the Acts.
For, in that case, he could not fail to have been acquainted with Paul's
account of the Jerusalem conference, and he must have consciously
misrepresented it. We may next turn to the essential part of Dr.
Wace's citation (" Nineteeth Century," p. 365) * touching the first
Gospel :

St. Matthew evidently deserves peculiar confidence for the discourses. Here are " the oracles "
the very notes taken while the memory of the instruction of Jesus was living and definite.

M. Renan here expresses the very general opinion as to the existence
of a collection of "logia," having a different origin from the text
in which they are imbedded, in Matthew. "Notes" are somewhat
suggestive of a shorthand writer, but the suggestion is unintentional,
for M. Renan assumes that these " notes" were taken, not at the time
of the delivery of the "logia," but subsequently, while (as he assumes)
the memory of them was living and definite; so that, in this very
citation, M. Renan leaves open the question of the general historical
value of the first Gospel, while it is obvious that the accuracy of
" notes," taken, not at the time of delivery, but from memory, is a
matter about which more than one opinion may be fairly held.
Moreover, Renan expressly calls attention to the difficulty of
distinguishing the authentic " logia" from later additions of the same
kind (" Les Evangiles," p. 201). The fact is, there is no contradiction
here to that opinion about the first Gospel which is expressed in
"Les Evangiles " (p. 175.)

The text of the so-called Matthew supposes the pre-existence of that of Mark, and does little
more than complete it, He completes it in two fashions first, by the insertion of those long
discourses which gave their chief value to the Hebrew Gospels ; then by adding traditions of a
more modern formation, results of successive developments of the legend, and to which the
Christian consciousness already attached infinite value.

M. Renan goes on to suggest that besides " Mark," " pseudo-
Matthew " used an Aramaic version of the Gospel originally set forth
in that dialect. Finally, as to the second Gospel (" Nineteenth
Century," p. 365): f

He [Mark] is full of minute observations, proceeding, beyond doubt, from an eye-witness-
There is nothing to conflict with the supposition that this eye-witness . . . was the apostle Peter
himself, as Papias has it.

Let us consider this citation also by the light of " Les Evangiles":

This work, although composed after the death of Peter, was, in a sense, the work of Peter; it
represents the way in which Peter was accustomed to relate the life of Jesus (p. 116).

M. Renan goes on to say that, as an historical document, the
Gospel of Mark has a great superiority (p. 116), but Mark has a
motive for omitting the discourses; and he attaches a "puerile
importance " to miracles (p. 117). The Gospel of Mark is less a legend
than & biography written with credulity (p. 118). It would be rash to

* Page 41.



say that Mark has not been interpolated and retouched (p. 120).

If any one thinks that I have not been warranted in drawing a sharp
distinction between "scientific theologians" and " counsel for creeds";
or that my warning against the too ready acceptance of certain
declarations as to the state of biblical criticism was needless; or that
my anxiety as to the sense of the word " practical" was superfluous,
let him compare the statement that M. Eenan has made a " practical
surrender of the adverse case " with the facts just set forth. For
what is the adverse case ? The question, as Dr. Wace puts it, is, " It
may be asked how far can we rely on the accounts we possess of our
Lord's teaching on these subjects." It will be obvious that M. Kenan's
statements amount to an adverse answer to a " practical " denial
that any great reliance can be placed on these accounts. He does not
believe that Matthew, the apostle, wrote the first Gospel ; he does not
profess to know who is responsible for the collection of "logia," or
now many of them are authentic; though he calls the second Gospel
the most historical, he points out that it is written with credulity, and
may have been interpolated and retouched; and as to the author
" quel qu'il soit " of the third Gospel, who is to " rely on the accounts "
of a writer who deserves the cavalier treatment which " Luke " meets
with at M. Kenan's hands ?

I repeat what I have already more than once said, that the question
of the age and the authorship of the Gospels has not, in my judg-
ment, the importance which is so commonly assigned to it ; for the
simple reason that the reports, even of eye-witnesses, would not suffice
to justify belief in a large and essential part of their contents ; on the
contrary, these reports would discredit the witnesses. The Gadarene
miracle, for example, is so extremely improbable, that the fact of its
being reported by three, even independent, authorities could not
justify belief in it unless we had the clearest evidence as to their
capacity as observers and as interpreters of their observations. But it
is evident that the three authorities are not independent; that they
have simply adopted a legend, of which there were two versions ; and
instead of their proving its truth, it suggests their superstitious cred-
ulity ; so that, if " Matthew,"" Mark," and " Luke " are really respon-
sible for the Gospels, it is not the better for the Gadarene story, but
the worse for them.

A wonderful amount of controversial capital has been made out of
my assertion in the note to which I have referred, as an obiter dictum
of no consequence to my argument, that, if Kenan's work* were non-
extant, the main results of biblical criticism as set forth in the works
of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for example, would not be sen-
sibly affected. I thought I had explained it satisfactorily already, but
it seems that my explanation has only exhibited still more of my
native perversity, so I ask for one more chance.

In the course of the historical development of any branch of science,
what is universally observed is this : that the men who make epochs
and are the real architects of the fabric of exact knowledge are those
who introduce fruitful ideas or methods. As a rule, the man who
does this pushes his idea or his method too far ; or, if he does not, his
school is sure to do so, and those who follow have to reduce his work
to its proper value, and assign it its place in the whole. Not unfre-

* I trust it may not be supposed that I undervalue M. Kenan's labors or intended to speak
sliehtinel.y of them.



quently they, in their turn, overdo the critical process, and, in trying
to eliminate errors, throw away truth.

Thus, as I said, Linnaeus, Buffon, Cuvier, Lamarck, really " set
forth the results" of a developing science, although they often heartily
contradict one another. Notwithstanding this circumstance, modern
classificatory method and nomenclature have largely grown out of the
results of the work of Linnaeus; the modern conception of biology,
as a science, and of its relation to climatology, geography, and geol-
ogy, are as largely rooted in the results of the labors of Buflfbn ; com-
parative anatomy and paleontology owe a vast debt to Cuvier's results;
while invertebrate zoology and the revival of the idea of evolution are
intimately dependent on the results of the work of Lamarck. In
other words, the main results of biology up to the early years of this
century are to be found in, or spring out of, the works of these men.

So, if I mistake not, Strauss, if he did not originate the idea of
taking the mythopoeic faculty into account in the development of
the Gospel narratives; and, though he may have exaggerated the
influence of that faculty, obliged scientific theology hereafter to take
that element into serious consideration; so Baur, in giving promi-
nence to the cardinal fact of the divergence of the Nazarene and
Pauline tendencies in the primitire Church ; so Reuss, in setting a
marvelous example of the cool and dispassionate application of the
principles of scientific criticism over the whole field of Scripture; so
Volkmar, in his clear and forcible statement of the Nazarene limita-
tions of Jesus, contributed results of permanent value in scientific
theology. I took these names as they occurred to me. Undoubedtly,
I might have advantageously added to them; perhaps I might have
made a better selection. But it really is absurd to try to make out
that I did not know that these writers widely disagree ; and I believe
that no scientific theologian will deny that, in principle, what I have
said is perfectly correct. Ecclesiastical advocates, of course, can not
be expected to take this view of the matter. To them, these mere
seekers after truth, in so far as their results are unfavorable to the
creed the clerics have to support, are more or less " infidels," or favor-
ers of " infidelity"; and the only thing they care to see, or probably
can see, is the fact that, in a great many matters, the truth-seekers
differ from one another, and therefore can easily be exhibited to the
public, as if they did nothing else ; as if any one who referred to
them, as having each and ail contributed his share to the results of
theological science, was merely showing his ignorance; and, as if a
charge of inconsistency could be based on the fact that he himself
often disagrees with what they say-. I have never lent a shadow of
foundation to the assumption that I am a follower of either Strauss,
or Baur, or Reuss, or Volkmar, or Renan; my debt to these eminent
men so far my superiors in theological knowledge is. indeed, great;
et it is not for their opinions, but for those I have been able to form
'or myself, by their help.

In " Agnosticism: a rejoinder" (p. 49) I have referred to the diffi-
culties under which those professors of the science of theology, whose
tenure of their posts depends on the results of their investigations,
must labor ; and, in a note, I add :

Imagine that all oar chairs of astronomy had been founded in the fourteenth century, and that
their incumbents were bound to sign Ptolemaic articles. In that case, with every respect for t
efforts of persons thus hampered to attain and expound the truth, I think men of common sense
would go elsewhere to learn astronomy. , , _

45^ BEACON LlulllS ul'

I did not write this paragraph without a knowledge that its sense
would be open to the kind of perversion which it has suffered ; but, if
that was clear, the necessity for the statement was still clearer. It is
my deliberate opinion : I reiterate it; and I say that, in my judgment,
it is extremely inexpedient that any subject which calls itself a science
should be intrusted to teachers who are debarred from freely following
out scientific methods to their legitimate conclusions, whatever those
conclusions may be. If I may borrow a phrase paraded at the Church
Congress, I think it " ought to be unpleasant" for any man of science
to find himself in the position of such a teacher.

Human nature is not altered by seating it in a professional chair,
even of theology. I have very little doubt that if, in the year 1859,
the tenure of my office had depended upon my adherence to the doc-
trines of Cuvier, the objections to those set forth in the " Origin of
Species " would have had a halo of gravity about them that, being
free to teach what I pleased, I failed to discover. And, in making
that statement, it does not appear to me that I am confessing, that I
should have been debarred by '-selfish interests" from making candid
inquiry, or that I should have been biased by " sordid motives." I
hope that even such a fragment of moral sense as may remain in an
ecclesiastical "infidel" might have got me through the difficulty; but
it would be unworthy to deny or disguise the fact that a very serious
difficulty must have been created for me by the nature of my tenure.
And let it be observed that the temptation, in my case, would have
been far slighter than in that of a professor of theology; whatever
biological doctrine I had repudiated, nobody I cared for would have
thought the worse of me for so doing. No scientific journals would
have howled me down, as the religious newspapers howled down my
too honest friend, the late Bishop of Natal ; nor would my colleagues
in the Eoyal Society have turned their backs upon me, as his episcopal
colleagues boycotted him.

I say these facts are obvious, and that it is wholesome and needful
that they should be stated. It is in the interests of theology, if it be a
science, and it is in the interests of those teachers of theology who
desire to be something better than counsel for creeds, that it should be
taken to heart. The seeker after theological truth, and that only, will
no more suppose that I have insulted him than the prisoner who
works in fetters will try to pick a quarrel with me, if I suggest that
he would get on better if the fetters were knocked off; unless, indeed,
as it is said does happen in the course of long captivities, that the
victim at length ceases to feel the weight of his chains or even takes
to hugging them, as if they were honorable ornaments.*

* To-Day's " Times " contains a report of a remarkable speech by Prince Bismarck, in which he
tells the Reichstag that he has long given up investing in foreign stock, lest 1*0 d intr should mis-
lead hi- Judgment in hi- transactions with foreign states. Does this declaration prove that the
chancellor accuses himsel f of being ' ' sordid " and " selfish," or does it not rather show that, even
iii dealing with himself, he remains the mail of realities ?





I WELCOME the discussion which, in this review and elsewhere, has
been lately revived in earnest as to the issue between positive science
and theology. I especially welcome Prof. Huxley's recent contribu-
tion to it, to which presently I propose to refer in detail. In that
contribution an article with the title " Agnosticism," which appeared

Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 56 of 60)