Copyright
W. (William) Sanday.

Christology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday online

. (page 13 of 18)
Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 13 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


This is essentially the same conclusion that is
arrived at in Dr. Weston's The One Christ, and also
in these lectures. It is only arrived at in a different
way — not from the side of dogma, nor yet from the
side of psychological analysis, but by careful exe-
gesis applied to the oldest Gospel. The convergent
result of three such different inquiries seems to be
in itself a fact of some importance.

It is true that the surface of our Lord's life is
entirely human. Even the Deity in Him, on its
way to expression, had to pass through, and is in
this respect (i.e. in the forms of its expression)
limited by, the human medium. But there is no
paradox in this. On the contrary, it is what was to



214 Ancient and Modern Christologies

be expected if there was to be any such thing as an
Incarnation at all. The divine in man

dwells in deep retreats
Whose veil is unremoved.

And the same description applies even to the God-
head of the God-Man.

Another illustration tells in the same direction.
Indeed I do not think that I should be wrong if
I were to say that the main current of theological
science has for some time past been setting this
way. But the illustration which I am about to
give deals directly with Christology.

When I first planned this course of lectures I
expected to make considerable use of a careful and
pleasingly objective article on ' Die neuesten Christo-
logien im Verhaltnis zum Selbstbewusstsein Jesu',
by Prof. Dr. Karl Thieme of Leipzig, in Zeitschrijt
fur Theologie und Kirche for 1908, pp. 401-72. The
development of the lectures worked out rather
differently, and the essay was left on one side;
I had some doubt whether the details of it would
be interesting to an English public, and it would
not have contributed much to the particular line of
construction which I was attempting. But to the
broad issue now before us I believe that it does
contribute.

The Christologies which Dr. Thieme passed in
review were mostly from the Right or mediating
parties, by such authors as Kunze, Schader, R.



Postscript 215

Seeberg, the two Kaftans, Haring. The first two
of these writers followed traditional lines most
closely, with excellent intentions but (as it seemed
to me) not without some straining of language,
while Seeberg seemed to combine some good and
helpful remarks with others that were decidedly
fanciful. I think that the construction which
appealed to me most was that of Julius Kaftan.
All the writers I have named wished to maintain
the old doctrine of the Deity of Christ. The
criticism which Dr. Thieme directed against them
turned mainly round features in the life of Christ
on earth, especially His constant attitude of faith,
obedience, and prayer addressed to the Father. It
was urged persistently that the attitude implied
in these was essentially human, and therefore that
Jesus was essentially Man.

Now, if the line of argument which I have taken,
and which the writers whose alliance I am claiming
have taken, is sound, all this may be frankly con-
ceded, yet without any prejudice to the Deity of our
Lord. We have seen that He was not only Man
but thoroughly Man. Every Christian must insist
that He was not only Man but thoroughly Man.
Every Christian must insist that the faith of our
Lord was real. His obedience was real, and the
prayers addressed by Him to the Father were as
real as ours. To maintain the contrary would be
to revive the ancient Docetism. And it is probably
true that many orthodox people do, with the best



216 Ancient and Modern Christologies

of motives, verge upon what is practically Docetism.
But if I am not mistaken, Dr. Thieme himself may
help us to see how this might be. His own distinc-
tive contribution to theology is the stress which he
has laid upon, and the use which he has made of,
the Christian virtue of Humility. Before writing
the essay to which I have referred he brought out
a book with the title Die christliche Demut (Giessen,
1906). The book, which is attractively written, sets
forth at length that humilitas Christi which had been
a favourite theme with St. Augustine.*

Both in the book and in the essay Dr. Thieme has
studied with so much candour the unique sense of
Sonship in Jesus, and the unique endowment out
of which that sense arose, as almost to end in
a confession of His Deity. He contemplates for a
moment the conception of a Middle Being, a kind
of demigod. But he rightly regards this as unten-
able, and the Christian instinct has always been
against it. He therefore lapses back into simple
Humanitarianism. In other words, with two sets
of phenomena before him, he allows his ultimate
conclusion to be determined by one, and leaves the
other unaccounted for.

It is here that I would venture to press the
alternative solution offered in these lectures. The
strength of the position seems to me to be that it

^SeeLoofs, Dogmengesch.*, pp. 357, 359, 395, 399. Dr. Loofs
points out (after Scheel) the presence of this thought in Hilary
and Ambrose, and its subordinate place in Greek theology.



Postscript 217

does full and equal justice to all the historical data.
It recognizes at one and the same time a real Man-
hood and a real Godhead. And, while it does this,
by its appeal to that mingling of divine and human
of which we are conscious even in ourselves, it
points towards a mode of Incarnation which we can
within our measure realize and understand.



SYMBOLISM

IX

THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE OF
SYMBOLISM



IX

The Guiding Principle of Symbolism

It fell to me, not very long ago, to set forth in
some detail the place which Symbolism fills in the
Bible.^ I did this, because it was impressed upon
me that a broad recognition of the extent of sym-
bolism is necessary in any process of adjusting our
modern ways of looking at things with the ancient
ways. It was but natural that, while my statement
of the case was so far as I know nowhere impunged,
I did from one or two quarters receive a kindly
hint or warning that the appeal to symbolism has
its risks, that it is indeed an edged tool that may
sometimes be found to cut away more than we wish
or intend. I was well aware of this; indeed I had
present to my mind examples of a use of the
principle of symbolism with which personally I had
no sympathy. Of most things there is a wrong use
as well as a right, and in regard to most things
there is a more or less wide extent of debatable
ground as to what is wrong and what is right. My
object was, on the occasion to which I have referred,
to start from the solid ground of a fairly wide
survey of facts. I confined myself to the Bible,

' See The Life of Christ in Recent Research (1907), pp. 3-34.

221



222 Symbolism

and I tried to form some idea, and to help others to
form some idea, of the actual place which symbolism
holds in the Bible. I did not then seek to press
the inquiry further, or to apply the principle which
I was laying down. I left the further step to be
taken later; and it is that further step, or at least
a part of it, that I am endeavouring to take now.

We look about for indications of some rule or
principle to be followed in the use that we
make of symbolism. And I do not know what
others will think, but I should be myself disposed
to say that the most helpful example with which
I am acquainted is to be found in a poet — the one
poet of all others who (to my thinking at least) has
done most to help us to adjust our compass and
take our bearings among the complex conditions of
our modern life. Many here will be familiar with
a short poem in blank verse contained in the last
volume of Browning's poems, the volume which by
a coincidence was published on the very day on
which the poet died. It is called 'Development',
and it begins:

My father was a scholar and knew Greek:

you will remember the rest. A small boy of five
asks his father what he is reading. He is told that
the book is about the siege of Troy. The lad presses
his question:

What is a siege and what is Troy ?



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 223

whereupon his father piles up the nursery chairs and
tables and tells him that is a town and is to stand
for Troy; the boy himself is Priam, King of Troy;
the cat is Helen, enticed away by wicked Paris.
Achilles is the pony; the two dogs are the Atreidai;
the page-boy is Hector — and so on. Two or three
years later the father comes upon his son with
his playmates playing their game of the Siege of
Troy; he now thinks that he is advanced enough to
read Pope, and he puts into his hands Pope's Iliad,
with the further promise that he shall soon begin
Greek and study the Iliad in the original. This the
lad does, and at the age of twelve, when he finds
that with the help of grammar and lexicon he can
make his way through the Greek, he begins to think
that he knows all about it and that there is nothing
more to be known; until one fine day he hears of
Wolf's Prolegomena, and presently of a dozen more
followers of Wolf who, he is given to understand,
have

Proved there was never any Troy at all.
Neither Besiegers nor Besieged, — ^nay, worse, —
No actual Homer, no authentic text.
No warrant

for the whole story. That is the point at which
Browning left it, with some little moralizing upon
the father's method, what he had told and what he
had not told, and the reason for his reservations;
why he had not tried to teach the child everything
at once but had let him into the secret piecemeal.



224 Symbolism

at intervals of time and by distinct steps and degrees.
Perhaps at the present moment Wolf's Prolegomena
is not exactly the last word. There has been,
I imagine, some reaction since. Perhaps we can
reconstruct rather better the process by which the
poem assumed its present shape. It was a dis-
covery — or rather, perhaps I should say, a brilliant
guess — that the poem arose out of ballads recited
by wandering minstrels in the halls of the chiefs.
And yet the very probable view that the poem had
its ultimate origin in these is not a complete account
of the whole matter. Doubtless the ballads were
collected together so as to form a series, and this
series became more and more stereotyped. The
poem passed through phases, and had a history.
And yet there is a unity about it. At some point
in the chain the master-hand came in and left its
indelible mark behind. It may still be something
of a problem exactly at what point this happened,
and whether there was one master-hand or more.
But these are questions of detail and perhaps in part
of speculation that can never be wholly set at rest.

You will readily see to what all this is tending,
and I need not enlarge at any great length upon
it. Browning's poem is of course a parable. The
education of this boy as he goes on to youth and
manhood has its counterpart on a grander scale in
the education of the world. We may think of all
human progress as carrying out a comprehensive



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 225

divine design. The progress falls into periods, each
of Avhich has its appropriate method. We may call
the first 'symbolical' or figurative in the narrower
sense, where the sign is comparatively remote from
the thing signified and associated with it by a deli-
berate act of naming or application. It was not so
much any obvious resemblance as the father's word
which made the piled-up chairs and tables represent
Troy town and the cat and the dogs Helen and her
pursuers. There is enough real resemblance to
make the comparison natural and up to a certain
point intelligible; the boy understands as much as
his mental development at the time permits him to
understand. He has learnt his first lesson, and the
way is prepared for further lessons. Then we come
to a stage which we may call 'paraphrastic', where
what is written in one language and at one time is
translated into another language which is also the
language of another time. As the language differs,
so also does the whole complex of ideas differ, and
the mind is always seeking, not for identity, but for
the nearest equivalents it can find. Thirdly, we
come to a method which we will call 'exegetical',
where the object to be understood is attacked more
directly, as if by the aid of grammar and lexicon.
We are coming at last to closer quarters; at the
same time there is a certain literalness about this
method which makes the diversity of treatment
seem less than it really is.

I may note by the way that there is an

15



226 Symbolism

ambiguity in Browning's poem which rather inter-
feres with the complete symmetry of its expression.
Sometimes he speaks as though it were the lUad, as
a work of Hterature, that was to be understood;
sometimes, as though it were the substance of the
story contained in the I Had, a possible real Siege of
Troy as an event of prehistoric times, dimly seen
through the veil of the poem. It is quite conceivable
that there was such an event; and I gather that
ethnological science at present inclines to the view
that there was something of the kind, in connexion
with those early racial movements which preceded
the settlement of Hellenic peoples on both sides of
the Aegean. Of course this cannot be more than
a hypothesis; we are peering by torchlight into an
age that is dark to us. At the same time there is
sufficient probability to suggest a reasonable belief,
or at least the shadow of a belief.

Lastly, we have the * critical ' method, not at first
timorous and hesitating but rather drastic and
tending to extremes. That has been sometimes the
way with criticism; it has been a surgical process
in which the operator has been carried beyond the
point of discretion by the new-found pleasure in
operating. By degrees the youthful zeal has been
curbed and a juster balance struck between old and
new.

But the point that I wish to bring out and to lay
stress upon most is that, beneath all these differing
modes of presentation and apprehension, there is an



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 227

underlying identity and unity. It is only a difference
of presentation and apprehension; the thing to be
presented or apprehended remains one and the
same. In the case of the Iliad as a poem, the object
is a perfectly definite and tangible quantity; in the
case of the events which may be supposed to be
behind the poem, the object to be ascertained is of
course far more elusive, something

half-guessed, half-seen,
Grasped at — not gained, held fast.

Of such subject-matter as this we can only speak
with due caution and reserve.

There is what we might perhaps call a system of
equivalence: the 'critical' method at one stage
corresponds to the 'exegetical' at another, and
that to the 'paraphrastic' at a third and the * sym-
bolical' at a fourth. But the change is only in the
mode of presentation; the essence of that which is
presented remains unchanged. From our limited
human point of view, the change of presentment
may seem to cut in deep; but it must not be
allowed to cut in too deep. We need to remind
ourselves from time to time that the way in which
a thing appears to us does not affect the underlying
reality.

This caution is perhaps especially needed in the
case of Theology. The truths of theology in its
different branches vary in their nature. Some are"
as definite as the text of the Iliad, and are to be



228 Symbolism

determined by methods as strictly objective and
scientific. For instance, the textual criticism of the
New Testament differs in no essential particular
from that of the Iliad; it is equally a weighing
of evidence, and the reconstruction of a history
based on positive data as far as they w ill carry.

But many theological truths are more mixed in
their nature. There is an element in them of direct
and, if we are to call it so, scientific inference; but
there is also an element of remoter inference or
speculation. In regard to these mixed truths it is
worth while to remember Milton's description : —

To be still searching for what we know not by
what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we
find it (for all her body is homogeneal and propor-
tional) , this is the golden rule in Theology as well as
in Arithmetic (Areopagitica, ed. Arber, p. 67).

This is a general description : but over and above
any such description, it is suggested to us that certain
conditions should be satisfied by any construction
that is likely to maintain itself as true. If it is the
same fundamental truth that assumes those different
forms of which we have been speaking, then con-
versely, if we attempt to argue backwards from the
forms to the truth behind them, we should have
some assurance that the truth which we set out to
discover is the same. It should have upon it the
note of identity; and when we try to trace the his-
torical process by which it assumed these varied
forms one after the other, there should be upon our



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 229

reconstruction of the process the note of continuity.
In other words, when we compare the forms in which
a given behef presents itself at one period and at
another, we ought not to see in it difference only,
but likeness in difference. The comparison should
end in our being able to re-affirm the old truth —
modified, it may be, corrected and amended so as
to suit the new conditions — and not simply in our
contradicting and denying it. It is the principle
which, in the sphere not so much of science as of
feeling, Wordsworth expressed so felicitously long
ago:—

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Right or wrong, this principle has either tacitly or
explicitly guided all my own studies; and I have
never yet had reason to consider it disproved. On
the contrary, I seem to myself to have had some
reason to consider it verified and confirmed.

I may be allowed perhaps to illustrate this from
the history of two conceptions in regard to which
what may seem to be very different views have been
held at different times.

All down the centuries, almost as far back as
thought can go, there has been throughout the various
races of mankind the persistent belief ihaXGodreveals
Himself to man. The metaphor that has been most
commonly used to describe this revelation has been



230 Symbolism

the metaphor of 'speaking'. One of the most primi-
tive forms of it may be seen in the Hebrew tradition
which relates how our first parents 'heard the
voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the
cool of the day' (Gen. iii. 8). The writer doubtless
thought of a real voice, actually and literally heard.
The Old Testament is full of stories of revelation
conveyed directly through the senses of sight and
hearing. And we may well believe that there was
not a little real foundation for that belief; the men
of that age really saw sights and heard sounds
which they took to be, and which were for them,
divine revelations.

The centuries pass, and not very long after the
beginning of the Christian era we again open our
Bibles and read: 'God, having of old time spoken
unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions
and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days
spoken unto us in His Son, whom He appointed
heir of all things, through whom also He made the
worlds ' (Heb. i. 1 , 2) . There is a world of theology,
a broad comprehensive view of religious history,
compressed in those brief clauses. And the view
embodied in them lasted on with very little change
of expression all across the Middle Ages. A really
new stage does not open out until we come to the
Reformation. Then we are told that

Melancthon discoursing with Luther touching
the prophets, who continually boast thus: 'thus saith
the Lord,' asked whether God in person spoke with



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 231

them or no. Luther repHed : They were very holy,
spiritual people, who seriously contemplated upon
holy and divine things: therefore God spake with
them in their consciences, which the prophets held
as sure and certain revelations (Luther's T able-Talk,
dxlix).

That is exactly the right way to put it. When
the prophets claimed that God spoke with them,
they meant what they said. It was the nearest way
they had of describing the process that went on in
their minds. Luther does not in the least find fault
with them for this, or question their veracity. He
only goes on to describe the same process in a
different way; in a way that was better suited to
his own age. And it is again only a like adaptation
to modern ideas when Professor P. Gardner, with
still further insight and penetration, writes as follows :

From the present point of view the question of
the inspiration or non-inspiration of a book is not
primary. For how does divine inspiration act upon
a writer ? In two ways : first by strengthening and
intensifying his natural powers, and second, by pro-
ducing in him what W. James has called an up-
rush of the sub-conscious. I should prefer to call
the last an inrush of the super-conscious. It makes
a man a vehicle of deep-lying forces, so that he
builds better than he knows. He may think that
he is writing for a society, or even for an individual,
when he is really writing for future ages, and to
meet needs of which he is unconscious {Cambridge
Biblical Essays, p. 417).

That is to place the belief in divine revelation,



232 Symbolism

communicated through human media, on the
reasoned basis of modern psychology.

The point that I would ask you to notice is the
absolute continuity that runs through the process.
The language of Genesis is very different from that
of the Epistle to the Hebrews; that again differs
from the language of Luther; and Luther in turn
has undergone considerable development of expres-
sion in the version of the modern psychologist.
The process is one of evolution ; but in this case of
evolution in a straight line. We might say that the
most advanced conception of modern philosophy
was all contained in germ in the simple primitive
belief of the writer of the early document incor-
porated in the Book of Genesis. At no point in the
series is there anything of the nature of contradic-
tion ; there is only a fuller and more exact explication
of meanings already presupposed.

In like manner, if we take a single important
branch of that method of revelation which God has
pursued in His dealings with men. Prophecy is
such a branch, and the fulfilment of prophecy has
been differently conceived at different times. In
the New Testament period men were struck, and
could not but be struck, by the marked resemblance
between the series of events which they saw un-
folding itself before their eyes and the language
of ancient prediction, or what they took to be
prediction. It had been as a matter of fact thrown
out into the future in a vague mysterious way, but



IX. The Guiding Principle of Symbolism 233

with a kind of confidence that it would find its
fulfilment in due time. The contemporaries of
Christ, and — we may say it with all reverence —
Christ Himself, saw in this correspondence the
working out of a pre-established order and a great
divine design. But they were content to note the
fact. If they philosophized upon it, they did so (if
we may thus describe it) in the forms of a philosophy
which was not so much intellectual theory as
religion. In other words, they were content to see
in it and to feel in it the hand of God ordering all
things according to His will. But, beyond this,
they did not make the relation of prophecy to
fulfilment a matter of speculation; they did not
stay to analyse the process ; they did not attempt to
fill in the intermediate links by which beginning
and end were connected together. But this absten-
tion of theirs does not preclude us from attempting
to fill in these links. The ancients found no
diflaculty in leaping over a gap of ages. On one
side of the gap was the divine word, on the other
side was the divine fulfilment; that was enough.
But we have to trace the course of this wireless
telegraphy. We do it through the medium of
insight into principle. The prophets understood the
principles of God's working. They expounded
these principles with reference to their own time,
but not without a consciousness that they were no
less applicable to other times than their own.
They might be even more applicable; because the



234 Symbolism

later series of events might be on a grander scale
than the earlier. In this way it ceases to be a
paradox to say that the prophetic word was not
seldom fulfilled on more magnificent lines than


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 13 of 18)