A REPLY TO DR. LIGHTFOOT'S FIRST ESSAY ON "SUPERNATURAL RELIGION." [1:1]
THE function of the critic, when rightly exercised, is so important, that it is fitting that a reviewer seriously examining serious work should receive serious and respectful consideration, however severe his remarks and however unpleasant his strictures. It is scarcely possible that a man can so fully separate himself from his work as to judge fairly either of its effect as a whole or its treatment in detail; and in every undertaking of any magnitude it is almost certain that flaws and mistakes must occur, which can best be detected by those whose perception has not been dulled by continuous and over-strained application. No honest writer, however much he may wince, can feel otherwise than thankful to anyone who points out errors or mistakes which can be rectified; and, for myself, I may say that I desire nothing more than such frankness, and the fair refutation of any arguments which may be fallacious.
Reluctant as I must ever be, therefore, to depart from the attitude of silent attention which I think should be maintained by writers in the face of criticism, or to interrupt the fair reply of an opponent, the case is somewhat different when criticism assumes the vicious tone of the Rev. Dr. Lightfoot's article upon Supernatural Religion in the December number of the "Contemporary Review." Whilst delivering severe lectures upon want of candour and impartiality, and preaching temperance and moderation, the practice of the preacher, as sometimes happens, falls very short of his precept. The example of moderation presented to me by my clerical critic does not seem to me very edifying, his impartiality does not appear to be beyond reproach, and in his tone I fail to recognise any of the epieikeia which Mr. Matthew Arnold so justly admires. I shall not emulate the spirit of that article, and I trust that I shall not scant the courtesy with which I desire to treat Dr. Lightfoot, whose ability I admire and whose position I understand. I should not, indeed, consider it necessary at present to notice his attack at all, but that I perceive the attempt to prejudice an audience and divert attention from the issues of a serious argument by general detraction. The device is far from new, and the tactics cannot be pronounced original. In religious as well as legal controversy, the threadbare maxim: "A bad case--abuse the plaintiff's attorney," remains in force; and it is surprising how effectual the simple practice still is. If it were granted, for the sake of argument, that each slip in translation, each error in detail and each oversight in statement, with which Canon Lightfoot reproaches Supernatural Religion were well founded, it must be evident to any intelligent mind that the mass of such a work would not really be affected; such flaws--and what book of the kind escapes them--which can most easily be removed, would not weaken the central argument, and after the Apologist's ingenuity has been exerted to the utmost to blacken every blot, the basis of Supernatural Religion would not be made one whit more secure. It is, however, because I recognise that, behind this skirmishing attack, there is the constant insinuation that misstatements have been detected which have "a vital bearing" upon the question at issue, arguments "wrecked" which are of serious importance, and omissions indicated which change the aspect of reasoning, that I have thought it worth my while at once to reply. I shall endeavour briefly to show that, in thus attempting to sap the strength of my position, Dr. Lightfoot has only exposed the weakness of his own. Dr. Lightfoot somewhat scornfully says that he has the "misfortune" "to dispute not a few propositions which 'most critics' are agreed in maintaining." He will probably find that "most critics," for their part, will not consider it a very great misfortune to differ from a divine who has the misfortune of differing on so many points, from most critics.
The first and most vehement attack made upon me by Dr. Lightfoot is regarding "a highly important passage of Irenaeus," containing a reference to some other and unnamed authority, in which he considers that I am "quite unconscious of the distinction between the infinitive and indicative;" a point upon which "any fairly trained schoolboy" would decide against my reasoning. I had found fault with Tischendorf in the text, and with Dr. Westcott in a note, for inserting the words "say they," and "they taught," in rendering the oblique construction of a passage whose source is in dispute, without some mark or explanation, in the total absence of the original, that these special words were supplementary and introduced by the translator. I shall speak of Tischendorf presently, and for the moment I confine myself to Dr. Westcott. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. v. 36, 1) makes a statement as to what "the presbyters say" regarding the joys of the Millennial kingdom, and he then proceeds (§ 2) with indirect construction, indicating a reference to some other authority than himself, to the passage in question, in which a saying similar to John xiv. 2 is introduced. This passage is claimed by Tischendorf as a quotation from the work of Papias, and is advanced in discussing the evidence of the Bishop of Hierapolis. Dr. Westcott, without any explanation, states in his text: "In addition to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, Papias appears to have been acquainted with the Gospel of St. John;" [4:1] and in a note on an earlier page: "The passage quoted by Irenaeus from 'the Elders' may probably be taken as a specimen of his style of interpretation;" [4:2] and then follows the passage in which the indirect construction receives a specific direction by the insertion of "they taught." [4:3] Neither Dr. Westcott nor Dr. Lightfoot makes the slightest allusion to the fact that they are almost alone in advancing this testimony, which Dr. Lightfoot describes as having "a vital bearing on the main question at issue, the date of the fourth Gospel." The reader who had not the work of Irenaeus before him to estimate the justness of the ascription of this passage to Papias, and who was not acquainted with all the circumstances, and with the state of critical opinion on the point, could scarcely, on reading such statements, understand the real position of the case.
Now the facts are as follows: Routh [4:4] conjectured that the whole passage in Irenaeus was derived from the work of Papias, and in this he was followed by Dorner, [4:5] who practically introduced the suggestion to the critics of Germany, with whom it found no favour, and no one whom I remember, except Tischendorf and perhaps Professor Hofstede de Groot, now seriously supports this view. Zeller, [5:1] in his celebrated treatise on the external testimony for the fourth Gospel, argued against Dorner that, in spite of the indirect construction of the passage, there is not the slightest certainty that Irenaeus did not himself interpolate the words from the fourth Gospel, and he affirmed the fact that there is no evidence whatever that Papias knew that work. Anger, [5:2] discussing the evidence of the presbyters quoted by Irenaeus in our Gospels, refers to this passage in a note with marked doubt, saying, that fortasse (in italics), on account the chiliastic tone of the passage, it may, as Routh conjectures, be from the work of Papias; but in the text he points out the great caution with which these quotations from "the presbyters" should be used. He says, "Sed in usu horum testimoniorum faciendo cautissime versandum est, tum quod, nisi omnia, certe pleraque ab Irenaeo memoriter repetuntur, tum quia hic illic incertissimum est, utrum ipse loquatur Irenaeus an presbyterorum verba recitet." Meyer, [5:3] who refers to the passage, remarks that it is doubtful whether these presbyters, whom he does not connect with Papias, derived the saying from the Gospel or from tradition. Riggenbach [5:4] alludes to it merely to abandon the passage as evidence connected with Papias, and only claims the quotation, in an arbitrary way, as emanating from the first half of the second century. Professor Hofstede de Groot, [5:5] the translator of Tischendorf's work into Dutch, and his warm admirer, brings forward the quotation, after him, as either belonging to the circle of Papias or to that Father himself. Hilgenfeld [5:6] distinctly separates the presbyters of this passage from Papias, and asserts that they may have lived in the second half of the second century. Luthardt, [6:1] in the new issue of his youthful work on the fourth Gospel, does not attempt to associate the quotation with the book of Papias, but merely argues that the presbyters to whom Irenaeus was indebted for it formed a circle to which Polycarp and Papias belonged. Zahn [6:2] does not go beyond him in this. Dr. Davidson, while arguing that "it is impossible to show that the four (Gospels) were current as early as A.D. 150," refers to this passage, and says: "It is precarious to infer with Tischendorf either that Irenaeus derived his account of the presbyters from Papias's book, or that the authority of the elders carries us back to the termination of the apostolic times;" and he concludes: "Is it not evident that Irenaeus employed it (the word 'elders') loosely, without an exact idea of the persons he meant?" [6:3] In another place Dr. Davidson still more directly says: "The second proof is founded on a passage in Irenaeus where the Father, professing to give an account of the eschatological tradition of 'the presbyter, a disciple of the Apostles,' introduces the words, 'and that therefore the Lord said, "In my Father's house are many mansions."' Here it is equally uncertain whether a work of Papias be meant as the source of the quotation, and whether that Father did not insert something of his own, or something borrowed elsewhere, and altered according to the text of the Gospel." [6:4]
With these exceptions, no critic seems to have considered it worth his while to refer to this passage at all. Neither in considering the external evidences for the antiquity of the fourth Gospel, nor in discussing the question whether Papias was acquainted with it, do apologetic writers like Bleek, Ebrard, Olshausen, Guericke, Kirchhofer, Thiersch, or Tholuck, or impartial writers like Credner, De Wette, Gförer, Lücke, and others commit the mistake of even alluding to it, although many of them directly endeavour to refute the article of Zeller, in which it is cited and rejected, and all of them point out so indirect an argument for his knowledge of the Gospel as the statement of Eusebius that Papias made use of the first Epistle of John. Indeed, on neither side is the passage introduced into the controversy at all; and whilst so many conclude positively that Papias was not acquainted with the fourth Gospel, the utmost that is argued by the majority of apologetic critics is, that his ignorance of it is not actually proved. Those who go further and urge the supposed use of the Epistle as testimony in favour of his also knowing the Gospel would only too gladly have produced this passage, if they could have maintained it as taken from the work of Papias. It would not be permissible to assume that any of the writers to whom we refer were ignorant of the existence of the passage, because they are men thoroughly acquainted with the subject generally, and most of them directly refer to the article of Zeller in which the quotation is discussed.
This is an instance in which Dr. Lightfoot has the "misfortune to dispute not a few propositions, which most critics are agreed in maintaining." I have no objection to his disputing anything. All that I suggest desirable in such a case is some indication that there is anything in dispute, which, I submit, general readers could scarcely discover from the statements of Dr. Westcott or the remarks of Dr. Lightfoot. Now in regard to myself, in desiring to avoid what I objected to in others, I may have gone to the other extreme. But although I perhaps too carefully avoided any indication as to who says "that there is this distinction of dwelling," &c., I did what was possible to attract attention to the actual indirect construction, a fact which must have been patent, as Dr. Lightfoot says, to a "fairly trained schoolboy." I doubly indicated, by a mark and by adding a note, the commencement of the sentence, and not only gave the original below, but actually inserted in the text the opening words, einai de tên diastolên tautên tês oikêseôs, for the express purpose of showing the construction. That I did not myself mistake the point is evident, not only from this, but from the fact that I do not make any objection to the translations of Tischendorf and Dr. Westcott, beyond condemning the unmarked introduction of precise words, and that I proceed to argue that "the presbyters," to whom the passage is referred, are in no case necessarily to be associated with the work of Papias, which would have been mere waste of time had I intended to maintain that Irenaeus quoted direct from the Gospel. An observation made to me regarding my note on Dr. Westcott, showed me that I had been misunderstood, and led me to refer to the place again. I immediately withdrew the note which had been interpreted in a way very different from what I had intended, and at the same time perceiving that my argument was obscure and liable to the misinterpretation of which Dr. Lightfoot has made such eager use, I myself at once recast it as well as I could within the limits at my command, [8:1] and this was already published before Dr. Lightfoot's criticism appeared, and before I had any knowledge of his articles. [8:2]
With regard to Tischendorf, however, the validity of my objection is practically admitted in the fullest way by Dr. Lightfoot himself. "Tischendorf's words," he says, "are 'und deshalb, sagen sie, habe der Herr den Ausspruch gethan.' He might have spared the 'sagen sie,' because the German idiom 'habe' enables him to express the main fact that the words were not Irenaeus's own without this addition." Writing of a brother apologist of course he apologetically adds: "But he has not altered any idea which the original contains." [9:1] I affirm, on the contrary, that he has very materially altered an idea--that, in fact, he has warped the whole argument, for Dr. Lightfoot has mercifully omitted to point out that the words just quoted are introduced by the distinct assertion "that Irenaeus quotes even out of the mouth of the presbyters, those high authorities of Papias." The German apologist, therefore, not giving the original text, not saying a word of the adverse judgment of most critics, after fully rendering the construction of Irenaeus by the "habe," quietly inserts "say they," in reference to these "high authorities of Papias," without a hint that these words are his own. [9:2]
My argument briefly is, that there is no ground for asserting that the passage in question, with its reference to "many mansions," was derived from the presbyters of Papias, or from his book, and that it is not a quotation from a work which quotes the presbyters as quoting these words, but one made more directly by Irenaeus--not directly from the Gospel, but probably from some contemporary, and representing nothing more than the exegesis of his own day.
The second point of Canon Lightfoot's attack is in connection with a discussion of the date of Celsus. Dr. Lightfoot quotes a passage from Origen given in my work, [10:1] upon which he comments as follows: "On the strength of the passage so translated, our author supposes that Origen's impression concerning the date of Celsus had meanwhile been 'considerably modified,' and remarks that he now 'treats him as a contemporary.' Unfortunately, however, the tenses, on which everything depends, are freely handled in this translation. Origen does not say 'Celsus has promised,' but 'Celsus promises (epangellomenon)--i.e., in the treatise before him, Origen's knowledge was plainly derived from the book itself. And, again, he does not say 'If he has not fulfilled his promise to write,' but 'If he did not write as he undertook to do' (egrapsen huposchomenos); nor 'If he has commenced and finished,' but 'If he commenced and finished' (arxamenos sunetelese). Thus Origen's language itself here points to a past epoch, and is in strict accordance with the earlier passages in his work." [10:2] These remarks, and the triumphant exclamation of Dr. Lightfoot at the close that here "an elaborate argument is wrecked on this rock of grammar," convey a totally wrong impression of the case.
The argument regarding this passage in Origen occurs in a controversy between Tischendorf and Volkmar, the particulars of which I report; [10:3] and to avoid anticipation of the point, I promise to give the passage in its place, which I subsequently do. All the complimentary observations which Dr. Lightfoot makes upon the translation actually fall upon the head of his brother apologist, Tischendorf, whose rendering, as he so much insists upon it, I merely reproduce. The manner in which Tischendorf attacks Volkmar in connection with this passage forcibly reminds me of the amenities addressed to myself by Dr. Lightfoot, who seems unconsciously to have caught the trick of his precursor's scolding. Volkmar had paraphrased Origen's words in a way of which his critic disapproved, and Tischendorf comments as follows: "But here again we have to do with nothing else than a completely abortive fabrication, a certificate of our said critic's poverty. For the assertion derived from the close of the work of Origen rests upon gross ignorance or upon intentional deception. The words of Origen to his patron Ambrosius, who had prompted him to the composition of the whole apology, run as follows" [and here I must give the German]: "'Wenn dass Celsus versprochen hat' [has promised] 'jedenfalls in seinem gegen das Christenthum gerichteten und von Origenes widerlegten Buche) noch eine andere Schrift nach dieser zu verfassen, worin u.s.w.' 'Wenn er nun diese zweite Schrift trotz seines Versprechens nicht geschrieben hat' [has not written], 'so genügt es uns mit diesen acht Büchern auf seine Schrift geantwortet zu haben. Wenn er aber auch jene unternommen und vollendet hat' [has undertaken and completed], 'so treib das Buch auf und schicke es, damit wir auch darauf antworten,'" &c. [11:1] Now this translation of Tischendorf is not made carelessly, but deliberately, for the express purpose of showing the actual words of Origen, and correcting the version of Volkmar; and he insists upon these tenses not only by referring to the Greek of these special phrases, but by again contrasting with them the paraphrase of Volkmar. [11:2] Whatever disregard of tenses and "free handling" of Origen there may be here, therefore, are due to Tischendorf, who may be considered as good a scholar as Dr. Lightfoot, and not a less zealous apologist.
Instead of depending on the "strength of the passage so translated," however, as Canon Lightfoot represents, my argument is independent of this or any other version of Origen's words; and, in fact, the point is only incidentally introduced, and more as the view of others than my own. I point out [12:1] that Origen evidently knows nothing of his adversary: and I add that "it is almost impossible to avoid the conviction that, during the time he was composing his work, his impressions concerning the date and identity of his opponent became considerably modified." I then proceed to enumerate some of the reasons. In the earlier portion of his first book (i. 8), Origen has heard that his Celsus is the Epicurean of the reign of Hadrian and later, but a little further on (i. 68), he confesses his ignorance as to whether he is the same Celsus who wrote against magic, which Celsus the Epicurean actually did. In the fourth book (iv. 36) he expresses uncertainty as to whether the Epicurean Celsus had composed the work against Christians which he is refuting, and at the close of his treatise he treats him as a contemporary, for, as I again mention, Volkmar and others assert, on the strength of the passage in the eighth book and from other considerations, that Celsus really was a contemporary of Origen. I proceed to argue that, even if Celsus were the Epicurean friend of Lucian, there could be no ground for assigning to him an early date; but, on the contrary, that so far from being an Epicurean, the Celsus attacked by Origen evidently was a Neo-Platonist. This, and the circumstance that his work indicates a period of persecution against Christians, leads to the conclusion, I point out, that he must be dated about the beginning of the third century. My argument, in short, scarcely turns upon the passage in Origen at all, and that which renders it incapable of being wrecked is the fact that Celsus never mentions the Gospels, and much less adds anything to our knowledge of their authors, which can entitle them to greater credit as witnesses for the reality of Divine Revelation.
I do not intend to bandy many words with Canon Lightfoot regarding translations. Nothing is so easy as to find fault with the rendering of passages from another language, or to point out variations in tenses and expressions, not in themselves of the slightest importance to the main issue, in freely transferring the spirit of sentences from their natural context to an isolated position in quotation. Such a personal matter as Dr. Lightfoot's general strictures, in this respect, I feel cannot interest the readers of this Review. I am quite ready to accept correction even from an opponent where I am wrong, but I am quite content to leave to the judgment of all who will examine them in a fair spirit the voluminous quotations in my work. The 'higher criticism,' in which Dr. Lightfoot seems to have indulged in this article, scarcely rises above the correction of an exercise or the conjugation of a verb. [13:1]
I am extremely obliged to Dr. Lightfoot for pointing out two clerical errors which had escaped me, but which have been discovered and magnified by his microscopic criticism, and thrown at my head by his apologetic zeal. The first is in reference to what he describes as "a highly important question of Biblical criticism." In speaking, en passant, of a passage in John v. 3, 4, in connection with the "Age of Miracles," the words "it is argued that" were accidentally omitted from vol. i. p. 113, line 19, and the sentence should read, "and it is argued that it was probably a later interpolation." [14:1] In vol. ii. p. 420, after again mentioning the rejection of the passage, I proceed to state my own personal belief that the words must have originally stood in the text, because v. 7 indicates the existence of such a context. The second error is in vol. ii. p. 423, line 24, in which "only" has been substituted for "never" in deciphering my MS. Since this is such a common-place of "apologists," as Dr. Lightfoot points out, surely he might have put a courteous construction upon the error, instead of venting upon me so much righteous indignation. I can assure him that I do not in the slightest degree grudge him the full benefit of the argument that the fourth Gospel never once distinguishes John the Baptist from the Apostle John by the addition ho Baptistês. [15:1]
I turn, however, to a more important matter. Canon Lightfoot attacks me in no measured terms for a criticism upon Dr. Westcott's mode of dealing with a piece of information regarding Basilides. He says--
"Dr. Westcott writes of Basilides as follows:--
"'At the same time he appealed to the authority of Glaucias, who, as well as St. Mark, was "an interpreter of St. Peter."' ('Canon,' p. 264)
"The inverted commas are given here as they appear in Dr. Westcott's book. It need hardly be said that Dr. Westcott is simply illustrating the statement of Basilides that Glaucias was an interpreter of St. Peter by the similar statement of Papias and others that St. Mark was an interpreter of the same apostle--a very innocent piece of information, one would suppose. On this passage, however, our author remarks--
"'Now we have here again an illustration of the same misleading system which we have already condemned, and shall further refer to, in the introduction after "Glaucias" of the words "who, as well as St. Mark, was an interpreter of St. Peter." The words in italics are the gratuitous addition of Canon Westcott himself, and can only have been inserted for one of two purposes--(1) to assert the fact that Glaucias was actually an interpreter of Peter, as tradition represented Mark to be; or (2) to insinuate to unlearned readers that Basilides himself acknowledged Mark as well as Glaucias as the interpreter of Peter. We can hardly suppose the first to have been the intention, and we regret to be forced back upon the second, and infer that the temptation to weaken the inferences from the appeal of Basilides to the uncanonical Glaucias, by coupling with it the allusion to Mark, was, unconsciously, no doubt, too strong for the apologist.' ('S. R.' i. p. 459)
"Dr. Westcott's honour may safely be left to take care of itself. It stands far too high to be touched by insinuations like these. I only call attention to the fact that our author has removed Dr. Westcott's inverted commas, and then founded on the passage so manipulated a charge of unfair dealing, which could only be sustained in their absence, and which even then no one but himself would have thought of." [16:1]
In order to make this matter clear, I must venture more fully to quote Dr. Westcott's statements regarding Basilides. Dr. Westcott says: "Since Basilides lived on the verge of the Apostolic times, it is not surprising that he made use of other sources of Christian doctrine besides the canonical books. The belief in Divine Inspiration was still fresh and real; and Eusebius relates that he set up imaginary prophets, Barcabbas and Barcoph (Parchor)--'names to strike terror into the superstitious'--by whose writings he supported his peculiar views. At the same time he appealed to the authority of Glaucias, who, as well as St. Mark, was 'an interpreter of St. Peter;' [16:2] and he also made use of certain 'Traditions of Matthias,' which claimed to be grounded on 'private intercourse with the Saviour.' [16:3] It appears, moreover, that he himself published a gospel--a 'Life of Christ,' as it would perhaps be called in our days, or 'The Philosophy of Christianity'--but he admitted the historic truth of all the facts contained in the canonical gospels, and used them as Scripture. For, in spite of his peculiar opinions, the testimony of Basilides to our 'acknowledged' books is comprehensive and clear. In the few pages of his writings which remain, there are certain references to the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John, &c." And in a note Dr. Westcott adds, "The following examples will be sufficient to show his mode of quotation, &c." [17:1]
Not a word of qualification or doubt is added to these extraordinary statements, for a full criticism of which I must beg the reader to be good enough to refer to Supernatural Religion, ii. pp. 41-54. Setting aside here the important question as to what the "gospel" of Basilides--to which Dr. Westcott gives the fanciful names of a "Life of Christ," or "Philosophy of Christianity," without a shadow of evidence--really was, it could scarcely be divined, for instance, that the statement that Basilides "admitted the historic truth of all the facts contained in the canonical gospels" rests solely upon a sentence in the work attributed to Hippolytus, to the effect that, after his generation, all things regarding the Saviour--according to the followers of Basilides--occurred in the same way as they are written in the Gospels. Again, it could scarcely be supposed by an ordinary reader that the assertion that Basilides used the "canonical gospels"--there certainly were no "canonical" gospels in his day--"as Scripture," that his testimony to our 'acknowledged' books is comprehensive and clear," and that "in the few pages of his writings which remain there are certain references" to those gospels, which show "his method of quotation," is not based upon any direct extracts from his writings, but solely upon passages in an epitome by Hippolytus of the views of the school of Basilides, not ascribed directly to Basilides himself, but introduced by a mere indefinite phêsi. [17:2] Why, I might enquire in the vein of Dr. Lightfoot, is not a syllable said of all this, or of the fact, which completes the separation of these passages from Basilides, that the Gnosticism described by Hippolytus is not that of Basilides, but clearly of a later type; and that writers of that period, and notably Hippolytus himself, were in the habit of putting, as it might seem, by the use of an indefinite "he says," sentiments into the mouth of the founder of a sect which were only expressed by his later followers? As Dr. Lightfoot evidently highly values the testimony of Luthardt, I will quote the words of that staunch apologist to show that, in this, I do not merely represent the views of a heterodox school. In discussing the supposed quotations from the fourth Gospel, which Dr. Westcott represents as "certain references" to it by Basilides himself, Luthardt says: "But to this is opposed the consideration that, as we know from Irenaeus, &c., the original system of Basilides had a dualistic character, whilst that of the 'Philosophumena' is pantheistic. We must recognise that Hippolytus, in the 'Philosophumena,' not unfrequently makes the founder of a sect responsible for that which in the first place concerns his disciples, so that from these quotations only the use of the Johannine Gospel in the school of Basilides is undoubtedly proved, but not on the part of the founder himself." [18:1]
It is difficult to recognise in this fancy portrait the Basilides regarding whom a large body of eminent critics conclude that he did not know our Gospels at all, but made use of an uncanonical work, supplemented by traditions from Glaucias and Matthias; but, as if the heretic had not been sufficiently restored to the odour of sanctity, the additional touch is given in the passage more immediately before us. Dr. Westcott conveys the information contained in the single sentence of Clement of Alexandria, kathaper ho Basileidês kan Glaukian epigraphêtai didaskalon, hôs auchousin autoi, ton Petrou hermênea, [19:1] in the following words; and I quote the statement exactly as it has stood in my text from the very first, in order to show the inverted commas upon which Dr. Lightfoot lays so much stress as having been removed. In mentioning this fact Canon Westcott says: "At the same time he appealed to the authority of Glaucias, who, as well as St. Mark, was 'an interpreter of St. Peter.' [19:2] Now we have here, again, an illustration," &c.; and then follows the passage quoted by Dr. Lightfoot. The positive form given to the words of Clement, and the introduction of the words "as well as St. Mark," seem at once to impart a full flavour of orthodoxy to Basilides which I do not find in the original. I confess that I fail to see any special virtue in the inverted commas; but as Dr. Lightfoot does, let me point out to him that he commences his quotation--upon the strength of which he accuses me of "manipulating" a passage, and then founding upon it a charge of unfair dealing--immediately after the direct citation from Dr. Westcott's work, in which those inverted commas are given. The words they mark are a quotation from Clement, and in my re-quotation a few lines lower down they are equally well indicated by being the only words not put in italics. The fact is, that Dr. Lightfoot has mistaken and misstated the whole case. He has been so eagerly looking for the mote in my eye that he has failed to perceive the beam which is in his own eye. It is by this wonderful illustration that he "exemplifies the elaborate looseness which pervades the critical portion of this (my) book." [19:3] It rather exemplifies the uncritical looseness which pervades his own article.
Dr. Lightfoot says, and says rightly, that "Dr. Westcott's honour may safely be left to take care of itself." It would have been much better to have left it to take care of itself, indeed, than trouble it by such advocacy. If anything could check just or generous expression, it would be the tone adopted by Dr. Lightfoot; but nevertheless I again say, in the most unreserved manner, that neither in this instance nor in any other have I had the most distant intention of attributing "corrupt motives" to a man like Dr. Westcott, whose single-mindedness I recognise, and for whose earnest character I feel genuine respect. The utmost that I have at any time intended to point out is that, utterly possessed as he is by orthodox views in general, and of the canon in particular, he sees facts, I consider, through a dogmatic medium, and unconsciously imparts his own peculiar colouring to statements which should be more impartially made.
Dr. Lightfoot will not even give me credit for fairly stating the arguments of my adversaries. "The author," he says, "does indeed single out from time to time the weaker arguments of 'apologetic' writers, and on these he dwells at great length; but their weightier facts and lines of reasoning are altogether ignored by him, though they often occur in the same books, and even in the same contexts which he quotes." [20:1] I am exceedingly indebted to Dr. Lightfoot for having had compassion upon my incapacity to distinguish these arguments, and for giving me "samples" of the "weightier facts and lines of reasoning" of apologists which I have ignored.
The first of these with which he favours me is in connection with an anachronism in the epistle ascribed to Polycarp, Ignatius being spoken of in chapter thirteen as living, and information requested regarding him "and those who are with him;" whereas in an earlier passage he is represented as dead. Dr. Lightfoot reproaches me:--"Why, then, does he not notice the answer which he might have found in any common source of information, that when the Latin version (the Greek is wanting here) 'de his qui cum eo sunt' is re-translated into the original language, tois sun auto, the 'anachronism' altogether disappears?" [21:1] As Dr. Lightfoot does not apparently attach much weight to my replies, I venture to give my reasons for not troubling my readers with this argument in words which, I hope, may find more favour with him. Dr. Donaldson, in his able work on "Christian Literature and Doctrine," says: "In the ninth chapter Ignatius is spoken of as a martyr, an example to the Philippians of patience… In the thirteenth chapter Polycarp requests information with regard to 'Ignatius and those with him.' These words occur only in the Latin translation of the epistle. To get rid of the difficulty which they present, it has been supposed that the words 'de his qui cum eo sunt' are a wrong rendering of the Greek peri tôn met' autou. And then the words are supposed to mean, 'concerning Ignatius (of whose death I heard, but of which I wish particulars) and those who were with him.' But even the Greek could not be forced into such a meaning as this; and, moreover, there is no reason to impugn the Latin translation, except the peculiar difficulty presented by a comparison with the ninth chapter." [21:2] Dr. Lightfoot, however, does impugn it. It is apparently his habit to impugn translations. He accuses the ancient Latin translator of freely handling the tenses of a Greek text which the critic himself has never seen. Here it is Dr. Lightfoot's argument which is "wrecked upon this rock of grammar."
The next example of the "weightier facts and lines of reasoning "of apologists which I have ignored is as follows:--
"Again, when he devotes more than forty pages to the discussion of Papias, why does he not even mention the view maintained by Dr. Westcott and others (and certainly suggested by a strict interpretation of Papias' own words), that this father's object, in his 'Exposition,' was not to construct a new evangelical narrative, but to interpret and to illustrate by oral tradition one already lying before him in written documents? This view, if correct, entirely alters the relation of Papias to the written Gospels; and its discussion was a matter of essential importance to the main question at issue." [22:1]
I reply that the object of my work was not to discuss views advanced without a shadow of evidence, contradicted by the words of Papias himself, and absolutely incapable of proof. My object was the much more practical and direct one of ascertaining whether Papias affords any evidence with regard to our Gospels which could warrant our believing in the occurrence of miraculous events for which they are the principal testimony. Even if it could be proved, which it cannot be, that Papias actually had "written documents" before him, the cause of our Gospels would not be one jot advanced, inasmuch as it could not be shown that these documents were our Gospels; and the avowed preference of Papias for tradition over books, so clearly expressed, implies anything but respect for any written documents with which he was acquainted. However important such a discussion may appear to Dr. Lightfoot in the absence of other evidence, it is absolutely devoid of value in an enquiry into the reality of Divine Revelation.
The next "sample" of these ignored "weightier facts and lines of reasoning" given by Dr. Lightfoot is the following:
Again, when he reproduces the Tübingen fallacy respecting 'the strong prejudice' of Hegesippus against St. Paul, and quotes the often-quoted passage from Stephanus Gobarus, in which this writer refers to the language of Hegesippus condemning the use of the words, 'Eye hath not seen,' &c., why does he not state that these words were employed by heretical teachers to justify their rites of initiation, and consequently 'apologetic' writers contend that Hegesippus refers to the words, not as used by St. Paul, but as misapplied by these heretics? Since, according to the Tübingen interpretation, this single notice contradicts everything else which we now of the opinions of Hegesippus, the view of 'apologists' might, perhaps, have been worth a moment's consideration." [23:1]
I reply, why does this punctilious objector omit to point out that I merely mention the anti-Pauline interpretation incidentally in a single sentence, [23:2] and after a few words as to the source of the quotation in Cor. ii. 9, I proceed: "This, however, does not concern us here, and we have merely to examine 'the saying of the Lord,' which Hegesippus opposes to the passage, 'Blessed are your eyes,'" &c., this being, in fact, the sole object of my quotation from Stephanus Gobarus? Why does he not also state that I distinctly refer to Tischendorf's denial that Hegesippus was opposed to Paul? And why does he not further state that, instead of being the "single notice" from which the view of the anti-Pauline feelings of Hegesippus is derived, that conclusion is based upon the whole tendency of the fragments of his writings which remain? It was not my purpose to enter into any discussion of the feeling against Paul entertained by a large section of the early Church. What I have to say upon that subject will appear in my examination of the Acts of the Apostles.
"And again," says Dr. Lightfoot, proceeding with his samples of ignored weightier lines of reasoning,
"in the elaborate examination of Justin Martyr's evangelical quotations... our author frequently refers to Dr. Westcott's book to censure it, and many comparatively insignificant points are discussed at great length. Why, then, does he not once mention Dr. Westcott's argument founded on the looseness of Justin Martyr's quotations from the Old Testament as throwing some light on the degree of accuracy which he might be expected to show in quoting the Gospels? A reader fresh from the perusal of Supernatural Religion will have his eyes opened as to the character of Justin's mind when he turns to Dr. Westcott's book, and finds how Justin interweaves, misnames, and misquotes passages from the Old Testament. It cannot be said that these are unimportant points." [24:1]
Now the fact is, that in the first 105 pages of my examination of Justin Martyr I do not once refer in my text to Dr. Westcott's work; and when I finally do so it is for the purposes of discussing what seemed to me a singular argument, demanding a moment's attention. [24:2] Dr. Westcott, whilst maintaining that Justin's quotations are derived from our Gospels, argues that only in seven passages out of the very numerous citations in his writings "does Justin profess to give the exact words recorded in the 'Memoirs.'" [24:3] The reason why I do not feel it at all necessary to discuss the other views of Dr. Westcott here mentioned is practically given in the final sentence of a note quoted by Dr. Lightfoot, [24:4] which sentence he has thought it right to omit. The note is as follows, and the sentence to which I refer is put in italics: "For the arguments of apologetic criticism, the reader may be referred to Canon Westcott's work 'On the Canon,' pp. 112-139. Dr. Westcott does not attempt to deny the fact that Justin's quotations are different from the text of our Gospels, but he accounts for his variations on grounds which are purely imaginary. It is evident that so long as there are such variations to be explained away, at least no proof of identity is possible." [24:5] It will be observed that although I do not discuss Dr. Westcott's views, I pointedly refer those who desire to know what the arguments on the other side are to his work. Let me repeat, once for all, that my object in examining the writings of the Fathers is not to form theories and conjectures as to what documents they may possibly have used, but to ascertain whether they afford any positive evidence regarding our existing Gospels, which can warrant our believing, upon their authority, the miraculous contents of Christianity. Any argument that, although Justin, for instance, never once names any of our Gospels, and out of very numerous quotations of sayings of Jesus very rarely indeed quotes anything which has an exact parallel in those Gospels, yet he may have made use of our Gospels, because he also frequently misquotes passages from the Old Testament, is worthless for the purpose of establishing the reality of Divine Revelation. From the point of view of such an enquiry, I probably go much further into the examination of Justin's "Memoirs" than was at all necessary.
Space, however, forbids my further dwelling on these instances, regarding which Dr. Lightfoot says: "In every instance which I have selected"--and to which I have replied--"these omitted considerations vitally affect the main question at issue." [25:1] If Dr. Lightfoot had devoted half the time to mastering what "the main question at issue" really is, which he has wasted in finding minute faults in me, he might have spared himself the trouble of giving these instances at all. If such considerations have vital importance, the position of the question may easily be understood. Dr. Lightfoot, however, evidently seems to suppose that I can be charged with want of candour and of fulness, because I do not reproduce every shred and tatter of apologetic reasoning which divines continue to flaunt about after others have rejected them as useless. He again accuses me, in connection with the fourth Gospel, of systematically ignoring the arguments of "apologetic" writers, and he represents my work as "the very reverse of full and impartial." "Once or twice, indeed," he says, "he fastens on passages from such writers, that he may make capital of them; but their main arguments remain wholly unnoticed." [26:1] I confess that I find it somewhat difficult to distinguish between those out of which I am said to "make capital" and those which Dr. Lightfoot characterises as "their main arguments," if I am to judge by the "samples" of them which he gives me. For instance, [26:2] he asks why, when asserting that the Synoptics clearly represent the ministry of Jesus as having been limited to a single year, and his preaching as confined to Galilee and Jerusalem, whilst the fourth Gospel distributes the teaching of Jesus between Galilee, Samaria, and Jerusalem, makes it extend over three years, and refers to three passovers spent by Jesus at Jerusalem:
"Why then," he asks,
"does he not add that 'apologetic' writers refer to such passages as Matt. xiii. 37 (comp. Luke xiii. 34), 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often would I have gathered thy children together'? Here the expression 'how often,' it is contended, obliges us to postulate other visits, probably several visits, to Jerusalem, which are not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels themselves. And it may be suggested also that the twice-repeated notice of time in the context of St. Luke, 'I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected,' 'I must walk to-day and to-morrow and the day following,' points to the very duration of our Lord's ministry, as indicated by the fourth Gospel. If so, the coincidence is the more remarkable because it does not appear that St. Luke himself, while wording these prophetic words, was aware of their full historical import." [27:1]
Now it might have struck Dr. Lightfoot that if anyone making an enquiry into the reality of Divine Revelation were obliged, in order to escape charges of want of candour, fulness, and impartiality, or insinuations of ignorance, to reproduce and refute all apologetic arguments like this, the duration of modern life would scarcely suffice for the task; and "if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain all the books that should be written." It is very right that anyone believing it valid should advance this or any other reasoning in reply to objections, or in support of opinions; but is it not somewhat unreasonable vehemently to condemn a writer for not exhausting himself, and his readers, by discussing pleas which are not only unsound in themselves, but irrelevant to the direct purpose of his work? I have only advanced objections against the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel, which seem to me unrefuted by any of the explanations offered.
Let me now turn to more important instances. Dr. Lightfoot asks: "Why, when he is endeavouring to minimise, if not deny, the Hebraic character of the fourth Gospel, does he wholly ignore the investigations of Luthardt and others, which (as 'apologists' venture to think) show that the whole texture of the language the fourth Gospel is Hebraic?" [27:2] Now my statements with regard to the language of the Apocalypse and fourth Gospel are as follows. Of the Apocalypse I say: "The language in which the book is written is the most Hebraistic Greek of the New Testament;" [28:1] and further on: "The barbarous Hebraistic Greek and abrupt, inelegant diction are natural to the unlettered fisherman of Galilee." [28:2] Of the Gospel I say: "Instead of the Hebraistic Greek and harsh diction which might be expected from the unlettered and ignorant [28:3] fisherman of Galilee, we find, in the fourth Gospel, the purest and least Hebraistic Greek of any of the Gospels (some parts of the third synoptic, perhaps, alone excepted), and a refinement and beauty of composition whose charm has captivated the world," &c. [28:4] In another place I say: "The language in which the Gospel is written, as we have already mentioned, is much less Hebraic than that of the other Gospels, with the exception, perhaps, of parts of the Gospel according to Luke, and its Hebraisms are not on the whole greater than was almost invariably the case with Hellenistic Greek; but its composition is distinguished by peculiar smoothness, grace, and beauty, and in this respect it is assigned the first rank amongst the Gospels." [28:5] I believe that I do not say another word as to the texture of the language of the fourth Gospel, and it will be observed that my remarks are almost wholly limited to the comparative quality of the Greek of the fourth Gospel, on the one hand, and the Apocalypse and Synoptics on the other, and that they do not exclude Hebraisms. The views expressed might be supported by numberless authorities. As Dr. Lightfoot accuses me of "wholly ignoring" the results at which Luthardt and others have arrived, I will quote what Luthardt says of the two works: "The difference of the language, as well in regard to grammar and style as to doctrine, is, of course, in a high degree remarkable... As regards grammar, the Gospel is written in correct, the Apocalypse in incorrect Greek." He argues that this is a consequence of sovereign freedom in the latter, and that from the nature of the composition the author of the Apocalypse wrote in an artificial style, and could both have spoken and written otherwise. "The errors are not errors of ignorance, but intentional emancipations from the rules of grammar" (!), in imitation of ancient prophetic style. Presently he proceeds: "If, then, on the one hand, the Apocalypse is written in worse Greek and less correctly than its author was able to speak and write, the question, on the hand, is, whether the Gospel is not in too good Greek to be credited to a born Jew and Palestinian." Luthardt maintains "that the style of the Gospel betrays the born Jew, and certainly not the Greek," but the force which he intends to give to all this reasoning is clearly indicated by the conclusion at which he finally arrives, that "the linguistic gulf between the Gospel and the Apocalypse is not impassable." [29:1] This result from so staunch an apologist, obviously to minimise the Hebraic character of the Apocalypse, is not after all so strikingly different from my representation. Take again the opinion of so eminent an apologist as Bleek: "The language of the Apocalypse in its whole character is beyond comparison harsher, rougher, looser, and presents grosser incorrectness than any other book of the New Testament, whilst the language of the Gospel is certainly not pure Greek, but is beyond comparison more grammatically correct." [29:2] I am merely replying, to the statements of Dr. Lightfoot, and not arguing afresh regarding the language of the fourth Gospel, or I might produce very different arguments and authorities, but I may remark that the critical dilemma which I have represented, in reviewing the fourth Gospel, is not merely dependent upon linguistic considerations, but arises out of the aggregate and conflicting phenomena presented by the Apocalypse on the one hand and the Gospel on the other.
Space only allows of my referring to one other instance. [30:1] Dr. Lightfoot says--
"If by any chance he condescends to discuss a question, he takes care to fasten on the least likely solution of 'apologists' (e.g. the identification of Sychar and Shechem), [30:2] omitting altogether to notice others."
In a note Dr. Lightfoot adds:--
"Travellers and 'apologists' alike now more commonly identify Sychar with the village bearing the Arabic name Askar. This fact is not mentioned by our author. He says moreover, 'It is admitted that there was no such place (as Sychar, Suchár), and apologetic ingenuity is severely taxed to explain the difficulty.' This is altogether untrue. Others besides 'apologists' point to passages in the Talmud which speak of 'the well of Suchar (or Sochar or Sichar);' see Neubauer, 'La Géographie du Talmud,' p. 169 f. Our author refers in his note to an article by Delitzsch, ('Zeitschr. J. Luth. Theol.,' 1856, p. 240 f.) He cannot have read the article, for these Talmudic references are its main purport." [30:3]
I may perhaps be allowed to refer, first, to the two sentences which I have taken the liberty of putting in italics. If it be possible for an apologist to apologise, an apology is surely due to the readers of the "Contemporary Review," at least, for this style of criticism, to which, I doubt not, they are as little accustomed as I am myself. There is no satisfying Dr. Lightfoot. I give him references, and he accuses me of "literary browbeating" and "subtle intimidation;" I do not give references, and he gives me the lie. I refer to the article of Delitzsch in support of my specific statement that he rejects the identification of Sychar with Sichem, and apparently because I do not quote the whole study Dr. Lightfoot courteously asserts that I cannot have read it. [31:1]
My statement [31:2] is, that it is admitted that there was no such place as Sychar--I ought to have added, "except by apologists who never admit anything"--but I thought that in saying: "and apologetic ingenuity is severely taxed to explain the difficulty," I had sufficiently excepted apologists, and indicated that many assertions and conjectures are advanced by them for that purpose. I mention that the conjecture which identifies Sychar and Sichem is rejected by some, refer to Credner's supposition that the alteration may be due to some error committed by a secretary in writing down the Gospel from the dictation of the Apostle, and that Sichem is meant, and I state the "nickname" hypothesis of Hengstenberg and others. It is undeniable that, with the exception of some vague references in the Talmud to a somewhat similar, but not identical, name, the locality of which is quite uncertain, no place bearing, or having borne, the designation of Sychar is known. The ordinary apologetic theory, as Dr. Lightfoot may find "in any common source of information,"--Dr. Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible," for instance--is the delightfully comprehensive one: "Sychar was either a name applied to the town of Shechem, or it was an independent place." This authority, however, goes clean against Dr. Lightfoot's assertion, for it continues: "The first of these alternatives is now almost universally accepted." Lightfoot [32:1] considered Sychar a mere alteration of the name Sichem, both representing the same place. He found a reference in the Talmud to "Ain Socar," and with great hesitation he associated the name with Sychar. "May we not venture" to render it "the well of Sychar"? And after detailed extracts and explanations he says: "And now let the reader give us his judgment as to its name and place, whether it doth not seem to have some relation with our 'well of Sychar.' It may be disputed on either side." Wieseler, who first, in more recent times, developed the conjectures of Lightfoot, argues: "In the first place, there can be no doubt that by Suchar Sichem is meant," and he adds, a few lines after: "Regarding this there is no controversy amongst interpreters." He totally rejects the idea of such in alteration of the name occurring in translation, which he says is " unprecedented." He therefore concludes that in Suchar we have another name for Sichem. He merely submits this, however, as "a new hypothesis to the judgment of the reader," [32:2] which alone shows the uncertainty of the suggestion. Lightfoot and Wieseler are substantially followed by Olshausen, [32:3] De Wette, [32:4] Hug, [32:5] Bunsen, [32:6] Riggenbach, [32:7] Godet, [32:8] and others. Bleek, [32:9] in spite of the arguments of Delitzsch and Ewald, and their Talmudic researches, considers that the old town of Sichem is meant. Delitzsch, [32:10] Ewald, [32:11] Lange, [32:12] Meyer, [32:13] and others think that Sychar was near to, but distinct from, Sichem. Lücke [33:1] is very undecided. He recognises the extraordinary difference in the name Sychar. He does not favourably receive Lightfoot's arguments regarding an alteration of the name of Sichem, nor his conjectures as to the relation of the place mentioned in the Talmud to Sichem, which he thinks is "very doubtful," and he seems to incline rather to an accidental corruption of Sichem into Sychar, although he feels the great difficulties in the way of such an explanation. Ewald condemns the "Talmudische Studien" of Delitzsch as generally more complicating than clearing up difficulties, and his views as commonly incorrect, and, whilst agreeing with him that Sychar cannot be the same place as Sichem, he points out that the site of the valley of the well of the Talmud is certainly doubtful. [33:2] He explains his own views, however, more clearly in another place:--
"That this (Sychar) cannot be the large, ancient Sikhem, which, at the time when the Gospel was written, was probably already generally called Neapolis in Greek writings, has been already stated; it is the place still called with an altered Arabic name Al 'Askar, east of Naplûs. It is indeed difficult to prove that Sychar could stand for Sikhem, either through change of pronunciation, or for any other reason, and the addition legomenê does not indicate, here any more than in xi. 54, so large and generally known a town as Sikhem. or Flavia Neapolis." [33:3]Mr. Sanday, [33:4] of whose able work Dr. Lightfoot directly speaks, says:--
"The name Sychar is not the common one, Sichem, but is a mock title (='liar' or 'drunkard') that was given to the town by the Jews. [33:5] This is a clear reminiscence of the vernacular that the Apostle spoke in his youth, and is a strong touch of nature. It is not quite certain that the name Sychar has this force, but the hypothesis is in itself more likely than, &c. ... It is not, however, by any means improbable that Sychar may represent, not Sichem, but the modern village Askar, which is somewhat nearer to Jacob's Well."
To quote one of the latest "travellers and apologists," Dr. Farrar says: "From what the name Sychar is derived is uncertain. The word legomenos in St. John seems to imply a sobriquet. It may be 'a lie,' 'drunken,' or 'a sepulchre.' Sychar may possibly have been a village nearer the well than Sichem, on the site of the village now called El Askar." [34:1] As Dr. Lightfoot specially mentions Neubauer, his opinion may be substantially given in a single sentence: "La Mischna mentionne un endroit appelé 'la plaine d'En-Sokher,' qui est peut-être le Sychar de l'Evangile." He had a few lines before said: "Il est donc plus logique de ne pas identifier Sychar avec Sichem." [34:2] Now, with regard to all these theories, and especially in so far as they connect Sychar with El Askar, let me quote a few more words in conclusion, from a "common source of information:"--
"On the other hand there is an etymological difficulty in the way of this identification. 'Askar begins with the letter 'Ain, which Sychar does not appear to have contained; a letter too stubborn and enduring to be easily either dropped or assumed in a name… These considerations have been stated not so much with the hope of leading to any conclusion on the identity of Sychar, which seems hopeless, as with the desire to show that the ordinary explanation is not nearly so obvious as it is usually assumed to be." [34:3]Mr. Grove is very right.
I have been careful only to quote from writers who are either "apologetic," or far from belonging to heterodox schools. Is it not perfectly clear that no place of the name of Sychar can be reasonably identified? The case, in fact, simply stands thus:--As the Gospel mentions a town called Sychar, apologists maintain that there must have been such a place, and attempt by various theories to find a site for it. It is certain, however, that even in the days of St. Jerome there was no real trace of such a town, and apologists and travellers have not since been able to discover it, except in their own imaginations.
With regard to the insinuation that the references given in my notes constitute a "subtle mode of intimidation" and "literary browbeating," Canon Lightfoot omits to say that I as fully and candidly refer to those who maintain views wholly different from my own, as to those who support me. It is very possible, considering the number of these references, that I may have committed some errors, and I can only say that I shall very thankfully receive from Dr. Lightfoot any corrections which he may be good enough to point out. Instead of intimidation and browbeating, my sole desire has been to indicate to all who may be anxious further to examine questions in debate, works in which they may find them discussed. It is time that the system of advancing apologetic opinions with perfect assurance, and without a hint that they are disputed by anyone, should come to an end, and that earnest men should be made acquainted with the true state of the case. As Dr. Mozley rightly and honestly says: "The majority of mankind, perhaps, owe their belief rather to the outward influence of custom and education than to any strong principle of faith within; and it is to be feared that many, if they came to perceive how wonderful what they believed was, would not find their belief so easy and so matter-of-course a thing as they appear to find it." [36:1]
I shall not here follow Dr. Lightfoot into his general remarks regarding my 'conclusions,' nor shall I proceed, in this article, to discuss the dilemma in which he attempts to involve me through his misunderstanding and consequent misstatement, of my views regarding the Supreme Being. I am almost inclined to think that I can have the pleasure of agreeing with him in one important point, at least, before coming to a close. When I read the curiously modified statement that I have "studiously avoided committing myself to a belief in a universal Father, or a moral Governor, or even in a Personal God," it seems clear to me that the Supernatural Religion about which Dr. Lightfoot has been writing cannot be my work, but is simply a work of his own imagination. That work cannot possibly have contained, for instance, the chapter on "Anthropomorphic Divinity," [36:2] in which, on the contrary, I studiously commit myself to very decided disbelief in such a "Personal God" as he means. In no way inconsistent with that chapter are my concluding remarks, contrasting with the spasmodic Jewish Divinity a Supreme Being manifested in the operation of invariable laws--whose very invariability is the guarantee of beneficence and security. If Dr. Lightfoot, however, succeeded in convicting me of inconsistency in those final expressions, there could be no doubt which view must logically be abandoned, and it would be a new sensation to secure the approval of a divine by the unhesitating destruction of the last page of my work.
Dr. Lightfoot, again, refers to Mr. Mill's "Three Essays on Religion," but he does not appear to have very deeply studied that work. I confess that I do not entirely agree with some views therein expressed, and I hope that, hereafter, I may have an opportunity of explaining what they are; but I am surprised that Dr. Lightfoot has failed to observe how singularly that great Thinker supports the general results of Supernatural Religion, to the point even of a frequent agreement almost in words. If Dr. Lightfoot had studied Mill a little more closely, he would not have committed the serious error of arguing: "Obviously, if the author has established his conclusions in the first part, the second and third are altogether superfluous. It is somewhat strange, therefore, that more than three-fourths of the whole work should be devoted to this needless task." [37:1] Now my argument in the first part is not that miracles are impossible--a thesis which it is quite unnecessary to maintain--but the much more simple one that miracles are antecedently incredible. Having shown that they are so, and appreciated the true nature of the allegation of miracles, and the amount of evidence requisite to establish it, I proceed to examine the evidence which is actually produced in support of the assertion that, although miracles are antecedently incredible, they nevertheless took place. Mr. Mill clearly supports me in this course. He states the main principle of my argument thus: "A revelation, therefore, cannot be proved divine unless by external evidence; that is, by the exhibition of supernatural facts. And we have to consider, whether it is possible to prove supernatural facts, and if it is, what evidence is required to prove them." [37:2] Mr. Mill decides that it is possible to prove the occurrence of a supernatural fact, if it actually occurred, and after showing the great preponderance of evidence against miracles, he says: "Against this weight of negative evidence we have to set such positive evidence as is produced in attestation of exceptions; in other words, the positive evidences of miracles. And I have already admitted that this evidence might conceivably have been such as to make the exception equally certain with the rule." [38:1] Mr. Mill's opinion of the evidence actually produced is not flattering, and may be compared with my results:
"But the evidence of miracles, at least to Protestant Christians, is not, in our day, of this cogent description. It is not the evidence of our senses, but of witnesses, and even this not at first hand, but resting on the attestation of books and traditions. And even in the case of the original eye-witnesses, the supernatural facts asserted on their alleged testimony are not of the transcendent character supposed in our example, about the nature of which, or the impossibility of their having had a natural origin, there could be little room for doubt. On the contrary, the recorded miracles are, in the first place, generally such as it would have been extremely difficult to verify as matters of fact, and in the next place, are hardly ever beyond the possibility of having been brought about by human means or by the spontaneous agencies of nature." [38:2]
It is to substantiate the statements made here, and, in fact, to confirm the philosophical conclusion by the historical proof, that I enter into an examination of the four Gospels, as the chief witnesses for miracles. To those who have already ascertained the frivolous nature of that testimony it may, no doubt, seem useless labour to examine it in detail; but it is scarcely conceivable that an ecclesiastic who professes to base his faith upon those records should represent such a process as useless. In endeavouring to place me on the forks of a dilemma, in fact, Dr. Lightfoot has betrayed that he altogether fails to appreciate the question at issue, or to comprehend the position of miracles in relation to philosophical and historical enquiry. Instead of being "altogether superfluous," my examination of witnesses, in the second and third parts, has more correctly been represented by able critics as incomplete, from the omission of the remaining documents of the New Testament. I foresaw, and myself to some degree admitted, the justice of this argument; [39:1] but my work being already bulky enough, I reserved to another volume the completion of the enquiry.
I cannot close this article without expressing my regret that so much which is personal and unworthy has been introduced into the discussion of a great and profoundly important subject. Dr. Lightfoot is too able and too earnest a man not to recognise that no occasional errors or faults in a writer can really affect the validity of his argument, and instead of mere general and desultory efforts to do some damage to me, it would be much more to the purpose were he seriously to endeavour to refute my reasoning. I have no desire to escape hard hitting or to avoid fair fight, and I feel unfeigned respect for many of my critics who, differing toto coelo from my views, have with vigorous ability attacked my arguments without altogether forgetting the courtesy due even to an enemy. Dr. Lightfoot will not find me inattentive to courteous reasoning, nor indifferent to earnest criticism, and, whatever he may think, I promise him that no one will be more ready respectfully to follow every serious line of argument than the author of Supernatural Religion.
|< Previous Section||Next Section >|