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place of origin, date of composition, authorship, and character of the books of the Bible, their divine and human elements, their inspiration and authority, considering in reference to each book its particular purpose and method, the ideas and circumstances of the period of its origin, its unity or compositeness, and all similar inquiries which can possibly contribute to a full and correct knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. An enormous responsibility rests upon evangelical biblical critics. The searching study of the Bible by the friendly and the hostile, ever keener and more nearly exhaustive, engaging the intelligence of the world more and more, will go in all centuries to come as for centuries past.
On the part of Christian scholars it needs to be conducted with caution as well as with thoroughness; with extreme care to be led into no error which may be as a little rift within the lute that by and by will make the music of the Gos. pel mute, to make no mistake which shall fracture, rupture, or fray out the supernaturalness of Christianity. The critics who handle the Bible should remember that they are handling the hope of the world, the very life of the human race. The janitor of a New York hospital submitted to an operation for the removal of a splintered and diseased rib; the surgeon's knife slipped a little, enough to puncture certain tissues, with the result that in a few minutes the patient on the operating table was dead. It is delicate and dangerous business where a single slip may prove fatal. Biblical criticism is that sort of business. The shape of the emergency created by destructive biblical criticism is such as to make evangelical Christendom prize its loyal, devout, and capable scholars, allowing them freedom to use, unhindered by dictation from the unscholarly and in such manner as they may judge to be most telling and strategic, the materials, knowledge, and skill now possessed by scholarship abreast of the times and familiar with the changing movements of learned thought.
An ever-present peril lies in the possibility of prematurely accepting proffered theories, reported revolutionizing discoveries, or rash and excessive inferences. Lord Salisbury, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Prime Minister of England, and President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, warned that association that the greatest danger which besets scientific research at the present day is “the acceptance of mere conjecture in the name and place of knowledge.” The peril in the region of theological and biblical investigation could hardly be more precisely described than in those identical words. Not infrequently undemonstrated hypotheses are urged for acceptance, and an effort is made to persuade the Church that in deference to the latest opinions of progressive scholars and in vindication of its own intelligence it must at once proceed to modify its interpretations and reconstruct its system of doctrine so as to adjust harmoniously with recent theories and opinions. Naturally the cautious Church, foster-mother of learning in all ages, anxious and bound to be always the pillar and ground of the truth, having in trust the oracles of God, and holding in its hands as its own peculiar property the fruits of long centuries of ardent, assiduous, and prayerful Bible study, is slow to tear down and rebuild its theological house at the bidding of innovational conclusions. Not until an opinion is supported by a strong consensus of the loyal scholarship of Christendom, so as to be generally and steadily accepted, need the Church think of changing its formulæ and standards of belief.
THE HARLEQUIN BIBLE. MOTLEY was the dress of the professional jester. It has recently been put on the Holy Scriptures, in a way which would be droll were the subject less serious, by costumers whose passion for colors seems as aboriginal and fantastic as the garb of the buffoon in early Italian comedy. The reception which the Polychrome Bible has met must be disappointing if not mortifying to the enterprising and ardent devotees who have produced it at great cost of labor and money. Even in quarters where it expected to be hailed with enthusiasm its welcome has lacked heartiness, and approbation has been meted out sparingly.
One editorial utterance, quoted by Professor Bowne in The Christian Revelation, p. 67, is a sample:
The examples of polychrome work exhibited thus far do not inspire high hopes. To see on one page of the book we have been accustomed to call the Bible print in five, eight, ten, and sometimes fourteen different colors is bewildering. To turn page after page and behold these iridescent and curiously intermingled shades of the rainbow, is to have an overpowering sense of the inextricable confusion of the text as deciphered by the critics. If we may judge the effect on the minds of nonprofessional Bible readers by its effect on our own we are warranted in saying that the polychrome edition will not increase either the better knowledge of the book or reverence for it among the people.
Even the most lax of religious journals making any claim to orthodoxy, a paper which belongs to the left wing of the socalled New Theology and goes with the forefront of advanced criticism, says:
The Polychrome Bible tells the student what scholars have discovered, or think they have, concerning the original sources of the Bible, and concerning the nature of its composition and the material of which it is composed; but it also tells him what they have guessed; and he is left to judge as to what is certainly known, what is reasonably concluded, and what is only shrewdly guessed.
When the readers of the Polychrome Bible have superadded their guessing to the guesses of the makers of it the result will be patchwork resembling a crazy quilt. When literary critics take a short verse of the Old Testament, divide it into three or four parts, and assign them to as many different sources, then would-be learning takes on a likeness to the fortune teller's pretense of knowledge, and criticism can scarcely be distinguished from charlatanism. The voluble knowingness of the cocksure dogmatic guesser invites the remark that he would better not know so much than to know so many things that nobody knows and that are quite likely not so. The works of advanced biblical critics call for some such comment as was made on a small book entitled Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt: “Professor Flinders Petrie has contrived to pack into this little volume an extraordinary amount of interesting, suggestive, and debatable matter. ... There are few archæologists so fertile in ingenious hypotheses, so tantalizing in the brevity of their proofs."
Andrew Lang, LL.D., fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and sometime Gifford Lecturer in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, is a scientist of repute in anthropology and cognate branches, a scholar of wide study and critical ability, a littérateur of versatility and genius, author of some twenty volumes, a thinker of trained faculty, ample culture, varied experience, and judicial temper. The impression made on such a man by any offering of scholarship or product of literary criticism cannot be regarded as of no significance ; his deliberate and distinct condemnation cannot be tossed aside as ignorant and imcompetent. His judgment, as printed in Longmans' Magazine, is not unworthy of reproduction here:
We are to have a new Bible, the “Polychrome Bible.” “If the people are to get the most possible from the Bible they must have it in modern idiomatic Eng.
lish.” I hope they will like it in modern English, say newspaper English. The type will be in lots of colors. “In answer to the cry of the people for more light upon the literary history of the Bible the distinctive polychrome feature was devised. . . . The people have a right to know the results of these studies " (Biblical Studies, Advertisement). Certainly the people have a right to know, but the people can only know in one way, and that is by reading a great many books of a tedious character, full of arguments which, for the most part, the people, not being oriental scholars or logically minded, cannot possibly estimate at their true value. There is no more a people's path than there is a royal road to learning. The translators are men of learning, I gladly admit, and the Joseph's coat of many colors and bright up-to-date English may attract the people. The people may buy a Polychrome Bible in twenty parts, at from five to ten shillings a part-and I hope the spelling is not to be American. But if the people, or anyone, thinks that the riddle of biblical criticism is mastered, I congratulate them or him on inexperience of misfortune. It hath been my lot lately to read a good deal of biblical criti. cism, made in Germany. The method is simple and Teutonic. You have a theory, you accept the evidence of the sacred writers as far as it suits your theory, and when it does not suit you say that the inconvenient passage is an “interpolation." It must be, for if not, what becomes of your theory? So you print the inconvenient passage
I suppose, or what not, and then the people know all about it. Anyone who wishes to see examples may find them in Professor Robertson's Early Religion of Israel, pp. 146–148, 205. I know this game well. The Germans have played it with Homer till it would be difficult to find a passage in the “Iliad” which has not been denounced as an “interpolation,” because it does not fit somebody's theory. This may be “criticism,” but it is not business-no, not if it is printed in all the colors of the rainbow. If the people really want to know," if “the cry of the people is for more light,” let the people begin by reading Professor Robertson's book, where they will find common sense, regard for evidence and for logic, and a disconcerting sense of humor. Then they can go on to Stade, and I hope they will find him as comic a logician as I do.
A reader who is not an oriental scholar (as I am none) has no locus standi as a critic of biblical critics where questions of language arise. But when the Teutonic judges of the Old Testament wander into anthropology, as they often do, then one knows where to have them. The people of course do not know where to have them, and are likely to swallow their statements about “animism” and “fetichism," and so on. For instance, they dispute as to Jehovah's name being
or, is the name of Hebrew origin? “The people have a right to know." But nobody knows.
This pastime has long been played with names like Athene or Artemis. “The people have a right to know the results of these studies.” There are no results. Nobody is one whit the wiser. Of course I do not mean that there should be no biblical criticism. But if the people think it safe to swallow the variegated the. ories made in Germany, France, England, or America, the people are wrong, and one can only say populus vult decipi. What can we make of criticism when one leader (Stade) says that Israel was never in Egypt, and another leader (Well. hausen) says that Israel was in Egypt? It is as if Principal Rhys vowed that the English came from Caithness, or never came at all, while Mr. Freeman maintains that the English came from the Continent. The Egyptian bondage was the corner stone of Hebrew history. One famous critic takes it away, and another leaves it standing, and the people may toss up for it. These are the “results” for which the people are supposed to be yelling. I have actually observed a critic maintaining that the ideas of the decalogue must be much later than Moses. They are the ideas of the untutored Australian black fellow, who is certainly not a marvel of modernité. This is not written in the interests of orthodoxy, but in the interests of ordinary
It is just as provoking to see Homer or Herodotus pulled about by German “ingenuity" as to see the Bible treated in the same way. But the people are not “a-hollering and a-bellering" for a Polychrome Iliad. They let the criticism of Homer go by; they do not care for Homer. For the Bible they do care, and one can only repeat, “Do not swallow theories because they are German.” Polychrome print is no argument.
I take from Professor Robertson an example of the critical method. Amos the prophet lived, I presume, in the eighth century before our era. He, according to criticism, was one of the earliest writers in Israel. Not to dwell on the problem of the date of the introduction of writing, Amos says something (chap. v, 25). What he means “ the people have a right to know," but, as far as the translation goes, it is impossible to tell what he means. In fact, nobody can make any sense of the passage. However, some critics suppose it to imply that the Israelites, during the forty years in the wilderness, were convinced idolaters. This they accept as an historical statement of fact. But by their own theory the affair of forty years in the wilderness, if ever there was such an affair at all, which they doubt, occurred some five years before Amos, his time, and there was no writing wherein to record the circumstances. Yet, as the idea that the Israelites were steady idolaters in these remote ages is pleasant to the critics, they decide, first, that this is what Amos means, and, next, that on this point Amos is a competent authority. This is as if I were to say that the Venerable Bede was a good authority for some event that occurred, or did not occur, in Kintyre about 300 A. D. “It is somewhat peculiar," says Professor Robertson, “to find writers who tell us that there was no forty years' wandering in the desert at all, accepting the testimony of Amos in regard to the religious practices of a time which he so precisely defines "—that is, the said apocryphal forty years. The joke is that critics differ even as to whether Amos is talking in the past or future tense. The poor prophet is also supposed to be speaking both unhistorically and also as a good historical authority at one and the same time. We would all like to understand the Old Testament better than we