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All the books of the Bible were written long before the invention of printing, and copies of them were made by hand and therefore liable to slight errors of transcription. The most ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament date from the year 916 A. D., and the oldest of the New Testament from about 331. These manuscripts show a great number of discrepancies, though for the most part these are minor and insignificant differences. The work of comparing these manuscripts and translations, and quotations made from Scripture by early writers, so as to determine as exactly as possible the original text, is called textual or lower criticism. So great has been the care in the transcription, and so profound the reverence for the very words of the sacred books, that we have been able to determine the original readings with much greater certainty than we have of any classical book of antiquity or even of mediaeval literature; and we may be confident that we have, to all intents and purposes, the very words of the men who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The whole Bible has been translated into some five hundred different languages, and certain portions of it into many more. And
every year adds to the list of translations and revisions of these versions.
The work of higher criticism is to determine the date, authorship, and mode of composition of the various books. The chief questions of higher criticism are, first, the genuineness of the book; that is whether, the book, as we have it, is the work of the author to whom it is attributed. For example, is the book called the Epistle of Paul to the Romans really the work of Paul. Second, the integrity of the book; is it all by the same author, or has it been revised or added to by later writers. Third, the date of the books and the circumstances of their composition, and, Fourth, the mode of their composition; whether original with the supposed author or merely compiled by him from earlier writings, and if so, what sources did he
draw on for his matter.
For the past half century there has been much activity in the field of higher criticism, and many radical theories have been advanced as to the date and authorship of some of the books; for example, the Penteteuch in its present form is considered by many to be a much later book than was formerly supposed; and, instead of being written by Moses, was the composition of some writer or writers of much later date who compiled these books "by piecing together verbatim extracts from older documents, making various changes and additions.” The Book of Isaiah is thought by many to be the work of at least two authors. Isaiah, the son of Amos, probably writing chapters 1-xxxix, and someone else, at a much later date, composing the remainder, chapters XL-LXVI. Others divide the book into three sections and consider each of these as a collection of separate prophecies by different authors.
The whole field of higher criticism has been, and still is, a field of controversy, and no satisfactory concensus of opinion has been reached with regard to many of its problems. It is a most interesting field, and the discussion of its problems has contributed greatly to our knowledge of these books, but most, if not all, of its problems are of secondary importance, inasmuch as the value of the books depends but slightly on our knowledge of their authorship, or date, or mode of composition. Indeed some of the most edifying books of the Bible,—as for example the Book of Job and many of the Psalms, are of unknown origin. It is the character of the book that proves the author's inspiration, and not the author that implies the character of the book.
The varied contents of these books may be classified in any way that logic or convenience may suggest, but it is important that some order and method be followed that will present the matter in some clear form, easily held in memory. One convenient method of such classification is to start with the con
ception of the Bible as a record of revelations, given at sundry times and in divers manners, and then make these times and manners the basis of our system of presenting the whole. This scheme would give us such heads as, The Revelation of God in his work of Creation, The Revelation given in parable and allegory, The Revelation in Types and Symbols. The Revelations of Prophecy, of Poetry, of History, Biography, and Philosophy. The chronological order of the books and the development of doctrine must be considered also, for the force and value of any revelation will depend to some degree upon the time and order of its coming.
A few words of explanation here may be helpful to an understanding of just what we are to look for under each of these heads.
Creation: The story of creation given in the Bible is very brief, though it covers an enormous period of time. It touches on a great variety of subjects, but its purpose is very simple and specific. It is not a treatise on geology or biology or physics or any other science. Whatsoever of interest it may contain on such subjects is altogether incidental. The purpose of the whole story is to reveal to us our place in the universe, our relation to God and to the world we dwell in. It defines our peculiar position as a part of the material creation and yet superior to it; formed of the dust and to dust returning, yet raised far above all material things by our spiritual life,-the breath of God by which we become living souls.
Every workman is known by his work. The Creator is revealed by Creation. Not fully of course, but to some degree what we are to believe concerning God is made known by his work of creation. All science is but the discovery of God's work of creation; this brief sketch of the beginning of things is of inestimable value in giving us the right point of view, and enabling us to form a right conception of the relation of the world to God.
Parable and Allegory: It is impossible to convey truth from mind to mind by words, unless both minds already have the same ideas associated with the words. There is no natural or necessary connection between any idea and the sound used to denote it. The only way in which new ideas may be expressed, new thoughts revealed, is by some kind of allegory—some presentation to the senses or imagination of objects or actions that are in some way analogous to the spiritual object or idea. Such symbols are necessary to the revelation of all things that cannot be seen or handled. Hence the fundamental notions of moral and religious truth are taught in parables or allegory or symbolic acts and objects. Thus the story of man's first disobedience is told in the allegory of “that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe,” and our Lord taught what “the Kingdom is like” by many parables.
Types and Symbols: These are but the more elaborate and systematic form of teaching by analogy, "by meats and drinks and divers washings," which were the "shadows" of spiritual truth. The whole ritual of the Old Testament was a religious drama, a pantomime, in which the acts and objects used in worship represented the eternal principles of spiritual truth; and the sacraments and ordinances of the New Testament are but "sensible signs" by which the knowledge and benefits of redemption are represented.
Prophecy and Poetry: But such symbols must be interpreted, supplemented and expounded. This is the work of the prophet and the poet. The prophet is God's spokesman; to speak for God is his office. Both the prophet and the poet are seers, their function is to see the truth in its fullness and its beauty, and to body forth their visions and insight and foresight, so that all may see and know and appreciate the truth they saw.
History: Truth is never so clearly seen as when presented in concrete form-tried out and exemplified in the actual life
The record of experience is history. A very large part of the Bible is history—a faithful record of what men have done, revealing the laws of God in their actual operation, and teaching in the most unquestionable way the everlasting principle that what a man soweth that shall he also reap. Biography is but the more profound and intimate form of history --revealing the inner side of the same exeperiences whose outer side is history.
Philosophy is the explanation of phenomena. It is the process of reflection by which the mind discovers the meaning of the facts of life. As when the Psalmist—Ps. VIII-observed the fact of God's goodness to so small and insignificant a creature as man, he reflected that man's greatness was to be measured not by his physical or material bulk or power, but by his spiritual nature—his angelic likeness, his overlordship and dominion over all creation. So the Book of Job, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and much of the prophetic books reveal, not the mere facts of experience, but the meaning of the facts. Philosophy above all other forms of revelation teaches the wisdom of God, and shows the sweet reasonableness of his dealings with
These “divers manners” of revelation are not separate nor independent, but rather various elements that combine to set forth truth in its fulness and beauty. They may be compared to the form and color and fragrance which are features of the flower, or to the light and shade and movement of the living world viewed from some point of vantage. So the story of creation, the symbols and the prophecies, the poetry and history and philosophy reveal the same truth, eternal truth, God's truth. These varied forms of revelation come with varied efthe same person.
Some forms address themselves especially to our intellect, others rather to our emotions, or our artistic sense, and others are more effective to move our will to action. But each and all are directed to us, to each of