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Is prophecy, then, only the exercise of common sagacity? No, but of uncommon sagacity. It is a human sagacity made divine by a heavenly influence. Inspiration does not create the faculty of foresight, but develops it in a high degree. The prophet, under the influence of this divine power, foresees what to others is unseen. Therefore, the prophet is often disliked and hated, stoned and persecuted, because he announces coming woes and punishments. He is called a fanatic and a madman; he “troublei Israel”; he disturbs the slumbers and the comforts of those who only care for the present. When he speaks of the judgment to come, Felix trembles, and says, “ At a more convenient season, I will listen to thee.”
Inspiration gives knowledge of the substance of truth, but leaves the prophet fallible in regard to the circumstances. Thus, the prophetic soul of Columbus saw truly that by sailing west he would arrive at a continent; but he supposed it would be Asia, when in fact it was America. Theodore Parker wrote a letter to John P. Hale, in 1856, in which he said: “If Buchanan is president, I think the Union does not hold out his four years. It must end in civil war." Buchanan was chosen president; the Union did not hold out to the end of his term; civil war did come. So far, Parker foresaw what hardly any one else did at that time. But he was mistaken as to the circumstances; for he predicted the "worst fighting at the North, between the friends of freedom and the Hunkers,” which never came, since nine-tenths of the so-called Hunkers ceased to be Hunkers, turned around and defended the Union, and the other tenth was silenced.
Paul's inspiration led him to foresee the coming of Jesus as the Christ, to make a new heaven and a new earth. In that, he foresaw the truth; for Christ has come, is coming, and will come more and more. Paul was right in foreseeing the coming manifestation (parousia) of Jesus as the Christ. But, in his earliest letters written to the Thessalonians, he seems to have looked for an outward, visible coming in the air, with audible sounds and accompanying marvels. Afterward, he appears to have dismissed these expectations, and speaks of sitting in heavenlv places now with Christ Jesus; speaks of being already risen with him; speaks of Christ within, the hope of glory. His inspiration, which gave to him to foresee the essential truth, did not prevent him, for a time, from unessential error.—Dr. J. F. Clarke (The Ideas of Paul, Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, May 7, 1881).
Similarly, in answer to the question as to Paul, has an eminent “ Free-Religious Anglican” written:
Where, then, is the force of that argument of despair, as we called it. that, if St. Paul vouches for the bod ly resurrection of Jesus and for his appearance after it, and is mistaken in so vouching, then he must be an imbecile and credulous enthusiast, untruthful, unprofitable? We see that for a man to believe in preternatural incidents, of a kind admitted by the common belief of his time, proves nothing at all against his general truthfulness and sagacity. Nay, we see that, even while affirming such preternatural incidents, he may with profound insight seize the true and natural aspect of them, the aspect which will survive and profit when the miraculous aspect has faded. He may give us, in the very same work, current error and also fruitful and profound new truth, the error's future corrective. — Matthew Arnold (St. Paul and Protestantism).
Many of our traditional constructions of Scripture are Japhetic interpretations of Semitic texts.— Dr. Daniel D. Whedon.
Every error is a truth abused.— Bishop J. B. Bossuet.
Aristotle says: “No great genius was ever without some admixture of madness; nor can anything grand or superior to the voice of common mortals be spoken, except by the agitated soul.” And Mr. Emerson adds: “We might say of these memorable moments of life that we were in them, not they in us. We found ourselves by happy fortune in an illuminated portion of meteorous zone, and passed out of it again, so aloof was it from any will of ours.”* “'Tis a principle of war," said Napoleon, “that, when you can use the lightning, 'tis better than cannon. Earnestness is the thunder-bolt.”
In studying inspiration, Ewald's view of revelation is in point, t-namely, that God stands alike over against all man's powers and capacities, though at times drawing nearer to one side of us than to another; and, therefore, man must turn his spirit, with all its powers and capacities, perfectly unto God in order not to be estranged from him. Thus, when we consider the manifoldness of God's relations to us, and the variety of our possible impressions of the Being who besets us behind and before and on every side, we should expect that a revelation from God would be a divine manifestation “at sundry times and in divers manners";$ we should expect to find it as a great diversified fact and manifold influence in human history, pressing in upon man from different sides of his complex being, moulding society, shaping events, forming history.
Similarly, Max Müller has remarked § that a revelation ready made and given to men, like a language formed in heaven, would have been a foreign religion that men could not understand. And Prof. W. Beyschlag,—“So long as the majority of
* Letters and Social Aims, p. 227. † Lehre der Bibel von Gott, vol. ii., p. ior. # Hebrews i., I. Ś Contemporary Review, November, 1878, p. 709.
theologians treat the word of God as a book of oracles, so long will it appear as a book of fables to the majority of the educated laity.” And Dr. Newman Smyth :
We fall into hopeless contradictions, if we begin by regarding the Bible as a text-book of divinity. It is rather a book of life; and we must discover its meanings as we would study the mysteries of nature or interpret the changeful drama of life. Jesus regarded the truth of revelation as a word to be done.* Revelation is pre-eminently truth which has been done in history. The Bible certainly presents a spectacle of the contests of embodied truths with falsehoods clothed in human forms; a spectacle in which we behold right and wrong coming and going in a prophet's mantle or the armor of a king; where we see truth succeeding, and error dying, in the issues of human lives and the rise and fall of kingdoms. The great doctrines of the Bible are vividly revealed through its characters and their work, and in the progress of the whole history. In this book for all peoples and ages, the most abstract and impalpable truths seem taken, as it were, from the very air, from distant realms of the spirit, and clothed with flesh and blood; they are revealed walking with men, dwelling in their homes, made concrete and visible in the person of patriarch, prophet, or apostle; and they are summed up and declared in the vernacular of every man's heart, in the Word made flesh.- Old Faiths in New Light, p. 37.
There is no other entrance to the kingdom of man, which is founded in the sciences, than to the kingdom of heaven into which no one can enter but in the character of a little child.- Francis Bacon,
The word by seers or sibyls told,
Ralph W. Emerson. CHAPTER IV.
* John iii., 21.
What Two Diverse Opinions as to the circumstances of the
Writing and of the Writers of the Four Canonical Gospels ?
(1) THE evangelical: that the first, second, and fourth were penned respectively by three disciples of Christ, and the third by a personal acquaintance.
(2) The traditional: that the three Synoptic ("togetherview ") Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are simple, unapostolic digests of earlier traditions.
Matthew consists of (1) the Triple Tradition; (2) extracts from a book or tradition of the words of the Lord, from which Luke also borrowed; and (3) an introduction, framework, and appendix, all added by one hand; though possibly the introduction and appendix, being borrowed, the former from an Aramaic source, may show differences of idiom not wholly concealed by the overlying style of the author who works up the materials.- Dr. Edwin A. Abbott (Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. x., p. 805, article “Gospels,” note).
Convenience dictates that we designate the four as Matthew's, Mark's, Luke's, and. John's, respectively, whatever may have been their authorship. As to that of the Fourth Gospel, very elaborate arguments have lately been published both for and against its genuineness ; each side finding it not very easy, in procuring data for their premises, to resist a tendency " to draw," as Lightfoot somewhere expresses it, "unlimited checks on the bank of the unknown." As to its date, industrious investigators differ all along between 100 and 178 A.D. Theodor Keim says 130 A.D. ; * Daniel Schenkel, 115-120 A.D.
Dr. Matthew Arnold argues very ingeniously, both “from without” and “ from within," that the Fourth Gospel had a “ redactor,” who was a Gnostic disciple of St. John. f So, too, M. D. Conway, mentioning the original of the wrongly translated passage, John viii., 44, “He is a liar, and so is his father,"
* Geschichte Jesu, etc., 1875, p. 40. + Das Charakterbild Jesu, 1873, p. 370. I God and the Bible, chaps. v. and vi.
as indicating the Gnostic Demiurge; mentioning also the style of John xi., 42. *
And as to the omission of the Sermon on the Mount, Mr. Conway thinks “the homely, every-day virtues of that sermon were too human, too commonplace, to arrest the attention of a speculative enthusiast, absorbed in the tremendous work of remodelling the theosophic schools of Egypt and Greece, harmonizing their divisions, and solving the problems of ages." The words “ Salvation is of the Jews” he deems a Jewish interpolation, in the noble utterance to the Samaritan woman upon worship: “ This bit of bigotry remains there like an insect in translucent amber.” He also cautions us to make allowance for “Luke's polemical attitude toward the Jews, and slightly speculative tendency toward Greek superstition.”
From thirty to forty years after the death of Jesus, the tradition of his life and ministry and death had shaped itself into the basis of our present Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The contents of this fundamental tradition - fundamental to our Gospels, but in its turn, no doubt, the result of various accretions — are as flattering to the anti-supernaturalist as he could reasonably expect. Accounts of miracles are here, even some of the most startling; but there is not a hint of the miraculous birth of Jesus nor of the legends of his infancy, and the tradition ends with the discovery that his tomb is empty, without a word to signalize that he was seen again by any woman or disciple. In this tradition, the personality of Jesus is revealed in lines so firm and strong that the accretions of a later time add little to their force. The man behind the myth is there, no thin abstraction, but an individual with blood in his veins, and in his heart the love of human kind.-J. W. Chadwick (The Man Jesus, p. 34).
The traditional view of the composition of the four Gospels may be better understood by considering also that of some of the other books. Dr. Newman Smyth, who regards the Bible as “a growth slowly matured under the influence of both natural and supernatural forces,” refers to the composite structure of Genesis, and contrasts Ezra, the editor, with the royal shepherd-poet:
Very much as the wood-cutter can judge, from the successive layers of wood laid bare by his axe, how many seasons the tree has been growing, so a close scrutiny of the Bible shows unmistakable signs of the different ages and conditions of its growth. ... However the spirit of God may have used for his higher purposes the minds of men, we can be assured that he did not overpower their natural
* Idols and Ideals, App. Essay, p. 8.