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BUNSEN’S BIBLICAL RESEARCHES.
When geologists began to ask whether changes in the earth’s structure might be explained by causes still in operation, they did not disprove the possibility of great convulsions, but they lessened necessity for imagining them. So, if a theologian has his eyes opened to the Divine energy as continuous and omnipresent, he lessens the sharp contrast of epochs in Revelation, but need not assume that the stream has never varied in its flow. Devotion raises time present into the sacredness of the past; while Criticism reduces the strangeness of the past into harmony with the present. Faith and Prayer (and great marvels answering to them), do not pass away: but, in prolonging their range as a whole, we make their parts less exceptional. We hardly discern the truth, for which they are anxious, until we distinguish it from associations accidental to their domain. The truth itself may have been apprehended in various degrees by servants of God, of old, as now. Instead of, with Tertullian, what was first is truest, we may say, what comes of God is true, and He is not only afar, but nigh at hand; though His mind is not changed.
Questions of miraculous interference do not turn merely upon our conceptions of physical law, as unbroken, or of the Divine Will, as all-pervading: bug they include inquiries into evidence, and must abide by verdicts on the age of records. Nor should the distinction between poetry and prose, and the possibility 51of imagination’s allying itself with affection, be overlooked. We cannot encourage a remorseless criticism of Gentile histories and escape its contagion when we approach Hebrew annals; nor acknowledge a Providence in Jewry without owning that it may have comprehended sanctities elsewhere. But the moment we examine fairly the religions of India, and of Arabia, or even those of primeval Hellas and Latium. we find they appealed to the better side of our nature, and their essential strength lay in the elements of good which they contained, rather than in any Satanic corruption.
Thus considerations, religious and moral, no less than scientific and critical, have, where discussion was free, widened the idea of Revelation for the old world, and deepened it for ourselves , not removing the footsteps of the Eternal from Palestine, but tracing them on other shores; and not making the saints of old orphans, but ourselves partakers of their sonship. Conscience would not lose by exchanging that repressive idea of revelation, which is put over against it as an adversary, for one to which the echo of its best instincts should be the witness. The moral constituents of our nature, so often contrasted with Revelation, should rather be considered parts of its instrumentality. Those eases in which we accept the miracle for the sake of the moral lesson prove the ethical element to be the more fundamental. We see this more clearly if we imagine a miracle of cruelty wrought (as by Antichrist) for immoral ends; for then only the technically miraculous has its value isolated; whereas by appealing to good ‘WORKS’ (however wonderful) for his witness, Christ has taught us to have faith mainly in goodness. This is too much overlooked by some apologists. But there is hardly any greater question than whether history shows Almighty God to have trained mankind by a faith which has reason and conscience for its kindred, or by one to whose miraculous tests their pride must 52 bow; that is, whether His Holy Spirit has acted through the channels which His Providence ordained, or whether it has departed from these so signally that comparative mistrust of them ever afterwards becomes a duty. The first alternative, though invidiously termed philosophical, is that to which free nations and Evangelical thinkers tend; the second has a greater show of religion, but allies itself naturally with priestcraft or formalism; and not rarely with corruptness of administration or of life.
In this issue converge many questions anciently stirred, but recurring in our daylight with almost uniform11 It is very remarkable that, amidst all our Biblical illustration from recent travellers, Layard, Rawlinson, Robinson, Stanley, &c., no single point has been discovered to tell in favour of irrational supernaturalism; whereas numerous discoveries have confirmed the more liberal (not to say, rationalising) criticism which traces Revelation historically within the sphere of nature and humanity. Such is the moral, both of the Assyrian discoveries, and of all travels in the East, as well as the verdict of philologers at home. Mr. G. Rawlinson’s proof of this is stronger, because undesigned. accession of strength to the liberal side. Such questions turn chiefly on the law of growth, traceable throughout the Bible, as in the world; and partly on science, or historical inquiry but no less on the deeper revelations of the New Testament, as compared to those of the Old. If we are to retain the old Anglican foundations of research and fair statement, we must revise some of the decisions provisionally given upon imperfect evidence; or, if we shrink from doing so, we must abdicate our ancient claim to build upon the truth; and our retreat will be either to Rome, as some of our lost ones have consistently seen, or to some form, equally evil, of darkness voluntary. The attitude of too many English scholars before the last Monster out of the Deep is that of the degenerate senators before Tiberius. They stand, balancing terror against mutual shame. Even with those in our universities who no longer repeat 53fully the required Shibboleths, the explicitness of truth is rare. He who assents most, committing himself least to baseness, is reckoned wisest.
Bunsen’s enduring glory is neither to have paltered with his conscience nor shrunk from the difficulties of the problem; but to have brought a vast erudition, in the light of a Christian conscience, to unroll tangled records, tracing frankly the Spirit of God elsewhere, but honouring chiefly the traditions of His Hebrew sanctuary. No living author’s works could furnish so pregnant a text for a discourse on Biblical criticism. Passing over some specialties of Lutheranism, we may meet in the field of research which is common to scholars; while even here, the sympathy, which justifies respectful exposition, need not imply entire agreement.
In the great work upon Egypt,22 Egypt’s Place in Universal History, by Christian C. J. Bunsen, &c. London. 1848, vol. i. 1854, vol. ii. the later volumes of which are now appearing in English, we do not find that picture of home lift which meets us in the pages of our countryman, Sir G. Wilkinson. The interest for robust scholars is not less, in the fruitful comparison of the oldest traditions of our race, and in the giant shapes of ancient empires, which flit like dim shadows, evoked by a master’s hand. But for those who seek chiefly results, there is something wearisome in the elaborate discussion of authorities; and, it must be confessed, the German refinement of method has all the effect of confusion. To give details here is impossible (though the more any one scrutinizes them, the more substantial he will and them), and this sketch must combine suggestions, which the author has scattered strangely apart, and sometimes repeated without perfect consistency. He dwells largely upon Herodotus, Eratosthenes, and their successors, from Champollion and Young to Lepsius. Especially 54the dynastic records of the Ptolemaic priest, Manetho,33 See an account of him, and his tables, in the Byzantine Syncellus, pp. 72-145, vol. i., ed. Dind., in the Corpus Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn. 1829. But with this is to be compared the Armenian version of Eusebius’s Chronology, discovered by Cardinal Mai. The text, the interpretation, and the historical fidelity, are all controverted. Baron Bunsen’s treatment of them deserves the provisional acceptance due to elaborate research, with no slight, concurrence of probabilities; and if it should not ultimately win a favourable verdict from Egyptologers, no one who summarily rejects it as arbitrary or impossible can have a right to be on the jury. are compared with the accounts of the stone monuments. The result, if we can receive it, is to vindicate for the civilized kingdom of Egypt, from Menes downward, an antiquity of nearly four thousand years before Christ. There is no point in which archaeologists of all shades were so nearly unanimous as in the belief that our Biblical chronology was too narrow in its limits; and the enlargement of our views, deduced from Egyptian records, is extended by our author’s reasonings on the development of commerce and government and still more of languages, and physical features of race. He could not have vindicated the unity mankind if he had not asked for a vast extension time, whether his petition of twenty thousand years be granted or not. The mention of such a term may appear monstrous to those who regard six thousand years as a part of Revelation. Yet it is easier to throw doubt on some of the arguments than to show that the conclusion in favour of a vast length is improbable. If pottery in a river’s mud proves little, its tendency may agree with that of the discovery of very ancient pre-historic remains in many parts of the world. Again, how many years are needed to develop modern French out of Latin, and Latin itself out of its original crude forms? How unlike is English to Welsh, and Greek to Sanskrit—yet all indubitably of one family of languages! What years were required to create the existing divergence of members of this family! How many more for other 55families, separated by a wide gulf from this, yet retaining, traces of a primæval aboriginal affinity, to have developed themselves, either in priority or collaterally? The same consonantal roots, appearing either as verbs inflected with great variety of grammatical form, or as nouns with case-endings in some languages, and with none in others, plead as convincingly as the succession of strata in geology, for enormous lapses of time. When, again, we have traced our Gaelic and our Sanskrit to their inferential pre-Hellenic stem, and when reason has convinced us that the Semitic languages which had as distinct an individuality four thousand years ago as they have now, require a cradle of larger dimensions than Archbishop Ussher’s chronology, what farther effort is not forced upon our imagination, if we would guess the measure of the dim background in which the Mongolian and Egyptian languages, older probably than the Hebrew, became fixed, growing early into the type which they retain? Do we see an historical area of nations and languages extending itself over nearly ten thousand years: and can we imagine less than another ten thousand, during which the possibilities of these things took body and form? Questions of this kind require from most of us a special training for each but Baron Bunsen revels in them, and his theories are at least suggestive. He shows what Egypt had in common with that primæval Asiatic stock, represented by Ham, out of which, as raw material, he conceives the divergent families, termed Indo-European44 The common term was Indo-Germanic. Dr. Prichard, on bringing the Gael and Cymry into the same family, required the wider term Indo-European. Historical reasons, chiefly in connexion with Sanskrit, are brings the term Aryan (or Aryas) into fashion. We may adopt whichever is intelligible, without excluding, perhaps, a Turanian or African element surviving in South Wales. Turanian means nearly Mongolian. and Semitic (or the kindreds of Europe and of Palestine) to have been 56later developed. Nimrod is considered as the Biblical representative of the earlier stock, whose ruder language is continued, by affiliation or by analogy, in the Mongolian races of Asia and in the negroes of Africa.
The traditions of Babylon, Sidon, Assyria, and Iran, are brought by our author to illustrate and confirm, though to modify our interpretation of, Genesis. It is strange how nearly those ancient cosmogonies55 Aegypten’s Stella in der Weltgeschichte, pp. 186-400; B. v. 1-3. Gotha. 1856. approach what may be termed the philosophy of Moses, while they fall short in what Longinus called his ‘worthy conception of the divinity.’ Our deluge takes its place among geological phenomena, no longer a disturbance of law from which science shrinks, but a prolonged play of the forces of fire and water, rendering the primæval regions of North Asia uninhabitable, and urging the nations to new abodes. We learn approximately its antiquity, and infer limitation in its range, from finding it recorded in the traditions of Iran and Palestine (or of Japhet and Shem) but unknown to the Egyptians and Mongolians, who left earlier the cradle of mankind. In the half ideal half traditional notices66 Aegypten’s Stelle, &c., B. v. 4-5, pp. 50-142. Gotha. 1857. of the beginnings of our race, compiled in Genesis, we are bid notice the combination of documents, and the recurrence of barely consistent genealogies. As the man Adam begets Cain, the man Enos begets Cainan. Jared and Man, Methuselah and Methusael, are similarly compared. Seth, like El, is an old deity’s appellation, and Man was the son of Seth in one record, as Adam was the son of God in the other. One could wish the puzzling circumstance, that the etymology of some of the earlier names seems strained to suit the present form of the narrative had been explained. That our author would 57not shrink from noticing this, is shown by the firmness with which he relegates the long lives of the first patriarchs to the domain of legend, or of symbolical cycle. He reasonably conceives that the historical portion begins with Abraham, where the lives become natural, and information was nearer. A sceptical criticism might, indeed, ask, by what right he assumes that the moral dimensions of our spiritual heroes can not have been idealized by tradition, as he admits to have been the case with physical events and with chronology rounded into epical shape. But the first principles of his philosophy, which fixes on personality (or what we might call force of character) as the great organ of Divine manifestation in the world, and his entire method of handling the Bible, lead him to insist on the genuineness, and to magnify the force, of spiritual ideas, and of the men who exemplified them. Hence, on the side of religion, he does not intentionally violate that reverence with which Evangelical thinkers view the fathers of our faith. To Abraham and Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, he renders grateful honour. Even in archaeology his scepticism does not outrun the suspicions often betrayed its our popular mind; and he limits, while he confirms these, by showing how far they have ground. But as he says, with quaint strength, ‘there is no chronological element in Revelation.’ Without borrowing the fifteen centuries which the Greek Church and the Septuagint would lend us, we see, from comparing the Bible with the Egyptian records and with itself, that our common dates are wrong, though it is not so easy to say how they should be rectified. The idea of bringing Abraham into Egypt as early as 2876 B.C. is one of our author’s most doubtful points, and may seem hardly tenable. But he wanted time for the growth of Jacob’s family into a people of two millions, and he felt bound to place Joseph under a native Pharaoh, therefore, before the Shepherd 58Kings. He also contends that Abraham’s horizon in Asia is antecedent to the first Median conquest of Babylon in 2234. A famine, conveniently mentioned under the twelfth dynasty of Egypt, completes his proof. Sesortosis, therefore, is the Pharaoh to whom Joseph was minister; the stay of the Israelites in Egypt is extended to fourteen centuries; and the date 215 represents the time of oppression. Some of these details are sufficiently doubtful to afford ground of attack to writers whose real quarrel is with our author’s Biblical research, and its more certain, but not therefore more welcome, conclusions. It is easier to follow him implicitly when he leads us, in virtue of an overwhelming concurrence of Egyptian records and of all the probabilities of the case, to place the Exodus as late as 1320 or 1314. The event is more natural in Egypt’s decline under Menephthah, the exiled son of the great Ramses, than amidst the splendour of the eighteenth dynasty. It cannot well have been earlier, or the Book of Judges must have mentioned the conquest of Canaan by Ramses; nor later, for then Joshua would come in collision with the new empire of Ninus and Semiramis. But Manetho places, under Menephthah, what seems the Egyptian version of the event, and the year 1314, one of our alternatives, is the date assigned it by Jewish tradition. Not only is the historical reality of the Exodus thus vindicated against the dreams of the Drummonds and the Volneys, but a new interest is given it by its connexion with the rise and fall of great empires. We can understand how the ruin on which Ninus rose made room in Canaan for the Israelites, and how they fell again under the satraps of the New Empire, who appear in the Book of Judges as kings of the provinces. Only, if we accept the confirmation, we must take all its parts. Manetho makes the conquerors before whom Menephthah retreats into Ethiopia Syrian shepherds, and gives the human side of an invasion, or war of liberation;77 νόμον ἔθετο μήτε προσκυνεῖν Θεοὺς . . . . συνάπτεσθαι δὲ μηδενὶ πλὴν τῶν συνωμοσμένων· αὐτὸς δὲ . . . . ἔπεμψε πρέσβεις πρὸς τοὺς ὑπὸ Τεθμώσεως ἀπελαθέντας ποιμένας . . . . καὶ ἡξίου συνεπιστρατεύειν κ.τ.λ. Manetho, apud Jos. c. Apion. The whole passage has the stamp of genuine history.: 59Baron Bunsen notices the ‘high hand’ with which Jehovah led forth his people, the spoiling of the Egyptians, and the lingering in the peninsula, as signs, even in the Bible, of a struggle conducted by human means. Thus, as the pestilence of the Book of Kings becomes in Chronicles the more visible angel, so the avenger who slew the firstborn may have been the Bedouin host, akin nearly to Jethro, and more remotely to Israel.
So in the passage of the Red Sea, the description may be interpreted with the latitude of poetry though, as it is not affirmed that Pharaoh was drowned, it is no serious objection that Egyptian authorities continue the reign of Menephthah later. A greater difficulty is that we find but three centuries thus left us from the Exodus to Solomon’s Temple. Yet less stress will be laid on this by whoever notices how the numbers in the Book of Judges proceed by the eastern round number of forty, what traces the whole book bears of embodying history in its most popular form, and how naturally St. Paul or St. Stephen would speak after received accounts.
It is not the importance severally, but the continual recurrence of such difficulties, which bears wills ever-growing induction upon tire question, whether the Pentateuch is of one age and hand, and whether subsequent books are contemporary with the events, or whether the whole literature grew like a tree rooted in the varying thoughts of successive generations, and whether traces of editorship, if not of composition, between the ages of Solomon and Hezekiah, are manifest to whoever will recognise them. Baron Bunsen 60finds himself compelled to adopt the alternative of gradual growth. He makes the Pentateuch Mosaic, as indicating the mind and embodying the developed system of Moses, rather than as written by the great lawgiver’s hand. Numerous fragments of genealogy, of chronicle, and of spiritual song go up to a high antiquity, but are imbedded in a crust of later narrative, the allusions of which betray at least a time when kings were established in Israel. Hence the idea of composition out of older materials must be admitted; and it may in some cases be conceived that the compiler’s point of view differed from that of the older pieces, which yet he faithfully preserved. If the more any one scrutinizes the sacred text, the more he finds himself impelled to these or like conclusions respecting it, the accident of such having been alleged by men more critical than devout should not make Christians shrink from them. We need not fear that what God has permitted to be true in history can be at war with the faith in Himself taught us by His Son.
As in his Egypt our author sifts the historical date of the Bible, so in his Gott in der Geschichte,88 Gott in der Geschichte (i.e. the Divine Government in History). Books i. and ii. Leipzig. 1857. he expounds its directly religious element. Lamenting, like Pascal, the wretchedness of our feverish being, when estranged from its eternal stay, he traces, as a countryman of Hegel, the Divine thought bringing order out of confusion. Unlike the despairing school, who forbid us trust in God or in conscience, unless we kill our souls with literalism, he finds salvation for men and States only in becoming acquainted with the Author of our life, by whose reason the world stands fast, whose stamp we bear in our forethought, and whose voice our conscience echoes. In the Bible, as an expression of devout reason, and therefore to be 61read with reason in freedom, he finds record of the spiritual giants whose experience generated the religious atmosphere we breathe. For, as in law and literature, so in religion we are debtors to our ancestors; but their life must find in us a kindred apprehension, else it would not quicken; and we must give back what we have received, or perish by unfaithfulness to our trust. Abraham, the friend of God, Moses the inspired patriot, Elijah the preacher of the still small voice, and Jeremiah the foreseer of a law written on the conscience, are not ancestors of Pharisees who inherit their flesh and name, so much as of kindred spirits who put trust in a righteous God above offerings of blood, who build up free nations by wisdom, who speak truth in simplicity though four hundred priests cry out for falsehood, and who make self-examination before the Searcher of hearts more sacred than the confessional. When the fierce ritual of Syria, with the awe of a Divine voice, bade Abraham slay his son, he did not reflect that he had no perfect theory of the absolute to justify him in departing from traditional revelation, but trusted that the Father, whose voice from heaven he heard at heart, was better pleased with mercy than with sacrifice; and this trust was his righteousness. Its seed was sown from heaven, but it grew in the soil of an honest and good heart. So in each case we trace principles of reason and right, to which our heart perpetually responds, and our response to which is a truer sign of faith than such deference to a supposed external authority as would quench these principles themselves.
It may be thought that Baron Bunsen ignores too peremptorily the sacerdotal element in the Bible, forgetting how it moulded the form of the history. He certainly separates the Mosaic institutions from Egyptian affinity more than our Spencer and Warburton would permit; more, it seems, than Hengstenberg considers necessary. But the distinctively Mosaic 62is with him, not the ritual, but the spiritual, which generated the other, but was overlaid by it. Moses, he thinks, would gladly have founded a free religious society, in which the primitive tables written by the Divine finger on man’s heart should have been law; but the rudeness or hardness of his people’s heart compelled him to a sacerdotal system and formed tablets of stone. In favour of this view, it may be remarked, that the tone of some passages in Exodus appears less sacerdotal than that of later books in the Pentateuch. But, be this as it may, the truly Mosaic (according to our author) is not the Judaic, but the essentially human; and it is not the Semitic form, often divergent from our modes of conception, but the eternal truths of a righteous God, and of the spiritual sacrifices with which He is pleased, that we ought to recognise as most characteristic of the Bible, and these truths the same Spirit which spoke of old speaks, through all variety of phrase, in ourselves.
That there was a Bible before our Bible, and that some of our present books, as certainly Genesis and Joshua, and perhaps Job, Jonah, Daniel, are expanded from simpler elements, is indicated in the book before us rather than proved as it might be. Fuller details may be expected in the course of the revised Bible for the People,99 Bibel-werk für die Gemeinde, I. and II. Leipzig. 1858. that grand enterprise of which three parts have now appeared. So far as it has gone, some amended renderings have interest, but are less important than the survey of the whole subject in the Introduction. The word Jehovah has its deep significance brought out by being render The Eternal. The famous Shiloh (Gen. xlix. 10) is taken in its local sense, as the sanctuary where the young Samuel was trained; which, if doctrinal perversions did not interfere, hardly any one would doubt to be 63the true sense. The three opening verses of Genesis are treated as side-clauses (when God created, &c.), so that the first direct utterance of the Bible is in the fourth verse, ‘God said, Let there be light.’ Striking as this is, the Hebrew permits, rather than requires it. Less admissible is the division after verse 4 of the 2nd chapter, as if ‘This is the history’ was a summary of what precedes, instead of an announcement of what follows. But the 1st verse of the 2nd chapter belongs properly to the preceding. Sometimes the translator seems right in substance but wrong in detail. He rightly rejects the perversions which make the cursing Psalms evangelically inspired; but he forgets that the bitterest curses of Psalm 109 (from verse 6 to 19) are not the Psalmist’s own, but a speech in the mouth of his adversary. These are trifles, when compared with the mass of information, and the manner of wielding it, in the prefaces to the work. There is a grasp of materials and a breadth of view from which the most practised theologian may learn something, and persons least versed in Biblical studies acquire a comprehensive idea of them. Nothing can be more dishonest than the affectation of contempt with which some English critics endeavoured to receive this instalment of a glorious work. To sneer at demonstrated criticisms as ‘old,’ and to brand fresh discoveries as ‘new,’ is worthy of men who neither understand the Old Testament nor love the New. But they to whom the Bible is dear for the truth’s sake will wish its illustrious translator life to accomplish a task as worthy of a Christian statesman’s retirement as the Tusculans of Cicero were of the representative of Rome’s lost freedom.
Already in the volume before-mentioned Baron Bunsen has exhibited the Hebrew Prophets as witnesses to
Government. To estimate aright his services in this province would require from most
Englishmen years of study. Accustomed to be told that modern
64history is expressed by the Prophets in a riddle, which requires only
a key to it, they are disappointed to hear of moral lessons, however important.
Such notions are the inheritance of days when Justin could argue, in good faith,
that by the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria were intended the Magi and
their gifts, and that the King of Assyria signified King Herod (!);1010 Isaiah viii. 4. Trypho § 77, 8, 9. Well might Trypho answer, that such interpretations are strained, if not blasphemous.
or when Jerome could say, ‘No one doubts that by Chaldeans are meant Demons,’1111 On Isaiah xliii. 14-15, and again, on ch. xlviii. 12-16. He also
shows on xlviii. 22, that the Jews of that day had not lost the historical
sense of their prophecies; though mystical renderings had already shown themselves. But the later mysticists charitably prayed
his expositions had been historical. (See Pearson’s Notes on Art. iii.)
When will our mysticists show as Christian a temper as the Jewish ones?
Condonet Dominus hoc R. Hillel! and the Shunammite Abishag could be no other than heavenly wisdom, for the honour of David’s
old age1212 To Nepotian. Letter 52.—not to mention such things as Lot’s daughters symbolizing the Jewish
and Gentile Churches.1313 Presbyteri apud Irenaeum. It was truly felt by the early fathers that Hebrew prophecy
tended to a system more spiritual than that of Levi; and they argued unanswerably
that circumcision and the Sabbath1414 Trypho § 41-43. This tract of Justin’s shows strikingly a transition from the utmost evangelical freedom, with simplicity
to a more learned, but confused speculation and literalism. He still thinks
reason a revelation, Socrates a Christian, prophecy a necessary and perpetual
gift or God’s people, circumcision temporary, because not natural;
and lustral washings, which he contrasts with mental baptism, superstitious.
His view of the Sabbath is quite St. Paul’s. His making a millennial
resurrection the Christian doctrine, as opposed to the heathen immortality
of the soul, is embarrassing, but perhaps primitive. But his Scriptural
interpretations are dreams, and his charge against the Jews of corrupting
the Prophets as suicidal as it is groundless. were symbols for a time, or means to ends.
But when, instead of using the letter as an instrument of the spirit, they began
to accept the letter in all its parts as their law, and twisted it into harmony
with the details of Gospel history, they fell into inextricable
65contradictions; the most rational interpreter among them is Jerome, and the perusal
of his criticisms is their ample confutation. Nor could the strong intellect of
Augustine compensate for his defect of little Greek, which he shared with half, and
of less Hebrew, which he shared with most of the Fathers. But with the revival of
learning began a reluctant and wavering, yet inevitable, retreat from the details of
patristic exposition, accompanied with some attempts to preserve its spirit. Even
Erasmus looked that way; Luther’s and Calvin’s strong sense impelled them some
strides in the same direction; but Grotius, who outweighs as a critic any ten
opposites, went boldly on the road. In our own country each successive defence
of the prophecies, in proportion as its author was able, detracted something from
the extent of literal prognostication; and either laid stress on the moral element, or
urged a second, as the spiritual sense. Even Butler foresaw the possibility, that every
prophecy in the Old Testament might have its elucidation in contemporaneous
history; but literature was not his strong point, and he turned aside, endeavouring
to limit it, from an unwelcome idea, Bishop Chandler is said to have though twelve
passages in the Old Testament directly Messianic; others restricted this character
to five. Paley ventures to quote only one. Bishop Kidder1515 Collected in Boyle Lectures. conceded freely an
historical sense in Old Testament texts remote from adaptations in the New. The
apostolic Middleton pronounced firmly for the same principle; Archbishop
Newcome1616 A Literal Translation of the Prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi,
with Notes, by Lowth, Blayney, Newcome,
Wintle, Horsley, &c. London. 1836. A book unequal, but useful for want of a better,
and of which a revision, if not an entire recast, with the aid of recent expositors,
might employ our Biblical scholars. and others proved in detail
66its necessity. Coleridge, in a suggestive letter, preserved in
the memoirs of Cary, the translator of Dante, threw secular prognostication altogether
out of the idea of prophecy.1717 ‘Of prophecies in the sense of prognostication I utterly
deny that there is any instance delivered by one of the illustrious Diadoche, whom
the Jewish church comprised in the name Prophets—and I shall regard
Cyrus as an exception, when I believe the 137th Psalm to have been composed
by David . . . .
Nay, I will go farther, and assert that the contrary belief, the hypothesis of prognostication, is in irrecconcileable oppugnancy to our Lord’s declaration, that the times hath the Father reserved to Himself.”—Memoir of Cary, vol. ii. p. 180. Dr. Arnold, and his truest followers, bear, not always consistently, on the same side. On the other hand, the declamatory assertions, so easy in pulpits or on platforms, and aided sometimes by powers, which produce silence rather than conviction, have not only kept alive but magnified with uncritical exaggeration, whatever the Fathers had dreamt or modern rhetoric could add, tending to make prophecy miraculous. Keith’s edition of Newton need not be here discussed. Davison, of Oriel, with admirable skill, threw his argument into a series as it were of hypothetical syllogisms, with only the defect (which some readers overlook) that his minor premise can hardly in a single instance be proved. Yet the stress which he lays on the moral element of prophecy atones for his sophistry as regards the predictive. On the whole, even in England, there is a wide gulf between the arguments of our genuine critics, with the convictions of our most learned clergy, on the one side, and the assumptions of popular declamation on the other. This may be seen on a comparison of Kidder with Keith.1818 Amongst recent authors, Dr. Palfrey, an American scholar, has expounded in five learned volumes the difficulties in current traditions about prophecy; but instead of remedying these by restricting the idea of revelation to Moses and the Gospels, he would have done better to seek a definition of revelation which should apply to the Psalms, and Prophets, and Epistles.
Mr. Francis Newman, in his Hebrew Monarchy, is historically consistent in his expositions, which have not been controverted by any serious argument; but his mind seems to fail in the Ideal element; else he would see, that the typical ideas (of patience or of glory) in the Old Testament, find their culminating fulfilment in the New.
Mr. Mansel’s Bampton Lectures must make even those who value his argument, regret that to his acknowledged dialectical ability he has not added the rudiments of Biblical criticism. In all his volume not one text of Scripture is elucidated, nor a single difficulty in the evidences of Christianity removed. Recognised mistranslations, and misreadings, are alleged arguments, and passages from the Old Testament are employed without reference to the illustration, or inversion, which they have received in the New. Hence, as the eristic arts of logic without knowledge of the subject-matter become powerless, the author is a mere gladiator hitting in the dark, and his blows fall heaviest on what it was his duty to defend. As to his main argument (surely a strange parody of Butler), the sentence from Sir W. Hamilton prefixed to his volume, seems to me its gem, and its confutation. Of the reasoning, which would bias our interpretation of Isaiah, by telling us Feuerbach was an atheist, I need not say a word.
We are promised from Oxford farther elucidations of the Minor Prophets by the Regius Professor of Hebrew, whose book seems launched sufficiently to catch the gales of friendship, without yet tempting out of harbour the blasts of criticism. Let us hope that, when the work appear, its interpretations may differ from those of Catena Aurea, published under high auspices in the same university, in which the narrative of Uriah the Hittite is improved by making David represent Christ, and Uriah symbolize the devil; so that the grievous crime which ‘displeased the Lord,’ becomes a typical prophecy of Him who was harmless and undefiled! But in Germany there has 67been a pathway streaming with light, from Eichhorn to Ewald, aided by the poetical penetration of Herder and the philological researches of Gesenius, throughout which the value of the moral element in prophecy has been progressively raised, and that of the directly predictive, whether secular or Messianic, has been lowered. Even the conservatism of Jahn amongst Romanists, and of Hengstenberg amongst Protestants, is free and rational, compared to what is often in this country required with denunciation, but seldom defended by argument.
To this inheritance of opinion Baron Bunsen succeeds. Knowing these things, and writing for men who know them, he has neither the advantage in 68argument of unique knowledge, nor of unique ignorance. He dare not say, though it was formerly said, that David foretold the exile, because it is mentioned in the Psalms. lie cannot quote Nahum denouncing ruin against Nineveh, or Jeremiah against Tyre, without remembering that already the Babylonian power threw its shadow across Asia, and Nebuchadnezzar was mustering his armies. If he would quote the book of Isaiah, he cannot conceal, after Gesenius, Ewald, and Maurer have written, that the book is composed of elements of different eras. Finding Perso-Babylonian, or new-coined words, such as sagans for officers, and Chaldaic forms of the Hebrew verb, such as Aphel for Hiphil, in certain portions, and observing that the political horizon of these portions is that of the sixth century, while that of the elder or more purely Hebraic portions belonged to the eighth, he must accept a theory of authorship and of prediction, modified accordingly. So, if under the head of Zechariah he finds three distinct styles and aspects of affairs, he must acknowledge so much, whether he is right or wrong in conjecturing the elder Zechariah of the age of Isaiah to have written the second portion, and Uriah in Jeremiah’s age the third. If he would quote Micah, as designating Bethlehem for the birthplace of the Messiah, he cannot shut his eyes to the fact, that the Deliverer to come from thence was to be a contemporary shield against the Assyrian. If he would follow Pearson in quoting the second Psalm, Thou art my son; he knows that Hebrew idiom convinced even Jerome1919 Cavillatur . . . . quod posuerim, . . . . Adorate purè . . . . ne violentus viderer interpres, et Jud locum darem.—Hierom. c. Ruffin. § 19. the true rendering was, worship purely. He may read in Psalm xxxiv. that, ‘not a bone of the righteous shall be broken,’ but he must feel a difficulty in detaching this from the context, so 69as to make it a prophecy of the crucifixion. If he accepts mere versions of Psalm xxii. 17, he may wonder how ‘piercing the hands and the feet’ can fit into the whole passage; but if he prefers the most ancient Hebrew reading, he finds, instead of ‘piercing,’ the comparison ‘like a lion,’ and this corresponds sufficiently with the ‘dogs’ of the first clause; though a morally certain emendation would make the parallel more perfect by reading the word ‘lions’ in both clauses.2020 By reading כלביאים for כלבים. Septuagint version may have arisen from הקיפוני, taken as from נקף. In either case, the staring monsters are intended, by whom Israel is surrounded and torn. Again he finds in Hosea that the Lord loved Israel when he was young, and called him out of Egypt to be his son; but he must feel, with Bishop Kidder, that such a citation is rather accommodated to the flight of Joseph into Egypt, than a prediction to be a ground of argument. Fresh from the services of Christmas, he may sincerely exclaim, Unto us a child is born; but he knows that the Hebrew translated Mighty God, is at least disputable, that perhaps it means only Strong and Mighty One, Father of an Age; and he can never listen to any one who pretends that the Maiden’s Child of Isaiah vii. 16, was not to be born in the reign of Ahaz, as a, sign against the Kings Pekah and Rezin. In the case of Daniel, he may doubt whether all parts of the book are of one age, or what is the starting point of the seventy weeks; but two results are clear beyond fair doubt, that the period of weeks ended in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, and that those portions of the book, supposed to be specially predictive, are a history of past occurrences up to that reign. When so vast an induction on the destructive side has been gone through, it avails little that some passages may be doubtful, one perhaps in Zechariah, and one in Isaiah, capable of being made 70directly Messianic, and a chapter possibly in Deuteronomy foreshadowing the final fall of Jerusalem. Even these few cases, the remnant of so much confident rhetoric, tend to melt, if they are not already melted, in the crucible of searching inquiry. If our German had ignored all that the masters of philology have proved on these subjects, his countrymen would have raised a storm of ridicule, at which he must have drowned himself in the Neckar.
Great then is Baron Bunsen’s merit, in accepting frankly the belief
of scholars, and yet not despairing of Hebrew Prophecy as a witness to the kingdom
of God. The way of doing so left open to him, was to show, pervading the Prophets,
those deep truths which lie at the heart of Christianity, and to trace the growth
of such ideas, the belief in a righteous God, and the nearness of man to God, the
power of prayer, and the victory of self-sacrificing patience, ever expanding in
men’s hearts, until the fulness of time came, and the ideal of the Divine thought
was fulfilled in the Son of Mari. Such accordingly is the course our author pursues,
not with the critical finish of Ewald, but with large moral grasp. Why he should
add to his moral and metaphysical basis of prophecy, a notion of foresight by vision
of particulars, or a kind of clairvoyance, though he admits it to be2121 ‘Die Kraft des Schauens, die im Mensshen verborgen liegt, und, von der
Naturnothwendigkeit befreit, im hebräischen Prophetenthum sich zur wahren Weltanschauung erhoben hat
. . . . ist der Schlüssel,’ &c. Gott in der Geschichte, p. 149.
‘Jene Herrlichkeit besteht nicht in dem Vorhersagen . . . . Dieses haben sie gemein mit manchen Aussprüchen der Pythia, . . . . und mit vielen Weissagungen der Hellscherinnen dieses Jahrhunderts . . . . ’ id. p. 151. a natural gift, consistent with fallibility, is not so easy to explain. One would wish he might have intended only the power of seeing the ideal in the actual, or of tracing the Divine Government in the movements of men. He seems to mean more than presentiment or 71sagacity; and this element in his system requires proof.
The most brilliant portion of the prophetical essays is the treatment of the later Isaiah. With the insertion of four chapters concerning Hezekiah from the histories of the kings, the words and deeds of the elder Isaiah apparently close. It does not follow that all the prophecies arranged earlier in the book are from his lips; probably they are not; but it is clear to demonstration,2222 To prove this, let any one read Jerome’s arguments against it; if the sacred test itself be not sufficient proof. ‘Go ye forth of Babylon,’ &c., ch. xlviii. 20. that the later chapters (xl., &c.,) are upon the stooping of Nebo, and the bowing down of Babylon, when the Lord took out of the hand of Jerusalem the cup of trembling; for the glad tidings of the decree of return were heard upon the mountains; and the people went forth, not with haste or flight, for their God went before them, and was their rereward (ch. lii.). So they went forth with joy, and were led forth with peace (ch. liv). So the arm of the Lord was laid bare, and his servant who had foretold it was now counted wise, though none had believed his report. We cannot take a portion out of this continuous song, and by dividing it as a chapter, separate its primary meaning from what precedes and follows. The servant in chapters lii. and liii. must have relation to the servant in chapters xlii. and xlix. Who was this servant, that had foretold the exile and the return, and had been a man of grief, rejected of his people, imprisoned and treated as a malefactor? The oldest Jewish tradition, preserved in Origen,2323 C. Celsum, i. 55. (Quoted by Pearson.) and to be inferred from Justin,2424 For, in making the Gentiles mean Proselytes, they must have made the servant Israel. ἀλλὰ τί; οὐ πρὸς τὸν νόμον λέγει, καὶ τοὺς φωτιζομένους ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ, κ.τ.λ.—Trypho, § 122. said the chosen people—in opposition to heathen oppressors—an opinion which suits ch. xlix. ver. 3. Nor is the2525 Later, because it implies the fall of Jerusalem. It is thought to have been compiled in the fourth century of our era. It is very doubtful, whether the Jewish schools of the middle ages had (except in fragments) any Hermeneutic tradition so old as what we gather from the Church fathers, however unfairly this may be reported. My own belief is clear, that they had not. later 72 exposition of the Targum altogether at variance; for though Jonathan speaks of the Messiah, it is in the character of a Judaic deliverer: and his expressions about ‘the holy people’s being multiplied,’ and seeing their sanctuary rebuilt, especially when he calls the holy people a remnant,2626 יןגון תולדת קודשא, and דעמיה ית שארא—Targum on Isaiah liii. may be fragments of a tradition older than his time. It is idle, with Pearson,2727 In Pearson’s hands, even the Rabbins become more Rabbinical. His citations from Jonathan and from Jarchi are most unfair; and in general he makes their prose more prosaic. to quote Jonathan as a witness to the Christian interpretation, unless his conception of the Messiah were ours. But the idea of the Anointed One, which some of the Psalms belongs to Israel, shifted from time to time, being applied now to people, and now to king or prophet, until at length it assumed a sterner form, as the Jewish spirit was hardened by persecutions into a more vindicative hope. The first Jewish expositor who loosened, without breaking Rabbinical fetters, R. Saadiah,2828 Titularly styled Gaon, as president of the Sora school. in the 9th cent named Jeremiah as the man of grief, and emphatically the prophet of the return, rejected of his people. Grotius, with his usual sagacity, divined the same clue; though Michaelis says upon it, pessimè Grotius. Baron Bunsen puts together, with masterly analysis, the illustrative passages of Jeremiah; and it is difficult to resist the conclusion to which they tend. Jeremiah compares his whole people to sheep going astray,2929 Jer. xxiii. 1-2; l. 6-17; xii. 3. and himself to ‘a lamb or an ox, brought the slaughter.’3030 Jer. xi. 19. He was taken from prison;3131 Jer. xxxviii. 4-6; xxxvii. 16. and 73his generation, or posterity, none took account of;3232 Jer. xi. 19-23; xx. 10; xxxvi. 19; xlv. 2-3. he interceded for his people in prayer:3333 Jer: xviii. 20; xiv. 11; xv. i. but was not the less despised, and a man of grief, so that no sorrow was like his;3434 Jer. xviii. 18; xx. 9-17; Lam. iii. 1-13. men assigned his grave with the wicked,3535 Lam. iii. 52, 53, 54; Jer. xxvi. 11-15, 23; xliv. 15, 16; i. 18, 19. and his tomb with the oppressors; all who followed him seemed cut off out of the land of the living,3636 Jer. xlv. 1-3; xi. 19; xli. 2-3; with xli. 9-10. yet his seed prolonged their days;3737 Psalm cxxvi. 1; Isaiah xliii. 1-5, 10-14. his prophecy was fulfilled,3838 Lam. i. 17; Jer. xvi. 15; xxx. 1, 2, 3, 10, 18; xxxi. 6-12; Isaiah xliv. 7-8; xlvi. 1-9, 10; l. 5-6; lii. 10-13. and the arm of the Eternal laid bare; he was counted wise on the return; his place in the book of Sirach3939 Eccles. xlix. 6-7, and Jer. i. shows how eminently he was enshrined in men’s thoughts as the servant of God; and in the book of Maccabees4040 2 Macc. xv. 13, 14. he is the gray prophet, who is seen in vision, fulfilling his task of interceding for the people.
This is an imperfect sketch, but may lead readers to consider the arguments for applying Isaiah lii. and liii. to Jeremiah. Their weight (in the master’s hand) in so great, that if any single person should be selected, they prove Jeremiah should be the one. Nor are they a slight illustration of the historical sense of that famous chapter, which in the original is a history.4141 The tenses from verse 2 onward are rather historical than predictive; in ver. 8, for he was stricken, the Hebrew is, נגע למו the stroke was upon them, i.e. on the generation of the faithful, which cut off; when the blood of the Prophets was shed on every side of Jerusalem. Still the general analogy of the Old Testament which makes collective Israel, or the prophetic remnant, especially the servant of Jehovah, and the comparison of c. xlii., xlix. may permit us to think the oldest interpretation the truest; with only this admission, that 74 the figure of Jeremiah stood forth amongst the Prophets, and tinged the delineation of the true Israel, that is, the faithful remnant who had been disbelieved—just as the figure of Laud or Hammond might represent the Caroline Church in the eyes of her poet,
If this seems but a compromise, it may be justified by Ewald’s phrase, ‘Die wenigen Treuen im Exile, Jeremjah und andre,’4242 Die Propheten, d. A. B. 2ter Band. pp. 438-453. though he makes the servant idealized Israel.
If any sincere Christian now asks, is not then our Saviour spoken of in Isaiah; let him open his New Testament, and ask therewith John the Baptist, whether he was Elias? If he finds the Baptist answering I am not, yet our Lord testifies that in spirit and power this was Elias; a little reflexion will show how the historical representation in Isaiah liii. is of some suffering prophet or remnant, yet the truth and patience, the grief and triumph, have their highest fulfilment in Him who said, ‘Father, not my will, but thine.’ But we must not distort the prophets, to prove the Divine word incarnate, and then from the incarnation reason back to the sense of prophecy.
Loudly as justice and humanity exclaim against such traditional distortion of prophecy as makes their own sacred writings a ground of cruel prejudice against the Hebrew people, and the fidelity of this remarkable race to the oracles of their fathers a handle for social obloquy, the cause of Christianity itself would be the greatest gainer, if we laid aside weapons, the use of which brings shame. Israel would be acknowledged, as in some sense still a Messiah, having borne centuries of reproach through the sin of the nations; but the Saviour who fulfilled in his own person the highest aspiration of Hebrew seers and of mankind, thereby lifting the ancient words, so to speak, into a new and 75higher power, would be recognised as having eminently the unction of a prophet whose words die not, of a priest in a temple not made with hands, and of a king in the realm of thought, delivering his people from a bondage of moral evil, worse than Egypt or Babylon. If already the vast majority of the prophecies are acknowledged by our best authorities to require some such rendering, in order to Christianize them, and if this acknowledgment has become uniformly stronger in proportion as learning was unfettered, the force of analogy leads us to anticipate that our Isaiah too must require a similar interpretation. No new principle is thrust upon the Christian world, by our historical understanding of this famous chapter; but a case which had been thought exceptional, is shown to harmonize with a general principle.
Whether the great prophet, whose triumphant thanksgiving on the return from Babylon forms the later chapters of our Isaiah, is to remain without a name, or whether Baron Bunsen has succeeded in identifying him with Baruch, the disciple, scribe, and perhaps biographer or editor of Jeremiah, is a question of probability. Most readers of the argument for the identity will feel inclined to assent; but a doubt may occur, whether many an unnamed disciple of the prophetic school may not have burnt with kindred zeal, and used diction not peculiar to any one; while such a doubt may be strengthened by the confidence with which our critic ascribes a recasting of Job, and of parts of other books, to the same favourite Baruch. Yet, if kept within the region of critical conjecture, his reasons are something more than ingenious. It may weigh with some Anglicans, that a letter ascribed to Athanasius mentions Baruch among the canonical prophets.4343 Ἰερεμίας, καὶ σὺν αὐτῷ Βαρούχ, Θρῆνοι, Ἐπιστολὴ καὶ μετ᾽ αὐτὸν Ἰεζεκιήλ, κ.τ.λ.—Ep. Fest.76
In distinguishing the man Daniel from our book of Daniel, and in bringing the latter as low as the reign of Epiphanes, our author only follows the admitted necessities of the case.4444 Auberlen indeed defends, but says, ‘Die Unächtheit Daniels ist in der modernen Theologie zum Axiom geworden.’—Der Prophet Daniel. Basel. 1854. Not only Macedonian words, such as symphonia4545 Compare ‘Philosophy of Universal History’ (part of the Hippolytus), vol i. pp. 217-219, with Gott in der Geschichte, 1str Theil. pp. 5l4-540. and psanterion, but the texture of the Chaldaic, with such late forms as דֵּו ,לְכוֹן and אִלֵּן the pronominal ם and ה having passed into ן, and not only minute description of Antiochus’s reign, but the stoppage of such description at the precise date 169 B.C., remove all philological and critical doubt as to the age of the book. But what seems peculiar to Baron Bunsen, is the interpretation of the four empires’ symbols with reference to the original Daniel’s abode in Nineveh: so that the winged lion traditionally meant the Assyrian empire; the bear was the Babylonian symbol; the leopard that of the Medes and Persians; while the fourth beast represented, as is not uncommonly held, the sway of Alexander. A like reference is traced in the mention of Hiddekel, or the Tigris, in ch. x; for, if the scene had been Babylon under Darius, the river must have been the Euphrates. The truth seems, that starting like many a patriot bard of our own, from a name traditionally sacred, the writer used it with no deceptive intention, as a dramatic form which dignified his encouragement of his countrymen in their great struggle against Antiochus. The original place of the book,4646 The saying that later Jews changed the place of the book in the canon, seems to rest on no evidence. amongst the later Hagiographa of the Jewish canon, and the absence of any mention of it by the son of Sirach, strikingly confirm this view of its origin; and, if some obscurity rests upon details, the general conclusion, that the book contains no predictions, except by 77analogy and type, can hardly be gainsaid. But it may not the less, with some of the latest Psalms, have nerved the men of Israel, when they turned to flight the armies of the aliens; and it suggests, in the Godless invader, no slight forecast of Caligula again invading the Temple with like abomination, as well as of whatever exalts itself against faith and conscience, to the end of the world. It is time for divines to recognise these things, since, with their opportunities of study, the current error is as discreditable to them, as for the well-meaning crowd, who are taught to identify it with their creed, it is a matter of grave compassion.
It provokes a smile on serious topics to observe the zeal with which our critic vindicates the personality of Jonah, and the originality of his hymn (the latter being generally thought doubtful), while he proceeds to explain that the narrative of our book, in which the hymn is imbedded, contains a late legend,4747 The present writer feels excused from repeating here the explanation given in the appendix to his Sermon on Christian Freedom. London, 1858. founded on misconception. One can imagine the cheers which the opening of such an essay might evoke in some of our own circles, changing into indignation as the distinguished foreigner developed Isis views. After this, he might speak more gently of mythical theories.
But, if such a notion alarms those who think that, apart from omniscience belonging to the Jews, the proper conclusion of reason is atheism; it is not inconsistent with the idea that Almighty God has been pleased to educate men and nations, employing imagination no less than conscience, and suffering His lessons to play freely within the limits of humanity and its shortcomings. Nor will any fair reader rise from the prophetical disquisitions without feeling that he has been under the guidance of a master’s hand.79
The great result is to vindicate the work of the Eternal Spirit; that abiding influence, which as our church teaches us in the Ordination Service, underlies all others, and in which converge all images of old time and means of grace now; temple, Scripture, finger, and hand of God; and again, preaching, sacraments, waters which comfort, and flame which burns. If such a Spirit did not dwell in the Church the Bible would not be inspired, for the Bible is, before all things, the written voice of the congregation. Bold as such a theory of inspiration may sound, it was the earliest creed of the Church, and it is the only one to which the facts of Scripture answer. The sacred writers acknowledge themselves men of like passions with ourselves, and we are promised illumination from the Spirit which dwelt in them. Hence, when we find our Prayer-book constructed on the idea of the Church being an inspired society, instead of objecting that every one of us is fallible, we should define inspiration consistently with the facts of Scripture, and of human nature. These would neither exclude the idea of fallibility among Israelites of old, nor teach us to quench the Spirit in true hearts for ever. But if any one prefers thinking the Sacred Writers passionless machines, and calling Luther and Milton ‘uninspired,’ let him co-operate in researches by which his theory, if true, will be triumphantly confirmed. Let him join in considering it a religious duty to print the most genuine text of those words which he calls Divine; let him yield no grudging assent to the removal of demonstrated interpolations in our text or errors in our translation; let him give English equivalents for its Latinisms, once natural, but now become deceptive; let him next trace fairly the growth of our complex doctrines out of scriptural germs, whether of simple thought or of Hebrew idiom, then, if he be not prepared to trust our Church with a larger freedom in incorporating into her language 79the results of such inquiry and adapting one-sided forms to wider experience, he will at least have acquired such a knowledge of this field of thought as may induce him to treat labourers in it with respect. A recurrence to first principles, even of Revelation, may, to minds prudent or timid, seem a process of more danger than advantage; and it is possible to defend our traditional theology, if stated reasonably, and with allowance for the accidents of its growth. But what is not possible, with honesty, is to uphold a fabric of mingled faith and speculation, and in the same breath to violate the instinct which believed, and blindfold the mind which reasoned. It would be strange if God’s work were preserved, by disparaging the instruments which His wisdom chose for it.
On turning to the Hippolytus4848 Hippolytus and his Age, by Chr. C. J. Bunsen, &c. London, 1852. 2nd edition recast, London, 1854. The awakening freshness of the first edition is hardly replaced by the fulness of the second. It is to be wished that the Biblical portions of the Philosophy of Universal History, vol. ii. pp. 149-338, were reprinted is a cheap form. we find a congeries of subjects, but yet a whole, pregnant and suggestive beyond any book of our time. To lay deep the foundations of faith in the necessities of the human mind, and to establish its confirmation by history, distinguishing the local from the universal, and translating the idioms of priesthoods or races into the broad speech of humanity, are amongst parts of the great argument. Of those wonderful aphorisms, which are further developed in the second volume of Gott in der Geschichte, suffice it here, that their author stands at the farthest pole from those who find no divine footsteps in the Gentile world. He believes in Christ, because he first believes in God and in mankind. In this he harmonizes with the church Fathers before Augustine, and with all our deepest Evangelical school. In handling the New Testament he remains faithful to his habit of exalting spiritual ideas, 80and the leading characters by whose personal impulse they have been stamped on the world. Other foundation for healthful mind or durable society he suffers no man to lay, save that of Jesus, the Christ of God. In Him he finds brought to perfection that religious idea, which is the thought of the Eternal, without conformity to which our souls cannot be saved from evil. He selects for emphasis such sayings as, ‘I came to cast fire upon the earth, and how I would it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!’ In these he finds the innermost mind of the Son of Man, undimmed by the haze of mingled imagination and remembrance, with which his awful figure should scarcely fail to be at length invested by affection. The glimpses thus afforded us into the depth of our Lord’s purpose, and his law of giving rather than receiving, explain the wonder-working power with which he wielded the truest hearts of his generation, and correspond to his life and death of self-sacrifice.
This recognition of Christ as the moral Saviour of mankind may seem to some Baron Bunsen’s most obvious claim to the name of Christian. For, though he embraces with more than orthodox warmth New Testament terms, he explains them in such a way, that he may be charged with using Evangelical language in a philosophical sense. But in reply he would ask, what proof is there that the reasonable sense of St. Paul’s words was not the one which the Apostle intended? Why may not justification by faith have meant the peace of mind, or sense of Divine approval, which comes of trust in a righteous God, rather than a fiction of merit by transfer? St. Paul would then be teaching moral responsibility, as opposed to sacerdotalism; or that to obey is better than sacrifice. Faith would be opposed, not to the good deeds which conscience requires, but to works of appeasement 81by ritual. Justification would be neither an arbitrary ground of confidence, nor a reward upon condition of our disclaiming merit, but rather a verdict of forgiveness upon our repentance, and of acceptance upon the offering of our hearts. It is not a fatal objection, to say that St. Paul would thus teach Natural Religion, unless we were sure that he was bound to contradict it; but it is a confirmation of the view, if it brings his hard sayings into harmony with the Gospels and with the Psalms, as well as with the instincts of our best conscience. If we had dreamed of our nearest kindred in irreconcilable combat, and felt anguish at the thought of opposing either, it could be no greater relief to awake, and find them at concord, than it would be to some minds to find the antagonism between Nature and Revelation vanishing4949 The doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of Grace, and the doctrine of Atonement, are grounded in the instincts of mankind.’—Mozley on Predestination, chap. xi. p. 331. in a wider grasp and deeper perception of the one, or in a better balanced statement of the other.
If our philosopher had persuaded us of the moral nature of Justification, he would not shrink from adding that Regeneration is a correspondent giving of insight, or an awakening of forces of the soul. By Resurrection he would mean a spiritual quickening. Salvation would be our deliverance, not from the life-giving God, but from evil and darkness, which are His finite opposites, (ὁ ἀντικείμενος. Propitiation would be the recovery of that peace, which cannot be while sin divides us from the Searcher of hearts. The eternal is what belongs to God, as spirit, therefore the negation of things finite and unspiritual, whether world, or letter, or rite of blood. The hateful fires of the vale of Hinnom, (Gehenna,) are hardly in the strict letter imitated by the God who has pronounced them cursed, but may serve as images of distracted remorse. Heaven 82is not a place, so much as fulfilment of the love of God. The kingdom of God is no more Romish sacerdotalism than Jewish royalty, but the realization of the Divine Will in our thoughts and lives. This expression of spirit, in deed and form, is generically akin to creation, and illustrates the incarnation. For though the true substance of Deity took body in the Son of Man, they who know the Divine Substance to be Spirit, will conceive of such embodiment of the Eternal Mind very differently from those who abstract all Divine attributes, such as consciousness, fore-thought, and love, and then imagine a material residuum, on which they confer the Holiest name, The Divine attributes are5050 On this point, the summary of St. Augustine at the end of his 13th book, ‘On the Trinity,’ is worth reading. consubstantial with the Divine essence. He who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him. Thus the incarnation becomes with our author as purely spiritual, as it was with St. Paul. The son of David by birth is the Son of God by the spirit of holiness. What is flesh, is born of flesh, and what is spirit, is born of spirit.5151 ’Neque sermo aliud quam Deus neque caro aliud quam homo,’ and ‘ex carne homo, ex spiritu Deus.’—Tertullian adv. Prax. cxxvii. Comp. Romans i. 1-3.
If we would estimate the truth of such views, the full import of which hardly lies on the surface, we find two lines of inquiry present themselves as criteria: and each of these divides itself into two branches. First, as regards the subject matter, both spiritual affection and metaphysical reasoning forbid us to confine revelations like those of Christ to the first half century of our era, but show at least affinities of our faith existing in men’s minds, anterior to Christianity, and renewed with deep echo from living hearts in many a generation. Again, on the side of external criticism, we find the evidences of our canonical books and of the patristic authors nearest to them, are 83sufficient to prove illustration in outward act of principles perpetually true; but not adequate to guarantee narratives inherently incredible, or precepts evidently wrong. Hence we are obliged to assume in ourselves a verifying faculty, not unlike the discretion which a mathematician would use in weighing a treatise on geometry, or the liberty which a musician would reserve in reporting a law of harmony. Thus, as we are expressly told, we are to have the witness in ourselves. It is not our part to dictate to Almighty God, that He ought to have spared us this strain upon our consciences; nor in giving us through His Son a deeper revelation of His own presence, was He bound to accompany His gift by a special form of record.5252 Butler’s Analogy. Part ii. ch. iii. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Books i. ii. Hence there is no antecedent necessity that the least rational view of the gospel should be the truest, or that our faith should have no human element, and its records be exempt from historical law. Rather we may argue, the more Divine the germ, the more human must be the development.
Our author then believes St. Paul, because be understands him reasonably. Nor does his acceptance of Christ’s redemption from evil bind him to repeat traditional fictions about our canon, or to read its pages with that dulness which turns symbol and poetry into materialism. On the side of history lies the strength of his genius. His treatment of the New Testament is not very unlike the acute criticism of De Wette, tempered by the affectionateness of Neander. He finds in the first three gospels divergent forms of the tradition, once oral, and perhaps catechetical, in the congregations of the apostles. He thus explains the numerous traces characteristic of a traditional narrative. He does not ascribe the quadruple division of record to the four churches of Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, on the same principle 84 as liturgical families are traced; but he requires time enough for some development, and for the passing of some symbol into story. By making the fourth gospel the latest of all our genuine books, he accounts for its style (so much more Greek than the Apocalypse), and explains many passages. The verse, ‘And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but he that came down,’5353 John iii. 13. is intelligible as a free comment near the end of the first century; but has no meaning in our Lord’s mouth at a time when the ascension had not been heard of. So the Apocalypse, if taken as a series of poetical visions, which represent the outpouring of the vials of wrath upon the city where the Lord was slain, ceases to be a riddle. Its horizon answers to that of Jerusalem already threatened by the legions of Vespasian, and its language is partly adapted from the older prophets, partly a repetition of our Lord’s warnings as described by the Evangelists, or as deepened into wilder threatenings in the mouth of the later Jesus,5454 Josephus B. J. b. vi. c. v. § 3. the son of Ananus. The Epistle to the Hebrews, so different in its conception of faith, and in its Alexandrine rhythm, from the doctrine and the language of St. Paul’s known Epistles, has its degree of discrepance explained by ascribing it to some5555 In my own judgment, the Epistle bears traces of being post-apostolic. iii. 14; xiii. 7; ii. 3; x. 2, 25-32. companion of the apostle’s; and minute reasons are found for fixing with probability on Apollos. The second of the Petrine Epistles, having alike external and internal evidence against its genuineness, is necessarily surrendered as a whole; and our critic’s good faith in this respect is more certain than the ingenuity with which he reconstructs a part of it. The second chapter may not improbably be a quotation; but its quoter, and the author of the rest of the epistle, 85need not therefore have been St. Peter. Where so many points are handled, fancifulness in some may be pardoned; and indulgence is needed for the eagerness with which St. Paul is made a widower, because some fathers5656 Clement and Origen, amongst others. misunderstood the tests, ‘true yoke-fellow,’ and ‘leading about a sister.’
After a survey of the Canon; the working as of leaven in meal, of that awakening of mankind which took its impulse from the life of Christ, is traced through the first seven generations of Christendom. After Origen, the first freedom of the Gospel grows faint, or is hardened into a system more Ecclesiastical in form, and more dialectical in speculation, the fresh language of feeling or symbol being transferred to the domain of logic, like Homer turned into prose by a scholiast. It need not, to a philosophical observer, necessarily follow that the change was altogether a corruption; for it may have been the Providential condition of religious feeling brought into contact with intellect, and of the heavenly kingdom’s expansion in the world. The elasticity with which Christianity gathers into itself the elements of natural piety, and assimilates the relics of Gentile form and usage, can only be a ground of objection with those who have reflected little on the nature of revelation. But Baron Bunsen, as a countryman of Luther, and a follower of those Friends of God whose profound mysticism appears in the Theologia Germanica, takes decided part with the first freshness of Christian freedom, against the confused thought and furious passions which disfigure most of the great councils. Those who imagine that the laws of criticism are arbitrary (or as they say, subjective), may learn a different lesson from the array of passages, the balance of evidence, and the estimate of each author’s point of view, with which the picture of Christian antiquity 86is unrolled in the pages of the Hippolytus. Every triumph of our faith, in purifying life, or in softening and enlightening barbarism, is there expressed in the lively records of Liturgies and Canons; and again the shadows of night approach, with monkish fanaticism and imperial tyranny, amidst intrigues of bishops who play the parts, alternately, of courtier and of demagogue.
The picture was too truly painted for that ecclesiastical school which appeals loudest to antiquity, and has most reason to dread it. While they imagine a system of Divine immutability, or one in which, at worst, holy fathers unfolded reverently Apostolic oracles, the true history of the Church exhibits the turbulent growth of youth; a democracy, with all its passions, transforming itself into sacerdotalism, and a poetry, with its figures, partly represented by doctrine, and partly perverted. Even the text of Scripture fluctuated in sympathy with the changes of the Church, especially in passages bearing on asceticism, and the fuller development of the Trinity. The first Christians held that the heart was purified by faith; the accompanying symbol, water, became by degrees the instrument of purification. Holy baptism was at first preceded by a vow, in which the young soldier expressed his consciousness of spiritual truth; but when it became twisted into a false analogy with circumcision, the rite degenerated into a magical form, and the Augustinian notion, of a curse inherited by infants, was developed in connexion with it. Sacrifice, with the Psalmist, meant not the goat’s or heifer’s blood-shedding, but the contrite heart expressed by it. So, with St. Paul, it meant the presenting of our souls and bodies, as an oblation of the reason, or worship of the mind. The ancient liturgies contain prayers that God would make our sacrifices ‘rational,’ that is spiritual. Religion was thus moralized by a sense of the righteousness of God; and morality 87transfigured into religion, by a sense of His holiness. Vestiges of this earliest creed yet remain in our communion service. As in life, so in sacrament, the first Christians offered themselves in the spirit of Christ; therefore, in his name. But when the priest took the place of the congregation, when the sacramental signs were treated as the natural body, and the bodily sufferings of Christ enhanced above the self-sacrifice of his will even to the death of the cross, the centre of Christian faith became inverted, though its form remained. Men forgot that the writer to the Hebrews exalts the blood of an everlasting, that is, of a spiritual covenant; for what is fleshly, vanishes away. The angels who hover with phials, catching the drops from the cross, are pardonable in art, but make a step in theology towards transubstantiation. Salvation from evil through sharing the Saviour’s spirit, was shifted into a notion of purchase from God through the price of his bodily pangs. The deep drama of heart and mind became externalized into a commercial transfer, and this effected by a form of ritual. So with the more speculative fathers, the doctrine of the Trinity was a profound metaphysical problem, wedded to what seemed consequences of the incarnation. But in ruder hands, it became a materialism almost idolatrous, or an arithmetical enigma.5757 See this shown, with just rebuke of some Oxford sophistries, in the learned Bishop Kaye’s Council of Nicæa, London, 1853 a book of admirable moderation, though hardly of speculative power. See pp. 163, 168, 194, 199, 219, 226, 251, 252. Even now, different accepters of the same doctrinal terms hold many shades of conception between a philosophical view which recommends itself as easiest to believe, and one felt to be so irrational, that it calls in the aid of terror. ‘Quasi non unitas, irrationaliter collecta, hæresin faciat; et Trinitas rationaliter expensa, veritatem constituat,’ said Tertullian.5858 Adv. Prax. c. iii.88
The historian of such variations was not likely, with those whose theology consists of invidious terms, to escape the nickname of Pelagian or Sabellian. He evidently could not state Original Sin in so exaggerated a form as to make the design of God altered by the first agents in his creation, or to destroy the notion of moral choice and the foundation of ethics. Nor could his Trinity destroy by inference that divine Unity which all acknowledge in terms. The fall of Adam represents with him ideally the circumscription of our spirits in limits of flesh and time, and practically the selfish nature with which we fall from the likeness of God, which should be fulfilled in man, So his doctrine of the Trinity ingenuously avoids building on texts which our Unitarian critics from Sir Isaac Newton to Gilbert Wakefield have impugned, but is a philosophical rendering of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel. The profoundest analysis of our world leaves the law of thought as its ultimate basis and bond of coherence. This thought is consubstantial with the Being of the Eternal I AM. Being, becoming, and animating, or substance, thinking, and conscious life, are expressions of a Triad, which may be also represented as will,5959 ‘Anima hominis naturâ, suâ in se habet Trinitatis simulacrum; in se enim tria complectitur, Mentem, Intellectum, et Voluntatem; . . . cogitat . . . percipit . . . vult.’—Bede i. 8. Copying almost verbally St. Augustine. wisdom, and love, as light, radiance, and warmth, as fountain, stream, and united flow, as mind, thought, and consciousness, as person, word, and life, as Father, Son, and Spirit. In virtue of such identity of Thought with Being the primitive Trinity represented neither three originant principles nor three transient phases, but three eternal inherencies in one Divine Mind. ‘The unity of God, as the eternal Father, is the6060 Hippolytus, vol. ii. p. 46. lst ed. fundamental doctrine of Christianity.’ But the Divine 89Consciousness or Wisdom, consubstantial with the Eternal Will, becoming personal in the Son of man, is the express image of the Father; and Jesus actually, but also mankind ideally, is the Son of God. If all this has a Sabellian or almost a Brahmanical sound, its impugners are bound, even on patristic grounds, to show how it differs from the doctrine of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, and the historian Eusebius. If the language of those very fathers who wrote against different forms of Sabellianism, would, if now first used, be condemned as Sabellian, are we to follow the ancient or the modern guides? May not a straining after orthodoxy, with all the confusion incident to metaphysical terms, have led the scholars beyond their masters? We have some authorities, who, if Athanasius himself were quoted anonymously, would neither recognise the author nor approve his doctrine. They would judge him by the creed bearing his name, the sentiments of which are as difficult to reconcile with his genuine works as its Latin terms are with his Greek language. Baron Bunsen may admire that creed as little as Jeremy Taylor6161 ‘Liberty of Prophesying,’ pp. 491-2’ vol. vii. ed. Heber. Burnet’s ‘Own Times.’ Letter from Tillotson at the end. and Tillotson did, without necessarily contradicting the great Father to whom it is ascribed. Still more, as a philosopher, sitting loose to our Articles, he may deliberately assign to the conclusions of councils a very subordinate value; and taking his stand on the genuine words of Holy Scripture, and the immutable laws of God to the human mind, he may say either the doctrine of the Trinity agrees with these tests, or, if you make it disagree, you make it false. If he errs in his speculation, he gives us in his critical researches the surest means of correcting his errors; and his polemic Is at least triumphant against those who load the church with the conclusions of patristic thought, and 90forbid our thinking sufficiently to understand them. As the coolest heads at Trent said, Take care lest in condemning Luther you condemn St. Augustine; so if our defenders of the faith would have men believe the doctrine of the Trinity, they had better not forbid metaphysics, nor even sneer at Realism.
The strong assertions in the Hippolytus concerning the freedom of the human will, may require some balance from the language of penitence and of prayer. They must be left here to comparison with the constant language of the Greek Church, with the doctrine of the first four centuries, with the schoolmen’s practical evasions of the Augustinian standard which they professed, and with the guarded, but earnest protests and limitations of our own ethical divines from Hooker and Jeremy Taylor to Butler and Hampden.
On the great hope of mankind, the immortality of the soul, the Hippolytus left something to be desired. It had a Brahmanical, rather than a Christian, or Platonic, sound. But the second volume of Gott in der Geschichte seems to imply that, if the author recoils from the fleshly resurrection and Judaic millennium of Justin Martyr, he still shares the aspiration of the noblest philosophers elsewhere, and of the firmer believers among ourselves, to a revival of conscious and individual life, in such a form of immortality as may consist with union with the Spirit of our Eternal life-giver. Remarkable in the same volume is the generous vindication of the first Buddhist Sakya against the misunderstandings which fastened on him a doctrine of atheism and of annihilation. The penetrating prescience of Neander seems borne out on this point by genuine texts against the harsher judgment of recent Sanskrit scholars. He judged as a philosopher, and they as grammarians.
It would be difficult to say on what subject Baron Bunsen is not at home. But none is handled by him with more familiar mastery than that of Liturgies, 91ancient and modern. He has endeavoured to enlarge the meagre stores of the Lutheran Church by a collection of evangelical songs and prayers.6262 Gesang-und Gebet-buch. Hamburgh. 1846. Rich in primitive models, yet adapted to Lutheran habits, this collection might be suggestive to any Nonconformist congregations which desire to enrich or temper their devotions by the aid of common prayers. Even our own Church, though not likely to recast her ritual in a foreign mould, might observe with profit the greater calmness and harmony of the older forms, as compared with the amplifications, which she has in some cases adopted. Our Litany is hardly equal to its germ. Nor do our collects exhaust available stores. Yet if it be one great test of a theology, that it shall bear to be prayed, our author has hardly satisfied it. Either reverence, or deference, may have prevented him from bringing his prayers into entire harmony with his criticisms; or it may be that a discrepance, which we should constantly diminish, is likely to remain between our feelings and our logical necessities. It is not the less certain, that some reconsideration of the polemical element in our Liturgy, as of the harder scholasticism in our theology, would be the natural offspring of any age of research in which Christianity was free; and if this, as seems but too probable, is to be much longer denied us, the consequence must be a lessening of moral strength within our pale, and an accession to influences which will not always be friendly. But to estrange our doctrinal teaching from the convictions, and our practical administration from the influence, of a Protestant Laity, are parts of one policy, and that not always a blind one. Nor is doctrinal narrowness of view without practical counterpart in the rigidity which excludes the breath of prayer from our churches for six days in seven, rather than permit a clergyman to select such portions as devotion suggests, and average strength permits.92
It did not fall within the scope of this Essay to define the extent of its illustrious subject’s obligations (which be would no doubt largely acknowledge) to contemporary scholars, such as Mr. Birch, or others. Nor was it necessary to touch questions of ethnology and politics which might be raised by those who value Germanism so far as it is human, rather than so far as it is German. Sclavonians might notice the scanty acknowledgment of the vast contributions of their race to the intellectual wealth of Germany.6363 One might ask, whether the experience of our two latest wars encourage our looking to Germany for any unselfish sympathy with the rights of nations? Or has she not rather earned the curse of Meroz? Celtic scholars might remark that triumph in a discovery which has yet to be proved, regarding the law of initial mutations in their language, is premature.6464 So the vaunted discovery of Professor Zeuss, deriving Cymry from to imaginary word ‘Combroges,’ is against the testimony of the hest Greek geographers. Nor would they assent to our author’s ethical description of their race. So, when he asks: ‘How long shall we bear this fiction of an external revelation’,—that is, of one violating the heart and conscience, instead of expressing itself through them—or when he says, ‘All this is delusion for those who believe it; but what is it in the mouths of those who teach it?’—or when he exclaims, ‘Oh the fools! who, if they do see the imminent perils of this age, think to ward them off by narrow-minded persecution!’ and when he repeats, ‘Is it not time, in truth, to withdraw the veil from our misery? to tear off the mask from hypocrisy, and destroy that sham which is undermining all real ground under our feet? to point out the dangers which surround, nay, threaten already to engulf us?’—there will be some who think his language too vehement for good taste. Others will think burning words needed by the disease of our time. They will not quarrel on points of taste with a man 93who in our darkest perplexity has reared again the banner of truth, and uttered thoughts which give courage to the weak, and sight to the blind. If Protestant Europe is to escape those shadows of the twelfth century, which with ominous recurrence are closing round us, to Baron Bunsen will belong a foremost place among the champions of light and right. Any points disputable, or partially erroneous, which may be discovered in his many works, are as dust in the balance, compared with the mass of solid learning, and the elevating influence of a noble and Christian spirit. Those who have assailed his doubtful points are equally opposed to his strong ones. Our own testimony is, where we have been best able to follow him, we have generally found most reason to agree with him. But our little survey has not traversed his vast field, nor our plummet sounded his depth.
Bunsen, with voice, like sound of trumpet born,
Conscious of strength, and confidently bold,
Well feign the sons of Loyola the scorn
Which from thy books would scare their startled fold—
To thee our Earth disclosed her purple morn,
And Time his long-lost centuries unrolled;
Far Realms unveiled the mystery of their Tongue
Thou all their garlands on the Cross but hung.
My lips but ill could frame thy Lutheran speech,
Nor suits thy Teuton vaunt our British pride—
But ah! not dead my soul to giant reach,
That envious Eld’s vast interval defied;
And when those fables strange, our hirelings teach,
I saw by genuine learning cast aside,
Even like Linnæus kneeling on the sod,
For faith from falsehood severed, thank I GOD.
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