« Prev Author's Preface. Next »


WHEN in January, 1865, I set my hand to the task of preparing a work which should solve for the satisfaction of cultivated readers no less than of thorough scholars the question of the genuineness of our Gospels,—a question which stands related in the closest manner to the great topic of the present age, the Life of Jesus,—I was fully aware that those theologians who have for some time brought the scourge of their skeptical and unbelieving theories upon the field of New-Testament scholarship would take great offense at my work, and express themselves strongly against it. For who does not know that these men have long forgotten how to subject their prejudices to the results of conscientious investigation? Equally well known is it that they are accustomed to regard nothing as having scholarly and scientific value unless it proceeds from their own circle. On my part, however, I felt it to be my duty to take up arms against this organized movement to convert theological science into sophistry, 10and give powerful support to the anti-Christian spirit of our time; to meet it with the results of rigid inquiry, and with the earnestness of convictions which have matured from a lifetime consecrated faithfully to Christian learning. It seemed to be only in this way that I could advance the sacred interests which I had at heart, and throw light upon the questions which are vitally connected with belief in the Lord.

Did I expect to escape contradiction and the anger of opponents? By no means. Others might hesitate about committing themselves absolutely to a service in behalf of the interests of truth, fearing to encounter the sharp thrusts which might be directed against them; but I believed that I ought to and must cherish no such fear, and solaced myself with the thought that it would be a hard matter if what I might suffer from the calumny of enemies were not offset by the approbation of those who believe in the purity of my intentions and the uprightness of my aim. I have not been disappointed in this. The displeasure of my opponents has been manifested in a shameless manner. But, on the other hand, there has not been wanting the satisfaction of seeing my little book received in many quarters with the warmest acceptance and heartiest recognition, as well out of Germany as in it. In France, Holland, England, Russia, and America, translations have appeared; even an Italian one was made at Rome. Yet opposition has at no single 11moment failed to display its real character; the weapons of lying, persecution, and calumny have been brought to bear against me; and in so doing, the blind zeal which has been displayed has at times suffered the grossest ignorance to peep out.

Two men in particular have undertaken the task of assailing my work with the weapons mentioned above,—Dr. Hilgenfeld, of Jena, and Dr. Volkmar, of Zurich. The first has devoted to this task an article in the Review which he edits, heading it, "Constantine Tischendorf as Defensor Fidei." As examples of the disingenuous statements with which he figures [strotzt], I adduce the following. Although in my work my main task was with the canon of the four Gospels; although I in no place undertook to put the whole New-Testament canon on the same footing, as, indeed, no thorough scholar can do; and although I do not speak specifically of the whole canon, and merely put together as of equal canonicity the four Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, the first of John, and the first of Peter, yet Hilgenfeld writes, p. 330: "The cheering result which issues from this illustration of the subject is the fact that the four Gospels, and even the whole canon of the New Testament, can be assigned to the close of the first century." Page 333: "Than the presupposition that the close of the New-Testament canon falls at the end of the first century, nothing is more incompatible." Page 336: "The modern apologist, who puts a full and fair ending 12of the New-Testament canon at the close of the first century." Is this legerdemain, or a purposed misleading of readers? It is, it must be, one of the two. Naturally, he shuns quoting a single passage of my work in support of the charge which he brings against me.22Hilgenfeld's friends are more outspoken in this matter than even he is, while they completely echo his words. Thus Volkmar, p. 110: "The Sinaitic Bible is asserted to have no greater value or significance than to make certain the fact that the canon of our four Gospels, as well as the whole Old Catholic New Testament, was in existence at the commencement of the second century." P. 120: "This which has been added is, therefore, a ne plus ultra; in this phrase, scriptum est, are involved not only the canonicity of Matthew, but the fourfoldness of our Gospels, and the authenticity of the whole New Testament." In like tone A. Ritschl, in the Jahrb. für deutsch. Theol. 1866, 2d pt. p. 355: "But it is arbitrarily foisted upon the words of the heresiarch, as it is also an arbitrary supposition, that the church from the apostolic time down was furnished with the canon of the New Testament, and with bishops who were the successors of the apostles. And whoever trusts Tertullian so far as the former statement is concerned, has no right to refuse to recognize with him the apostolical succession of bishops. As all the studies of Tischendorf into the history of the canon lead him to believe that no one of the New Testament Scriptures can be looked at by itself and as destitute of canonical authority" [these words are intended to convey the meaning that the canonization of Matthew, testified to by Barnabas, is to be confined to Matthew alone. That they signify no less than that the beginning of a canon of the New Testament can not be limited to a single document, can be clearly seen in the passage cited, and is there fully dwelt upon; the ascribing of another meaning is a perversion of my words], "and as he finds himself obliged to assign the establishment of the canon to the close of the first century . . . . If, now, it is a result to be almost envied that one should convince himself so easily of the correctness of his judgment respecting the history of the New Testament canon, they seem to be much more to be envied who want to confirm this result by holding firmly to the doctrine of an apostolical appointment of bishops who had authority commensurate with that of the apostles." These last words are a mere stupid joke, and are to be accounted as such; they are, therefore, of the same character, and are animated by the same spirit, as that which has caused other men to heap calumny upon me.

Page 333, note 2, Hilgenfeld, in commenting on Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iii. 392, and alluding to Papias, thus writes: "That the line of presbyters is opened here by the apostles, can only be more than doubtful with a critic like Tischendorf." But would any reader suspect from this that I was following the express declaration of Eusebius, to whom we are indebted for almost all our knowledge of Papias's book, and to whose silence the negative school itself is indebted for its powerful evidence against John? And that the "Defensor Fidei" is here in accord with the two heroes of the negative school—Strauss and Renan has not the third hero of that school ignored this, or sought to whitewash it over?

On page 337, Hilgenfeld writes: "The 'honorable weapons' on which Tischendorf prides himself are, for that matter, made very doubtful even in the homilies of Clemens Romanus." On this, he proceeds to quote my words [in the first edition of this book]: "It is of unabated interest that the alleged and acutely argued cropping out of John's Gospel in this celebrated record of the Jewish-13Christian tendency, based on the recent discovery by Dressel, at Rome, of the closing portion of the document, where there is an undoubted use of John's story of the man whose blindness was healed,—though it may be that the genial habit of skepticism will yield to no array of truth,—has entirely fallen out of sight." On this, he remarks: "As I, to whose critical investigations into the Gospels of Justin a note at this point refers, do not wish to hold Dr. Tischendorf to be a base calumniator, I must conclude that he has taken a twelve-years' slumber over the matter with which he is dealing. Dressel's complete edition of Clemens's Homilies, published in 1853, is for Tischendorf a book only 'just out.' Then he rubs his eyes, and simply comes to the same conclusion that I came to fifteen years ago, before the conclusion of the Homilies was brought to light." To this I answer, that my allusion to Hilgenfeld was coupled with the expression "acutely argued," and that it was expressly stated that Hilgenfeld's words dated from 1850; and when I had occasion to speak of Dressel's work as "new," I appended the date, 1853. Still some trace of his base calumniation must remain. And Hilgenfeld draws my own words, "Though it may be that the genial habit of skepticism will yield to no array of truth," down upon his own head. A glance shows that he is entitled to the full application of it; and one may not hear of the "genial habit of skepticism" without seeing 14that Dr. Hilgenfeld is alluded to. He acts as if he did not know that it is Dr. Volkmar who has so weakened his confession of a use of John's Gospel by the Clementines that the doubts respecting the authenticity of this Gospel remain undisturbed; and he writes: "But Tischendorf, although an honorable man in everything else, has in this instance been buried, with his critical knowledge, in the deepest slumber." Everywhere Hilgenfeld acts as if he believed that all that he advances must be contested by me. I did not purpose to take him for the subject of my book: he comes, as all can see, only under consideration so far as he follows in the direction which I oppose. Does he leave this direction at any point, and under any circumstances, he begins to cry out about "dishonor," "going to sleep," "Spanish knight-errantry," and the like, as in page 336, where says, "In him (Justin) I have long recognized the use of the three first Gospels, and even the possibility of an acquaintance with the fourth. This puts Tischendorf in the attitude of spurring his Rosinante, Don Quixote-like, against windmills as imagined giants, in his zeal to show the use of the four Gospels by these apologists." The zeal of the Spanish knight lies in the following forcible words: "That Justin repeats our Matthew in many passages is undeniable; that he knows and follows Mark and Luke, is in several places extremely probable."33I might perhaps repel the charge that an over-heated zealous activity, akin to that of the Spanish knight-errant, lies dormant in my words, by citing the expression of the "Wiener Allgem. Literatur Zeitung zunächst für das katholische Deutschland, No. 25: "So far as real learning and familiarity with the subject are concerned, Strauss compared with Tischendorf is a pigmy by a giant." . . . One word of his weighs more than the whole book of another, however carefully prepared." Then a page and a half are devoted to a discussion of the effort which has been 15made to discredit this universally accredited result: as much more follows respecting the use of John, neither exactly answering to Hilgenfeld's views about fighting against windmills. Looking back at his loose statements, specimens of which have here been given, and more familiar with the discovery of his dishonesty, the same pitiable "Theologus quem terrestres certe superi . . . extra ordinem theologicum arcuerunt" writes in his "N. T. extra canonem receptum," "Ceterum Tischendorfii argumenta qualia omnino sint iam diiudicavi et huius viri subdolam in impugnandis adversariis rationem palam detexi." In the same work he boldly continues the flow of his dishonest effusions, writing on page 69, "Tischendorfium in famoso libello." . . . Page 44: "Calumniatoris partes agere, quasi negaremus Matth. evang. h. 1. laudari nemo non videt." But what is on that page 44 to which he refers? Not a word respecting him; I only transcribed verbally what Volkmar wrote, where he prefaced his invectives against myself and others with the applause which he had received from Hilgenfeld and Strauss: "quod Ed. mea Esdræ Prophetæ; . . . omnibus qui hucusque de ea re ex Ed. mea iudicarunt persuasit, etiam Hilgenfeldio; . . . et Straussio. . . . Reussium satis pigebit." Is not this to wear without shame the liar's brazen brow?

But Dr. Volkmar has surpassed even Hilgenfeld in the use of these weapons. I had occasion to show in my book, by a number of examples, that a 16great many trickeries had been employed for the purpose of discrediting the evidence borne by the second century to our Gospels. This evidence was in part put aside, where it could be, by bringing forward the testimony of lost writings; sometimes the witnesses were made more modern than they really were, and transformed from a decisive epoch to one without significance, so far as the matter under discussion is affected, while sometimes they were charged with ignorance or deceit: here the writings which gave evidence were regarded as not genuine, or at any rate as interpolated so far as to invalidate their testimony; while there the sentiments of ancient writers have all their pith taken out by falsification and perversion. All this is. effected by Volkmar with a skill that is unparalleled, so far as my modest knowledge enables me to judge. I ought not to refrain from giving some instances of his ways of proceeding. In respect to Herakleon, he writes, page 28: "Tischendorf states, 'This man was reckoned by Origen as contemporaneous with Valentine, which is confirmed by Epiphanius.' Yes, good God;44A familiar oath used by German divines, ladies, and other persons, and only less common than the hourly-repeated" Lord Jesus." Trans. but if this is made out, why waste another word upon it?" On page 130: "Far from belonging to the earlier disciples of Valentine, he is one of the very last distinguished heads of that Gnosticism, and one who would recommend it to the Church: c. 190-195 on Luke, and c. 200-220 17on John." Now, on what does this assertion rest? First: "Origen only declares that Herakleon was accounted to be the friend of Valentine;" page 23. Second: "He was the chief opponent of the school of Valentine, unknown even to Irenæus;" page 210. Third: "This is confirmed by Epiphanius because διαδέχεται, in his language, only refers to the fact that the Half-Valentinians are followed in chap. 41 by the founder of Marcionitism in this, my Panarion of all heresies." But with all this, he has sought in vain to falsify history. Following the lead of Dr. Lipsius,55Zur Quellenkritik des Epiphanios, 1865, p. 68: "Herakleon does not specifically mention Irenæus." P. 168: "Epiphanios did not find the name of Herakleon mentioned in Irenæus, but he unquestionably learned of Hippolytus what he knew about him." "Even the order is given by Irenæus. And just because he does not mention Herakleon, Epiphanios thinks that he must put him behind Mark." whose heresiological investigations Volkmar boasts that he has only continued with the greatest satisfaction to himself, he overlooks the passage in Irenæus, Book ii. ch. 4 (not alluded to66This may do something toward clearing away the charge which has often been brought against me, that I have not read Justin and others, and merely copy what I find in "Introductions." in the index indeed), where Herakleon and Ptolemy are distinctly mentioned as well-known personages. Having made this unfortunate oversight, he advances confidently to weaken the force of γνώριμος in Origen, to explain the διαδέχεται of Epiphanius in a joking fashion, and, lastly, to unearth in the ζητείτωσαν of Hippolytus a contemporary of Hippolytus between 200 and 220. Celsus encountered a similar fate. Respecting him, Volkmar writes, page 80: "Of Celsus's work, it is notorious that it manifested acquaintance not only with the canonical, but with the apocryphal Gospels, and more particularly with that of John." "It is quite another matter to determine the epoch of Celsus." "Celsus wrote his book about the middle 18of the second century." "Does not Origen say, at the close of his work, 8: 76, that this Celsus announced that he was intending to put forth another writing of positive character, and that we must wait to see whether he should accomplish his purpose? Does not this look as if he were a contemporary of Origen's? . . . What Baur has incontestably demonstrated, that the New Platonist opponent of Origen was contemporaneous with him, is not simply ignored by this Tischendorf, the appealer to the ignorant multitude; it is absolutely unknown to him." But the argument brought forward by Volkmar rests on nothing less than a falsification of the words of Origen; yet such a step could only be taken by a scholar of his rare attainments, who had neglected to read what Origen says expressly with regard to Celsus, that "he had long been dead." In both cases, therefore, in that of Celsus as well as in that of Herakleon, there must be a choice in the means of cure; at any rate, to those which have been applied there must also be joined the excision of the passage in Irenæus and Origen. And is it not possible that the same Old Catholic critic (found out by Ritschl) who had partly invented and partly interpolated Ignatius's letters and those bearing his name, and who at the same time tricked out the Epistle of Polycarp with passages from Ignatius and Ignatius's Epistles, may have had his hand in this matter as well? That which personally touches me in these outpourings 19of theological bitterness is of very little consequence compared with two other elements of the document under consideration,—the frivolous tone of its scientific pretensions and the treachery to the church which it displays. For my own part, I can only hold it as an honor to thoroughly displease such men; and that my work has not entirely failed in reaching its mark, is proved to me in no more effective way than by the calumnious assaults which are made upon it; and so far as they have tried to blacken over what I have done, I freely pardon them, so far as roughness and want of understanding are concerned: there would be a valid token that I had failed in what I proposed were I not the target for the unthankfulness of mockers. But for the falseness which treads church and knowledge alike under foot; for that hypocritical frivolousness, which degrades the church into a mere seminary for the propagation of untruth, and elevates pure figments of the brain to the rank of apostolical inheritances, I have nothing but a cry of pain and of horror.

Only a few words regarding the new edition of my work. The first edition, published in March, 1865, was followed in May by the second; the third aimed at a greater popularizing of the subject, and was accompanied by an historical sketch of my travels and researches.77The small, popular edition of this work has already been published in France by the Toulouse Société des livres religieux, in England by the Religious Tract Society, and in America. In the latter country a German edition has also been issued. The French translator is Prof. Sardinoux of Montauban, the English translator Mr. J. B. Heard, and the American, Prof. H. B. Smith. It now seems advisable to add many details to that edition, and to make an effort to make the work more complete and 20valuable. To do this, I have more than doubled the amount of matter. Of course it has been my wish, in doing this, not to injure the work, so far as its tone is suited to meet the wants of the general world of culture, although it is hard to produce a book for this class, and at the same time to adapt it to the wants of special students. I must beg the reader's indulgence, should I be found at times to have given one body of readers undue advantage over another. I have written nothing which I am not prepared fully to defend. And may the blessing of God not be wanting to my little work in its new form.


LEIPZIG, July 1, 1866.

« Prev Author's Preface. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |