The Journal of Sacred Literature, New Series [Series 4] 5 (1864) pp. 378-402
BY PROFESSOR H. B. HACKETT.
No portion of the Bible, not excepting now even the Pentateuch, which had been so long the battlefield of the German critics, excites so much interest at the present moment in Germany as the four Gospels. This is owing to the new direction which the course of biblical criticism has taken in that country, since the appearance in 1835 of Strauss's work on the Life of Christ. This work, it is well known, has produced a sensation in the German theological world, unequalled by anything which has occurred since the publication of the Wolfenbüttel Fragments, by Lessing, in 1778. It has passed rapidly through repeated editions, has been printed, how many times we are unable to say, in an abridged and less critical form for uneducated readers, has been translated into other languages, and has given rise to a controversy, which after the lapse now of these ten years nearly, is still kept up with undiminished vigour.
Of the degree of positive influence which this work of Strauss has exerted, of the actual impression which it has made on the public mind, it is not easy to form a definite opinion. We should certainly err, however, were we to regard the attention merely which it has awakened as any very exact criterion of the favour with which its doctrines have been received, or as indicating to any very great extent an increase of the infidelity of Germany over and above that which previously existed. In the first place, it should be remembered, that at the time when Strauss came forward with his new theory for the explanation of the Gospel history, the old type of rationalism, that which flourished particularly from the beginning of the present century until 1817, which is represented in exegesis by Paulus, and in dogmatics by Wegscheider, had lost very much of its scientific interest with the public, and had thus left the ground open for some new development of the rationalistic principle. Under these circumstances, Strauss appeared; and of those who embraced his sentiments, the great majority consisted, not of those who now went over from the Christian camp to unbelief for the first time, but of such as had already taken this step, and on this occasion merely exchanged one form of religious scepticism for another. In the |379 second place, Strauss's notoriety has proceeded, after all, much more from the opposition which his views have encountered, than from any demonstration of numbers or strength which his supporters have made in his behalf. Those who have taken part against him exceed by scores those who have attempted to do battle for him. Zeal for the truth of God is not yet wholly extinct in the land of the Reformers; and this zeal, wherever it exists, cannot but display itself whenever any danger, be it real or apparent, seems to threaten the interests of Christianity. "We bar the doors carefully, not merely when we expect a formidable attack, but when we have treasure in the house." It is truly gratifying to see the proof which this controversy has elicited, that Germany has still so many who continue faithful to the truth, and who can bring to the defence of it an ability and learning equal to the crisis. Again, the civil proceedings in which Strauss has been involved, have given him a publicity which his writings alone would not have procured him. At the time of the publication of his Life of Jesus, he was occupying the place of Repetent in the theological seminary at Tubingen, and at the same time delivering lectures on philosophy in the university. He was immediately called on by the superintendents of public instruction to shew, if he could, how the views advanced in this book were to be reconciled with his position as a professed Christian teacher. Failing to make this out to the satisfaction of his judges, he was removed from his office, and thus became at once, in the estimation of many, a martyr to the rights of free inquiry. He was elected, after this, in 1839, with much opposition, and after loud protestation from various quarters, to the professorship of dogmatics and church history in the university of Zürich in Switzerland. But the people of the canton, indignant at the outrage thus offered to their religious feelings, soon rose en masse and compelled him to resign his office and withdraw from the country. The excitement and controversy attending these transactions drew on him necessarily universal attention, and rendered him famous throughout Europe. Finally, there are already no slight indications, that the influence of Strauss is waning, and that the impression which he seemed to produce at first, has given way to a more sober estimate of his work considered as an intellectual production, as well as to a conviction of the utter falsity of the critical principles, so-called, on which it is written. In such a country as Germany, where the learned class is so numerous, there are always many who take no very active interest in the theological results which such controversies are designed to establish, who yet make it a matter of honour to see to it that literary justice |380 is dealt out to the parties. They constitute a sort of court of science, into which these questions are brought, and where, all polemic feelings being put aside as much as possible, they are decided with reference solely to the skill, ability, and general fairness of argument, with which the combatants have maintained their cause. The judgment thus given has always great influence in determining the authority and ultimate fate of the views which are the subject of dispute. We feel ourselves borne out now by our means of information in saying, that the scientific public in Germany have decided on the contest between Strauss and his opposers, and have given no doubtful verdict in favour of the latter. This may be inferred, among other proofs, with sufficient certainty from the present tone of the leading critical journals, from the well-known character for talents and scholarship of many of those who have signalized themselves on this occasion in defence of Christian truth, and particularly from the style of discussion, as regards Strauss individually, which the later publications relative to him have assumed. A politic controversialist does not venture, whatever may be his own private sentiments, to treat an opponent before the public in a manner very much at variance with the general estimation in which he is held. The bearing which he exhibits towards him will be conformed very much to what is supposed to be the public consequence of the personage with whom he has to do. Dr. David Friedrich Strauss, on this principle, has ceased certainly to be a very formidable character. His name, whatever terror it may have awakened once, is now pronounced without fear. As the smoke of the battle has cleared up, his dimensions have revealed themselves more clearly to the view of his countrymen; they have verified his humanity, and now treat him just like any other mortal who, though he may have shewn some acuteness and said some just things in a very good style in opposition to unwise apologists for the truth, is yet suspected of having gone sadly astray from religion and common sense; that is, they give him full credit for his shrewdness----they admit him to be in the right when he is not wrong----they refute him with argument .as well as they can whenever he himself makes pretension to argument; ----and as for the rest, who can blame them, or find fault with their logic, if they are unable to deal with impiety, absurdity, and nonsense otherwise than as such?
It is in this general style now intimated, that Dr. Ebrard has taken up the questions at issue between Strauss and his opposers in the work named at the foot of page 378; and in so doing has reflected, in common with other similar writings which have lately appeared, the present feeling of an extensive |381 portion, at least of Germany, in respect to this controversy. It does not comport with our object to characterize this able production at much length. It occupies an intermediate position between a regular commentary on the gospels on the one hand, and a connected biography of the Saviour on the other. It has this in common with the former, that it discusses the same general topics, such as the plan of the different evangelists, their genuineness, the consistency of their several accounts with each other, which claim the attention of an interpreter; but it differs from a commentary, inasmuch as it does not profess to give a detailed exposition of the Gospels, or of any extended portions of them in continuous order. It resembles, again, a biographical sketch of the Saviour in its attempt to arrange the materials of the evangelical history in their supposed chronological connection, but makes no endeavour, like the Lives of Christ which we have ----for instance, from Hess and Neander----to throw over this naked outline the fulness of representation and freshness of colouring which an expansion of the hints and simple statements of the evangelists render so easy to a master of the art of historical composition. The work has professedly a polemic aim against Strauss, and more particularly against that part of his book which professes to compare the different accounts of the evangelists with one another, and out of the alleged inconsistencies and contradictions to be found in them, to construct an argument in support of his hypothesis of their mythic origin. As a work of critical science, as a general help to the thorough study of the gospels, it is certainly one of the most useful books of the kind which we have ever seen. But it is especially valuable as presenting to us a critique on Strauss's Life of Jesus as a literary and scientific work, and thus enabling us to judge of it precisely in those respects in which it has arrogated to itself the greatest merit. We propose, therefore, in the sequel of the present article, to avail ourselves of some of the materials here offered for forming such a judgment, and at the same time to present, so far as it may be necessary for the accomplishment of this particular object, a brief account of the leading notions of Strauss's monstrous hypothesis.
This writer, who has attained so much distinction, was born at Ludwigsburg, in Wurtemberg, in 1808. He pursued his early studies chiefly at Tübingen, officiated for a short time as vicar to a country curate, and then went, in 1831, to Berlin, where he heard lectures from Schleiermacher. Hegel had died a short time before this, but had left his philosophy in the zenith of its glory, to which Strauss now attached himself, and on which, after his return to Tübingen, he lectured with great applause at |382 the university. At the age of twenty-seven, he published his Life of Jesus, and thus brought his name, for the first time, prominently before the public. In this work he has applied the principles of Hegelianism to the interpretation of Scripture, and claims it as his great merit that he was the first to extend the domain of this philosophy to matters of religion. As this system is variously expounded by its teachers, it is not surprising that some of them, as Marheinecke, Rosenkrantz, and others who claim to be its true representatives, and to maintain its consistency with revelation, should refuse to acknowledge Strauss ' as a disciple of this school. As an adherent of the Hegelian philosophy, according to his exposition of it, it is impossible for him to admit the idea of Christianity as a historical religion, and he must discover, consequently, some mode of explaining its records, their origin, and the contents of them, which is consistent with his philosophy. Here lies the πρῶτον ψεῦδος of his scheme. The question of the genuineness of the Gospels is prejudged before he comes to their examination. It is impossible that any amount of evidence for them should establish their truth against the à priori decisions of his philosophy. This philosophy, as expressed in a word, is undisguised pantheism. Here is the norm to which all must be brought, the lapis Lydius which is to try everything. On this principle it becomes with Strauss a philosophical absurdity to suppose that the Gospels are genuine productions, and contain a record of actual occurrences and veritable doctrines, as these terms are generally understood; for, from such an admission, what would follow? Aye----there would be then a personal God----he would be omnipotent, and could work a miracle; the soul is immortal, and will live on in the world to come; every individual is accountable for himself, and must look to the consequences of his destiny----doctrines, of course, which pantheism denies, and which it must view as the brand-marks of spuriousness in any book which professes to teach them. Straussism now proposes to itself the somewhat difficult task of adhering to its philosophy, and yet maintaining a show of respect for the Scriptures. It would not venture on the avowal of an open hostility to the Word of God.
From this step, indeed, the rationalism of Germany, under all the forms of its manifestation, has studiously held itself back. It has always aimed at the same object, and that has been to blot out from the Bible all evidences of a supernatural revelation, and to reduce its teachings to a level with those of nature; but it has laboured to accomplish this result without acknowledging any inconsistencies between it and a certain reception of the Bible as a source of religious instruction. The methods which |383 it has employed for this purpose have been various, and have been changed from time to time, as their insufficiency and absurdity have become apparent. The one which has been on the whole most prevalent, and which has held possession of the field longest, is that of a forced interpretation. On meeting with a miracle or the appearance of a miracle in the Bible, it was explained away as a natural occurrence, either because the sacred writers themselves, it was alleged, really intended to relate it as such, and no other view is authorised by a just construction of their language, (thus in the account of the man healed at the pool of Bethesda, John never thought of relating any thing more, it was said, than a case of ordinary cure by bathing); or when the desired result could not be reached in this way, because we are to consider the writers as merely stating their own impression in regard to the matter, while it belongs to us as interpreters to distinguish between their opinion, of an event and the event itself. What these arts were found inadequate to accomplish, it was left to the principle of accommodation, so-called, to consummate. The Jews----so the rationalists argued----were looking merely for a temporal king in the Messiah; and Jesus, who was a good man and sincerely desired the moral reformation of his countrymen, took advantage of this idea----(most palpably false, by the way----for what more perfect contrast can be imagined than that which exists between the Saviour as he was and professed to be, and that which the worldly Jews expected of the Messiah)----gave himself out as the Son of God, as the Head of a new universal kingdom, as the Judge of the world, and so on, simply in order to procure a more ready reception of his instructions, and to accomplish with better effect the benevolent object of his mission. In this way the Bible seemed to retain in some sort its authority and truth, and yet was robbed of everything which could be construed into evidence of its divinity or of the supernatural character of the dispensations whose history it contains. But this mode of interpretation lost at length its novelty. It violated too many principles of language and common sense to maintain its ground against the stricter views of philology which had begun to prevail; and the spirit of rationalistic criticism transferred itself next from the contents of the sacred writings to the sacred writings themselves. The critics of this school became suddenly endued with a wonderful sagacity for deciding on the genuineness of ancient compositions, for distinguishing by means of certain internal indications of style, idiom, and thought, together with a certain inward, undefinable sense of their own, between such parts of these Compositions as were true, and such as were false; they could place |384 their hands, with infallible certainty, upon the entire book, in the sacred volume----upon the chapter here and there, or upon the verse, which was to be rejected as an interpolation and as unworthy of its reputed divine origin. Before such a process, those parts of the Bible which contained anything offensive to the rationalistic sense, which affirmed, for instance, the reality of miracles, prophetic inspiration, and the like, rapidly disappeared; and yet the effort which was thus in fact overturning the foundations of Christianity and all revealed religion, claimed to be nothing more than an assertion of the rights of a just and scientific criticism. But the arbitrary nature of such judgments could not fail to be perceived. They were capable of being exposed, and were exposed; so that rationalism began again to be pressed with the difficulties of its position both as attempting to maintain a mode of attack on the Scriptures which it could not justify at the bar of science, and as seeking to conceal its design by an artifice too shallow to answer any purpose of deception. All these expedients having been exhausted, one might have supposed that rationalism would be compelled now either to desist from the warfare, or carry it on henceforth without reserve of subterfuge, with an open assumption of the ground which it really occupied, but which it was so unwilling to avow. To this issue it seemed for a time as if it must come; but at this juncture Strauss presents himself with his mythic scheme, and opens the way for at least one other experiment of the kind which had been so often attempted.
The term myth, which has been so much used in modern criticism, is variously explained. The definition of it which Strauss adopts as regards the Gospels, is that of a religious idea clothed in a historical form. This historical form may be, in itself considered, a pure fiction, having no foundation whatever in any actual occurrences, but arising solely from the tendency of the human mind to give to spiritual truths an outward representation; or it may be founded upon certain historical circumstances as a point of departure, which have been gradually enlarged and modified in conformity with the ideas which have sought to express themselves by means of them. The former is the idea of the myth in its purity and universality; and it is this sense of it which Weisse has adopted as the foundation of his attempt to get rid of the facts of the evangelical history. Strauss, on the contrary, employs it in the other sense. He admits that there was such a person as Christ----a Jewish Rabbi (that is his language) who lived and taught in Palestine at the period which is usually assigned to him----that he collected a circle of disciples whom he impressed with so high an idea of his |385 wisdom and goodness, that they considered him as the Messiah, and thus at length awakened in his own mind an ambition, hitherto foreign to him, of being received in that character. This is the sum of all the historical truth which he allows to be contained in the Gospels. The rest is the result of a disposition on the part of the followers of Christ, which began to manifest itself soon after his death, to glorify their deceased Master in every possible way, and especially by ascribing to him those traits of life and character which the Jews supposed from the Old Testament would be exhibited by the Messiah. The Gospels, in a word, are, with the exception of the slight historical basis just mentioned, the product of a mere mental effort to realise and embody the rational Messianic idea which prevailed among the Jews so universally at the time of the birth of Christ. The Old Testament, as already intimated, it regarded as the soil, out of which these ideas, which have been rendered thus objective in Christ, are said to have sprung. Thus the temptation of the Saviour, which the evangelists relate, is resolved into a fiction, having its origin in the belief, that good men, as illustrated in the history of Job, are objects of the special hatred and persecution of Satan; and hence this must have been true also of the Messiah. The account of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, is merely an imitation of the Mosaic account of the manna in Exod. vi. 16; and the transfiguration on Tabor has its type in what is related as having befallen Moses on Mount Sinai. The visit of the magi from the East, is said to have been suggested by the prophecy of Balaam in Numb. xxiv. 17, that a Star should arise out of Jacob, and by the representation in Isaiah lx. and Psalm lxxii., that distant nations and kings should bring presents of gold, spices, and other costly treasure as a tribute to the Messiah. The flight of the holy family into Egypt was intended to correspond to the flight of Moses into Midian; the murder of the children of Bethlehem to that of the children of the Israelites by Pharaoh; the appearance of Jesus at the age of twelve years in the temple, to the somewhat similar narratives respecting Samuel, Solomon, Daniel (1 Kings iii. 23 seq.; 1 Sam. iii.; Dan. iv. 5 seq.), etc., etc. These are examples of the manner in which the histories of the Gospels are said to have been formed, or, more properly speaking, to have formed themselves. They are the work, not of any single individual or of any fraudulent design, but of a gradual and spontaneous aggregation about the person of Jesus of the various types and analogies which the Jews supposed would be realised in the Messiah. The commonly received opinion respecting the time of the composition and the authorship of the Gospels would be |386 fatal of course to this theory; and this opinion accordingly is without ceremony set aside, and the ground assumed, that the Gospels were written about the middle of the second century after Christ, not by persons who stood in a sufficiently near relation to him to be able to report what they wrote on the authority of their own knowledge and observation, but by individuals whose names are unknown, who put down in good faith as their own belief and that of their contemporaries these mythic fictions then current, which had gradually sprung up and wrought themselves into a historical form in the manner which has been described. The Gospel of Luke, however, and the Acts, are referred by Strauss to a somewhat earlier origin, and the epistles of Paul also, with the exception of particular passages, are allowed to be genuine. His main argument for justifying his assertion, that the Gospels originated at so late a period, is derived from what he represents as their internal condition. Of this he gives his own account; and were there nothing to object to it, as regards either the soundness of the critical principles on which he has proceeded in this examination, or the accuracy and truth of his statements, it might seem indeed that we have here no slight obstacle to a literal reception of the memoirs of the evangelists. He undertakes to make out, that they offend perpetually against the chronology, history, social customs and institutions of the period to which they profess to relate, and furthermore that they are full of discrepancies and contradictions as compared with each other, which no art of interpreters and harmonists can possibly reconcile. On this basis he builds his conclusion----the Gospels could not have proceeded from writers who had any personal connection with the transactions and scenes which they relate, but they must have been composed at a period when time had already obscured the original accounts, and left room for those intermixtures of the marvellous and incoherent which they everywhere exhibit, and which mark the mythic creations of every age and people. It is generally acknowledged that Strauss has stated the apparent discrepancies between the Gospels with unusual force and effect; and it is on the ability displayed here, that his pretensions as a writer and critic mainly rest.
It will be perceived at once from the preceding sketch, that the work of replying to Strauss must consist principally in a vindication of the Gospels against the charges which he has preferred against them. The other parts of his hypothesis fall at once when deprived of this support. If the claims of the Gospels be established, and they are shewn to be from the hands of the personal followers of Christ, or of their associates, there remains then no interval for the mythic process of which Strauss |387 speaks; and the very idea of it, sufficiently absurd even were we to concede to him the entire interval for which he contends, is seen to be at once the merest dream that ever entered the head of a philosopher. It is with this vindication, as involving obviously the gist of the whole subject, that Dr. Ebrard has occupied himself mainly in the present work. Those more general objections, consequently, which lie against the views of Strauss, he has had less occasion to urge fully, than some other writers who have pursued a different plan. These will be found given at. greater length, particularly by Tholuck, in the introductory part of his Credibility of the Evangelical History, by Ullmann in his work entitled Historical or Mythic? and by Julius Müller in his articles in the well-known theological journal, Studies and Criticisms, published at Heidelberg. As illustrating the manner in which this part of the discussion has been conducted, it will not be out of place to mention here some of the leading positions which have been taken against Strauss under this more general view of the subject. We have space only to enumerate them without much expansion.
First; it is affirmed that on Strauss's principles all history loses its certainty, and becomes a mere phantom,----an illusion. No biography was ever written of any individual, no history of any kingdom or nation, which may not be resolved into a set of myths as easily as the account of the Saviour contained in the Gospels. All confidence in the past is destroyed; all distinction between the ideal and actual is annihilated, and men can be certain of nothing which has taken place at any period remote at all from their own time, whatever may be the testimony by which it is supported. Second, The theory of Strauss leaves the origin of the Christian Church, the rise and spread of Christianity in the world, an unsolved enigma----an event without any adequate cause, or conceivable explanation. It involves the absurdity of a creation out of nothing. It can be shewn that Christians existed already in great numbers in every part of the Roman empire at the close of the first century----that they were bound together by the most intimate communion of sentiment and opinion----that they held their principles with such firmness, that no violence of persecution, no blandishments of wealth and power, no terrors of martyrdom could move them from their faith; and yet Strauss tells us, that the idea of this Messiah, whose name they bore, and for whom they sacrificed and suffered so much, did not fully develop itself till half a century later than this! Third, The character which the gospels attribute to the Saviour, is entirely unlike that which the Jews as a people expected that the Messiah would assume. It is not easy, in fact, |388 to see how the image of him, which they had pictured out to themselves under the influence of their national pride and egotism, could have been more decidedly contradicted than in the person and history of Jesus as presented to us by the evangelists. The idea of such a character as that of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, was entirely beyond and above the conceptions of the Jews, and so far from being produced by a desire to realise their Messianic hopes, arrayed against itself their strongest prejudices and passions, and from that hour to this has been an object of their most determined rejection and hatred. Fourth; The supposition of Strauss assumes a definiteness and unity in the expectations of the Jews respecting the Messiah, which did not exist. The bulk of the people, as we find it stated also in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, believed that he would be a descendant of David, and a native of Bethlehem; but according to the conceptions of the rabbins, as founded on Daniel vii. 21, he was to be a celestial spirit, who would descend at once from heaven to earth, in order to establish his kingdom ----traces of which opinion present themselves in the Gospel of John and in Paul. Some supposed that his dominion would be temporary----others, eternal; some that he would convert and bless the heathen----others, that he would destroy them; some, that he would restore to life the dead of all mankind----others, that he would raise the Jews only; and so on many other points, their views were in like manner entirely vague and unsettled. Fifth; The anticipations of the Jews respecting the Messiah, whatever they may have been, could have had no influence on the heathen; and yet the great majority of those who had embraced Christianity before the middle of the second century, consisted of converts from heathenism. The forming principle, consequently, to which Strauss attributes so much efficacy in the production of the Gospels, was here entirely wanting. To suppose that these histories could have been constructed out of an idea which really occupied the minds of men, would seem to be sufficiently absurd; but what are we to think of it, when by far the greater part of those who are said to have been the unconscious instruments of working out this mythical development had not even this idea itself! Sixth; He attributes to the early Christians a procedure just the opposite of that which they actually adopted. He assumes that they had already in their minds a distinct image of the Messiah as derived from the symbols and prophecies of the Old Testament, and that they then framed a history for it in accordance with these predictions; whereas it is notorious, both from intimations of the New Testament itself and from other sources, that they were inclined to |389 just the opposite course----that is, having the facts first given ----the history itself presented to them----to interpret the prophecies on the principle that their meaning is likely to be best explained by their fulfilment. They no doubt carried this principle so far as to put often a forced interpretation on Scripture in order to increase the testimony of prophecy to the truth of Christianity; but that only shews how impossible it would have been, under such circumstances, that the Gospels should have been produced in the manner that Strauss represents. Seventh; All history proves that nothing which can be pretended to be in the remotest degree analogous to what is supposed here has ever taken place, except in the most barbarous times and after the lapse of an almost interminable series of years; and yet Strauss would persuade us that Christianity, from being a mere fiction, established itself in the minds of men as a historical verity, in the incredibly short period of little more than a century after the death of its Founder, and that, too, in the most enlightened age of Greek and Roman civilization! Finally, His system is affirmed to be full of self-contradictions and to contain in itself the elements of its own refutation. He denies, for instance, the genuineness of the Evangelists in general, but receives them as trustworthy witnesses whenever they assert anything which he can employ as an argument for impeaching their own credit. He professes to regard the contents of our Gospels as the result of a process of symbolization, so simple and natural, that it was carried on by a thousand minds at once, without consciousness or design; and yet when he comes to the actual details, he is obliged to assume a degree of reflection and study in adjusting the character of Christ to its supposed mental type, utterly irreconcilable with the idea of any such spontaneous operation. He allows that Luke probably wrote his Gospel in the first age of Christianity; and as every one knows, this evangelist opens his history with the announcement (Luke i. 1-3), that many had already preceded him in writing on the same subject. Even his history, therefore, was not the first which had been composed. Written accounts of the life of Christ were already in existence and well known. They must have made their appearance, consequently, almost immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus. There could have been no interval of any duration between that event and their composition. This is justly regarded as decisive of the whole question. It is thus proved that written documents relating to the Founder of Christianity have existed from the very first, and that there has never been any such traditionary period in the Church, as Strauss pretends, and as is necessary to the support of his |390 hypothesis, during which men were dependent for their knowledge concerning Christ upon uncertain oral accounts, which were transmitted from one to another. This history had already been written out by various hands, and scattered far and wide, before the mythic period to which Strauss would refer the formation of our Gospels had arrived. Had any such tendency to exaggeration as he supposes discovered itself then, those histories would have served as an effectual check upon it, and preserved the great body of Christians, at least, from lending an ear to fictions which they saw to be unsustained by their written testimonies.
It may appear singular that the work of Strauss should have excited so much surprise, when the idea on which it is founded, instead of being advanced now for the first time, had long been familiar to the minds of a certain class of German critics. Semler was the first, perhaps, who distinctly proposed it, and we find it actually applied by him to the histories of Samson and Esther. After this it was adopted without reserve by such writers as Eichhorn, Kayser, Gabler, Ammon, Berthold, Sieffer, and others, in particular passages both of the Old and the New Testaments, that is to say, whenever they met with narratives and representations, which, in their more obvious historical sense, implied a supernatural interposition, and from which they could not easily remove the appearance of this, either by impeaching the integrity of the text, or by explaining away its meaning by a forced interpretation. In this manner, and by such critics, the mythic principle had been gradually extended to numerous portions of the Old Testament, and to various facts in the history of the Saviour, as his supernatural birth, his resurrection, ascension, and still other events of the like miraculous character. Strauss's book contains, in fact, very little in its actual details, which has not been anticipated by preceding writers. His peculiarity consists merely in this, that he has given to this mode of interpretation a degree of unity and completeness which it had not yet received. He was the first to open his mind to the conception that the means which had been employed to do away with certain parts of revelation might be employed with equal effect to do away with the whole of it. Others who had gone before him in the same career stopped short of the issue to which their principles were leading them; he took up the work where they left it, and urged it through with unflinching constancy.
It will sound strangely to our readers to be told after this that Strauss still pretends to hold fast to the truth of Christianity, and would deem it a serious breach of charity for any one to question the sincerity of his faith in its records. The |391 explanation of this mystery may be given in few words. According to his philosophy, the truth of the facts of Christianity is not necessary to the truth of Christianity itself. Christianity is an idea, entirely independent of the history, so-called, in which it has accidently clothed itself; and if a person holds merely to this idea, whatever it may be, he holds to all which is true, and all which was ever intended to be taught as true in the Christian writings; and is entitled to the name of a believer. Thus, one of the great truths asserted in Christianity, as he affirms, is the reality of the Divine and human in man, that is, in every man----for pantheism makes us all, of course----entire and several----parts of the Deity; and this truth, after having so long struggled to bring itself to the distinct consciousness of mankind, has at length obtained its fullest development and recognition in the person of Jesus Christ. That is, the human mind has employed him----it being a matter of indifference to the truth itself whether there ever was such a person or not----as the representative of this idea; and if any one receives this idea, he receives all which the Gospel teaches respecting the Divinity of Christ, and the miraculous works attesting this character which he is said to have performed. So also of various other truths, which find their symbolization in the history which the evangelists have related. Indeed, since these truths have been embodied, so to speak, in a more impressive manner, and with greater purity, in the gospels than in any other similar mode of representation, Christianity is to be considered as the most perfect religious dispensation which has yet appeared, and as making the highest progress which the human race have hitherto made in the apprehension of moral and spiritual truth.
This mode of viewing the Scriptures creates obviously a necessity for some method of interpretation conformed to it, Here Strauss's system has to encounter itself with a new mass of absurdities. All the ordinary established laws of language are disregarded, and a set of hermeneutical rules introduced, as loose and visionary as any which were ever applied to the Bible by a Hermas, an Origen, or a Swedenborg. The literal or historical sense must be discarded. There is always a deeper meaning for the initiated than that which lies upon the surface. While the ordinary reader attaches himself to the outward form, the philosopher penetrates to the spirit. That which is related as fact being understood as symbol, this symbol will be explained, of course, as denoting any idea which the fancy of the interpreter may choose to connect with it. In this way Hegelianism, with a mock reverence for the Word of God, may adduce its |392 Scripture warrant for all its dogmas and blasphemies; the Bible is converted into a perfect quodlibet ex quolibet; and there is not a philosopher who has lived from Confucius to Schelling who might not with equal propriety plead its authority for his wisdom or his ravings.
We have not space to pursue further these topics. It only remains for us now to endeavour to assist the reader in forming some general conception of the manner in which Strauss has developed his internal argument, as it is termed, against the genuineness of the Gospels. The nature and object of this have been already stated. It professes to be founded on a comparison of the Gospels with each other, and with other writings, Jewish as well as Greek and Roman, which illustrate the same period of history. Out of this comparison he undertakes to shew that the evangelists abound in the most palpable inconsistencies and self-contradictions, and that they are utterly at variance also with other unimpeachable historical authorities. In this way he would impose on the Gospels a character corresponding to that of the origin which he imputes to them----he would make them out to be the productions of men who lived at a remote period from that of the scenes and events which they describe and exhibit proof, in this contradictory form of their narratives, of the vague, uncertain manner in which they were handed down for so long a time from one generation to another.
That the ground over which this part of the work conducts us is not free from difficulty, no one who has studied the Gospels critically will pretend to deny. Strauss is not the first who has made this discovery. The apparent discrepancies between the Gospels were noticed by the earliest Christian writers, and received from them the attention which, as Christian apologists, they were bound to give them. Augustine has left us a treatise ----De Consensu Evangelistarum----on this very subject. Similar works were composed by Eusebius and Ambrose. The same ground has been traversed by a thousand writers since their time; and, as often as a new commentary has been written on the Gospels with any pretensions to critical merit, it has repeated and explained these difficulties. It has been said, with probable truth, that in Strauss's whole work there are not perhaps twenty of these discrepancies between the evangelists, as they are called, which have not been pointed out by previous writers, and for which a solution has not been proposed. It has been shewn that a portion of them, as urged by objectors, consist entirely of misstatements which need only to be placed in a correct light in order to have their groundlessness perceived----that |393 some of them rest upon the ignorance of critics themselves in regard to language, or a deficiency of information in some other branch of antiquity----that some of them, which for a time appeared to be incapable of explanation, have been since cleared up by more extended research and the advancement of science ----that many of them result merely from the fragmentary form in which the evangelists have related their history----and that in those cases in which they seem to -differ from each other, it may reasonably be resolved into the imperfections of our own knowledge, and that in those cases, again, in which they disagree with other writers, they are entitled, considered merely as historians, and all question of their inspiration apart, to as much credit as Josephus, or Philo, or Tacitus, or any one else whose authority has been so confidently arrayed against them.
But all this avails nothing for Strauss. Things remain for him as they have been from the beginning; criticism has made no progress since the days of Porphyry; Chubb, Morgan, Reimarus, and such like, are the only men of true discernment, while the rest of the world have been deceived by superficial appearances, and need still to have their errors and incredulity corrected and exposed. This task has been so often undertaken, yet without success, that one would think that some special fitness for it would be necessary in order to warrant now a renewal of the attempt with any prospect of a better result. Mere elegance of style, dexterity in stating the points of an objection with force, hardihood of assertion, unbounded egotism, contempt for the opinions and cold-blooded indifference to the dearest hopes of mankind, would not seem to be sufficient qualifications for undertaking this labour anew. Surely some new discoveries have been made which are to take the world by surprise. Recesses of science have been explored, hitherto unsealed to mortal eyes. Our champion must have brought to his work stores of erudition, before which the learning of all Christian scholars sinks away into insignificance and contempt. We are now assuredly about to hear the testimony of witnesses against the Gospels who have never yet spoken, and whom it has been reserved to the indefatigable Dr. Strauss, in the illimitable excursions of his far-reaching scholarship, to discover for the first time, and to bring forward on this occasion for the rehearing of this so often adjudicated question.
How far these expectations are realised by the actual result, might be shewn by following Dr. Ebrard in his detailed exposure of some of the objections which Strauss has urged against the history of the Saviour. But we have the means of satisfying |394 the curiosity of our readers on this point in another way. In the first part of his treatise, Dr. Ebrard makes a thorough business of examining and refuting the objections of Strauss, in connection with the particular passages in the Gospels on which they are founded. He then at the commencement of his second part presents a summary view of the critical principles which are assumed as the foundation of these objections, and with the soundness or unsoundness of which they must stand or fall. At the same time he gives us a clue to the literary pretensions of our critic, and reveals some secrets of book-making, which are adapted to put us on our guard against first appearances. From this statement, as drawn out by our author, any one can judge both how really formidable is this famous attack which Strauss has made on Christianity, aod how far authorised he is, by any superiority of knowledge and learning, to look down with scorn upon the host of Christian scholars whom he has treated with so much contempt. Dr. Ebrard presents this critique----such it virtually is----on Strauss's Life of Jesus, under the head of a Receipt for enabling any one who chooses to produce a similar book, and thus to emulate this great author in the renown which he has won. We shall conclude the present article, therefore, by copying out for our readers this receipt with some considerable fulness. Here it is.
Receipt for Writing a Life of Jesus like that of Dr. David Fr. Strauss.
(a) Before you begin, go to an antiquarian book-store and buy a copy of Lightfoot and Wetstein, for the sake of their rabbinic learning; and then fetch from some public library the second part of Havercamp's Josephus, and opening it at the register, set it on the table before you.
(b) You are now to task yourself for an Introduction. Let it be something written in your finest style, in which you will have much to say about science, Origen, and his allegorical interpretation, and various other matters, with some flourishes at last respecting your subject, how deeply affecting, how beautiful and grand it is, though, as to historical reality, you will not presume to claim a great deal for it.
(c) You enter next on the work itself, and must commence with special care. There are four histories before you, from which you are to draw your materials. You have nothing to do here with the question, whether these books are biographies or compositions of some other kind, whether everything is narrated in the exact order of its occurrence or not, whether all the writers had the same plan, or a different one, etc. But |395 you assume, without mooting the question at all, that these four histories are so many chronological biographies, written entirely on the same plan, for the same object, and in the same manner. This, of course, you will not be so simple as to say expressly; but if two of the books happen not to agree at any time, you will proceed just as if that which you do not say were a point taken for granted, beyond all dispute. Your readers will be none the wiser for it. Comp. Strauss, b. i., pp. 285, 294, 407, 500, 574, 650, 718, 733, 738.
(d) You take up now the contradictions of your four sources. If these are trivial, and lie merely in a different mode of representation," you then pretend that, as for yourself, you attach no great importance to them; but, at the same time, you take care to bring them all forward, and to put them in as imposing an attitude as possible. To illustrate this, suppose, for example, you were writing a life of Farel. In one of your sources, it is said----Farel was a reformer from Frankfort, and met with Calvin at Geneva; but in another of them Calvin came to Geneva, where he saw Farel and Viret; and still, in a third, Farel visited Viret, in whose room was a French traveller, Calvin. Here you reason thus:----According to A, Calvin is already in Geneva, and Farel finds him there; while, according to B and C, Calvin finds Farel. According to C, it is Farel who calls upon Viret; while, according to B, it is Calvin who makes the visit to Farel and Viret. According to C, the meeting of Calvin and Farel is an accidental one; while, according to B, Calvin appears to have sought the interview by design. According to C, the meeting takes place in Viret's room; according to B, it has entirely the appearance as if it took place in a room which Viret and Farel occupy together. Comp. Strauss, §§ 109 135, and, indeed, §§ 17-143.
(e) If the contradictions are really great, and such as to indicate to an unprejudiced person, that the events which two of the sources relate are entirely different from those related in the two others, you are then, either silently to assume the identity of the two accounts, or to seek to render this plausible by urging the points of similarity. In this way you can show off a rich stock of contradictions. Thus, for example, A says: ----"Cajus on a certain occasion met a carriage full of country people who were riding home from a church service. Just at that moment an old beggar woman passed by, and asked them ----they were singing merrily at the time----for a present, but received none. Cajus took out his purse and gave her a few groschen. Grateful for his kindness, she kissed his hand, and prayed that God would bless him and his family." B says:---- |396 "The wife and children of Cajus had gone on a certain occasion to visit an aged aunt. Cajus could scarcely wait for their return. Towards evening he went out on the way to meet them, and the carriage soon appeared. The children, when they saw their father, shouted with joy; and on coming nearer, he perceives that their aged relative herself sat with them within. He sprang upon the door-step of the carriage, and, full of joy, kissed her hand." You put on now a conscientious mien, and discourse after this wise:----"On account of the differences here, the harmonists have attempted to explain the two accounts as referring to different transactions. But who does not see the violence of this assumption? Both times we have a Cajus who goes out to walk; both times a carriage full of people, who both times sing and shout; both times Cajus meets with the carnage; both times a family is mentioned; both times an aged woman figures in the scene; both times the hand is kissed. That the two narrators wished, therefore, to relate one and the same occurrence, admits of no question. It is quite another matter, whether in the manner in which they relate it, they do not contradict themselves. According to A, it was a carriage full of people, who have no particular connection with Cajus----peasants, it would seem; according to B, they are his children: according to B, the carnage has a door-step----it was a coach therefore; according to A, it appears as if it was a common waggon: according to A, the carriage is returning from church-service; according to B, from a visit. According to A, the woman is a beggar woman, and receives from Cajus an alms; B not only knows nothing of any alms, but makes the beggar woman his aunt. According to A, it is the woman who kisses his hand, and indeed, as it would seem, upon the ground by the side of the waggon; according to B, it is he who kisses her hand, and in the carriage itself. He who does not perceive now, that we have to do here with two secondary, distorted accounts of some legendary event, does not know what distorted or legendary means. Comp. Strauss §§ 89, 101, b. ii., p, 95, and elsewhere.
(f) Nay, even if the time in one authority is expressly different from that in the other, still you must assume the identity of the two events; and now your contradictions will become as plentiful as you can wish. For example, A says: "Cajus travelled to Rome in his thirtieth year, and saw St. Peter's church;" and B says: "Cajus travelled in his fortieth year to Erfurt and visited the great clock." Here you find the first contradiction in this, and according to A, Cajus travels to Rome, according to B, to Erfurt; the second in this, that according to A, he sees St. |397 Peter's church, according to B, the great clock; the third is this, that A and B contradict themselves in reference to the period of life when Cajus is said to have made the journey in question. Comp. Strauss b. ii., 505 and elsewhere.
(g) If yon find any event related only by A and B, but not by D and C. you are not to inquire whether A and B may have had special grounds for mentioning it, which the others had not, but you say at once----"C and D know nothing of this event or circumstance." Comp. ex. gr. Strauss, b. i., pp. 428, 536, 677, 686, 727, 744; ii. pp. 20, 49, 123, and other places.
(h) When three writers who are independent of each other relate an event, it must be strange, indeed, if one of them does not describe it more minutely, the others less so. This circumstance now you must turn to account, and always find a "climax" in the different versions of the story. Thus, for example, A says: "Cajus came into the forest, and found a wounded stag and healed it." B says: "Cajus went out to walk, and as he came to the borders of a forest, he saw a stag lying there, wounded by a thorn, which he extracted." C says: "Cajus went into a forest to walk, and heard a groaning: he went in the direction of the noise and saw," etc. Evidently a "climax," you must now exclaim! The locality is designated by A only as a forest; by B as the border of the forest, and the wound is said to have been occasioned by a thorn; C, finally, has resolved the accidental finding of the animal into a hearing of its groans, and a gradual approach to the spot. Comp. Strauss, b. ii., p. 143 and elsewhere.
(i) In certain cases you can avail yourselves also of another artifice. Suppose A related a circumstance m, and B related the same circumstance, but added at the same time attendant circumstances, n, o, p, not mentioned in the account of A, which are of such a nature, however, that the circumstance m occurring, they must necessarily eo ipso have taken place along with it. Here now you are not to say: "If the statement of A, that m occurred, be true, then the statement of B, that n, o, p, also (as necessary consequences of m) occurred, must likewise be true;" but you say just the reverse: "B has merely conjectured the attendant occurrence of n, o, p." For example, A says: "The tree fell to the ground;" B says: "The tree fell to the ground; its branches were broken to pieces, and much of the fruit hanging upon them, being loosened by the shock, fell off." You say now thus: "B adds to the general fact the breaking of the branches, and the falling of the fruit as accompanying circumstances. We need not hesitate long upon the question, Whence did he know this? If the tree fell, he said to himself, |398 nothing is more likely than that some of its branches were broken, and much of the fruit shaken off." Comp. Strauss, b. ii., p. 490. (k) Having found now a sufficient number of contradictions between the different accounts of the narrators, you pass next to the internal difficulties which lie in each individual history, or in the subjective event itself, to which the history relates. Here you enter on a field from which you can gather ample spoils. Every event is either simple, and related only in its most general traits, or it is described fully, with an enumeration of all its circumstances. If the former be the case, you then say: "This plain, unadorned representation is perfectly agreeable to the spirit of the primitive, legendary age, in which the story had its origin;" but if the latter be the case, you say, "The minuteness with which the narrator has dressed out the event in all its circumstantial drapery, shews most clearly, that the exaggerating power of tradition has been at work here." Comp. Strauss b. i., pp. 383, 395 b., 450, 567, 635, 728; b. ii., 24 f. 36 f. and other places. Proceed in this way, and you will never find yourself at a loss. You can turn anything into a myth, whether stated by your narrator in one form or another. Say what he will, it is myth, and myth it must remain.
(l) A bold and impudent falsification of the facts, you will occasionally find very useful. By mere assertion, or the gratuitous introduction of some trait unknown to your author, you can make the particulars of a statement appear entirely contradictory to each other. You need have no fear of such a step, as if it might be hazardous; scores of readers will believe you the sooner for so dashing a manœuvre. Thus, for example, it is said: "Cajus was a faithful father, and devoted much time and labour to the education and instruction of his children;" and in another passage it is related, that a son of Cajus, now grown up, met with a man who had previously been his teacher. You have only now to pervert the first passage, so as to make it affirm expressly that Cajus gave himself all the instruction to his children which they ever received, and then you can ask, "How could his son meet with a teacher of his, when he never had any teacher except his own father?"
(m) Another little stratagem, to which you can resort, is that of constantly putting the question, what was the object, when a thing is so plain as to be evident of itself. If Cajus makes a deep and respectful bow to an aged man who meets him, you must ask: "What was the object of that bow? Was it intended merely to please and gratify the old man? But how can it be supposed, that the compliment of a stranger would afford an old man so much pleasure? Or did Cajus perform |399 that act in order to express his views respecting the reverence which is due to old age in general? A very good object, certainly, but there was no spectator present to profit by the example, and he would have done better at all events to have inculcated that principle publicly in a Compendium of Morals. Or will any one say, that it was to this particular individual that he wished to make such a demonstration of his sentiments? This, again, is not without its difficulty. The act being merely a silent one, might have been misunderstood; and he would have been surer of his object to have explained it in express terms. And besides, what interest could he have in forcing upon a stranger, in so hasty a manner, an expression of his views upon a moral subject of this nature?" Comp. Strauss, b. i., pp. 221, 261, 290, 556, 562, etc.
(n) It will be found, that in the whole course of a history, certain particular circumstances occur repeatedly, though in every separate passage where they are mentioned they are sufficiently explained. The causes which occasion their recurrence are always either specified or intimated. In such cases, you must make it a point to take these circumstances out of their connection, and to represent them as proceeding from a studied design of the writer, consequently as a pure invention on his part. If, for example, one of your sources relates in a certain place, that Cajus returning from a walk sat down to table; and again, in two other passages that he went out, on two different occasions, before dinner----induced, indeed, every time so to do by special reasons----you must then say: "It appears to have been a standing rule with Cajus, to walk or go out before dinner. Who does not see in this the design of the writer to distinguish Cajus from other men, since he represents him as going out for exercise in the forenoon, while the general practice is to do this in the afternoon?" Comp. Strauss, b. ii., p. 585, where John's outrunning Peter is said to be one of a series of incidents, introduced for the purpose of conferring a superiority upon John over Peter. For other similar manoeuvres of Strauss, see the author's work, Theil., i., § 78, 4.
(o) If you find that any difficult point has not been satisfactorily explained hitherto by any commentator, you need not ask, whether it can be thus explained; but you select two from the entire number of the different explanations offered, which distinctly contradict each other, and both of which are untenable. You now reason thus: "This explanation is impossible; that also is impossible. The matter therefore is inexplicable." Comp. Strauss, b. i., p. 226 f.
(p) But it is time to remind you of your learning. You |400 have no conception what an effect it has now-a-days to see a mass of citations in a book under the text. "Ah, I understand that"----you say----"but where shall I obtain this learning. I have not read either Josephus, or, to confess the truth, a great deal of anything else." My dear friend, that makes no difference. The exegetical Manuals of Paulus, De Wette, Olshausen, and some antiquated commentaries and monographs you have already studied somewhat: Wetstein and Lightfoot lie before you; you own Winer's Bible-Dictionary: and lucidly, Havercamp's Josephus has several capital Registers. You need not suppose it necessary to have read everything which you quote. Heaven forbid! Wherever you find citations----in Winer, in Paulus, or elsewhere----copy them off without misgiving,----they are lawful plunder. Only think what a learned man the world will take you to be! How must such a hope fire your soul! But it may not be amiss to be a little particular in my instructions here:----You begin with Paulus. Here you labour at one point. You must amuse your reader with examples of his style of forced interpretation, and shew at great length how very unnatural his natural explanations are.----Olshausen you approach in a different way. He is not confessedly free from faults. His greatness consists not so much in the acuteness of his harmonistic talent, as in depth of Christian feeling and ia his power of developing the spiritual fulness of the Divine Word. In this respect his name marks an era in criticism. As a reformer of the shallow, insipid exegesis which rationalism had brought into vogue, he stands by the side of Schleiermacher and Neander, who produced a similar revolution in dogmatics and church history. His merits, however, you must overlook and attack him upon his weak side. You must hunt up as many instances as possible of his unsuccessful attempts to harmonize the evangelists, and point at them the shafts of your keenest ridicule and satire.----In Lightfoot, you must seek bravely for rabbinic passages, whenever and wherever you can. ---- In Josephus, whenever the name of a city or any single political event comes in your way, you must scan the Register, and happy will you feel yourself to be if Josephus does not mention this name or event. You then trump it forth in triumph, as a proof that Josephus "knew nothing of it." Whether the name or event was important enough to be mentioned by him, you need not trouble yourself to ask; nor as to the plan of Josephus, of which you are ignorant, need you make any inquiry. You take it for granted, that Josephus must record everything; what does not stand in the Register of Josephus, did not exist----it is something which never took place. |401
(q) Finally, you are to read through also the apocryphal gospels; do not be alarmed----it will not cost you much time. The most ridiculous distortions and caricatures of the life of Jesus, which you find there, you will sedulously collect and present them as parallel to the simplest biblical narrations. You can safely assume that the majority of your readers have not read these apocryphal compositions in full; and so will not perceive, as they otherwise would, the utter irrelevancy of these pretended parallelisms. Thus, for example, if a person reads in one book----"Cajus was very old, and when he went abroad, two of his sons were accustomed to lead him;" and in another book ----"Cajus was over a thousand years old, and was so weak that he could not move a limb, but his sons took him upon their shoulders and bore him about, and his beard grew to be more than forty ells long"----every one sees that the first is a sober statement, but the second, an absurd tale. You must place them both, however, as parallel to each other thus:----"Cajus is said, according to A, to have become very old; we find precisely the same in the apocryphal book B where we find even the number of his years mentioned as one thousand, and the length of his beard as fory tells long. Both accounts agree also in respect to the great bodily weakness which the old man suffered at this advanced period, since according to A, he was led by his sons, while in B, this legendary incident is already magnified into his being carried by his sons. One might attempt, indeed, to reconcile this by saying, that he was at first led, and afterwards as his weakness increased, that he was carried; but it is manifest, that we have before us merely a mythic picture in both accounts." Comp. Strauss, b. i., p. 226 f.
And such stuff, can it be supposed that my readers will receive with patience? My dear friend, should you apply this mode of proceeding to any ordinary history, containing nothing of a miraculous nature, no one indeed would believe what you say----nay, the world would consider you as absolutely mad. But if you apply it to a section of the Bible, to a supernatural history, you may be sure of a legion of admirers, who will stand ready to catch up your words and echo them with thoughtless applause. Observe well, it is against the miracles alone that the scepticism in this case is directed. These, some men would at all hazards discredit and cancel from the records of truth; and any procedure which is designed to explain the sources of the evangelical history as unhistorical, they applaud as an exhibition of the greatest mental acuteness, whereas, were it applied to any other writing, they would undoubtedly pronounce it uncritical and nonsensical. |402
One word more, I beg to add, in conclusion. In some persons there is still left a spark of that weakness which is called reverence for the Bible. So long as this weakness exists, it will stand in your way, counteracting the impression which your investigations are intended to produce. Seek, therefore, on every possible occasion, to weaken and destroy it. The practised eye will not fail to discern such opportunities. Such passages, for instance, as Matt. xvii. 24-27; xxi. 10, etc., you will not suffer to pass unimproved for this purpose. In particular, I would remind you, that the cross on Golgotha is the place where the Saviour of men was mocked eighteen hundred years ago, and where it will be specially seemly to renew that derision, if any one has a disposition for it at the present day. Go thou now and do in like manner. "I will give thee the whole world, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. And your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall become as gods." Probatum est.
a Wissenschaftliche Kritik der Evangelischen Geschichte. Ein Compendium der gesammten Evangelienkritik mit Berücksichtigung der neusten Erscheinungen bearbeitet von Dr. A. Ebrard. 1842. [This article appeared in the American Bibliotheca Sacra, May, 1845. We reprint it because Strauss has thought fit to recall attention to his romance by the publication of a Popular Edition. We have omitted the notes.----Ed. J. S. L.]
Arameaen and Nabatean Inscriptions in the Hauran.----Under this title M. De Vogüé has a communication to the Revue Archéologique for April. He gives copies and readings of several curious inscriptions which were obtained by M. Waddington and himself. The first is on a monument to one Hamrath the wife of Odenath, and is assigned to the reign of Herod the Great. It also appears in a Greek translation, as also do some others in the same region. The sixth is dated the month Tishri in the seventh year of Claudius Caesar. They all belong nearly to the same period, and it is worthy of remark that some of them are almost, if not quite, identical in character with the famous examples in the Wady Mokatteb. The period assigned to them singularly enough is the same as that suggested for the Sinai inscriptions by the lion. E. W. Montague about a. century since. This traveller gave a short account of the written rocks in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1767, with a plate of fac-similes. He thought they were written in the first ages of Christianity, and in the characters used by the Jews about the time of Christ. It is needless to add that he quite objected to the opinion that they were the work of the Israelites. He says the Rabbins of Jerusalem agreed with him in his conclusions.
Some curious Hebrew inscriptions found at Jerusalem by M. Vogüé are described by him in the Revue Archéologique for March, and they exhibit several points of resemblance to the others. He refers them to generally the same age as those of the Hauran. It seems, however, next to certain, that the Sinaitic inscriptions are not all of the same date; some may be older, but others are assuredly more modern. We are glad to find that palaeography is rapidly approaching the solution of the vexed question of the Sinaitic inscriptions, not a few of which may now be confidently explained.
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