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Who Wrote the Bible? by Washington Gladden

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conversation with Nicodemus and with the woman at the well." [Footnote:
_Inspiration and the Bible,_ pp. 95-99.]

If such is the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, it
follows that it must have been the work of one who was thoroughly
familiar with the events recorded. That the narrative bears evidence of
having been written by an eyewitness is to my own mind clear. That the
writer intends to convey the impression that he is the beloved disciple
is also manifest. Either it was written by John the Apostle, or else the
writer was a deliberate deceiver. There can be no such explanation of
his personation of John as that which satisfies our minds in the case of
Daniel and Ecclesiastes; the book is either the work of John, or it is a
cunning and conscienceless fraud. And it seems to me that any one who
will read the book will find it impossible to believe that it is an
imposture. If any book of the ages bears in itself the witness to the
truth it is the Fourth Gospel. It shines by its own light. Any of us
could tell the difference between the sun in the heavens and a brass
disk suspended in the sky reflecting the sun's rays; and in much the
same way the fact is apparent that the book is not a counterfeit gospel.

It is true that historical criticism has raised difficulties about it;
the battle of the critics has been raging around it for half a century;
but one after another of the positions taken by men like Strauss and
Baur have been shown to be untenable; and it can truthfully be said, in
the words of Professor Ladd, "that the vigorous and determined attacks
upon the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel have greatly increased instead
of impairing our confidence in the traditional view." [Footnote: _What
is the Bible?_ p. 327.] And I am ready to go farther with the same
brave but reverent scholar, and say, "Having thus grounded in historical
and critical researches the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel, we have no
hesitation in affirming what position it must take in Sacred Scripture.
It is the heart of Jesus Christ with which we here come in contact.
Inspiration and reflection uniting upon the choicest and most undoubted
material of history, and fusing all the material with the holy
characteristics of revelation, are nowhere else so apparent as in the
Gospel of the Apostle John." [Footnote: _Doctrine of Sacred
Scripture_, i. 573]

Such, then, is the fourfold biography of Jesus the Christ preserved for
us in the New Testament. If this study has removed something of the
mystery with which the origin of these writings has been shrouded, it
has, I trust, at the same time, made them appear more real and more
human; and it has shown the providential oversight by which their
artless record, many-sided, manifold, yet simple and clear as the
daylight, has been preserved for us. Of these four Gospels we are
certainly entitled to say as much as this, that whatever verbal
discrepancies may be detected in them, and however difficult it may be
satisfactorily to explain all the phenomena of their structure and
relations, in one thing they marvelously agree, and that is in the
picture which they give us of the life and character of Jesus Christ. In
this each one of them is self-consistent, and they are all consistent
with one another. And this, if we will reflect upon it, is a marvelous,
not to say a miraculous fact. That four such men as these Evangelists
incontestably were should have succeeded in giving us four portraitures
of the Divine Man, without contradicting themselves, and without
contradicting one another,--four distinct views of this wonderful
Person, which show us different sides of his character, and which we yet
instantly recognize as the same person, is a very great wonder. No such
task was ever laid on any other human biographer as that which
confronted these men; no character so difficult to comprehend and
describe ever existed; for one man to preserve all the unities of art in
describing him would be notable; for four men to give us, independently,
four narratives, from the simple pages of which the same lineaments
shine out, so that no one ever thinks of saying that the Jesus of
Matthew is a different person from the Jesus of Mark or Luke or John,--
this, I say, is marvelous.

And it is this character, majestic in its simplicity, glorious in its
humility, the Ideal of Humanity, the Mystery of Godliness, that these
Gospels are meant to show us. If they only bring him clearly before us,
make his personality real and familiar and vivid before our eyes, so
that we may know him and love him, that is all we want of them.
Infallibility in details would be worthless if this were wanting; any
small discrepancies are beneath notice if this is here. And this is
here. Read for yourselves. From the page of Matthew, illuminated with
the words of prophecy that tell of the Messiah's coming; from the vivid
and rapid record of Mark, in which the Wonder-worker displays his power;
from the tender story of Luke, speaking the word of grace to those that
are lowest down and farthest off; from the mystical Gospel of the
beloved disciple opening to us the deep things that only love can see,
the same divine form appears, the same divine face shines, the same
divine voice is speaking. Behold the man!



The Acts of the Apostles contains the history of the Christian church
from the time of the ascension of our Lord to the end of the second year
of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. The period covered by the history
is therefore only about thirty years. The principal events recorded in
it are the great Pentecostal Revival, the Martyrdom of Stephen, the
first persecution of the church and the dispersion of the disciples, the
conversion and the missionary work of Paul, with the circumstances of
his arrest at Jerusalem, his journey as a prisoner to Rome, and a brief
account of his residence in that city. In the first part of the book
Peter, the leader of the apostolic band, is the central figure; the last
part is occupied with the life and work of Paul.

Who is the writer? Irenæus, about 182, names Luke as the author of the
book, and speaks as though the fact were undisputed. He calls him "a
follower and disciple of apostles," and declares that "he was
inseparable from Paul and was his fellow-helper in the gospel." This is
the earliest distinct reference to the book in any ancient Christian
writing. After this, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and
Eusebius bear the same testimony. But these are late witnesses. The
earliest of them testified a hundred years after the death of Luke. The
direct testimony to the existence of this book in the first two cenuries
is not, therefore, altogether satisfactory. The indirect testimony is,
however, clear and strong.

That the Acts was written by the author of the Third Gospel is scarcely
doubted by any critical scholar. The fact of the identity of authorship
is stated with the utmost explicitness in the introduction of the Acts.
"The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus
began both to do and to teach" (Luke i. I, 2). The author of the Acts of
the Apostles certainly intends to say that he is the writer of the Third
Gospel. If he is not the author of the Third Gospel he is an artful and
shameless deceiver. But the whole atmosphere of the book forbids the
theory that it is a cunning imposition. And the internal evidence that
the two books were written by the same author is ample and convincing.
The style and the method of the treatment of the two books are
unmistakably identical. Every page bears witness to the fact that the
author of the Third Gospel and the author of the Acts are one and the
same person. Now we know, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the Gospel
of Luke was written certainly as early as the year 80 A. D. And there is
as good reason, as we have seen already, for accepting the ancient and
universal tradition of the church that Luke was its author. If Luke
wrote the two books, the date of both of them is carried back to the
last part of the first century. But the concluding portion of the Acts
of the Apostles seems to fix the date of that book much more precisely.
The author, after narrating Paul's journey to Rome, his arrival there,
and his first unsatisfactory interview with the Jewish leaders, closes
his book with this compendious statement:--

"And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received
all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching
all things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none
forbidding him."

This is the last word in the New Testament history respecting the
Apostle Paul. Now it is evident that this writer was Paul's friend and
traveling companion. It is true that he keeps himself out of sight in
the history. We only know when he joined Paul by the fact that the
narrative changes from the third person singular to the first person
plural; he ceases to say "he," and begins to say "we." Thus we are made
aware that he joined Paul at Troas on his second missionary journey, and
went with him as far as Philippi; rejoined him at the same place on his
third missionary tour, and accompanied him to Jerusalem; was his fellow-
voyager on that memorable journey to Rome, and there abode with him for
two years. The Epistle to the Colossians and the Epistle to Philemon
were written during this imprisonment at Rome, and in both of these
Epistles Paul speaks of the fact that Luke is near him. In the second
letter to Timothy, which is supposed to have been written during the
second imprisonment at Rome, and near the close of his life, he says
again, "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him unto me, for he
is useful to me for ministering." If the common opinion concerning the
date of this letter is correct, then Luke must have remained with Paul
at Rome until the close of his life. But the narrative in Luke does not
give any account of the closing years of Paul's life. It breaks off
abruptly at the end of his two years' residence in Rome. Why is this?
Evidently because there is no more to tell at this time. The writer
continues the history up to the date of his writing and stops there. If
he had been writing after the death of Paul, he would certainly have
told us of the circumstances of his death. There is no rational
explanation of this abrupt ending, except that the book was written at
about the time when the story closes. This was certainly about 63 A. D.
And if the Book of Acts was written as early as this, the Gospel of
Luke, the "former treatise" by the same author, must have been written
earlier than this. Thus the Book of Acts not only furnishes strong
evidence of its own early date, but helps to establish the early date of
the third Gospel.

These conclusions, to my own mind, are irresistible. No theory which
consists with the common honesty of the writer can bring these books
down to a later date. And I cannot doubt the honesty of the writer. His
writings prove him to be a careful, painstaking, veracious historian. In
many slight matters this accuracy appears. The political structure of
the Roman Empire at this time was somewhat complicated. The provinces
were divided between the Emperor and the Senate; those heads of
provinces who were directly responsible to the Emperor and the military
authorities were called proprætors; those who were under the
jurisdiction of the Senate were called proconsuls. In mentioning these
officers Luke never makes a mistake; he gets the precise title every
time. Once, indeed, the critics thought they had caught him in an error.
Sergius Paulus, the Roman ruler of Cyprus, he calls proconsul. "Wrong!"
said the critics, "Cyprus was an imperial province; the title of this
officer must have been proprætor." But when the critics studied a little
more, they found out that Augustus put this province back under the
Senate, so that Luke's title is exactly right. And to clinch the matter,
old coins of this very date have been found in Cyprus, giving to the
chief magistrate of the island the title of proconsul. Such evidences of
the accuracy of the writer are not wanting. It is needless to insist
that he never makes a mistake; doubtless he does, in some small matters,
and we have learned to take such a view of the inspiration of the
Scriptures that the discovery of some small error does not trouble us in
the least; but the admission that he is not infallible is perfectly
consistent with the belief that he is an honest, competent, faithful
witness. This is all that he claims for himself, this is all that we
claim for him, but this we do claim. We do not believe that he was a
conscienceless impostor. We do not believe that the man who told the
story of Ananias and Sapphira was himself a monumental liar. We believe
that he meant to tell the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth. Therefore, we believe that he lived in the times of the
apostles, and received from them, as he says that he did, the facts that
he recorded in his Gospel; that he was the traveling companion and
missionary helper of Paul, as he intimates that he was, and that he has
given us a true account of the life and work of that great apostle.

The constant and undesigned coincidences between the Acts of the
Apostles and the Epistles of Paul--the many ways in which the personal
and historical references of the latter support the statements of the
former--are also strong evidence of the genuineness of the Acts. Putting
all these indirect and incidental proofs together the historical verity
of the Acts seems to me very firmly established. That there are critical
difficulties may be admitted; some passages of this ancient writing are
not easily explained; there are discrepancies, for example, between the
story of the resurrection and ascension of Christ as told in Luke and
the same story as related in the Acts; possibly the writer obtained
fuller information in the interval between the publication of these two
books by which he corrected the earlier narrative. In the different
accounts of the conversion of Paul there are also disagreements which we
cannot reconcile; nevertheless, in the words of Dr. Donaldson, "Even
these very accounts contain evidence in them that they were written by
the same writer, and they do not destroy the force of the rest of the
evidence." [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, i. 124. ]

The theory of Baur that this book was written in the last part of the
second century by a disciple of St. Paul, and that it is mainly a work
of fiction, intended to bring about a reconciliation between two
bitterly hostile parties in the church, the Pauline and the Petrine
sects, need not detain us long. Baur contends that the church in the
first two centuries was split in twain, the followers of Peter insisting
that no man could become a Christian without first becoming a Jew, the
followers of Paul maintaining that the Jewish ritual was abolished, and
that the Gentiles ought to have immediate access to the Christian
fellowship. Their antagonism was so radical and far-reaching that at the
end of the apostolic age the two parties had no dealings with each
other. "Then," in the words of Professor Fisher, who is here summarizing
the theory of Baur, "followed attempts to reconcile the difference, and
to bridge the gulf that separated Gentile from Jewish, Pauline from
Petrine Christianity. To this end various irenical and compromising
books were written in the name of the apostles and their helpers. The
most important monument of this pacifying effort is the Book of Acts,
written in the earlier part of the second century by a Pauline Christian
who, by making Paul something of a Judaizer, and then representing Peter
as agreeing with him in the recognition of the rights of the Gentiles,
hoped, not in vain, to produce a mutual friendliness between the
respective partisans of the rival apostles. The Acts is a fiction
founded on facts, and written for a specific doctrinal purpose. The
narrative of the council or conference of the Apostles, for example
(Acts xx.), is pronounced a pure invention of the writer, and such a
representation of the condition of things as is inconsistent with Paul's
own statements, and for this and other reasons plainly false. The same
ground is taken in respect to the conversion of Cornelius, and the
vision of Peter concerning it." [Footnote: _The Supernatural Origin of
Christianity,_ pp. 211,212.]

For this theory there is, of course, some slight historical basis. It is
true, as we have seen, that Peter and Paul did have a sharp disagreement
on this very question at Antioch. It is also true that both these great
apostles behaved quite inconsistently, Peter at Antioch, and Paul
afterwards at Jerusalem, when he consented to the propositions of the
Judaizers, and burdened himself with certain Jewish observances in a
vain attempt to conciliate some of the weaker brethren. That the story
of the Acts unflinchingly shows us the weaknesses and errors of the
great apostles is good evidence of its veracity. But the notion that it
is a work of fiction fabricated for such purposes as are outlined above
is utterly incredible. Those Epistles of Paul which Baur admits to be
genuine contain abundant disproof of his theory. There never was any
such schism as he fancies. Paul spends a good part of his time in his
last missionary journey in collecting funds for the relief of those poor
"saints," for so he calls them, at Jerusalem; and every reference that
he makes to them is of the most affectionate character. Paul recognizes
in the most emphatic way the authority of the other apostles, and the
fellowship of labor and suffering by which he is united to them. All
this and much more of the same import we find in those epistles which
Baur admits to be the genuine writings of Paul. In short, it may be said
that after the thorough discussion to which his theory has been
subjected for the last twenty-five years, it has scarcely a sound leg
left to stand on. It may be admitted to be one of the most brilliant
works of the historical imagination which the century has produced. It
is supported by vast learning, and it has thrown much light on certain
movements of the early church; but, taken as a whole it is unscientific
and contradictory; it raises two difficulties, where it disposes of one,
and it ignores more facts than it includes.

We return from this excursion through the fields of destructive
criticism with a strong conviction that this narrative of the Acts of
the Apostles was written by Luke the Evangelist, the companion and
fellow-worker of Paul, and that it gives us a veracious history of the
earliest years of the Christian church.

The last of the New Testament books does not belong chronologically at
the end of the collection. There was a tradition, to which Irenæus gives
currency, that it was written during the reign of Domitian, about 97 or
98 A. D. But this tradition is now almost universally discredited.
Critics of all classes date the book as early as 75-79 A. D., while the
best authorities put it nearly ten years earlier, in the autumn of 68 or
the spring of 69. As Archdeacon Farrar suggests, it would be vastly
better if these books of the New Testament were arranged in true
chronological order; they could be more easily understood. The fact that
this weird production stands at the end of the collection has made upon
many minds a wrong impression as to its meaning, and has given it a kind
of significance to which it is not entitled.

The authorship of the book is quite generally ascribed to John the son
of Zebedee, brother of James, and one of the apostles of our Lord. Even
the destructive critics agree to this; some among them say that there is
less doubt about the date and the authorship of this book than about
almost any other New Testament writing. In making this concession they
intend, however, to discredit the Johannine authorship of the Fourth
Gospel. The more certain we are that John wrote the Revelation, they
argue, the more certain are we that he did not write the Gospel which
bears his name; for the style of the two writings is so glaringly
contrasted that it is simply impossible that both could have come from
the same writer. This does not seem nearly so clear to me as it does to
some of these learned and perspicacious critics. A great contrast there
is, indeed, between the style of the Revelation and that of the Gospel;
but this contrast may be explained. It is said, in the first place, that
the Greek of the Apocalypse is very bad Greek, full of ungrammatical
sentences, abounding in Hebraisms, while that of the Gospel is good
Greek, accurate and rhetorical in its structure. But this is by no means
an unaccountable phenomenon. The first book was written by the apostle
very soon, probably, after his removal to Ephesus. He had never, I
suppose, been accustomed to use the Greek familiarly in his own country;
had never written in it at all, and it is not strange that he should
express himself awkwardly when he first began to write Greek; that the
Aramaic idioms should constantly reproduce themselves in his Greek
sentences. After he had been living for twenty-five years in the
cultivated Greek city of Ephesus, using the Greek language continually,
it is probable that he would write it more elegantly.

But it is said that the rhetorical style of the one book differs
radically from that of the other. Doubtless. The one book is an
apocalypse, the other is a biography. John may not have been a practiced
_litterateur,_ but he certainly had literary sense and feeling
enough to know how to put a very different color and atmosphere into an
apocalyptical writing from that which he would employ in a report of the
life and words of Jesus. Without any reflection, indeed, he would
instinctively use the apocalyptic imagery; his pages would flare and
resound with the lurid symbolism peculiar to the apocalypses. How
definite a type of literature this was we shall presently see; no
writer, while using it, would clearly manifest his own personality. And
if through all this disguise we do discern symptoms of a temper more
fervid and a spirit more Judaic than that which finds expression in the
Fourth Gospel, let us remember that the ripened wisdom of the old man
speaks in the latter, and the intense enthusiasm of conscious strength
in the former. This John, let us not forget, was not in his youth a
paragon of mildness; it was he and his brother James who earned the
sobriquet of Boanerges, "Sons of thunder;" it was they who wanted to
call down fire from heaven to consume an inhospitable Samaritan village.
Moreover, we shall see as we go on that the times in which this
apocalypse was written were times in which the mildest, mannered men
would be apt to forget their decorum, and speak with unwonted intensity.
A man with any blood in him, who undertook to write in the year 68 of
the themes with which the soul of this apostle was then on fire, would
be likely to show, no matter in what vehicle of speech his thought might
be conveyed, some sign of the tumult then raging within him.

All these circumstances, taken together, enable me to explain the
difference between the literary form of the Revelation and that of the
Gospel. But when we come to look a little more deeply into the meaning
of the two books, we shall find that beneath all this dissimilarity
there are some remarkable points of agreement. Quite a number of the
leading ideas and conceptions of the one book reappear in the other; the
idea of Christ as the _Word_ or _Logos_ of God, the representation
of Christ as the Lamb, as the Good Shepherd, as the Light, are peculiar to
John; we find them emphasized in the Gospel and in the Revelation. The
unity of the two books in fundamental conceptions has been admirably
brought out by Dr. Sears, in his volume entitled "The Heart of Christ."
And after weighing the evidence, I find neither historical nor
psychological reasons sufficient to overthrow my belief that the Fourth
Gospel, as well as the Revelation, was written by John the Apostle.

The Greek name of the book means an uncovering or unveiling, and is
fairly interpreted, therefore, by our word Revelation. It belongs to a
class of books which were produced in great numbers during the two
centuries preceding the birth of Christ and the two centuries following;
and no one can understand it or interpret it who does not know something
of this species of literature, of the forms of expression peculiar to
it, and of the purposes which it was intended to serve.

We have in the Old Testament one Apocalyptic book, that of Daniel, and
there are apocalyptical elements in two or three of the prophecies. The
fact that the Book of Daniel bears this character is a strong argument
for the lateness of its origin; for it was in the last years of the
Jewish nationality that this kind of writing became popular. We have six
or seven books of this kind, which are written mainly from the
standpoint of the old dispensation, part of which appeared just before
and part shortly after the beginning of our era; and there are nearly a
dozen volumes of Christian apocalypses, all of which employ similar
forms of expression, and are directed towards similar ends. Doubtless
these are only a few of the great number of apocalyptical books which
those ages produced. Their characteristics are well set forth by Dr.

"This branch of later Jewish literature took its rise after the older
prophecy had ceased, when Israel suffered sorely from Syrian and Roman
oppression. Its object was to encourage and comfort the people by
holding forth the speedy restoration of the Davidic Kingdom of Messiah.
Attaching itself to the national hope, it proclaimed the impending of a
glorious future, in which Israel freed from her enemies should enjoy a
peaceful and prosperous life under her long-wished-for deliverer. The
old prophets became the vehicle of these utterances. Revelations,
sketching the history of Israel and of heathenism, are put into their
mouths. The prophecies take the form of symbolical images and marvelous
visions.... Working in this fashion upon the basis of well-known
writings, imitating their style, and artificially reproducing their
substance, the authors naturally adopted the anonymous. The difficulty
was increased by their having to paint as future, events actually near,
and to fit the manifestation of a personal Messiah into the history of
the times. Many apocalyptists employed obscure symbols and mysterious
pictures, veiling the meaning that it might not be readily seen.
[Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, i. 174. ]

"Every time," says Dr. Harnack, "the political situation culminated in a
crisis for the people of God, the apocalypses appeared stirring up the
believers; in spirit, form, plan, and execution they closely resembled
each other.... They all spoke in riddles; that is, by means of images,
symbols, mystic numbers, forms of animals, etc., they half concealed
what they meant to reveal. The reasons for this procedure are not far to
seek: (1.) Clearness and distinctness would have been too profane; only
the mysterious appears divine. (2.) It was often dangerous to be too
distinct." [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, xx. 496. ]

That these writings appeared in troublous times, and that they dealt
with affairs of the present and of the immediate future, must always be
borne in mind. Certain symbolical conceptions are common to them;
earthquakes denote revolutions; stars falling from heaven typify the
downfall of kings and dynasties; a beast is often the emblem of a
tyrant; the turning of the sun into darkness and the moon into blood
signify carnage and destruction upon the earth. We have these symbolisms
in several of the Old Testament writings as well as in many of the
apocalyptical books which are not in our canon; and the interpretation
of such passages is not at all difficult when we understand the usage of
the writers.

Of these apocalyptic books one of the most remarkable is the Book of
Enoch, which appears to have been written a century or two before
Christ. It purports to be a revelation made to and through the patriarch
Enoch; it contains an account of the fall of the angels, and of a
progeny of giants that sprung from the union of these exiled celestials
with the daughters of men; it takes Enoch on a tour of observation
through heaven and earth under the guidance of angels, who explain to
him many things supernal and mundane; it deals in astronomical and
meteorological mysteries of various sorts, and in a series of symbolical
visions seeks to disclose the events of the future. It is a grotesque
production; one does not find much spiritual nutriment in it, but Jude
makes a quotation from it, in his epistle, as if he considered it Holy

"The Fourth Book of Esdras" is another Jewish book of the same kind,
which may have been written about the hundredth year of our era. It
purports to be the work of Ezra, whom it misplaces, chronologically,
putting him in the thirtieth year of the Captivity. The problem of the
writer is the restoration of the nation, destroyed and scattered by the
Roman power. He makes the ancient scribe and law-giver of Israel his
mouthpiece, but he is dealing with the events of his own time.
Nevertheless, his allusions are veiled and obscure; he speaks in
riddles, yet he speaks to a people who understand his riddles, and know
how to take his symbolic visions. This book is in our English Apocrypha,
under the title 2 Esdras.

"The Book of Jubilees," which assumes to be a revelation made to Moses
on Mount Sinai, "The Ascension of Moses," "The Apocalypse of Moses," and
the "Apocalypse of Baruch," are other similar books of the Jewish

Of apocalyptical Christian writings, I may mention "The Sibylline
Books," "The Apocalypse of Paul," "The Apocalypse of Peter," "The
Revelation of Bartholomew," and "The Ascension of Isaiah," and there is
also another "Apocalypse of John," a feeble imitation of the one with
which our canon closes. These books appeared in the second, third, and
fourth centuries of our era; they generally look forward to the second
coming of Christ, and set forth in various figures and symbols the
conflicts and persecutions which his saints must encounter, the
destruction of his foes, and the establishment of his kingdom.

It will be seen, therefore, that the Revelation of St. John is not
unique; and the inference will not be rash that much light may be thrown
upon its dark sayings by a careful study of kindred books.

It may be answered that the writer of this book is inspired, and that
nothing can be learned of the meaning of an inspired book by studying
uninspired books. I reply that no inspired book can be understood at all
without a careful study of uninspired books. The Greek grammar and the
Greek lexicon are uninspired books, and no man can understand a single
one of the books of the New Testament without carefully studying both of
them, or else availing himself of the labor of some one else who has
diligently studied them. An inspired writer uses language,--the same
language that uninspired writers use; the meaning of language is fixed
not by inspiration, but by usage; you must study the grammar and the
lexicon to learn about the usage. And the case is precisely similar when
an inspired writer uses a peculiar form of literature like the
apocalyptical writings. He knows when he uses symbolisms of this class
that they will be interpreted according to the common usage; he expects
and desires that they shall be so understood; and, therefore, in order
to understand them, we must know what the usage is.

When our Lord, speaking of the calamities which were about to fall upon
the Jewish people, said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those
days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens
shall be shaken," he was speaking to people who were perfectly familiar
with language of this sort, because the same expressions occur over and
over again in their prophets, and are there distinctly declared to mean
great political overturnings. He used the apocalyptic phraseology, and
he expected them to give it the apocalyptic signification. If we wish to
understand the Scripture, we must understand the language of Scripture,
and this means not only the grammatical forms, but also the symbolic
usages of the language.

We have seen that the apocalypses are apt to appear in times of great
calamity, and we have accepted the verdict of later scholarship, that
this Apocalypse of St. John appeared about 68 or 69 A.D. Was this a time
of trouble in that Eastern world? Verily it was; the most appalling hour
perhaps in the world's history. The unspeakable Nero was either still
upon the throne of the Roman Empire, or had just reeled from that
eminence to the doom of a craven suicide. The last years of his life
were gorged with horror. The murder of his brother, the burning of Rome,
probably by his connivance, if not by his command, in order that he
might sate his appetite for sensations upon this horrid spectacle;
following this the fiendish scheme to charge this incendiarism upon the
Christians, and slaughter them by tens of thousands in all the cities of
the Empire,--these are only instances of a career which words are too
feeble to portray. Those who succeeded him in this supreme power were
not much less ferocious; the very name of pity seemed to have been
blotted from the Roman speech; the whole Empire reeked with cruelty and
perfidy. While such men ruled at Rome it could not be supposed that the
imperial representatives in the provinces would be temperate and just.
Some of them, at any rate, had learned the lesson of the hour, and were
as perfidious, as truculent, as base as their master could have wished.
Such a one was that Gessius Floras who was the procurator of Judea, and
who seemed to have exhausted the ingenuity of a malignant nature in
stirring up the Jews to insurrection. By every species of indignity and
cruelty he finally stung the long-suffering people into a perfect fury,
and the rebellion which broke out in Palestine in the year 66 was one of
the most fearful eruptions of human nature that the world has ever seen.
Florus had raised the demon; now the legions of Rome must be called in
to exorcise it. It was a terrible struggle. All the energies of Jewish
fanaticisms were enlisted; the Zealots, the fiercest party among them,
not content with slaughtering their Roman enemies, turned their hands
against every man of their own nation who ventured to question the
wisdom of their desperate resistance. In Jerusalem itself a reign of
terror raged which makes the French Revolution seem in comparison a calm
and orderly procedure.

At the beginning of the outbreak Nero had sent one of his trusted
generals, Vespasian, and Vespasian's son Titus, to put down the
insurrection. Neither of these soldiers was a sentimentalist; both
believed as heartily as did Wentworth in later years that the word of
the hour was Thorough. They started with their armies from Antioch in
March, 67, resolved on sweeping Palestine with the besom of destruction.
Cities and villages, one by one, were besieged, captured, destroyed;
men, women, and children were indiscriminately massacred. The Jewish
army fought every inch of the ground like tigers; but they were
overpowered and beaten in detail, and steadily forced southward.
Blackened walls, pools of blood, and putrefying corpses were all that
the Romans left in their rear; ruthlessly they drove the doomed people
before them toward their stronghold of Jerusalem. In the autumn of that
year Vespasian withdrew his army into winter-quarters, and left the
Zealots in Jerusalem to their orgy of brigandage and butchery. He could
well afford to rest and let them do his deadly work.

In the spring of the following year, the siege of Jerusalem began. The
Christians of the city had fled to Pella, east of the Jordan; the
remnant of the Jews held their sacred heights with the courage of

It is at this very juncture that this book of the Revelation was
written. John testifies that it was written on Patmos, a desolate islet
of the Ægean Sea, west of Asia Minor, to which he had either been
banished by some tool of Nero, or else had betaken himself for solitude
and reflection. To him, in this retreat, the awful tidings had come of
the scourge that had fallen on the land of his fathers; added to this,
the conflagration at Rome, the Neronian persecution, all the horrors of
the past decade were fresh in his memory. May we not say that the time
was ripe for an apocalyptic message?

It is in these events, then, that we must find the explanation of much
of this symbolical language. Such is the law of the apocalypse, and this
apocalypse may be expected to conform to the law. St. John is instructed
by the angel to write "the things which thou sawest, and the things
which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter,"--"the
things which must _shortly_ come to pass," the first verse more
explicitly states. It is the past which he has seen, the present, and
the immediate future with which his visions are concerned. It is not any
attempt to outline the whole course of human history; it is the picture,
in mystic symbols, of the present crisis and of the deliverance which is
to follow it. There is no room here for a commentary on the Apocalypse;
I will only indicate, in a rapid glance, the outline of the book.

The first three chapters are occupied with the epistles to the seven
churches which are in Asia, administering reproof, exhortation, comfort,
and counsel to the Christians in these churches,--faithful, stirring,
persuasive appeals, whose meaning can be easily understood, and whose
truth is often sorely needed by the churches of our own time.

Then begins the proper Apocalypse, with the first vision of the throne
in heaven, and sitting thereon the Lamb that was slain, who is also the
Lion of the tribe of Judah. The book sealed with seven seals is given to
him to open, and the opening of each seal discloses a new vision. The
first seal opened shows a white horse bearing a rider who carries a bow
and wears a crown, and who goes forth conquering and to conquer. This is
the emblem of the Messiah whose conquest of the world is represented as
beginning. But the Messiah once said, "I came not to bring peace, but a
sword," and the consequences of his coming must often be strife and
sorrow because of the malignity of men. And therefore the three seals
which are opened next disclose a fiery horse, the symbol of War, a black
horse, whose rider is Famine, a pale horse in whose saddle is Death. The
opening of the fifth seal shows the martyred multitude before the throne
of God. The sixth discloses the desolation and the ruin taking place
upon the earth. Thus the mighty panorama passes constantly before our
eyes; the confusion, the devastation, the woes, the scourges of mankind
through which Messiah's Kingdom is advancing to its triumph. The seals,
the trumpets, the vials bring before us representations of the
retributions and calamities which are falling upon mankind. Sometimes we
seem to be able to fix upon a historical event which the vision clearly
symbolizes; sometimes the meaning to us is vague; perhaps if we had
lived in that day the allusion would have been more intelligible.

There is, however, one great central group of these visions round about
which the others seem to be arrayed as scenic accessories, whose
interpretation the writer has taken great pains to indicate. These are
the visions found in chapters xii., xiii., xvi., and xvii. The woman,
sun-clad, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon
her head (chap, xii.), is beyond all question the ancient Jewish church;
the child which is born to the woman is the Christian church; the great
red dragon that seeks to devour the child is the Satanic power, the
Prince of this world. The Dragon is here on the earth because he has
been expelled from heaven. The war of the Dragon against the woman
indicates the persecutions of the church; the flight of the woman to the
wilderness may symbolize the recent escape of the mother church from
Jerusalem to Pella.

The next vision shows a Beast, coming up out of the sea, with seven
heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten diadems, and on his heads
names of blasphemy. Here we have an instance of that confounding of
symbols, the merging of one in another, which is very common in the
apocalyptic writings. The beast is, primarily, Nero, or the Roman
Empire, as represented by--Nero. The ten horns are the ten chief
provinces; the seven heads are seven emperors. "It is a symbol," says
Dr. Farrar, "interchangeably of the Roman Empire and of the Emperor. In
fact, to a greater degree than at any period of history, the two were
one. Roman history had dwindled down into a personal drama. The Roman
Emperor could say with literal truth, _'L'Etat c'est moi'_. And a
wild beast was a Jew's natural symbol either for a Pagan Kingdom or for
its autocrat." [Footnote: _The Early Days of Christianity_, p.
463.] I can do no better than to repeat to you a small part of Dr.
Farrar's further comment upon this vision.

"This wild beast of Heathen Rome has ten horns, which represent the ten
main provinces of Imperial Rome. It has the power of the Dragon, that
is, it possesses the Satanic dominion of the 'Prince of the power of the

"On each of its heads is the name of blasphemy. Every one of the seven
Kings, however counted, had borne the (to Jewish ears) blasphemous
surname of Augustus (Sebastos, one to be adored); had received
apotheosis, and been spoken of as _Divine_ after his death; had
been crowned with statues, adorned with divine attributes, had been
saluted with divine titles, and, in some instances, had been absolutely
worshiped, and that in his lifetime....

"The diadems are on the horns, because the Roman _Proconsuls_, as
delegates of the Emperor, enjoy no little share of the Cæsarean
autocracy and splendor, but the name of blasphemy is only on the heads,
because the Emperor alone receives divine honors and alone bears the
daring title of Augustus." [Footnote: _Ibid_., p. 464.]

One of the heads of this Beast was wounded to death, but the deadly
wound was healed. It was the universal belief among Pagans and
Christians that the world had not yet seen the last of Nero. Either his
suicide was feigned and ineffectual, and he was in hiding, or else he
would come to life and resume his savage splendors and his gilded
villainies. To make it certain that the writer here refers to this
expectation, we find, in chapter xvii., another reference to the Beast,
which seems at first a riddle, but which is easily interpreted. "The
five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come"; "The Beast that
thou sawest was and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss." "The
Beast that was and is not, even he is an eighth, and is of the seven."
The head and the Beast are here identified. The meaning is that five
Roman Emperors are dead, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero;
"one is,"--Galba is now reigning; "the other" (Otho) "is not yet come;"
but he must come soon for Galba is an old man and cannot long survive,
and "the Beast that was and is not,"--Nero,--who is "about to come out
of the abyss,"--to return to life,--"even he is an eighth, and is of
the seven." He is one of the seven, for he was the fifth, and he will be
the eighth. It was the universal Christian belief that Nero, raised from
the dead, would be the future Antichrist, and it is this belief which
the vision reflects. To make the case still clearer the writer gives us,
by the current Hebrew Kabbalistic method, the number of the Beast, that
is to say, the numerical value of his name. Each letter of the old
alphabets has a numerical value. Thus the writer of the Sibyllines
points out the Greek name of Jesus--Ιησους,--by saying that its whole
number is equivalent to eight units, eight tens, and eight hundreds.
This is the exact numerical value of the six Greek letters composing
the Saviour's name, 10+8+200+70+400+200=888. Precisely so John here
tells us what is the numerical value of the letters in the name of
the Beast. If we tried the Latin or the Greek names of Nero the clue
would not be found; but John was writing mainly for Hebrews, and the
Hebrew letters of _Kesar Neron_, the name by which every Jew knew
this Emperor, amount to exactly 666.

Many other of the features of this veiled description tally perfectly
with the character of this infamous ruler; and when the evidence is all
brought together it seems as though the apostle could scarcely have made
his meaning more obvious if he had written Nero's name in capital

This is the central vision of the Apocalypse, as I have said; round
about this the whole cyclorama revolves; and it has been the standing
enigma of the interpreters in all the ages. The early church generally
divined its meaning; but in later years the high-soaring exegesis which
has spread this Apocalypse all over the centuries and found in it
prophetic symbols of almost all the events that have happened in
mediæval and modern history, has identified the Beast with countless
characters, among them Genseric, King of the Vandals, Benedict, Trajan,
Paul V., Calvin, Luther, Mohammed, Napoleon. All this wild guessing
arises from ignorance of the essential character and purpose of the
apocalyptical writings.

I can follow this enticing theme no further. Let it suffice to call the
attention of all who desire to reach some sober conclusions upon the
meaning of the book to Archdeacon Farrar's "Early Days of Christianity,"
in which the whole subject is treated with the amplest learning and the
soundest literary judgment.

The Book of Revelation has been, as I have intimated, the favorite
tramping ground of all the hosts of theological visionaries; men who
possessed not the slightest knowledge of the history or the nature of
apocalyptic literature, and whose appetite for the mysterious and the
monstrous was insatiable, have expatiated here with boundless license.
To find in these visions descriptions of events now passing and
characters now upon the stage is a sore temptation. To use these hard
words, the Beast, the Dragon, the False Prophet, as missiles wherewith
to assail those who belong to a school or a party with which you are at
variance, is a chance that no properly constituted partisan could
willingly fore-go. Thus we have seen this book dragged into the
controversies and applied to the events of all the centuries, and the
history of its interpretation is, as one of its interpreters confesses,
the opprobrium of exegesis. But if one ceases to look among these
symbols for a predictive outline of modern history, "a sort of
anticipated Gibbon," and begins to read it in the light of the
apocalyptic method, it may have rich and large meanings for him. He will
not be able, indeed, to explain it all; to some of these riddles the
clue has been lost; but, in the words of Dr. Farrar, "he will find that
the Apocalypse is what it professes to be,--an inspired outline of
contemporary history, and of the events to which the sixth decade of the
first century gave immediate rise. He will read in it the tremendous
manifesto of a Christian seer against the blood-stained triumph of
imperial heathenism; a pæan and a prophecy over the ashes of the
martyrs; the thundering reverberations of a mighty spirit struck by the
fierce plectrum of the Neronian persecution, and answering in
impassioned music which, like many of David's Psalms, dies away into the
language of rapturous hope." [Footnote: _Early Days of Christianity_,
p. 429. ]

For we must not forget that this is a song of triumph. This seer is no
pessimist. The strife is hot, the carnage is fearful, they that rise up
against our Lord and his Messiah are many and mighty, but there is no
misgiving as to the event. For all these woes there is solace, after all
these conflicts peace. Even in the midst of the raging wars and
persecutions, the door is opened now and again into the upper realm of
endless joy and unfading light. And he "whose name is called The Word of
God," upon whose garment and whose thigh the name is written, "King of
Kings and Lord of Lords," will prevail at last over all his foes. The
Beast and the Dragon, and the False Prophet and the Scarlet Woman (the
harlot city upon her seven hills whose mystic name is Babylon) will all
be cast into the lake of fire; then to the purified earth the New
Jerusalem shall come down out of heaven from God. This is the emblem and
the prophecy, not of the city beyond the stars, but of the purified
society which shall yet exist upon the earth,--the fruition of his work
who came, not to judge the world, but to save the world. It is on these
plains, along these rivers, by these fair shores that the New Jerusalem
is to stand; it is not heaven; it is a city that comes down out of
heaven from God. No statement could be more explicit. The glorious
visions which fill the last chapters of this wonderful book are the
promise of that "All hail Hereafter," for which every Christian patriot,
every lover of mankind, is always looking and longing and fighting and
waiting. And he who, by the mouth of this seer, testifieth the words
of the prophecy of this book saith, "Yea, I come quickly. Even so, come,
Lord Jesus."



We have studied with what care we were able tee historical problem of
the origin and authorship of the several books of the Old and New
Testament; we now come to a deeply interesting question,--the question
of the canon.

This word, as used in this connection, means simply an authoritative
list or catalogue. The canon of the Bible is the determined and official
table of contents. The settlement of the canon is the process of
determining what and how many books the Bible shall contain. In the Old
Testament are thirty-nine books, in the New Testament twenty-seven; and
it is a fixed principle with Protestants that these books and no others
constitute the Sacred Scriptures,--that no more can be added and none
taken away.

The popular belief respecting this matter has been largely founded upon
the words with which the Book of Revelation concludes:--

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of
this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the
plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written
in this book."

The common notion is that the "book" here referred to is the Bible; and
that these sentences, therefore, are the divine authorization of the
present contents of the Bible, a solemn testimony from the Lord himself
to the integrity of the canon. But this is a misapprehension. The book
referred to is the Revelation of St. John,--not the Bible, not even the
New Testament. When these words were written, says Dr. Barnes in his
"Commentary," "the books that now constitute what we call the Bible were
not collected into a single volume. That passage, therefore, should not
be adduced as referring to the whole of the Sacred Scriptures." In fact,
when these words of the Revelation were written, several of the books of
the New Testament were not yet in existence; for this is by no means the
last of the New Testament writings, though it stands at the end of the
collection. The Gospel and the Epistles of John were added after this;
and we may trust that no plagues were "added" to the beloved disciple
for writing them.

Nevertheless, as I said, it is assumed that the contents of the Bible
are fixed; that the collection is and for a long time has been complete
and perfect; that it admits neither of subtractions nor of additions;
that nothing is in the book which ought not to be there, and that there
is nothing outside of its covers which ought to be within them; that the
canon is settled, inflexibly and infallibly and finally.

The questions now to be considered are these: Who settled it? When was
it settled? On what grounds was it determined? Was any question ever
raised concerning the sacredness or authority of any of the books now
included in the canon? Did any other books, not now included in the
canon, ever claim a place in it? If so, why were these rejected and
those retained?

This is, as will be seen, a simple question of history. We can trace
with tolerable certainty the steps by which this collection of sacred
writings was made; we know pretty well who did it, and when and how it
was done. And there is nothing profane or irreverent in this inquiry,
for the work of collecting these writings and fixing this canon has been
done mainly, if not wholly, by men who were not inspired and did not
claim to be. There is nothing mysterious or miraculous about their
doings any more than there is about the acts of the framers of the
Westminster Confession, or the American Constitution. They were dealing
with sacred matters, no doubt, when they were trying to determine what
books should be received and used as Scriptures, but they were dealing
with them in exactly the same way that we do, by using the best lights
they had.

As we have learned in previous chapters, the beginning of our canon was
made by Ezra the scribe, who, in the fifth century before Christ, newly
published and consecrated the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses, as the
Holy Book of the Jewish people.

After Ezra came Nehemiah, to whom the beginning of the second collection
of Jewish Scriptures, called the Prophets, is ascribed in one of the
apocryphal books. But this collection was not apparently finished and
closed by Nehemiah. The histories of Joshua and Judges, of Samuel and
Kings, and the principal books of the Prophets were undoubtedly gathered
by him; but it would seem that the collection was left open for future

About the same time the third group of the Old Testament Scriptures,
"The Hagiographa," or "Writings," began to be collected. No book of the
Bible contains any information concerning the making of these two later
collections, the Prophets and the Hagiographa; and we are obliged to
rely wholly upon Jewish tradition, and upon references which we find in
Jewish writers. Professor Westcott, who is one of the most conservative
of Biblical scholars, says that "the combined evidence of tradition and
of the general course of Jewish history leads to the conclusion that the
canon in its present shape was formed gradually during a lengthened
interval, beginning with Ezra and extending through a part, or even the
whole of the Persian period," or from B.C. 458 to 332. Without adopting
this conclusion, we may remark that this last date, 332, was nearly a
century after Nehemiah and Malachi, the last of the prophets; so that if
the canon was closed at a date so late as this, it must have been closed
by men who were certainly not known to have been inspired. If it was
forming, through all this period, then it must have been formed in part
by men in behalf of whom no claim of inspiration has ever been set up.

According to Jewish tradition the work of collecting, editing, and
authorizing the sacred writings was done by a certain "Great Synagogue,"
founded by Ezra, presided over by Nehemiah, after him, and continuing in
existence down to about the year 200 B.C. This is wholly a tradition,
and has been proved to be baseless. There never was such a synagogue;
the Scriptures know nothing about it; the apocryphal writers, so
numerous and widely dispersed, have never heard of it; Philo and
Josephus are ignorant concerning it. None of the Jewish authors of the
period who freely discuss the Scriptures and their authority makes
mention of this Great Synagogue. The story of its existence is first
heard from some Jewish rabbin hundreds of years after Christ.

We have proof enough in the New Testament that the Jews had certain
Sacred Scriptures; the New Testament writers often quote them and refer
to them; but there is no conclusive proof that they had been gathered at
this time into a complete collection. Jesus tells the Jews that they
search the Scriptures, but he does not say how many of these Scriptures
there were in his day; Paul reminds Timothy that from a child he had
known the Holy Scriptures, but he gives no list of their titles. If we
found all the books of the Old Testament quoted or referred to by the
New Testament writers, then we should know that they possessed the same
books that we have. Most of these books are thus referred to; but there
are seven Old Testament books whose names the New Testament never
quotes, and at least five to which it makes no reference whatever:
Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. To Judges,
Chronicles, and Ezekiel it refers only in the same way that it refers to
a number of the apocryphal books. Some of these omissions appear to be
significant. The New Testament gives us therefore no definite
information by which we can determine whether the Old Testament canon
was closed at the time of Christ, nor does it tell us of what books it
was composed.

We have seen already that two different collections of Old Testament
writings were in existence, one in Hebrew, and the other a translation
into the Greek, made by Jews in Alexandria, and called the Septuagint.
The latter collection was the one most used by our Lord and the
apostles; much the greater number of quotations from the Old Testament
found in the Gospels and the Epistles are taken from the Septuagint.
This Greek Bible contained quite a number of books which are not in the
Hebrew Bible: they were later in their origin than any of the Old
Testament books; most of them were originally written in Greek; and
while they were regarded by some of the more conservative of the Jews in
Egypt as inferior to the Law and the Prophets, they were generally
ranked with the books of the Hagiographa as sacred writings. This is
evident from the fact that they were mingled indiscriminately with these
books of the older Scriptures. You know that I am speaking now of the
apocryphal books which you find in some of your old Bibles, between the
Old and New Testaments. These were the later books contained in the
Septuagint, and not in the Hebrew Bible. But they were not sorted out by
themselves in the Septuagint; they were interspersed through the other
books, as of equal value. Thus in the Vatican Bible, of which we shall
learn more by and by, Esdras First and Second succeed the Chronicles;
Tobit and Judith are between Nehemiah and Esther; the Wisdom of Solomon
and Sirach follow Solomon's Song; Baruch is next to Jeremiah; Daniel is
followed by Susanna and Bel and the Dragon, and the collection closes
with the three books of Maccabees.

All the old manuscripts of the Bible which we possess--those which are
regarded as above all others sacred and authoritative--contain these
apocryphal writings thus intermingled with the books of our own canon.
It is clear, therefore, that to the Alexandrian Jews these later books
were Sacred Scriptures; and it is certain also that our Lord and his
apostles used the collection which contained these books. It is said
that they do not refer to them, and it is true that they do not mention
them by name; but they do use them occasionally. Let me read you a few
passages which will illustrate their familiarity with the apocryphal

James i.19: "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak." Sirach v.
11; iv. 29: "Be swift to hear." "Be not hasty in thy tongue."

Hebrews i. 3: "Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image
of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power."
Wisdom vii. 26: "For she (Wisdom) is the brightness of the everlasting
light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his

Rom. ix. 21: "Hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same
lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?"
Wisdom xv. 7: "For the potter, tempering soft earth, fashioneth every
vessel with much labor for our service; yea, of the same clay he maketh
both the vessels that serve for clean uses, and likewise also such as
serve to the contrary: but what is the use of either sort, the potter
himself is the judge."

I Cor. ii. 10, 11: "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep
things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the
spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none
knoweth save the Spirit of God." Judith viii. 14: "For ye cannot find
the depth of the heart of man, neither can ye perceive the things that
he thinketh: then how can ye search out God, that hath made all these
things, and know his mind, or comprehend his purpose?"

Several similar indications of the familiarity of the New Testament
writers with these apocryphal books might be pointed out. These are not
express citations, but they are clear appropriations of the thought and
the language of the apocryphal writers. We have, then, the most
indubitable proof that the apocryphal books were in the hands of the New
Testament writers; and so far as New Testament use authenticates an Old
Testament writing, several of the apocryphal books stand on much better
footing than do five of our Old Testament books.

It is true that the Hebrew or Palestinian canon differed from the Greek
or Alexandrian canon; the books which were written in Greek had never
been translated into the Hebrew, and could not, of course, be
incorporated into the Hebrew canon; and there was undoubtedly a strong
feeling among the stricter Jews against recognizing any of these later
books as Sacred Scriptures; nevertheless, the Greek Bible, with all its
additions, had large currency among the Jews even in Palestine, and the
assertion that our Lord and his apostles measured the Alexandrian Bible
by the Palestinian canon, and accepted all the books of the latter while
declining to recognize any of the additions of the former, is sheer
assumption, for which there is not a particle of evidence, and against
which the facts already adduced bear convincingly. Paul, in his letter
to Timothy, refers to the "Scriptures" as having been in the hands of
Timothy from his childhood; and we have every reason to believe that the
Scriptures to which he refers was this Greek collection containing the
Apocrypha. Whatever Paul says about the inspiration of the Scriptures
must be interpreted with this fact in mind. To find in these words of
Paul the guarantee of the inspiration and infallibility of the books of
the collection which are translated from the Hebrew, and not those which
are written in Greek, is a freak of exegesis not more violent than
fantastic. We know that Paul read and used some of these apocryphal
books, and there are several of the books in our Hebrew Bible that he
never quotes or refers to in the remotest way. The attempt which is
often made to show that the New Testament writers have established, by
their testimony, the Old Testament canon, as containing just those books
which are in our Old Testament, and no more, is a most unwarrantable
distortion of the facts.

It is true that at the time of Christ the Palestinian Jews had not, for
a century or so, added any new books to their collection, and were not
inclined to add any more. Their canon was practically closed to this
extent, that no new books were likely to get in. But it was not yet
settled that some later books, which had been trying to maintain a
footing in the canon, should not be put out. Esther, Ecclesiastes, and
Solomon's Song were regarded by some of the Palestinian Jews as sacred
books, but their right to this distinction was hotly disputed by others.
This question was not settled at the time of our Lord.

"The canon," says Davidson, "was not considered to be closed in the
first century before and the first after Christ. There were doubts about
some portions. The Book of Ezekiel gave offense, because some of its
statements seemed to contradict the Law. Doubts about some of the others
were of a more serious nature--about Ecclesiastes, the Canticles,
Esther, and the Proverbs. The first was impugned because it had
contradictory passages and a heretical tendency; the second because of
its worldly and sensual tone; Esther for its want of religiousness; and
Proverbs on account of inconsistencies. This skepticism went far to
procure the exclusion of the suspected works from the canon and their
relegation to the class of the _genuzim_. But it did not prevail.
Hananiah, son of Hezekiah, son of Garon, about 32 B.C., is said to have
reconciled the contradictions and allayed the doubts. But these traces
of resistance to the fixity of the canon were not the last. They
reappeared about 65 A. D., as we learn from the Talmud, when the
controversy turned mainly upon the canonicity of Ecclesiastes, which the
school of Schammai, which had the majority, opposed; so that that book
was probably excluded. The question emerged again at a later synod in
Jabneh or Jamnia, when R. Eleaser ben Asaria was chosen patriarch, and
Gamaliel the Second, deposed. Here it was decided, not unanimously,
however, but by a majority of Hillelites, that Ecclesiastes and the Song
of Songs 'pollute the hands,' _i. e._, belong properly to the
Hagiographa. This was about 90 A. D. Thus the question of the canonicity
of certain books was discussed by two synods." [Footnote: _Encyc.
Brit_., v. 3.]

By such a plain tale do we put down the fiction, so widely disseminated,
that the canon of the Old Testament was "fixed" long before the time of
Christ, and, presumably, by inspired men. It was not "fixed," even in
Palestine, until sixty years after our Lord's death; several of the
books were in dispute during the whole apostolic period, and these are
the very books which are not referred to in the New Testament. Whether
the men who finally "fixed" it were exceptionally qualified to judge of
the ethical and spiritual values of the writings in question may be
doubted. They were the kind of men who slew our Lord and persecuted his
followers. When we are asked what are our historical reasons for
believing that Esther and Ecclesiastes and Solomon's Song are sacred
books and ought to be in the Old Testament canon, let us answer: It is
not because any prophet or inspired person adjudged them to be sacred,
for no such person had anything to say about them; it is not because our
Lord and his apostles indorsed them, for they do not even mention them;
it is not because they held a place in a collection of Sacred Scriptures
used by our Lord and his apostles, for their position in that collection
was in dispute at that time; it is because the chief priests and scribes
who rejected Christ pronounced them sacred. The external authority for
these books reduces to exactly this. Those who insist that all parts of
the Old Testament are of equal value and authority, and that a
questioning of the sacredness of one book casts doubts upon the whole
collection, ought to look these facts in the face and see on what a
slender thread they suspend the Bible which they so highly value. These
later books, says one, "have been delivered to us; they have their use
and value, which is to be ascertained by a frank and reverent study of
the texts themselves; but those who insist on placing them on the same
footing of undisputed authority with the Law, the Prophets, and the
Psalms, to which our Lord bears direct testimony, and so make the whole
doctrine of the canon depend on its weakest part, sacrifice the true
strength of the evidence on which the Old Testament is received by
Christians." [Footnote: _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_,
p. 175.]

Such, then, is the statement with respect to the Old Testament canon in
the apostolic age. The Palestinian canon, which was identical with our
Old Testament, was practically settled at the synod of Jamnia about 90
A. D., though doubts were still entertained by devout Jews concerning
Esther. The Alexandrian collection, containing our apocryphal books,
was, however, widely circulated; and as it was the Greek version which
had been most used by the apostles, so it was the Greek version which
the early Christian fathers universally studied and quoted. Very few if
any of these Christian fathers of the first two centuries understood the
Hebrew; they could not, therefore, use the Palestinian manuscripts; the
Greek Bible was their only treasury of inspired truth, and the Greek
Bible contained the Apocrypha. Accordingly we find them quoting freely
as Sacred Scripture all the apocryphal books. Westcott gives us a table,
in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," of citations made from these apocryphal
books by fifteen of the Greek fathers, beginning with Clement of Rome
and ending with Chrysostom, and by eight Latin writers, beginning with
Tertullian and ending with Augustine. Every one of these apocryphal
books is thus quoted with some such formula as "The Scripture saith," or
"It is written," by one or more of these writers; the Book of Wisdom is
quoted by all of them except Polycarp and Cyril; Baruch and the
Additions to Daniel are quoted by the great majority of them; Origen
quotes them all, Clement of Alexandria all but one, Cyprian all but two.
It will therefore be seen that these books must have had wide acceptance
as Sacred Scriptures during the first centuries of the Christian church.
In the face of these facts, which may be found in sources as
unassailable as Smith's "Bible Dictionary," we have such statements as
the following, put forth by teachers of the people, and indorsed by
eminent theological professors:--

"We may say of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament that, while
some who were not Jews and who were unacquainted with Hebrew used them
to some extent, yet they never gained wide acceptance, and soon dropped
out altogether."

"Certain apocryphal writings have since been bound up with the
Septuagint, but _there is no reason to think that they made any part
of it in the days of our Saviour_"!

"These books were not received as canonical by the Christian fathers,
but were expressly declared to be apocryphal"!

The last statements are copied from a volume on the Bible, prepared for
popular circulation by the president of a theological seminary!

It is true that some of the most inquisitive and critical of the
Christian fathers entertained doubts about these apocryphal books;
Melito of Sardis traveled to Palestine on purpose to inquire into the
matter, and came back, of course, with the Palestinian canon to which,
however, he did not adhere. Origen made a similar investigation, and
seems to have been convinced that the later books ought to be regarded
as uncanonical; nevertheless, he keeps on quoting them; Jerome was the
first strenuously to challenge the canonicity of these later Greek books
and to maintain a tolerably consistent opposition to them. While,
therefore, several of these early fathers were led by their
investigations in Palestine to believe that the narrower canon was the
more correct one, their opinions had but little weight with the people
at large; and even these fathers themselves freely and constantly quoted
as Sacred Scripture the questionable writings.

In 393 the African bishops held a council at Hippo, in which the canon
was discussed. The list agreed upon includes all the Old Testament
Scriptures of our canon, and, in addition to them, Wisdom,
Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith, and the two books of Maccabees. In 397
another council at Carthage reaffirmed the list of its predecessor.
Augustine was the leader of both councils.

In spite of the protests of Jerome and of other scholars in all the
centuries, this list, for substance, was regarded as authoritative,
until the Council of Trent, in 1546, when the long debate was finally
settled, so far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, by the
adoption of the Augustinian canon, embracing the apocryphal books, the
list concluding with the following anathema. "If any one will not
receive as sacred and authoritative the whole books with all their
parts, let him be accursed." This determines the matter for all good
Catholics. Since 1546, they have known exactly how many books their
Bible contains. And if usage and tradition are and ought to be
authoritative, they have the strongest reasons for receiving as sacred
the books of their Bible; for it is beyond question that the books which
they accept and which we reject have been received and used as Sacred
Scriptures in all the ages of the church. Most of us who do not accept
usage and tradition as authoritative will continue, no doubt, to think
our own thoughts about the matter.

The Council of Trent marks the definite separation of the Roman Catholic
Church from the Protestant reformers. Up to this time there had been
among the reformers some differences of opinion respecting the Old
Testament books; when they were excluded from the Holy Church and were
compelled to fall back upon the authority of the Bible, the present
limits of the canon at once became an important question. They did not
settle it all at once. Luther, in making his German version of the
Bible, translated Judith, Wisdom, Tobit, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2
Maccabees, the Greek additions to Esther and Daniel, with the Prayer of
Manasseh. Each of these books he prefaces with comments of his own.
First Maccabees he regards as almost equal to the other books of Holy
Scripture, and not unworthy to be reckoned among them. He had doubted
long whether Wisdom should not be admitted to the canon, and he truly
says of Sirach that it is a right good book, the work of a wise man.
Baruch and 2 Maccabees he finds fault with; but of none of these
apocryphal books does he speak so severely as of Esther, which he is
more than willing to cast out of the canon. The fact that Luther
translated these apocryphal books is good evidence that he thought them
of value to the church; nevertheless, he considered the books of the
Hebrew canon, with the exception of Esther, as occupying a higher plane
than those of the Apocrypha. Gradually this opinion gained acceptance
among the Protestants; the apocryphal books were separated from the
rest, and although by some of the Reformed churches, as by the Anglican
church, they were commended to be read "for example of life and
instruction of manners," they ceased to be regarded as authoritative
sources of Christian doctrine. Since the sixteenth century, there has
been little question among Protestants as to the extent of the canon.
The books which now compose our Old Testament, and no others, have been
found in the Bible of the Protestants for the past three hundred years.
The apocryphal books have sometimes been printed between the Old and the
New Testaments, but they have not been used in the churches, [Footnote:
The English Church uses some portions of them.] nor have they been
regarded as part of the Sacred Scripture.

The history of the New Testament canon is much less obscure, and may be
more briefly treated. The Bible of the early Christians was the Old
Testament. They relied wholly upon this for religious instruction; they
had no thought of any other Sacred Scripture.

I have explained in a former chapter how the Epistles and the Gospels
originated; but when these writings first came into the hands of the
disciples there was not, it is probable, any conception in their minds
that these were sacred writings, to be ranked along with the books of
the Old Testament. They read them for instruction and suggestion; they
did not at first think of them as holy. But their conviction of the
value and sacredness of these writings soon began to strengthen; we find
them quoting Gospels and Epistles with the same formula that they apply
to the Old Testament books; and thus they began to feel the need of
making a collection of this apostolic literature for use in the
churches. It is not until the second half of the second century that any
such collection comes into view. It consisted at first of two parts, The
Gospel and The Apostle; the first part contained the four Gospels, and
the second the Acts, thirteen Epistles of Paul, one of Peter, one of
John, and the Revelation. It will be seen that this twofold Testament
omitted several of our books,--the Epistle to the Hebrews, two of
John's Epistles, one of Peter's, and the Epistles of James and Jude.

About this time there was also in circulation certain writings which are
not now in our canon, but which were sometimes included by the
authorities of that time among the apostolic writings, and were quoted
as Scripture by the early fathers. There was a book called "The Gospel
according to the Egyptians," and another entitled "The Preaching of
Peter," and another called "The Acts of Paul," and another called "The
Shepherd of Hermas," and an epistle attributed to Barnabas, and several
others, all claiming to be sacred and apostolic writings. It became,
therefore, a delicate and important question for these early Christians
to decide which of these writings were sacred, and which were not; and
they began to make lists of those which they regarded as canonical. The
earliest of these lists is a fragmentary anonymous canon, which was made
about 170. It mentions all the books in our New Testament but four,--
Hebrews, First and Second Peter, and James.

Irenæus, who died about 200, had a canon which included all the books of
our New Testament except Hebrews, Jude, James, Second Peter, and Third
John. First Peter, Second John, and "The Shepherd of Hermas" he put by
themselves in a second class of writings, which he thought excellent but
not inspired.

Clement of Alexandria (180) puts into his list most of our canonical
books, but regards several of them as of inferior value, among them
Hebrews, Second John, and Jude. In the same list of inferior writings he
includes "The Shepherd of Hermas," the "Epistle of Barnabas," and the
"Apocalypse of Peter."

Tertullian (200) omits entirely James, Second Peter, and Third John, but
includes among useful though not inspired books, Hebrews, Jude, "The
Shepherd of Hermas," Second John, and Second Peter.

These are the greatest authorities of the first two centuries. No
Christian teachers of that day were better informed or more trustworthy
than these, and it will be seen that they were far from agreeing with
one another or with our canon; that each one of them received as sacred
some books which we do not possess, and rejected some which we receive.

Coming down into the third century, we find Origen (250), one of the
great scholars, wrestling with the problem. He seems to have made three
classes of the New Testament writings, the authentic, the non-authentic,
and the doubtful. The authentic books are the Gospels, the Acts, the
thirteen Epistles of Paul, and the Apocalypse; the non-authentic ones
are "The Shepherd of Hermas," "The Epistle of Barnabas," and several
other books not in our canon; and the doubtful ones are James, Jude,
Second and Third John, and Second Peter. It will be seen that Origen
admits none that are not in our collection, but that he is in doubt
respecting some that are in it.

Facts like these are writ large over every page of the history of the
early church. And yet we have eminent theological professors asserting
that the canon of the New Testament was finally settled "during the
first half of the second century, within fifty years after the death of
the Apostle John." A more baseless statement could not be fabricated. It
is from teachers of this class that we hear the most vehement outcries
against the "Higher Criticism."

Eusebius, who died in 340, has a list agreeing substantially with that
of Origen.

Cyril of Jerusalem (386) includes all of our books except the
Apocalypse, and no others.

Athanasius (365) and Augustine (430) have lists identical with ours.
This indicates a steady progress toward unanimity, and when the two
great councils of Hippo and Carthage confirmed this judgment of the two
great fathers last named, the question of the New Testament canon was
practically settled. [Footnote: It is noted, however, that the reception
of the doubtful books into the canon does not imply a recognition of
their equality with the other books. The distinct admission of their
inferiority was made by all the ecclesiastical authorities of that
period. None of the early fathers believed that all these writings were
equally inspired and equally authoritative.] Nevertheless, considerable
independent judgment on the subject still seems to have been tolerated,
and writings which we do not now receive were long included in the New
Testament collection. The three oldest manuscripts of the Bible now in
existence are the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian Bibles,
dating from the fourth and the fifth centuries. Of these the Sinaitic
and the Alexandrian Bibles both include some of these doubtful books in
the New Testament collection; the Sinai Bible has "The Epistle of
Barnabas" and "The Shepherd of Hermas;" the Alexandrian Bible the
Epistle of Clement and one of Athanasius. These old Bibles are clear
witnesses to the fact that the contents of the New Testament were not
clearly defined even so late as the fifth century. Indeed, there was
always some freedom of opinion concerning this matter until the
Reformation era. Then, of course, the Council of Trent fixed the canon
of the New Testament as well as of the Old for all good Catholics; and
the New Testament of the Catholics, unlike their Old Testament, is
identical with our own.

The Protestants of that time were still in doubt about certain of the
New Testament books. Luther, as every one knows, was inclined to reject
the Epistle of James; he called it "a right strawy epistle." The letter
to the Hebrews was a good book, but not apostolic; he put it in a
subordinate class. Jude was a poor transcript of Second Peter, and he
assigned that also to a lower place. "The Apocalypse," says Davidson,
"he considered neither apostolic nor prophetic, but put it almost on a
level with the Fourth Book of Esdras, which he spoke elsewhere of
tossing into the Elbe." Luther's principle of judgment in many of these
cases was quite too subjective; he carried the Protestant principle of
private judgment to an extreme; I only quote his opinions to show with
what freedom the strong men of the Reformation handled these questions
of Biblical criticism.

Zwingli rejected the Apocalypse. Œcolampadius placed James, Jude,
Second Peter, Second and Third John and the Apocalypse along with the
Apocryphal books, on a lower level than the other New Testament

The great majority of the Reformers, however, speedily fixed upon that
canon which we now receive, and their decision has not been seriously
called in question since the sixteenth century.

I have now answered most of the questions proposed at the beginning of
this chapter. We have seen that while the great majority of the books in
both Testaments have been universally received, questions have been
raised at various times concerning the canonicity of several of the
books in either Testament; that many good men, from the second century
before Christ until the sixteenth century after Christ, have disputed
the authority of some of these books. We have seen also that quite a
number of other books have at one time and another been regarded as
sacred and numbered among the Holy Scriptures; we have seen that the
final judgment respecting these doubtful books is different in different
branches of the church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Catholic
Church admitting into their canons several books that the Reformed
churches exclude from theirs.

We have seen that the decision which has been reached by the several
branches of the church respecting this matter has been reached as the
result of discussion and argument; that the canonicity of the disputed
books was freely canvassed by the church fathers in their writings, by
the church councils in their assemblies, by the Reformers in their
inquiries; that no supernatural methods have been employed to determine
the canonicity of these several books; but that the enlightened reason
of the church has been the arbiter of the whole matter.

The grounds upon which the Jews acted in admitting or rejecting books
into their Scriptures it might be difficult for us to determine. In some
cases we know that they were fanciful and absurd. But the grounds on
which the Christians proceeded in making up their canon we know pretty

The first question respecting each one of the Christian writings seems
to have been: "Was it written by an apostle?" If this question could be
answered in the affirmative, the book was admitted. And in deciding this
question, the Christians of later times made appeal to the opinions of
those of earlier times; authority and tradition had much to do in
determining it. "Was it the general opinion of the early church that
this book was written by an apostle?" they asked. And if this seemed to
be the case, they were inclined to admit it. Besides, they compared
Scripture with Scripture: certain books were unquestionably written by
Paul or Luke or John; other books which were doubted were also ascribed
to them; if they found the language of the disputed book corresponding
to that of the undisputed book, in style and in forms of expression,
they judged that it must have been written by the same man. Upon such
grounds of external and internal evidence, it finally came to be
believed that all of the New Testament books except four were written by
apostles, and that these four, Mark, Luke, The Acts of the Apostles, and
the Epistle to the Hebrews, were written by men under the immediate
direction of apostles.

But, it may be said, there have been great differences of opinion on
this matter through all the ages, down to the sixteenth century; how do
we know but that those good and holy men, like Ignatius and Clement and
Tertullian and Origen in the early church, and Luther and Zwingli and
Œcolampadius in the Reformed church, were right in rejecting some books
that we receive and in receiving some that we reject?

If you were a good Catholic, that question would not trouble you. For
the fundamental article of your creed would then be, The Holy Catholic
Church, when she is represented by her bishops in a general council, can
never make a mistake. And the Holy Catholic Church in a general council
at Trent, in 1546, said that such and such books belonged to the Bible,
and that no others do; and the council of the Vatican, in 1870, said the
same thing over again, making it doubly sure; so, that, as a good
Catholic, you would have no right to any doubts or questions about it.

But, being a Protestant, you cannot help knowing that all general
councils have made grave and terrible mistakes; that no one of them ever
was infallible; and so you could not rest satisfied with the decisions
of Trent and the Vatican, even if they gave you the same Bible that you
now possess, which, of course, they do not. What certainty has the
Protestant, then, that his canon is the correct one? He has no absolute
certainty. There is no such thing as absolute certainty with respect to
historical religious truth. But this discussion has made one or two
things plain to the dullest apprehension.

The first is that the books of this Bible are not all of equal rank and
sacredness. If there is one truth which all the ages, with all their
voices, join to declare, it is that the Bible is made up of many
different kinds of books, with very different degrees of sacredness and
authority. For one, I do not wish to part with any of them; I find
instruction in all of them, though in some of them, as in Esther and
Ecclesiastes, it is rather as records of savagery and of skepticism,
from which every Christian ought to recoil, that I can see any value in
them. As powerful delineations of the kind of sentiments that the
Christian ought not to cherish, and the kind of doubts that he cannot
entertain without imperilling his soul, they may be useful. It is not,
therefore, at all desirable that these ancient records should be torn
asunder and portions of them flung away. That process of mutilation none
of us is wise enough to attempt. Let the Bible stand; there are good
uses for every part of it. But let us remember the lesson which this
survey has brought home to us, that these books are not all alike, and
that the message of divine wisdom is spoken to us in some of them far
more clearly than in others,

Richard Baxter is an authority in religion for whose opinion all
conservative people ought to entertain respect. He cannot be suspected
of being a "New Departure" man; he was a stanch Presbyterian, and he
passed to the "Saints' Rest" nearly two hundred years ago. With a few
words of his upon the question now before us, this chapter may fitly

"And here I must tell you a great and needful truth, which Christians,
fearing to confess, by overdoing, tempt men to infidelity. The Scripture
is like a man's body, where some parts are but for the preservation of
the rest, and may be maimed without death. The sense is the soul of the
Scripture, and the letters but the body or vehicle. The doctrine of the
Creed, Lord's Prayer and Decalogue, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, is
the vital part and Christianity itself. The Old Testament letter
(written as we have it about Ezra's time) is that vehicle which is as
imperfect as the revelation of those times was. But as, after Christ's
incarnation and ascension, the Spirit was more abundantly given, and the
revelation more perfect and sealed, so the doctrine is more full, and
the vehicle or body, that is the words, are less imperfect and more sure
to us; so that he which doubteth of the truth of some words in the Old
Testament or of some circumstances in the New, hath no reason therefore
to doubt of the Christian religion of which these writings are but the
vehicle or body, sufficient to ascertain us of the truth of the History
and Doctrine." [Footnote: _The Catechizing of Christian Families_,
p. 36.]



The books of the Old Testament were originally written upon skins of
some sort. The Talmud provided that the law might be inscribed on the
skins of clean animals, tame or wild, or even of clean birds. These
skins were usually cut into strips, the ends of which were neatly joined
together, making a continuous belt of parchment or vellum which was
rolled upon two sticks and fastened by a thread. They were commonly
written on one side only, with an iron pen which was dipped in ink
composed of lampblack dissolved in gall juice.

The Hebrew is a language quite unlike our own in form and appearance.
Not only do we read it from right to left, instead of from left to
right, but the consonants only of the several words are written in
distinct characters on the line; the vowels being little dots or dashes
standing under the consonants, or within their curves. These vowel
points were not used in the original Hebrew; they are a modern invention,
originating some centuries after Christ. It is true that it was the
belief of the Jews in former times that these vowel points were an
original part of the language; their scholars made this claim with great
confidence, which shows how little reliance is to be placed on Jewish
tradition. The evidence is abundant that the Hebrew was originally
written without vowels, precisely as stenographers often write in these
days. We know from the testimony of old students and interpreters of the
Hebrew that they constantly encountered this difficulty in reading the
language. Write a paragraph of our own language without vowels and look
at it. Or, better, ask some one else to treat for you in the same way a
paragraph with which you are not familiar, and see if you can decipher
it. Undoubtedly, you could with some difficulty make out the sense of
most passages. It would puzzle you at first, but after you had had some
practice in supplying the vowels you would learn to read quite readily.
Stenographers, as I have said, have a somewhat similar task.
Nevertheless, you would sometimes be in uncertainty as to the words.
Suppose you have the three consonants _brd_, how would you know
whether the word was bard, or bird, or bread, or board, or brad, or
broad, or bride, or braid, or brood, or breed? It might be any one of
them. You could usually tell what it was by a glance at the connection,
but you could not tell infallibly, for there might be sentences in which
more than one of these words would make sense, and it would be
impossible to determine which the writer meant to use. Now the old
Hebrew as it came from the hands of the original writers was all in this
form; while, therefore, the meaning of the writer can generally be
gained with sufficient accuracy, you see at a glance that absolute
certainty is out of the question; that the Jewish scholars who supplied
these vowel points a thousand years or more after the original
manuscripts were written may sometimes have got the wrong word.

Jerome gives numerous illustrations of this uncertainty. In Jer. ix. 21,
"Death is come up into our windows," he says that we have for the first
word the three Hebrew consonants corresponding to our _dbr_; the
word may be _dabar_, signifying death, or _deber_, signifying
pestilence; it is impossible to tell which it is. In Habakkuk iii. 5, we
have the same consonants, and there the word is written pestilence.
Either word will made good sense in either place; and we are perfectly
helpless in our choice between them. Again, in Isaiah xxvi. 14, we have
a prediction concerning the wicked, "Therefore hast thou visited and
destroyed them and made all their memory to perish." The Hebrew word
here translated "memory" consists of three consonants represented by our
English _zkr_; it may be the word _zeker_, which signifies memory,
or the word _zakar_, which signifies a male person. And Jerome says
that it is believed that Saul was deceived, perhaps willingly, by the
difference in these words (I Sam. xv.); having been commanded to cut
off every _zeker_--memorial or vestige--of Amaiek, he took the word
to be _zakar_, instead of zeker, and contented himself with
destroying the males of the army and keeping for himself the spoil.
Jerome's conjecture in this case is sufficiently fanciful; nevertheless
he illustrates the impossibility of determining the exact meaning of many
Hebrew sentences. This impossibility is abundantly demonstrated by the
Septuagint, for we find many undoubted errors in that translation from
the Hebrew into the Greek, which have arisen from this lack of precision
in the Hebrew language.

When, therefore, we know that the Bible was written in such a language--
a language without vowels--and that it was not until six hundred years
after Christ that the vowel points were invented and the words were
written out in full, the theory of the verbal inerrancy of the text as
we now have it becomes incredible. Unless the men who supplied the vowel
points were gifted with supernatural knowledge they must have made
mistakes in spelling out some of these words. I do not believe that
these mistakes were serious, or that they affect in any important way
the meaning of the Scripture, but the assumption that in this stupendous
game of guess-work no wrong guesses were made is in the highest degree
gratuitous. The substantial truthfulness of the record is not impeached
by this discovery, but the verbal inerrancy of the document can never be
maintained by any honest man who knows these facts.

It is unsafe and mischievous to indulge in _a priori_ reasonings
about inspiration; we have had too much of that; but the following
proposition is unassailable: If the Divine Wisdom had proposed to
deliver to man an infallible book, he would not have had it recorded in
a language whose written words consist only of consonants, leaving
readers a thousand years after to fill in the vowels by conjecture. The
very fact that such a language was chosen is the conclusive and
unanswerable evidence that God never designed to give us an infallible

We are familiar with the fact that the Old Testament writings in general
use among the early churches were those of the Septuagint. The
Christians from the second to the sixteenth centuries knew very little
Hebrew. But during all these ages the Palestinian Jews and their
successors in other lands were preserving their own Scriptures; it was
they who added at a late day--probably as late as the sixth century--the
vowel points, which were invented in Syria; and when, at length, under
the impulse of Biblical study which led to the Reformation, Christian
scholars began to think of going back to the original Hebrew, they were
obliged to obtain from the Jews the copies which they studied. It is
somewhat remarkable that the Jews, who were the exclusive custodians of
the Hebrew writings up to the sixteenth century, had not been careful to
preserve their old manuscripts. After the vowel points had been
introduced into the text, they seem to have been willing that copies not
written in this manner should pass out of existence. Accordingly we have
few Hebrew manuscripts that are even supposed to be more than six or
seven hundred years old. There is one copy of the Pentateuch which may
have been made as early as 580 A. D., but this is extremely doubtful;
aside from this I do not know that there are any Hebrew Bibles which
claim to be older than the ninth century. Of these Hebrew manuscripts
nearly six hundred are now known to be in existence, but the greater
part of these are only fragmentary copies of the Pentateuch or of single
books. There are two classes of these--synagogue rolls, prepared for
reading in the way that I have described, and manuscripts in the book
form, some on parchment and some on paper.

The variations in these manuscripts are few. Compared with the Greek
manuscripts of the New Testament, the accuracy of these Hebrew codices
is remarkable. It is evident that the care of the Scribes to guard their
Scriptures against error has been scrupulous and vigilant. Doubtless
this intense devotion to the very letter of the sacred books has been
exercised for many centuries. We know that in the earliest days this
precision was not sought; for the Septuagint translation, made during
the second and third centuries before Christ, gives us indubitable
proof, when we compare it with the Hebrew text, that changes, some of
them radical and sweeping, have been made in the text of the Hebrew
books since that translation was finished. But it is evident that the
Scribes at an early day, certainly as early as the beginning of the
Christian era, determined to have a uniform and an unchangeable text.
For this purpose they chose some manuscript copy of the Scriptures,
doubtless the one which seemed to them most accurate, and made that the
standard; all the copies made since that time have been religiously
conformed to that. Consequently, all the Hebrew manuscripts now in
existence are remarkably uniform. The Old Testament contains more than
three times as many pages as the New Testament; but while we have more
than one hundred and fifty thousand "various readings" in the Greek
manuscripts and versions of the New Testament, we have less than ten
thousand such variations in those of the Old Testament. It must be
remembered, however, that this uniformity has its source in some copy
chosen to be the standard hundreds of years after most of the Old
Testament books were written; and it does not guarantee the close
correspondence between this copy and the autographs of the original
writers. [Footnote: For an interesting discussion of the preservation
and transmission of the Hebrew text, the reader is referred to Mr.
Robertson Smith's _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_,
Lectures ii. and iii.]

Our chief interest centres, however, in the Greek manuscripts of the
Bible preserved and transmitted by Christians, and including both
Testaments. All the oldest and most precious documents that we possess
belong to this class.

The original New Testament writings which came from the hands of the
apostles and their amanuenses we do not possess. These were probably
written, not on skins, but upon the papyrus paper commonly used at that
day, which was a frail and flimsy fabric, and under ordinary
circumstances would soon perish. Fragments of this papyrus have come
down to us, but only those which were preserved with exceptional care.
Jerome tells us of a library in Cassarea that was partly destroyed,
owing to the crumbling of its paper, though it was only a hundred years
old. Parchment was sometimes used by the apostles; Paul requests
Timothy, in his second letter, to bring with him, when he comes, certain
parchments that belong to him. But these materials were costly, and it
is not likely that the apostles used them to any extent in the
preparation of the books of the New Testament. At any rate the
autographic copies of these books disappeared at an early date. This
seems strange to us. Placing the estimate that we do upon these
writings, we should have taken the greatest care to preserve them. It is
clear that the Christians into whose hands they fell did not value them
as highly as we do. As Westcott says, "They were given as a heritage to
man, and it was some time before men felt the full value of the gift."

At the close of the second century there were disputes concerning the
correct reading of certain passages, but neither party appeals to the
apostolic originals,--showing that they must before that time have
perished. In after years legends were told about the preservation of
these originals, but these are contradictory and incredible.

No manuscript is now in existence which was written during the first
three centuries. But we have one or two that date back to the fourth
century; and from that time through all the ages to the invention of
printing many copies were made of the Sacred Scriptures, in whole or in
part, which are still in the hands of scholars. It is from these old
Greek manuscripts that our received text of the New Testament is
derived; by a comparison of them the scholars of the seventeenth century
made up a Greek New Testament which they regarded as approximately
accurate, and from that our English version was made.

The number of these old manuscripts is large, and the first general
division of them is into "uncials" or "cursives," as they are called;
the uncial manuscripts being written in capital letters, the cursives in
small letters more or less connected, as in our written hand. The
uncials are the oldest, as they are the fewest; there are only one
hundred and twenty-seven of them in all; while of the cursives there are
about fifteen hundred.

Yet most of these manuscripts are fragmentary. Some of them contain only
the Gospels or portions of them; some of them contain the Acts and the
Catholic Epistles; some of them the Epistles of Paul or a single
epistle; some are selections from the Gospels or the Epistles, prepared
to be read in church, and called lectionaries.

Professor Ezra Abbot gives us a classification of these manuscripts
which will be found instructive.

"For the New Testament,...we have manuscripts more or less complete,
written in uncial or capital letters, and ranging from the fourth to the
tenth century; of the Gospels twenty-seven, besides thirty small
fragments; of the Acts and Catholic Epistles ten, besides six small
fragments; of the Pauline Epistles eleven, besides nine small fragments,
and of the Revelation five. All of these have been most thoroughly
collated, and the text of the most important of them has been published.
One of these manuscripts, the Sinaitic, containing the whole of the New
Testament, and another, the Vatican, containing much the larger part of
it, were written probably as early as the middle of the fourth century;
two others, the Alexandrian and the Ephraem, belong to about the middle
of the fifth, of which date are two more, containing considerable
portions of the Gospels. A very remarkable manuscript of the Gospels and
Acts--the Cambridge manuscript, or Codex Bezæ--belongs to the sixth
century.... I pass by a number of small but valuable fragments of the
fifth and sixth centuries. As to the cursive manuscripts ranging from
the tenth century to the sixteenth, we have of the Gospels more than six
hundred; of the Acts over two hundred; of the Pauline Epistles nearly
three hundred; of the Revelation about one hundred,--not reckoning the
lectionaries, or manuscripts containing the lessons from the Gospels,
Acts, and Epistles, read in the service of the church, of which there
are more than four hundred." [Footnote: _Anglo-American Bible
Revision_, p. 95.]

Out of all this vast mass of extant manuscripts, only twenty-seven
contain the New Testament entire.

The three oldest and most valuable manuscripts among those named by
Professor Abbot, in the passage above, are the Sinaitic, the Vatican,
and the Alexandrian manuscripts.

Of these old Bibles perhaps the oldest is the one in the Vatican Library
at Rome. It was enrolled in that library as late as the year 1475; what
its history was before that time is unknown. By whose hands or at what
place it was written, no one can tell. Some have supposed that it was
brought from Constantinople to Rome, in the fifteenth century, by John
Bessarion, a learned patriarch; some that it was written in Alexandria,
when that city was the metropolis of the world's culture; some that it
was produced in Southern Italy when that region was celebrated for its
learning. The signs favor the latter theory. The form of the letters is
like those found on papyri in Herculaneum; and other manuscripts of the
Bible found in southern Italy agree remarkably with this one in many
peculiar readings. But this is all guess-work. Nobody knows where the
old Bible came from or who brought it to Rome.

Some things, however, the old book plainly tells us about its own
history. It bears the unmistakable marks of great antiquity. The scholar
who is familiar with old Greek manuscripts can judge by looking at a
document something about its probable age. By the form of the letters,
by the presence or absence of certain marks of punctuation, by the
general style of the manuscript, he can determine within a century or so
the date at which it was written.

This old Bible is written in the uncial or capital letters; this would
make it tolerably certain that it must be older than the tenth century.
We have scarcely any uncial manuscripts later than the tenth century.
But other unmistakable marks take it back much farther than this. The
words are written continuously, with no breaks or spaces between them;
there are no accents, no rough or smooth breathings, no punctuation
marks of any sort. These are signs of great age. Another peculiarity is
the manner of the division of the books into sections. I cannot stop to
describe to you the various methods of division adopted in antiquity.
The present separation into chapters and verses was, as you know, a
quite modern device. But the divisions of this old Bible follow a method
that we know to have been in use at a very early day; and the conclusion
of all the scholars is that it must have been written as early as the
year 350, possibly as early as 300.

It is not, however, a roll, but a book in form like those we handle
every day. Before this date manuscripts were generally prepared in this
way. Martial, the Latin poet, who died about 100, mentions as a novelty
in his day books with square leaves, bound together at the edges.

The Vatican Bible is a heavy quarto, the covers are red morocco
discolored with age, the leaves, of which there are 759, are of fine and
delicate vellum. It contains the Septuagint translation of the Old
Testament, except the first forty-five chapters in Genesis and a few of
the Psalms, which have been torn out and lost. Of the New Testament
writings, the last five chapters of Hebrews, First and Second Timothy,
Titus, Philemon, and the Apocalypse are wanting. Otherwise both
Testaments are complete.

We may recall another fact, to which allusion has been made, that this
old Bible contains among the Old Testament books those books which we
now call apocryphal, and that these apocryphal books, instead of being
divided from the rest in a separate group, are mingled with them, the
_order_ of the books being quite unlike that of our Bibles or of
the Hebrew canon. The apocryphal First Book of Esdras _precedes_
our Book of Ezra; while our Book of Ezra is united with Nehemiah,
forming the Second Book of Esdras. Judith and Tobit follow Esther, and
next comes the twelve minor prophets, and so on.

The same thing is true of all these oldest Bibles; they all contain the
apocryphal books, and these books are mingled with the other books,
either promiscuously, or by some system of classification which accepts
them as equal in value with the other Old Testament writings. There is
no indication in these old Bibles that the apocryphal books are any less
sacred or authoritative than the others.

Another manuscript Bible, scarcely less venerable and no less precious
than the Vatican Bible, is the one known as the Sinaitic manuscript This
was discovered by Constantine Tischendorf, a German scholar, in an
ancient convent at the base of Mount Sinai. The first journey of
Tischendorf to the Sinaitic peninsula was undertaken in 1844, for the
express purpose of searching in the old monasteries of this neighborhood
for ancient copies of the Scriptures that might be preserved in them.
The monks of this old convent admitted him to their ancient library,--a
place not greatly frequented by them,--and there in the middle of the
room he found a waste basket, filled with leaves and torn pieces of old
parchment gathered to be burned. In looking them over he discovered one
hundred and twenty leaves of a Bible that seemed to him of great
antiquity. He asked for these leaves, but when they found that he wanted
them, the monks began to suspect their value, and permitted him to take
only forty-three of them. In 1853 he returned again, but this time could
not find the rest of the precious manuscript. He feared that it had been
destroyed long before, but this was not the case. Stimulated by his
desire to possess the loose leaves, the monks had made search for the
rest of the volume, and, using as samples the leaves they had refused to
give him, they had found them all and secreted them. Upon his second
visit they did not show him the book, however, nor reveal to him in any
way its existence.

Six years later, in 1859, he returned again, this time fortified with a
letter from the Emperor of Russia, the head of the Greek Church; and
this mighty document made the monks open their treasures for his
inspection. He obtained permission, first, to carry the old Bible to
Cairo to be copied, and finally, under the imperial influence, the monks
surrendered it, and suffered it to be removed to St. Petersburg, where
since 1859 it has been sacredly kept.

"The Sinai Bible," says Dr. F. P. Woodbury, "contains the New Testament,
the Epistle of Barnabas, a portion of the Shepherd of Hennas, and
twenty-two books of the Old Testament. The whole is written on fine
vellum made from antelope skins into the largest pages known in our
ancient manuscripts. While most of the oldest manuscripts have only
three columns to the page, and the Vatican Bible has three, the Sinai
Bible alone shows four. The letters are somewhat larger than those of
the Vatican and much more roughly written. The book contains many
blunders in copying, and there are a few cases of willful omission. Its
remote age is attested by many of the same proofs that have been
mentioned in the description of the Vatican Bible." [Footnote: From an
interesting sketch of "Three Old Bibles," in _Sunday Afternoon_,
vol. i pp. 65-71.]

It is known that the Emperor Constantine, in the year 331, authorized
the preparation of fifty costly and beautiful copies of the Holy
Scriptures under the care of Eusebius of Cæsarea. Tischendorf himself
thinks--and his conjecture is accepted by other scholars--that this is
one of those fifty Bibles, and that it was sent from Byzantium to the
monks of this convent by the Emperor Justinian, who was its founder. At
all events, it is incontestably a manuscript of great age, certainly of
the fourth century, and probably of the first half of that century.

The other great Bible is the one known as the Alexandrian, which was
presented, in 1628, to King Charles I of England by Cyril Lucar,
patriarch of Constantinople, who had brought it from Alexandria. It was
transferred in 1753 from the king's private library to the British
Museum, where it is now preserved. It is bound in four folio volumes,
three of which contain the text of the Old and one of the New Testament.
The portion which contains the Old Testament is more perfect than that
which contains the New, quite a number of leaves having been lost from
the latter. "The material of which this volume is composed is thin
vellum, the page being about thirteen inches high by ten broad,
containing from fifty to fifty-two lines on each page, each line
consisting of about twenty letters. The number of pages is 773, of which
640 are occupied with the text of the Old Testament and 133 with the
New. The characters are uncial, but larger than the Vatican manuscript.
There are no accents or breathings, no spaces between the letters or
words save at the end of a paragraph, and the contractions, which are
not numerous, are only such as are found in the oldest manuscripts. The
punctuation consists of a point placed at the end of a sentence, usually
on a level with the top of the preceding letter." [Footnote: _Encyc.
Brit._, i. p. 496.] The general verdict of scholars is that this
manuscript belongs to about the middle of the fifth century.

The contents of this old Bible are curious, and they are curiously
arranged. The first volume contains the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges,
Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, and the two books
of Chronicles. The second contains, first, the twelve minor prophets
(from Hosea to Malachi), then Isaiah, Jeremiah, _Baruch_, Lamentations,
_The Epistle of Jeremiah_, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, _Tobit_, _Judith_,
_Esdras I._ (the apocryphal Esdras), Esdras II. (including our
Nehemiah and part of our Ezra), and _the four books of the Maccabees_.
The third volume contains An Epistle of Athanasius to Marcellenus on
the Psalms; The Hypothesis of Eusebius on the Psalms; then the Book of
the Psalms, of which there are one hundred and fifty-one, and fifteen
Hymns; then Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom of Solomon,
and Ecclesiasticus, or Sirach. The fourth volume contains the four
Gospels, the Acts, the seven Catholic Epistles (one of James, two of
Peter, three of John, and one of Jude), fourteen Epistles of Paul
(including the one to the Hebrews), The Revelation of John, two Epistles
of Clement to the Corinthians, and eight Psalms of Solomon.

This, it will be admitted, is a generous Bible. It contains most of the
apocryphal books, and several others that we do not find in the other
collections. It is probable that the works of Athanasius and Eusebius on
the Psalms were admitted rather as introduction or commentary than as
text; but the rest, judging from the positions in which they stand, must
have been regarded as Sacred Scriptures.

These, then, are the three oldest, most complete, and most trustworthy
copies of the Sacred Scriptures now in existence. By all scholars they
are regarded as precious beyond price; and any reading in which they
agree would probably be regarded as the right reading, if all the other
manuscripts in the world were against them.

I have suggested that these old manuscripts do not always agree. The
fact is that no two of them are exactly alike, and that there are a
great many slight differences between those which are most closely
assimilated. Of these differences Professor Westcott says that "there
cannot be less than 120,000,--though of these a very large proportion
consists of differences of spelling and isolated aberrations of
scribes." It is not generally difficult for the student on comparing
them to tell which is the right reading. A word may be misspelled, for
example, in several different ways; the student knows the right way to
spell it, and is not in doubt concerning the word. "Probably," says Mr.
Westcott, "there are not more than from sixteen hundred to two thousand
places in which the true reading is a matter of uncertainty, even if we
include in this questions of order, inflection, and orthography; the
doubtful readings by which the sense is in any way affected are very
much fewer, and those of dogmatic importance can be easily numbered."

The ways in which these errors and variations arose are easily
explained. The men who copied these manuscripts were careful men, many
of them, but all of them were fallible. Sometimes they would mistake a
letter for another letter much like it, and change the form of a word in
that way; sometimes there would be two clauses of a sentence ending with
the same word, and the eye of the copyist, glancing back to the
manuscript after writing the first of these words, would alight upon the
second one, and go on from that; so that the clause preceding it would
be omitted. Sometimes in copying the continuous writing of the uncial
manuscripts, mistakes would be made in dividing words. For example, if a
number of English words, written in close order, with no spaces between
them, were given you to copy, and you found "infancy," you might make
two words of it or one; and if you were a little careless you might
write it "in fancy" when it should be "infancy," or _vice versa_. A
case might arise in which it would be difficult for you to tell whether
it should be "in fancy" or "infancy." Such uncertainties the copyists
encountered, and such mistakes they sometimes made.

Mistakes of memory they also made in copying, just as I sometimes do
when I undertake to copy a passage from Mr. Westcott or Mr. Davidson
into one of these chapters. I look upon the book, and take a sentence in
my mind, but perhaps while I am writing it down I will change slightly
the order of the words, or it may be put a word of my own in the place
of another that much resembles it, as "but" for "though," or "from" for
"out of," or "doubtless" for "without doubt." I try to copy very
exactly, but there are, unquestionably, now and then such slips as these
in my quotations. And such mistakes were made by the copyists of the Old

There are some instances of intentional changes. Sometimes a copyist
evidently substituted a word that he thought was plainer for one that
was more obscure; a more elegant word for one less elegant; a
grammatical construction for one that was not grammatical.

Other differences have arisen from the habit of some of the copyists or
owners of manuscripts of writing glosses, or brief explanatory notes, on
the margin. Some of these marginalia were copied by subsequent scribes
into the text, where, in our version, they still remain. Some of them,
however, were removed in the late revision.

The great majority of these errors are, however, as I have said,
extremely unimportant; and nearly all of them seem to have arisen in the
ways I have suggested--through simple carelessness, and not with any
intent of corrupting the text.

The translations of the Bible which were made in early days into other
languages than our own must be dismissed with the briefest mention. The
most important version of the Old Testament was the Septuagint, of which
nothing more needs to be said.

You will remember that the Hebrew was a dead language while our Lord was
on the earth, the Jews of Palestine speaking the Aramaic. For their use,
translations of the Hebrew into the Aramaic, called Targums, were made.
There is a great variety of these, and there are many opinions about
their age; but it is not likely that the oldest of them was committed to
writing before the second century A. D. They are curious specimens of
the translator's work, combining text and commentary in a remarkable
manner. Additions and changes are freely made; the simple sentences of
the old record are greatly expanded; not only is a spade generally
called a useful ligneous and ferruginous agricultural implement, but
many things are said concerning the aforesaid spade which Moses or David
or Isaiah never dreamed of saying.

For example, in Judges v. 10, the Hebrew is literally translated in our
English Bible thus: "Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in
judgment and walk by the way." The Targum of Jonathan expatiates thereon
as follows: "Those who had interrupted their occupations are riding on
asses covered with many colored caparisons, and they ride about freely
in all the territory of Israel, and congregate to sit in judgment. They
walk in their old ways, and are speaking of the power Thou hast shown in
the land of Israel," etc. This may be pronounced a remarkably free
translation; and the Targums generally evince a similar liberality of
sentiment and phraseology.

Besides these, the ancient translations of the Bible, which must be
mentioned, are the Old Latin, made in the second century, out of which,
by many revisions, grew that Latin Vulgate which is now used in the
Catholic ritual; an ancient Syriac version of about the same age; two
Egyptian versions, in different dialects, made in the third century; the
Peshito-Syriac, the Gothic, and the Ethiopic in the fourth, and the
Armenian in the fifth; besides several later translations, including the
Arabic and the Slavonic. These ancient translations are all of value to
modern scholars in helping them to reach more certain conclusions
respecting the nature of the Sacred Scriptures and the right reading in
disputed passages.

The ages which we have been traversing in this chapter--when the Bible
was a manuscript--were ages of great darkness. The copies of the book
were few, and the common people could neither possess them nor read
them. It is hard for us who have had the book in our hands from our
infancy, who have gone to it so freely for light in darkness, for

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