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By Prof. C. C. Felton, Cambridge.

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JANUARY, 1850.



By B. B. Edwards, Professor at Andover.

Ir may not be altogether inopportune at the commencement of another year of our labors, and at the beginning of 1850, to refer briefly to the existing position of Biblical Science, or to survey, cursorily though it may be, a part of the field which we attempt to occupy. Such a survey, also, has been suggested by the recent decease of Dr. De Wette, the patriarch of biblical critics and commentators. His life, though passed, for the most part, in the retirement of the study, is not without impressive lessons. The passing away of a man so active who, for twenty or thirty years, has been a leader in certain great departments of knowledge, constitutes a kind of epoch in the career of all who are devoted to similar pursuits.

We speak of biblical science. Perhaps the propriety of the term may be doubted. In the view of some it can hardly lay claim to an appellation so dignified. In every part of Christendom, where there is any freedom of investigation, views are propounded and methods of interpretation practised which are indicative of anything but science. We meet with heterogeneous or contradictory expositions, the use of the same texts to support perhaps a score of conflicting opinions, and even a want of agreement in regard to the most simple and fundamental rules of interpretation. In the country where there has been the most pretension to rigid science in the pursuit of biblical studies, there has often been a sad deficiency of truly liberal and comprehensive views. A criticism has had wide currency, which has been rightly named deVOL. VII. No. 25.


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structive, which substitutes theory for judicious investigation, which violently dislocates ancient history, and attempts to reconstruct it by an arbitrary subjective opinion; which has, in short, adopted a method of handling the Scriptures which, if carried out, would annihilate all ancient history, and render anything like rules of evidence impossible. A criticism may well be called destructive that refuses to receive a document as true which would be admitted without gainsaying, on one half of the evidence which it offers, in any court of justice on earth.1 We do not here refer to such men as Strauss and the later Tübingen school, but to professed defenders of biblical truth, to those who would possibly shrink from being named skeptics.

Again, there may seem to be little of true science in a department which appears to run counter so often with the discoveries of the naturalist. That should seem to have poor claims to a settled interpretation which is liable to be jostled or overturned at any moment by the revelations of the natural philosopher or antiquarian. The positive declarations of the Bible come into direct collision with the unimpeachable testimony of sienite or the colored walls of a tomb. Either Ethnography or Moses must be mistaken. But the evidence of visible and tangible forms cannot be set aside, it is said, by a few dusky characters in a dead language, copied, it may be, no one knows when, from a monkish, mouldering parchment. What is written on hard granite, or is dug up from a mummy chest must be true, however it may fare with a Jewish historian. At least, we must wait till science has unfolded all her mysteries, before we can affirm that sacred philology has fixed and established laws. In other words, the test of the truth of a written revelation is to be found in nature.

It may be thought preposterous, also, to speak of biblical science, when there is so little agreement, or rather so wide a disagreement in respect to the exposition of the prophetical and symbolical portions of the Scriptures. Many in this department run to and fro, but knowledge is not increased. Arbitrary systems of rules are laid down as if they were the axioms of geometry. All preceding interpreters have totally mistaken their vocation, and darkened the counsel of Jehovah by words without knowledge. Events, which an indefinite futurity only can disclose, are laid off and marked out with the precision of a chart, A position is first confidently assumed, and then the innocent text is interpreted or wrested so as to sustain it. It is sad to know that many excellent men, especially in Great Britain, are poring over the prophetic Scriptures with a zeal which is not according to knowledge,

'See Prof. Greenleaf's Examination of the Four Evangelists.

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