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say that what they record was the superscription or a superscription ; epigraphe is the word which they use. S. John as plainly says that what he records was the title written by Pilate ; titlos is the word which he uses. No language can be more precise than that which these three writers adopt. There cannot be a doubt about its meaning. They affirm that what they have severally recorded, was a copy of one or other of the three inscriptions, which by the order of the Roman governor were placed upon the cross. S. Matthew writes very differently, xxvii. 37; they set up over His head His accusation written. There is no such technical word as superscription or title, nothing which implies a transcript of a writing. The word S. Matthew selects, aitia, is taken from another class of phraseology. It belongs to legal and forensic science, or to ethical and ordinary usage. It signifies accusation, charge, crime, guilt, cause. Here it stands for the accusation which had been preferred against our Lord, and charge on which He had been condemned. In recording this, the evangelist was unquestionably at liberty to select any part of the words set up which would convey to his readers the substance of the crime for which our Blessed Lord suffered. And when we investigate closely we discover that S. Matthew has made this selection not only with perfect fidelity, but with marvellous appropriateness and exactitude; so that many will probably think it some slight proof that even in these matters of verbal nicety the inspired writers were not left without help from One infinitely more far-seeing than themselves. The selection is made so as to comprise the whole of the three inscriptions, with the exception of a single expression ; and each of them may be supposed to have contributed a portion, and, what may be worthy of remark, that particular portion which, with reference to the general design of the evangelist who records it, and to his apprehension, formed the substantial or critical point of the accusation. To show this, however, would require more space than my preface allows. But the expression omitted is too remarkable not to be noticed. The Hebrew superscription was Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews. Now from this superscription S. Matthew has adopted the word Jesus, which does not occur in either of the others; but he has omitted of
Nazareth. Why has he omitted these words, and these words only, out of the three inscriptions ? Clearly, because they did not form any part of the aitia, or accusation. No one either did or could impute it as a crime to our Lord, that He was of Nazareth, whether it was understood to be his place of birth or of residence. This was no offence either to the civil or ecclesiastical authorities, either to the Jew or the Gentile ; and therefore S. Matthew, by leaving out the epithet, gives us neither more nor less than the accusation, but exactly the whole accusation and cause, openly alleged or secretly conceived, for which our Blessed Lord was brought to his ignominious death.
The reader is now in a position to judge if in this instance inaccuracy and misstatement are to be charged upon the holy evangelists, or upon the precipitate critic.
But there is another part of the passage which must not escape observation. The verbal-inspiration theory, we are told, requires that each evangelist should have recorded the exact words of the inscription, not a letter less or more. It would require then that each should have given not merely the Greek inscription, but the three inscriptions in the languages in which they were written. It would require also that each evangelist should have given all the words which our Lord ever spoke, and all the miracles with all their circumstances which He ever wrought. The world could not contain the books which should have been written. The theory which has floated into Dean Alford's imagination is a theory such as no one I should suppose ever entertained since time began. It is an impossible theory. If it were essential to truth that all which the mind of the relater contains should be told, there could be no communication of truth from man to man, nay, no possible communication of it from Heaven to earth, from the Infinite to the finite. The Divine Spirit adapts His communications and modes and instruments of communicating to the capacities and necessities of his creatures. The theory of inspiration which sober Christians hold, is the very reverse of that which the objector imagines. They believe that the written word of God is a selection out of the stores of universal knowledge existing in the All-wise Supreme, a selection made by His own Spirit,
through His gifted and holy servants the prophets, a divine and therefore a complete and perfect selection, in which there cannot possibly be a word too much, or a word too little; a selection of that which is most important and necessary to be known and remembered, and held in reverent regard by the faithful; of that which contributes most effectually to the consolation, peace, and happiness of frail and sinful men in their journeyings towards eternity. The Holy Ghost, when He inspired the evangelists for their special work, directed them, as we humbly believe, to the right sources of information, guided them in their selection of facts, prompted them in their choice of expressions, and thus enabled them to present the truth, and nothing but the truth, to the minds of those who, for the understanding of what the evangelists wrote, seek in simplicity of heart the aid of the same Holy Ghost.
Is Dean Alford's representation of the opinions of those who differ from him, a specimen of the honesty, and fairness, and plain-dealing of which he so frequently boasts ?
Prolegomena, p. 19, note. — Dean Alford insists that according to the verbal-inspiration theory, the Holy Spirit supersedes’ all the mental powers and faculties of the inspired.' What can be more untrue ? So far from it, assertors of inspiration conceive that it quickens, invigorates, and, if need be, enlarges all the powers of heart and intellect which man possesses, sustains them in their proper functions, preserves them from failure and perversion, and urges them onward to the fullest and noblest exercise of which they are severally capable; so that the whole body and soul yield entire devotion to the will of that Spirit by whom, as the inspired are themselves perfectly conscious, they are thus animated, encouraged, supported, and at the time of inspiration, and for its particular object, sanctified and perfected. There is no superseding of moral or intellectual powers, no interruption or suspension of any one of them. It is only that the natural faculties are raised to a higher sphere of action, employed on nobler themes, and made capable of extraordinary energy. Perception is sharpened to see that which formerly escaped its observation; apprehension is enabled to seize, and to retain with a firm and stedfast grasp, that which otherwise it would have allowed to pass away unappro
priated, or have soon dropped from its sluggish and careless hold ; judgement discerns differences where all appeared indistinct, and knows, where before there seemed no ground of preference, how to select that which is the more excellent and the better suited to its purpose; memory travels over the past with a rapidity which in the ordinary condition of the mind is wholly impossible, and renews acquaintance with former experiences in the most circumstantial details ; imagination is endowed with such wonderful powers that it no longer wanders into the mazes of fiction, but submitting itself to right reason and pure nature, keeps within the limits of reality, and by the power of a holy faith and the aid of previous revelations, discloses the yet unseen and unrevealed ; and thus that faculty which in its frail and corrupt exercise is the wildest and most deceptive of any with which we are endowed, becomes, when guided by the Spirit of Truth, a sure and efficacious instrument of spiritual illumination. This is an imperfect and perhaps erroneous sketch of the doctrine of inspiration as commonly received. But if the theory at all resemble what has been now described, it is far from superseding the free use of the wonderful powers which the Creator has bestowed on the human faculties ; nor does it exclude from their scope any single object, fact, word or thought out of the countless multitude and endless varieties with which His universe is stored. In'spiration, so far as we understand it, is not a deadening and benumbing, but enlivening and exciting power; it does not confine and restrain, but extends the range of view, and sets free that which was cramped in its own weakness; it affords light not more by shedding it directly into the mind, than by illumining the sphere in which the mind dwells; in short, it forces out and carries away all possibility of error by the fulness and overflowings of truth which it enables the inspired to conceive.
Prolegomena, p. 19. - In the last apology of Stephen, which • he spoke being full of the Holy Ghost .. we have at least two demonstrable historical inaccuracies. And the occurrence of similar ones in the Gospels does not in any way affect the inspiration or the veracity of the evangelists.' In this last sentence we have two assertions, both of which are, in my opinion, utterly in
admissible. 1. There are historical inaccuracies in the evangelists. I do not know a single historical inaccuracy, nor do I believe that any such exists. It would be much more candid, when an assertion of this kind is made, to give the reader at the same time the means of referring to the facts on which the assertion is founded. 2. The occurrence of historical inaccuracies does not affect in any way the inspiration or the veracity of the evangelists. This assertion is absurd, and opposed to common
The misstatement of a fact by a professed historian does not, in any way, affect his veracity! What notion can the writer have formed of veracity? If any false statement whatever could be charged upon any one of the evangelists, and clearly established against him, the faith of most Christians, in the truthfulness of their sacred records, would be very seriously shaken. But seeing that these false statements of fact have never yet been brought home to the apostles and evangelists, notwithstanding very strenuous and persevering efforts to that end, all my young readers may continue to repose their entire confidence in the perfect aceuracy of those holy men who wrote their histories of the Blessed Saviour under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Further, in S. Stephen's defence of himself, or, might, with no less propriety, be termed, rebuke of the Jewish people for their total misapprehension of their own religious system, and for their obdurate infidelity touching the Spirit of God and His infinitely expansive and comprehensive power and goodness, there are, we are told, at least two demonstrable his. torical inaccuracies. Before we admit these inaccuracies, we may be permitted to wait for the demonstration; and if the steps of the demonstration be of the same character with the argument of this paragraph, we shall be quite right in holding to the end that S. Stephen was altogether guiltless of the inaccuracies alleged against him.
But let us suppose, for the sake of showing Dean Alford's manner of reasoning, that S. Stephen was not quite accurate in certain minute facts of Old Testament history; and that the inaccuracies are not two merely, but go to the extent of the Dean's insinuation, whatever that extent may be, three, four five, six; and that these inaccuracies are undeniable, and have