Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/182

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cerning the Old Testament) are nothing more than deductions, which, at any rate, profess to be the result of strictly scientific thinking, and which are not worth attending to unless they really possess that character? If it is not historically true that such and such things happened in Palestine eighteen centuries ago, what becomes of Christianity? And what is historical truth but that of which the evidence bears strict scientific investigation? I do not call to mind any problem of natural science which has come under my notice, which is more difficult, or more curiously interesting as a mere problem, than that of the origin of the synoptic Gospels and that of the historical value of the narratives which they contain. The Christianity of the churches stands or falls by the results of the purely scientific investigation of these questions. They were first taken up in a purely scientific spirit just about a century ago; they have been studied, over and over again, by men of vast knowledge and critical acumen; but he would be a rash man who should assert that any solution of these problems, as yet formulated, is exhaustive. The most that can be said is that certain prevalent solutions are certainly false, while others are more or less probably true.

If I am doing my best to rouse my countrymen out of their dogmatic slumbers, it is not that they may be amused by seeing who gets the best of it, in a contest between a "scientist" and a theologian. The serious question is whether theological men of science, or theological special pleaders, are to have the confidence of the general public; it is the question whether a country in which it is possible for a body of excellent clerical and lay gentlemen to discuss, in public meeting assembled, how much it is desirable to let the congregations of the faithful know of the results of biblical criticism, is likely to wake up with anything short of the grasp of a rough lay hand upon its shoulder; it is the question whether the New Testament books, being as I believe they were, written and compiled by people who, according to their lights, were perfectly sincere, will not, when properly studied as ordinary historical documents, afford us the means of self-criticism. And it must be remembered that the New Testament books are not responsible for the doctrine invented by the churches that they are anything but ordinary historical documents. The author of the third Gospel tells us as straightforwardly as a man can that he has no claim to any other character than that of an ordinary compiler and editor, who had before him the works of many and variously qualified predecessors.


In my former papers, according to Dr. Wace, I have evaded giving an answer to his main proposition, which he states as follows: