« ПредишнаНапред »
teacher, would rebuke and punish me for if I were to do the like. If, therefore, I cannot be religious without believing in this book, religious I cannot be, unless you can admit to me that these things which appear to me to be incredible are so, or show me that, in point of fact, I need not believe them, but that I am still bound to be religious." And the same may be said of the New Testament also.
Thus, we see that it was really in the interests of sound and practical morality that Colenso undertook his work. He wished to show to his Zulus that superstition and religion are not identical. The lesson which he wished to teach them, both negative and positive, was "to look for the sign of God's spirit speaking to them," not in the inspiration of particular narratives in the Bible, but "in that which speaks to the witness of God within them, to which alone, under God Himself, whose voice it utters in the secrets of his inner being, each man is ultimately responsible to the Reason and the Conscience."*
We turn now, in conclusion, and more particularly, to the work of Strauss itself. And though he himself has admirably explained in his twenty-fifth section the meaning of the term "myth," and the principle involved in the term, still, as it is the key-note to the whole, it may not be amiss to endeavour to give an explanation of it even more popular still, and in terms even more familiar than he does.
From some cause or other this word has been of late years more frequently heard in ordinary conversation than was formerly the case. But, as might have been expected, its real meaning has been gradually lost sight of, and it is used, not unfrequently, as synonymous with conscious or
» On the Pentateuch. Part L, p. 152.
wilful fiction or falsehood—i.e., conscious exercise of the imagination or wilful assertion of that which is known not to be true. Now when English hearers about—I will not say readers of—Strauss's work, for with ordinary attention it would be impossible—understand that the "myth" is the fundamental principle of Strauss's theory, they probably infer, as was well observed by a late reviewer of the translation of the work in the "Reader," that, applying this principle to the principal Personage spoken of in the Gospels, Strauss altogether denies His existence, and supposes even that existence to be a fiction or invention on the part of the writers of the Gospels. Nothing can be further from the truth than this.
Whatever else we may suppose with regard to the condition of the Jews or the state of Palestine at the time of the appearance of Jesus, we know, at least, thus much from the description in Tacitus,* that in point of ignorance, superstition, and exclusive bigotry, f they had no equals in the Roman world. As a nation they could scarcely be said to have a common language. By some no doubt, in or in the neighbourhood of the capital, Hebrew was spoken; by others farther removed from it, Syriac; or, towards Tyre and Sidon, Phoenician; by the countrypeople, Aramaic; and by great numbers not improbably, a sort of patois made up of a combination of all these languages, and others with them, including, of course, Greek, which, as is shown by the Gospels and Epistles, was probably the language used in writing, perhaps in speaking too, by educated men like Luke, John, and Paul.f In a
* Hist., B. iv.,c. 5.
t Adversus omnes alias hostile odium.—Ibid, t We omit the names of Matthew and Mark, assuming the question to be still undecided as to the authorship of their Gospels. Not country circumstanced as this was, the means of communication could not be but very difficult and slow. Indeed it appears to have been principally, if not entirely, on foot. And not more than one in a thousand, if so many, could be expected to have the power of recording facts in writing; and not a larger number, certainly, of reading them when recorded. It would, indeed, be a great chance whether a verbal narrative of an event that had happened in one district would be understood in another, or even in the same.
Contrast, now, in these respects, our own condition in these modern times. We live in an age of railways, telegraphs, and newspapers, instruments of conveyance for ourselves and for intelligence, the possibility of which a hundred years ago no human being could have conceived. And yet, remember, even with all this, the extreme difficulty of obtaining accurate information as to any one event, whether that event has happened 5,000 miles off, or within the boundaries of our own county, town, or parish. The event—the nucleus—may have really happened, or it may not; but, even if it has, how many untrue or "mythical" accessories have clustered round it before it comes to our ears? How many persons ever forward a piece of news to another exactly in the form in which they received it themselves P There are, indeed, but few events that happen that do not become, before they have passed through half-a-dozen mouths, distorted and coloured by the personal feelings and interests of the narrators, though they may be events but little open, it would appear, to such influences. But is it not also within the experience of every one that events are not only distorted,
that it is settled with regard to Luke and John, but their names may be taken as representative of educated men.
exaggerated, and coloured, in every possible way, but that stories of supposed occurrences arise without the smallest foundation in fact, and in manners perfectly unaccountable? In this last case you have myth pure and unmixed; in the former the growth and development of it. So that, in point of fact, we ourselves, living men and living women, are ever living in the midst of myths; our telegrams are flashing myths along their wires every day; and our newspapers are circulating myths; and when we sift these myths, examine their evidence, and strip them of their clustering parasites till we arrive, if possible, at their central stem, also, perhaps, accounting for their origin—we are doing what Strauss has done for the Gospel history.
Nor is there about the term "myth," when used in this way, anything mystical or transcendental. The minds of some, no doubt, when they hear the term, immediately turn to the elaborate mythology of the Greeks, Egyptians, and others, upon which such writers as Grote or Miiller have spent so large an amount of elaborate learning and disquisition. But there is hardly anything in common between the mode in which natural powers become invested with forms and nomenclature, and the myths of which we have just been speaking. Some analogy there may be between the mode in which great men may, after death, have been converted into heroes in the technical sense, demons or demi-gods, as, for instance, a Romulus or a Caesar, and others, and the immortalisation of Jesus; but, otherwise, the explanation of the term myth as used in Greek or Roman mythology will give but little assistance towards the understanding of it, as applied by Strauss to the interpretation of the phenomena in the New Testament.
In addition, however, to embellishment, decoration, and the successive accrements continually gathering round a narrative when once originated by probably unconscious fiction, Strauss discovers a fertile source of myths in the so-called prophecies of the Old Testament. When once the person of Jesus had been invested by His adherents / with a supernatural character, when once He had come to be looked upon by His followers and worshippers as the Redeemer, nothing was more natural than that those among them, who were or had been Jews, should search among their ancient records, the only literature of which they were possessed, for texts applicable to Him, and which when thus applied were converted into predictions. It is not necessary to enlarge upon this point as it is one that is continually reappearing in Strauss's work, and the discussion of it, more especially in the second volume of the translation, forms a considerable part of the whole. But there is one case which it may be well to notice here, as it forms so striking an illustration of the case, and gives, even to the orthodox reader, alternatives of which, according to the simplest rule of common sense, he can choose but one. Which he chooses will signify but little to the critical investigator. We are told in Matthew, ii. 13, that in the earliest days of his infancy, Jesus was carried by his parents into Egypt in order to avoid the dangers arising from Herod and the catastrophe which followed in the massacre of "all the children from two years old and under." Now upon the fact that nothing is said by Luke of the massacre, we do not insist, as it is a well known law of evidence that omission is not contradiction. But unless a person can be in two places at the same time and be the subject in each of two separate lines of events, we do insist upon the fact that at the very same