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ARCHÆOLOGICAL Notes. Professor Taylor. 311.
BIBLICAL AND HISTORICAL CRITICISM.
Psalter? Professor Steenstra. 662.
Anspach's Divine Rod and Staff. Charles Kingdon's God Incarnate. Charles C.
Corson's An Introduction to the Study of Mariette's The Monuments of Upper
Shakespeare. Henry S. Pancoast. 341. Egypt. John Phelps Taylor. 333.
Didon's Jésus Christ. James B. Rey- Newbury's Transplanted. Charles C.
Fiske's Civil Government in the United Nature, and Basis. George Harris.
States. Charles C. Starbuck. 331. 111.
Luke. William H. Ryder. 232. Thompson's The World and the Man.
GERMAN THEOLOGICAL LITERATURE. Rev. Mattoon M. Curtis, Ph. D. 123, 234,
A RELIGIOUS AND THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY.
Vol. XV.— JANUARY, 1891. — No. LXXXV.
DR. MARTINEAU’S CRITICISM OF THE GOSPELS.
NEAR the close of his lately published book, “ The Seat of Authority in Religion,” Dr. James Martineau says :
“As I look back on the foregoing discussions, a conclusion is forced upon me on which I cannot dwell without pain and dismay; viz., that Christianity, as defined or understood in all the churches which formulate it, has been mainly evolved from what is transient and perishable in its sources ; from what is unhistorical in its traditions, mythological in its preconceptions, and misapprehended in the oracles of its prophets.”
It is a grave matter to those who hold to the common standards of Christian belief that Dr. Martineau could say this after having given the historical evidences of Christianity what he deemed a thorough examination. His attention has been chiefly devoted, it is true, to philosophical and ethical studies. But in pursuing these he has shown a penetrating mind and a truth-loving spirit; so that conclusions which he may have formed respecting any religious topic are presumably worthy of respect.
When such a man comes forward and says that he has carefully examined the documents which give information about the beginnings of Christianity, and finds that the inferences which the great majority of Christian people draw from them are largely mistaken ones, and presents the reasons on which this his conclusion is based, those to whom he attributes this serious error ought to give his words careful consideration. As one of those included in Dr. Martineau's indictment, I desire now to weigh them carefully and fairly; to ask if his criticism of the Gospels is a sound one, and his strictures of the ordinary interpretation of them just. .
Copyright, 1890, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.
The book contains much beside its historical criticism which claims the attention of believers in Christianity, and indeed of all thoughtful people. Its discussion of the psychological basis of religion deserves careful consideration. Its assertion that the faculty of the soul by which God is revealed only does its disclosing work when private communication takes place between the human spirit and the divine, so that no one, not even Christ, can reveal God to man, and no prophetic words transmitted through the generations can have divine authority, ought to be pondered well by all who call Christ “ Master and Lord,” and receive his words as a divine message. If the view of religion presented by this devout, acute, and influential thinker is the true one, their conception of Christianity is essentially wrong; a conception clashing with the deepest facts of the spiritual life, and therefore a source of serious spiritual injury. Dr. Martineau's religious psychology may well, therefore, cause such evangelical believers as read his book to undergo serious searchings of heart.
But it does not bring to them the imperative summons to justify their belief which his New Testament criticism carries. For the psychological facts which, if Dr. Martineau be right, Christian people have misunderstood and represented, are in every man; so that those who have been misinformed about them have the means of getting better information immediately at hand. Those who have unwittingly given the alleged misinformation are not therefore bound, when a book appears which seems to show that they have been misled and have misled others, to meet it by justifying their faith and teaching, - assuming that they continue in their old belief.
But if the imputation be brought against their teaching about the historical facts in which Christianity is rooted, self-respect suggests defense of the views taught. For as many of these are not within the reach of most Christian people, wrong ideas of them created by misinformation can only be removed by correct teaching. Any of us, therefore, who have been even indirectly charged by a person presumably well informed, and certainly of high character, with having misled people about these things cannot but feel called upon either to justify or amend what we have said.
Besides, the criticism of Dr. Martineau's book is the chief part of it. It is so as respects quantity, — taking about three fourths of the volume. It is so as respects impression ; for what is said here shows the author in a new and to many of his readers an